The quest for a second-straight Canada West Championship for the No. 1 Alberta Golden Bears begins this weekend as they welcome the No. 11 UNBC Timberwolves to Saville Community Sports Centre.
The best-of-three playoff series begins with Game 1 on Friday at 3:00 p.m., and will be followed by Game 2 at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, and Game 3, if necessary, at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday.
The Golden Bears finished the Canada West season with a conference-leading 19-1 record, which put them atop both the win/loss standings, and the RPI ranking, which seeded the playoff teams. Alberta now owns home-court advantage throughout the conference playoffs, which could include a semifinal series and a single game conference championship.
The No. 11 Timberwolves, who finished with a 10-10 conference record, stunned the No. 6 Winnipeg Wesmen 71-68 last week in the play-in series, booking their trip to Edmonton. The ‘Wolves were the lowest seed to advance through the play-in game to the men’s quarter-final round.
This weekend’s playoff series between Alberta and UNBC will mark the first time the two teams have met in the Canada West post-season. Since UNBC joined Canada West in 2012-13, the Golden Bears are 8-0 all-time versus the Timberwolves, including 4-0 in conference play. This is the second time the ‘Wolves have qualified for the playoffs in program history, losing in the quarter-final to UBC in 2014-15.
Full court pressure
Making the Golden Bears a fearsome opponent this weekend was their ability to dominate their opponents on both ends of the court all season long. Alberta ranked fourth in offence this season, with 85.3 points per game, while leading the conference in defence with just 66.7 points allowed per contest. Both of those puts Alberta inside the top ten in Canada, with their defensive numbers ranking second in the nation.
A large focal point of the Bears success this season at both ends of the floor has been the career year put forth by third-year forward Brody Clarke. The star power forward finished the season with new season highs in points (14.9) and rebounds (8.3) per game, and in double-doubles, with eight. Clarke was also tremendous down the stretch for Alberta, averaging about 17 points and 12 rebounds over his last four games.
Not without star power of their own, the Timberwolves’ season showcased their stellar backcourt duo of Jovan Leamy and Volodymyr Pluzhnikov. Leamy led UNBC in scoring with 15.1 points per game, with Pluzhnikov not far behind at 14.4. Both guards are in their first seasons with the Timberwolves: Leamy, a Toronto, Ontario native who transferred from Ryerson; Pluzhnikov joined the Wolves from the Ukrainian Superleague’s MBC Mykolaiv.