The Dinos men's basketball team has never won a national title, but this year they will get a chance to change that.
Sat., Mar. 6 saw the Dinos win the Canada West crown, earning them not only a trip to the Canadian Interuniversty Sport Men's Basketball Championship in Halifax from Mar. 18-21, but a number four seed as well. As a result, the team earned a first round bye and will play the fifth-seeded McMaster University Marauders in their first game, on Fri., Mar. 19.
Following the Canada West victory, Head Coach DanVanhooren commented on the team's shooting, which was better than in the divisional final against the University of Alberta Golden Bears a week earlier, but could still be improved.
"We're still building toward a peak," he said optimistically.
That said, things look good for the Dinos heading into the one of the biggest weekends in the program's history--the last men's basketball team that made it to nationals played over a decade ago.
"We don't have too many concerns from an injury standpoint," said Vanhooren. "We're not just relying on one guy, and the starters are steady."
"[With school], things are very hectic," said fifth-year Dino Surinder Grewal. "[But] we feel like we're at the end."
A further boost to the team's confidence was the recent recognition of a key player. Fifth-year star John Riad was named to the Canada West First All-Star Team and was later named a Second Team All-Canadian.
The team left for Halifax Tue., Mar. 16, where they spent the week practicing. Both Brandon University and the University of British Columbia, the two other Canada West teams to qualify, will play in the first round Thu., Mar. 17, having entered the tournament ranked ninth and seventh respectively.
The top-ranked University of Carleton Ravens are the defending national champions and are favoured to win the tournament, but it is interesting to note that the same UBC team the Dinos defeated in Canada West final was victorious over Carleton in a non-conference game. The second place team, the Universite de Laval Rouge et Or, were defeated by Dinos in non-conference play.
Regardless of past records and seeding, anything could happen as teams that rarely compete against one another face off with no room for mistakes. It's anyone's game, and the Dinos are ready.