2013 Men's Basketball Nationals

March 5th, 2013

Follow all the action from Quebec, VIU plays Red Deer in the first game of the 2013 CCAA National Men's Basketball Championship.
There is a live video webcast on the 2013 CCAA National Basketball Championship website


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Mariners looking to step onto podium
 
Ben Ingram
Daily News

The Vancouver Island University Mariners men's basketball team is taking their shot at a national title one step at a time. VIU will fly out of Victoria on Tuesday to take part in the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association's national championship tournament in Sainte Anne de Bellevue, Que., March 14-16.

The team's first target will be the Red Deer College Kings, this season's Alberta Colleges Athletic Association champions.

"I think it's a good matchup for us, they kind of start smaller guys on the perimeter so won't face a team with necessarily a lot of length defensively," said Mariners head coach Matt Kuzminski. "If we're on top of our transition defence and able to drive penetration, we should find ourselves in a good spot."

VIU is not taking a national championship berth lightly.

Last week the team poured over videotape of their rivals-to-be, combined with a heavy load of practice time.

The Mariners scheduled their Monday practice for 7 a.m. in order to normalize themselves to a tournament in the eastern time zone.

The name of the game against the Kings will be defence. The Mariners expect that they will be advantaged in a more low-scoring match, as Red Deer typically plays an offence-first style. If VIU's ability to slow down the pace and keep the Kings from seeing the basket clicks on Thursday, Kuzminski expects the Mariners will walk away with a win.

One challenge for the team could be the heightened energy level that comes with playing on the national stage. Kuzminski said the team has mastered the approach of taking things one at a time.

"We're looking at the task at hand. We've got to play a team on Thursday at 1 p.m., we're not looking much beyond that. We're not thinking of it as if we're trying to go out and win a national championship," he said. "When we start playing, we're going to start saying we need to win the next three possessions, for example."

The Mariners claimed silver in the PacWest provincial championships on March 2 when they fell to the number-two CCAA ranked Langara Falcons by a mere 78-74.

VIU will head to Quebec armed with that tournament's MVP, Brandon Jones, who amassed an incredible 42 points in the final against Langara. Needless to say, he was also selected as the PacWest player of the week.

The Mariners will also expect a strong showing from six-foot-four centre Ryan Davidson, a Nanaimo native who received a tournament all-star nod.

"The guys are really excited. It's a big opportunity to get to compete in the final eight in the country. There's a lot of energy, excitement (on the team)," said Kuzminski.

Davidson said the loss to the Falcons only solidified the Mariner's commitment to a team-based approach.

He expects the VIU squad that hits the court on Thursday will be a one that is more than prepared.

"If (the Kings) can get out and transition and get easy buckets I think they can do well," he said.

"Our thing is to slow them down and make them play a half court game."

The PacWest all star guessed he might be played as shutdown to Windsor, Ont.'s Robert Pierce, one of the top-ranked players in the ACAA. He averaged over 17 points and 11.5 rebounds per game last season.

"He's a very physical guy, an athlete," said Davidson. "He's a pretty good scorer so just staying in the proper position and not letting him get easy looks (will be key)."

VIU and Red Deer square off at 1 p.m. eastern time on Thursday. The tournament is held at John Abbott College.