HALIFAX, NS – The U SPORTS men’s basketball Final 8 cracks off tomorrow to see who will be the champions of Canada. Below is a preview of the AUS and Canada West teams heading into the weekend at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax.
University of Prince Edward Island Panthers
UPEI took a brutal blow in the AUS final, losing to the St. Francis University X-Men 104-54. But the team will look to bounce back strong against a tough foe in the first-seeded University of Victoria Vikings.
The Panthers are led by Elijah Miller, the AUS MVP, who averaged 19.7 points per game and six assists per game in the regular season.
Kamari Scott provides additional scoring, chipping in 14.7 points per game along with Isaiah Ankra, who averaged 12.3 points per game and shot 41.9 per cent from 3-point range.
While not the host team of the tournament, the Panthers will be quite familiar with playing at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, as Miller said it helps a lot.
“Just come out free and flowing and hopefully, we’ll have a good weekend,” said Miller.
St. Francis University X-Men
StFX dominated the AUS Championship, ultimately dominantly winning the final over UPEI.
The team contains five double-digit scorers in Dondre Reddick, David Muenkat, Deon Ejim, Avan Nava and Antoine Vernon.
Reddick lit up the AUS Championship weekend, missing just 5 of 21 shots attempted. Muenkat took home the tournament MVP, averaging 18 points and 12 rebounds per game.
The X-Men score the second most points per game and are eighth in points allowed per game in the nation.
Several players playing their final game(s) in the Final 8 will add an extra spark of motivation for the X-Men.
“I think they’re going to do everything in their power to compete at a high level and leave it all out there. I think the guys are all buying in to make sure that they can send them off the right way,” said StFX head coach Tyrell Vernon.
StFX will face the Queen’s University Gaels tomorrow as the four seed, which I expect to be the matchup of the day.
University of Victoria Vikes
The Vikes come in as the first seed after defeating the University of Winnipeg Wesmen 95-80 to win the Canada West title.
The Vikes have the nation’s leading scorer in Diego Maffia. The guard led the nation in points per game and 3-pointers made. This, along with 4.3 assists per game, makes for possibly the most dangerous offensive player in the tournament.
The Vikes are loaded along with Renoldo Robinson, Elias Ralph, and Trent Monkman, who all averaged double digits this season.
The Vikes have a dynamic offence, averaging the most points per game in the nation. However, the team is 20th in points per game allowed.
Dominick Oliveri averaged 12.7 rebounds per game, ranking third in the nation, adding an important force in the paint.
The team faces UPEI tomorrow and will be looking to stop the AUS MVP, Miller.
“Winning is hard. We beat some very good teams to get here and I have so much respect for the coaches in our league that didn’t have a chance to make it here,” said head coach Craig Beaucamp. “Make the best of the opportunity is kind of our motto and fortunate to have the opportunity to be here.”
University of Winnipeg Wesmen
The Wesmen come into this U SPORTS tournament fresh off defeat in the Canada West final by the hands of the Vikes.
The team is led by four scorers, Mikhail Mikhailov, Shawn Maranan, Alberto Gordo and Donald Stewart, who all averaged double-digit points this season.
The Wesmen are top 10 in points per game allowed and are third in assists per game in the nation.
The Wesmen take on the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees tomorrow as the seven seed, where they meet the OUA champions.
Winnipeg’s head coach Mike Raimbault said it had been an exciting season for the team.
“I think we’ve surprised a few people along the way in terms of getting here.”