The drama was evident this past weekend at the RBC Classic, hosted at Brock. The classic featured four teams and four games running from Friday through Sunday, all of which were entertaining in their own way.
The Brock Badgers and Ryerson Rams, two of Canada’s top five teams were set to play in preseasona action. Over the last two seasons the two programs have seen packed gymnasiums and fans travelling to the other school to cheer on their university team, and this weekend was no different.
The first game of the weekend was the biggest occasion, as Brock hosted the Calgary Dinos — a matchup that many spectators and the media had been waiting for. Anticipation had been building since last March when the Dinos were chosen to go to the U Sports Final 8 over the Badgers by a committee consisting of coaches across the league. Both teams have seen some roster turnover from last season, so it’s difficult to judge based off a pre-season game who was more deserving last year. The University of Ottawa and the University of British Columbia were also factored in when the committee was making the decision last March for the final spot in the national tournament.
“Last year is last year,” said Dinos’ head coach Dan Vanhooren. “If anybody wants to bring stuff in from last year, it doesn’t help anybody.”
Brock head coach Charles Kissi echoed Vanhooren’s comments, stating the two teams were just looking for competitive exhibition action ahead of the regular season.
“Everybody can bring a chip into this year if they want, but it doesn’t mean anything,” said Vanhooren. The Dinos’ coach joined a long list of other U Sports coaches who believe the national tournament should be expanded to more than eight teams.
The Badgers went on to defeat the Dinos 82-70, following a slow start for the host team. The Dinos took a 10-point lead following the first quarter, but the Badgers bounced back with a 25-3 run in the second quarter on route to their victory.
“It would be great if we could play Calgary every year, their staff does a great job,” said Kissi following the win. “They exposed a lot of us, so that’s why we want to play teams of that calibre.”
Brock concluded their preseason play on Saturday, defeating the Rams 97-86. It was another slow start for the Badgers, followed by a strong second quarter. The Rams made a late game run, but it wasn’t enough to cut into a Badger lead that got as large as 21 at 7:40 left in the game.
“It could be a number of things, but we have to start better,” said Kissi when discussing his teams slow starts. “The signs of a good team is that we dug ourselves out of a hole.”
It should be noted that the Rams played without Adam Voll and Ammanuel Diressa — the two averaged a combined 26 points per game for the Rams. It also seemed like Rams head coach Roy Rana was experimenting with different line-ups before the season.
The most exciting game of the weekend was the Sunday matchup between the Dinos and Rams. A shot at the buzzer by the Dinos sent the game to overtime, where the Alberta school pulled out an 87-85 win. The Dinos also picked a victory on Saturday, beating the Windsor Lancers 93-86.
The Badgers will begin their 2017-18 regular season on October 25, when they host the Western Mustangs.
The OUA conference standings will look a little different this year, as the league will go from four divisions to two. The Rams will be part of a tougher division with top schools like Carleton, Ottawa and Laurentian.
“It’s not going to be easy for anyone, our league has gotten better,” said Kissi when speaking on the division change. “We don’t have Carleton on our side, but maybe we are that team on our side.”
It’ll be interesting to see if the Badgers can be exactly that this season, as they try to push to the next level and compete at the national tournament this year. It will be cornerstone Dani Elgadi’s final season with the Badgers, as the fifth-year player looks to close his final university season on a high note.
During the game versus Ryerson, Elgadi moved into seventh all-time on Brock’s scoring list. The forward now has 2,299 points in a Brock jersey, surpassing Jamie Duncan. Elgadi will need to average about 25 points and 11 rebounds this season to potentially finish his career as the top scorer and rebounder in Brock’s history.
Other key players for Brock this past weekend were: Cassidy Ryan, who scored 13 and 21, respectively this weekend, Johneil Simpson added 18 and 13 and Daniel Cayer was impressive with 10 and 18 points over the two games.
Kissi stated ball movement and defence being keys if the team wants to succeed this upcoming season.
Along with the game versus the Mustangs on Wednesday, Brock will host Laurier on Oct. 28 before they travel for four games, including a trip to Ryerson on November 8.