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Men’s Basketball Final 8: Tigers quarter-final preview

Men’s Basketball Final 8: Tigers quarter-final preview

By: Mike Still

The field is officially set for the U SPORTS men’s basketball Final 8, taking place this week, from March 9-12 at the Scotiabank Centre in downtown Halifax. 

After successfully defending their AUS crown for the third-consecutive season, the host Dalhousie Tigers will the tournament as the #5 seed, and will battle the Canada West conference champion, #4 seed Alberta Golden Bears in the last quarter-final of the day at 8 p.m. AST on Thursday, March 9. Here is a preview of how the two teams match up.

(4) Alberta Golden Bears (14-6 regular season/ 4-1 in the playoffs) versus (5) Dalhousie Tigers (16-4 regular season/ 2-0 in the playoffs)

This matchup will be a battle of contrasting styles, with Alberta’s potent offence taking on a stingy Tigers defence.

The Golden Bears were the league’s best three-point shooting team, and were fourth in the Canada West conference in points per game, with 82.5. On the other side, head coach Rick Plato’s Tigers were once again a terror to play against defensively, allowing just 71 points per game, which was well below any other team in the AUS.

Alberta is led at the perimeter by guard Austin Waddoups and swingman Mamadou Gueye, and also get key contributions from reserves Andre Kelly and Geoff Pippus. All four players shot over 40 percent from the land beyond during the regular season.

The Tigers will combat the Golden Bears sharp-shooters with active two-way veterans Kashrell Lawrence and Ritchie Kanza Mata, who were first and second in the AUS in steals, with 47 and 38, respectively.

This contest will likely come down to how well Dalhousie can perform offensively against a relatively strong Golden Bears unit that gave up an average of just 74 points per game.

While the Tigers will likely plan to take this game inside, they can also go toe-to-toe with Alberta’s firepower outside, if needed. Forward Sven Stammberger shot an impressive 40.2 percent from three-point range, while fifth-year guard Jarred Reid shot 32.7 percent. Dalhousie also has an x-factor coming off the bench, in guard Matt McVeigh, who shot 38.8 percent.

The other key statistic to keep track of will be rebounding. The Golden Bears led the conference in boards per game, with 43.6, while Dalhousie was second worst in the conference, with just 35.9.

Alberta will be paced by Gueye and impact forward Brody Clarke, who average just over seven and six rebounds per game, respectively. Rebounds were the difference for the Golden Bears in their convincing gold medal victory over the Manitoba Bisons last weekend.

Lawrence will yet again be looked upon to maintain his aggressiveness inside, specifically against Gueye. The athletic forward led the Tigers with 6.8 rebounds per game in the regular season. Dalhousie will also need a big game on the glass from starting post Ryall Stroud, who will likely match up with Clarke. Fellow forward Sascha Kappos is another key player for Dalhousie, who, along with adding critical size, is also an effective shooter from mid-range.