Vikes men's basketball team reloads for another run at a national championship

The biggest question heading into the Canada West men’s basketball season for the University of Victoria Vikes is how do you replace CIS All-Canadian and Canada West MVP Chris McLaughlin?

As Vikes head coach Craig Beaucamp so elegantly put it, you don’t.

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“Like anything in sports, you can’t replace certain types of players, you find different ways to do what you do,” said Beaucamp, who is entering his 13th season at the helm and hoping to lead the Vikes to a fourth-straight appearance at CIS nationals.

“When you have great players, in any sport, it’s not about replacing them with one guy, usually. You might be lucky enough to have one guy. It’s more often an opportunity for others to step up and do things different.”

Also gone is point guard Marcus Tibbs, which makes this an intriguing year for the Vikes men’s team, which tips off its 2015-16 season tonight and Saturday at Trinity Western University in Langley.

Beaucamp will rely on veterans Reiner Theil, Jordan Charles, Mack Roth and Brandon Dunlop — who returns for his fifth and final year — for leadership. The four should start with Dunlop at point, Charles and Theil at wings and Grant Sitton and Roth at forwards as Beaucamp goes with a smaller lineup that should be more difficult to guard.

“We won the conference last year. There are a lot of new guys, but the expectation is the same,” said Theil, a team captain. “We definitely want to get back to playoffs and make a hard push toward nationals.”

The team’s pre-season record suggests that will be a tough task after recording a 2-6 log. However, the Vikes played some incredibly talented teams already in the nation’s top 10, including Carleton, McMaster, Brock and Saskatchewan, before also playing in Oregon in its last week of prep.

“We’ve played three or four top-10 teams and didn’t get the results we were looking for, but we’ve grown a lot as a team and know where we need to improve,” said Theil. “Teams are probably doubting us right now, but that’s probably an advantage for us.”

The Vikes were 15-5 in conference play last season after a 19-3 campaign the season previous. They finished fourth both years at nationals.

“Without getting ahead of us, the goal is to focus on the weekend at hand — one game at a time and not get ahead of ourselves,” Beaucamp said when asked of his expectations.

“Obviously, we’d like to get to the playoffs and they’re hosting nationals at UBC, so we’d like to be a part of that, but that’s too far away,” said Beaucamp. “Our short-term goal is the weekend, get out on road, get at least one win and go from there.”

The Vikes face Trinity Western tonight at 8 and Saturday at 7 p.m.

UVic’s home opener is Nov. 13 when the Saskatchewan Huskies pay a visit to CARSA gym.

mannicchiarico@timescolonist.com

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