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Dinos basketball co-host unprecedented playoffs

By Rodrigo Verney, March 6 2022—

The University of Calgary will return to postseason play for the first time since the abrupt stoppage due to the pandemic in 2020.

This year’s playoff will be held in three different universities, including 11 of the 16 main games at the Jack Simpson Gym. So, it is safe to say that the University of Calgary will be the home for the playoffs as the West’s finest meet in search of that banner to mark their legacy in college history.

This year’s surprises don’t stop here as this time around the tournament will implement a new style to it. The University of Calgary’s athletes will have to battle it out on a 17-team single knock-out tournament.

This means that the 16 matches — 17 including the bronze medal game — will have an extra challenge depending on the college’s seeding. Thankfully, both the women and the men’s teams have qualified higher than ninth seeds, eighth and sixth respectively.

This, however, doesn’t mean that it will be smooth sailing for them. But to understand where we are, we have to understand how we got here.

For the men’s basketball team, this season was a troubled one compared to their 2019-2020 run. Granted, the pandemic posed both a physical and mental challenge to everyone involved. To pretend that we could just pick up where we left off would be silly.

However, the challenge that the Dinos had to face this season took a toll on the great set of young talent our lineup has. Despite athletes like Noah Wharton producing double of what he did in 2019, the vacuum left by Brett Layton proved to be a tough barrier to adjust to, more now than ever as the hiatus prevented this team to build some chemistry among themselves.

The first game of the season was a very good display of that, as the Dinos lost to Trinity Western by nine points. A small margin that showed the key factors that the team was lacking — chemistry and experience.

As the season went on, the narrative started to change when the Dinos racked up a decent amount of wins against contenders like the MacEwan University and Mount Royal University. Having, at one point, a six-game winning streak with a lot of them provided some considerably large margins.

The Dinos will face off against the winner of the MacEwan versus Trinity Western matchup this Friday.

However, there was one story that seemed to remain constant through this shorter season. As the result of the battle of Alberta, It seems like the University of Alberta continuously penetrated Dino’s defenses and made their range known from behind the three-point line.

Overall, they proved to be a force to be reckoned with. Given the seeding and the matchups, the only situation in which we will be facing them is in the finals. I guess I speak for the whole university when I say that we are all cheering for an underdog tale.

Despite having the best record between the two basketball teams, the women’s team is seeded lower. That serves as a statement of how tough their matchups were, as they managed to rack up more victories.

A longer season also contributed to this factor but the .625 percentage is an example of how the Dinos are ready for their playoff run. This message couldn’t be clearer as they started their season with an impressive 10-game winning streak. They went on to win 15 of the 24 regular-season games and are now clinched to the second round of the playoffs.

Being led by head coach Damian Jennings, the team is set to face off against Victoria, a team with a lot of history with the Dinos. This is a matchup that will be drawing a lot of eyes, since their last game was still in 2019.

Currently, they still have the winning record overall by a large margin, but this margin was due to the old days of the league back in 1974. Currently, we had some great victories under our belt, winning seven of the last ten encounters.

Even though we were winning the majority of the encounters we’ve had, there has been a big hiatus since our last encounter, so some changes will have to be made to accommodate the new schemes. The Dinos are expected to adjust their new rotations since some injuries to the young core are still raising concerns in the minds of the whole coaching staff and athletes. 

Thankfully, a lot of players stepped up to maintain their post-season play strong, including the starter of every game in the regular season — Annacy Palmer, leader of the team in points per game with an average of 12 points.

This type of production combined with the incredible rebounding skills of Kennedy Hollinger is a sure way of putting the Dinos one step closer to the quarter-finals contender spot where they will have to face the reigning Canada West and U SPORTS Champion University of Saskatchewan. For now, the Dinos will focus on their match this Saturday, March 5.

Overall, both teams have great chances to make a deep playoff run. Anything can and will happen with this new tournament style. In an ironic and poetic twist, many of the Dino’s greatest competitors will only meet with us further into the playoffs, if not on the finals itself. Even if they get thrown out of the tournament at an earlier stage, this will just mean that we will face off against a better team.

The only way to ensure we make a good run is to make sure we stay focused on the other team schemes and take a hold of the game at a very early stage, refusing to let our guard down until the clock hits zero. 

This year has been unusual for college sports fans for a number of reasons. Coming off so many changes in the world, it is quite stressful to have to deal with all these major events. So, it is expected for athletes to slowly adjust to the new system.

Hence, why our support at this moment — more than any other — as a sports fan and a college student is so important for our fellow student-athletes. And with tickets available and the live coverage of every playoff game on CanadaWest.tv, Dinos fans will be able to gather once again after a challenging season for their teams.

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