Playoff Free Throws: Top four get back to work in quarters

Playoff Free Throws: Top four get back to work in quarters

Brian Swane, Special to Canada West

EDMONTON – After an exciting start to the Canada West men's basketball playoffs, the drama ramps up in the quarter-final round, as eight teams vie for a spot in the Final Four.

The defending champion Calgary Dinos are among four teams that earned a bye through the play-in round, and now get ready to tip off against the winners of last weekend's series.

The quarter-finals include a rematch of the 2016 championship game between Calgary and Thompson Rivers, and bronze medal game that saw UBC defeat Manitoba. Six of the eight remaining teams reached the quarter-finals last year, while the two that didn't – Saskatchewan and Winnipeg – will play each other.

A look at the series:

(9) Thompson Rivers vs.  (1) Calgary

The WolfPack were the lone road team to win a Canada West play-in series, rallying to knock off the Bobcats 2-1 in Brandon. Their reward? A trip to Calgary to battle the top-seeded and 2016 U SPORTS runner-up Dinos (16-4), who were able to kick up their feet while their future opponents fought tooth-and-nail for survival last week.

These teams last saw each other just three weeks ago, where Calgary won a pair of games in Kamloops, 84-76 and 76-60. Led by Tomas Cooper (22.7 ppg, No. 2 in Canada West) the Dinos are an offensive dynamo, ranking second in the conference in points (89.8) and field goal percentage (47.8%), and free-throw percentage.

Calgary won twice as many games as the Wolfpack (8-12) this season, but TRU has proven capable of winning away from home (6-7 including playoffs). To author an upset, TRU will need another monster series from forward Volodymyr Iegorov, who averaged 23.3 points and 10.3 rebounds against Brandon.

(7) Winnipeg vs. (2) Saskatchewan

After failing to reach the playoffs for the first time in 13 years, the Huskies roared back to life in 2016-17. Saskatchewan went 14-6 this season, including 8-2 in its last 10 games to earn a bye through the play-in round.

Winnipeg defeated Fraser Valley 2-1 in a best-of-three series last week, crushing the Cascades 84-59 in Game 3 at the Duckworth Centre.The Huskies and Wesmen played a pair of close games in Saskatoon in the second week of the season, with each winning once.

One of the top defensive teams in Canada West, Saskatchewan ranked second in points against (71.5), and first in opponents' three-point field goal percentage (32.0). Winnipeg, meanwhile, made the third-most three-pointers (183), led by Sean Tarver (47). The Huskies are a handful in the paint, with a frontline anchored by Shane Osayande, one of two players in the conference to average a double-double (17.4 ppg, 10.6 rpg).

(6) Lethbridge vs. (3) Alberta

If this series can be as interesting as the last game between Alberta and Letbhrdige in Edmonton, it'll be a classic.

On the final night of the regular season, the Pronghorns beat the Golden Bears 96-94 in double overtime at the Saville Community Sports Centre. That result prevented Alberta from clinching the top seed for the playoffs, and gave Lethbridge momentum that it carried through a 2-0 sweep of Victoria last weekend.

Alberta boasts one of the conference's top offensives (82.5 ppg, fourth), buoyed by a prolific perimeter attack (206 three-pointers made, first), while Lethbridge proved itself to be also deadly from the outside, going 25-for-53 as a team on triples against Victoria.

These teams played each other in the post-season every year from 1997 to 2000, with the series going the distance all four times, but this is their first playoff meeting since. Alberta (14-6) was 7-3 at home this season, compared to a 6-4 away record for Lethbrdige (13-7).

(5) Manitoba vs. (4) UBC 

The T-Birds (19-1) are flying high, heading into the playoffs on an 11-game win streak as they look to get back to nationals for a second consecutive year, after hosting in 2016.

UBC was unbeaten in Vancouver this season (11-0), including two close victories over Manitoba in November. The Bisons, however, also have plenty of momentum; Manitoba won 10 of its last 12 regular season games, then swept Regina in a play-in series.

UBC dominates both ends of the court, leading all Canada West teams in points scored (93.2 ppg) and allowed (70.1). Manitoba also boasts plenty of firepower (82.8 ppg, third in the conference) but is middle-of-the-pack defensively (79.2 ppg, 10th). As an added bonus, this series features Canada West's top scorer, UBC senior forward Conor Morgan (23.1 ppg); and assists leader, Bisons point guard Ilarion Bonhomme (4.8 apg).

Men's basketball quarter-final series schedules:

Thu. 23 Thompson Rivers   Calgary   7:00 PM MST
  CW Quarter-finals - Game 1
  Winnipeg   Saskatchewan   8:30 PM CST
  CW Quarter-finals - Game 1
  Lethbridge   Alberta   8:00 PM MST
  CW Quarter-finals - Game 1
  Manitoba   UBC   7:00 PM PST
  CW Quarter-finals - Game 1
Fri. 24 Thompson Rivers   Calgary   7:00 PM MST
  CW Quarter-finals - Game 2
  Winnipeg   Saskatchewan   8:30 PM CST
  CW Quarter-finals - Game 2
  Lethbridge   Alberta   8:00 PM MST
  CW Quarter-finals - Game 2
  Manitoba   UBC   7:00 PM PST
  CW Quarter-finals - Game 2
Sat. 25 Winnipeg   Saskatchewan   4:00 PM CST
  CW Quarter-finals - Game 3 (if necessary)
  Thompson Rivers   Calgary   7:00 PM MST
  CW Quarter-finals - Game 3 (if necessary)
  Lethbridge   Alberta   7:00 PM MST
  CW Quarter-finals - Game 3 (if necessary)
  Manitoba   UBC   7:00 PM PST
  CW Quarter-finals - Game 3 (if necessary)

Watch every game on Canada West TV.