By Rodrigo Verney, October 23 2022—
The University of Calgary Dinos men’s basketball team came back home after a week of playing against the highest level of basketball there in San José, Costa Rica. Having the pleasure of hosting the Calgary Cup, the Dinos had a chance to put everything they learned to the test while they faced three Canada West teams in a small tournament over the course of the weekend of Oct. 7–9, right here at the Jack Simpson Gym. Having a chance to display what we might expect during the season, the Dinos knew they had to deliver.
The first contact with our opponent’s list didn’t scare the team. After having experienced playtime with key NCAA teams in San José, they felt well prepared and were looking forward to starting the Calgary Cup.
“We are doing the right things to have the right results and not just trying to run out and grasp a win,” said Dinos’ head coach Dan Vahooren.
Even though the team carried the same confidence, it wasn’t an easy task. Their three opponents were top contenders in the league and to face them all in a back-to-back system would require an incredible amount of critical tactical decisions to be able to keep up.
The Dinos’ first opponent to start the cup was last year’s Ontario University Athletics champions, the Brock Badgers. Already starting off with a hard task, the Dinos struggle to set the lead early and the Badgers dominated the game, holding on to a double-digit lead throughout most of the game. The Dinos saw difficulty trying to penetrate their active defense which was constantly trying to hedge our point guard into giving up the ball. They suffocated our offense by basically doubling up on the point guard as soon as he crossed half-court. A move that slowed our scoring ability even with Ezeohoa Santiago and Noah Wharton doing everything possible to set the other guys up with good looks and scoring themselves. Their star player Jessie Barnes took control of the offense on the other side, penetrating the defense with much ease. Even with the man-to-man defense, the Dinos implemented. The Badgers took this game 97–82.
The second matchup was against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds. The well-known rivalry between these two teams means that this game has more weight than the usual deal and the Dinos knew that better than anyone else. Their answer to this, however, was to focus on being the best team they could be and the rest would sort itself out.
“The preparation is not any different than any other team. We are trying to focus on ourselves,” said Dinos guard Noah Wharton. “Just be the best that we can be. Whatever the outcome is, is what will happen.”
The game was much more fluid this time around. The offense had a lot more ease penetrating their defense and getting to the paint. The use of the pick and roll was leading to more points and the triangulation between our guards and our centre resulted in more open, or otherwise less, contested shots for us. Even though we had a great game, that doesn’t mean we were able to snatch off a win. The Thunderbirds’ incredible resilience and transition dominance were enough to give them the win with a mere four-point lead. UBC won 81–77.
The University of Regina Cougars was our last contender of the weekend. The Dinos had a tough weekend and their prize was to face a team that made a deep playoff run last season. Truly a testament to how difficult and draining back-to-back games can be. Fortunately, the Dinos were able to come out with the victory this time around, surpassing a contender that will be back for blood during their season. But as we saw Sunday the 9th, they might have to work a bit harder next time. The Dinos pulled through winning 87–85.
Pre-season is always a moment to experiment and understand how the team works together. Just as professional basketball player Draymond Green said in his podcast, “it is the smallest edge that gives the win.” To win or lose depends on so many factors. The real focus should be on how the team is doing and how they play off each other. In this regard, the Dinos are excelling and we are all excited to see what they’ll do in their season.