Tuesday September 02, 2014






TRU basketball teams have new division

In divisions with weak sisters

If anyone with the TRU WolfPack is upset with Canada West's newly created basketball divisions, they certainly weren't saying it Thursday.

Canada West announced at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport annual meeting that it was splitting its 17 basketball teams into two divisions for 2014-15 - 11 teams will be in one, with the WolfPack and five others in the other. All six teams in the WolfPack's division are new to Canada West, each having moved into the conference in the past eight years.

"We are OK with the two divisions," said TRU sports information officer Larry Read, who was present at the CIS meetings in Toronto. "What we have concerns about is the playoff format, but that hasn't been hammered out yet."

Read was speaking on behalf of athletic director Ken Olynyk, who was in transit and unavailable for comment.

Canada West granted membership status to Edmonton's Grant MacEwan Griffins last month, giving it 17 basketball playing members. Because of this, the conference was forced to create two divisions so it could build a manageable schedule.

The WolfPack's division will feature the UNBC Timberwolves of Prince George, the Fraser Valley Cascades of Abbotsford, Kelowna's UBC-Okanagan Heat, the Mount Royal Cougars in Calgary and the Griffins. The WolfPack joined Canada West in 2005-06, with all the other schools joining after.

A decided lack of history and limited success seem to be all the teams in TRU's division have in common with one another.

"There seems to be no rationale for this," said Scott Reeves, head coach of the WolfPack women's basketball team. "It's not by numbers, it's not by geography . . . all these teams (in the other division) aren't powerhouses. I'm not sure why they did it like this."

Reeves's TRU counterpart saw some logic in the moves.

"They had to split (the conference) up somehow," said WolfPack men's basketball head coach Scott Clark. "They've chosen to go with divisions made up of like-minded institutions - there are the older, more-established institutions in one, and the younger, less-established ones in terms of size in the other."

Those older institutions in that other division are the Alberta Golden Bears, Brandon Bobcats, Calgary Dinos, Lethbridge Pronghorns, Manitoba Bisons, Regina Cougars, Saskatchewan Huskies, Trinity Western Spartans, UBC Thunderbirds, Victoria Vikings and Winnipeg Wesmen.

Because there won't be any interdivisional play before playoffs, TRU won't get the chance to play Canada West games against three teams from B.C. - the Spartans, T-Birds and Vikings. The Vikings and T-Birds are two programs with a lot of history and prestige, but they won't be stopping at TRU during the regular season anymore.

Clark said that none of this is a problem. He points to the NCAA's Gonzaga Bulldogs, who play in the West Coast Conference. Despite being a small school in a small conference - most of the members are Jesuit schools with low enrolment - the Bulldogs never have any trouble recruiting players.

Part of the reason is that Gonzaga always schedules tough games in its non-conference schedule.

"I don't think playing UBC has any effect (on recruiting)," Clark said. "When kids come to play basketball at Thompson Rivers University, they come because of the school, because of the climate, the residence. . . .

"And we can still put together a good non-conference schedule."

The Canada West season runs from late October to early March, with most of December off for Christmas and exams. TRU can schedule non-conference games before the season opens and during the December break.

"This just makes those non-conference games more important," Reeves said. "We'll have to play tougher teams in the preseason and at Christmas."

There seemed to be a number of options for dividing the conference - a geographical split could have been a logical one, especially when one considers there are seven programs in B.C., five in Alberta and five combined in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Clark mentioned that he thought some of the bigger schools with football and hockey programs - Manitoba, Alberta, Calgary, Saskatchewan, Regina and UBC - might split into their own division, leaving the rest of the schools in another division.

Canada West's playoff format will have to be tweaked because of the changes. Some of the options being kicked around are having either eight or 12 teams in the postseason.

"That's for the athletic directors to figure out," Clark said. "They determined that this is what they want to do."

THE NEW LOOK

The Canada West divisions in basketball and soccer to be implemented in 2014-15, as announced Thursday at meetings in Toronto (men’s and women’s volleyball will feature all 13 teams in one division):

BASKETBALL

Division 1: Fraser Valley, MacEwan, Mount Royal, UNBC, TRU, UBC-Okanagan.

Division 2: Alberta, Brandon, Calgary, Lethbridge, Manitoba, Regina, Saskatchewan, Trinity Western, UBC, Victoria, Winnipeg.

———

MEN’S SOCCER

East Division: Alberta, Calgary, Lethbridge, MacEwan, Mount Royal, Saskatchewan, Winnipeg.

West Division: Fraser Valley, TRU, Trinity Western, UBC, UBC-Okanagan, UNBC, Victoria.

———

WOMEN’S SOCCER

East Division: Alberta, Calgary, Lethbridge, MacEwan, Manitoba, Mount Royal, Regina, Saskatchewan, Winnipeg.

West Division: Fraser Valley, TRU, Trinity Western, UBC, UBC-Okanagan, UNBC, Victoria.


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