It's official. The University of Calgary men's basketball team is the number-two ranked team in the nation. Their ride to the top has not been easy but this team has proven week after week that they belong with the very best teams in CIS basketball. The only two teams in the entire country that have a higher winning percentage than the Dinos are the Carlton Ravens, who are the defending national champions and the third ranked Acadia University Axemen, who have played four fewer games than Calgary.
"If you look at the coaches poll we're number two, on CIS hoops we're number two," said Dinos head coach Dan Vanhooren. "Basically any opinion poll of any kind we're number two in the nation so, that says it's probably correct."
During the Christmas break, the Dinos played in the Wesmen Tournament, beating the number-two ranked team at the time, the Acadia University Axemen, but suffered a disappointing loss to Brock University and still finished third while playing in a very tough bracket.
Then, the Dinos resumed their regular season play with a split against the University of Alberta Golden Bears in Edmonton and hosted the winless University of Lethbridge Pronghorns, completely destroying them with 102-72 and 95-72 victories.
The games in Edmonton demonstrated the difference in attitudes towards university sports between the two cities. At the U of A main gym, the stands were packed, with lineups at the concession stand and writeups about the games in the Edmonton Journal.
The team then took their winning ways further, sweeping the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns in their weekend set Jan. 11 and 12.
The Dinos have a solid starting five, a deep bench and are well-coached. Point guard Jeff Price has one of the highest free throw averages in Canada West, is averaging just over 11 points per game and leads the team in minutes played. Forward Henry Bekkering is averaging close to 20 points per game and his younger brother Ross is averaging a double-double every game with 13 points and 11 rebounds. The unsung hero of the team 6'6" forward Robbie Sihota who is averaging close to 15 points per game. Fifth-year Cody Darrah rounds out the starting five and is a constant three-point threat that teams need to watch.
Bench players such as Joe Schow, Jeremy Odland and Tyler Fidler would start on nearly any other team in Canada West, but when one plays on a team being a strong contender for the national title there are going to be good players who are not going to be starters. Even a support player such as Chris Unsworth would play much more if he wasn't on one of the top teams in the country.
This week's games will take the Dinos against across the Canadian prairies to Regina and Brandon. The University of Regina Cougars may have a .500 record but they have just one loss at home and the Brandon University Bobcats are one of the top five teams in the country. Most teams look to sweep at home and split on the road but a team with this much talent aims to sweep on the road as well.