Alberta Golden Bears (25-10, 14-6 in Canada West regular season, 4-1 in post-season, 7-3 in non-conference including 5-1 vs. non-Canada West opponents)… With two dominant wins in the two most important games of the Canada West season, the Golden Bears captured their first CW title since 2013-14. While most will point to the data showing that much of Alberta’s offensive success can be attributed to the three-ball: Bears led Canada West at 40.6% shooting from three – improving to 44.4% as a team from downtown in the post-season – when right Alberta has solid offensive balance inside and out. Defensively, Golden Bears are built on defense (only 74 ppg allowed, 39.5% fg% d) and rebounding (+7.1 margin and third fewest “o” boards allowed in the conference). Coach Barnaby Craddock has taken three different programs (Brandon, Fraser Valley and Alberta) to the Final 8 in his career.
With at least three starters who can potentially explode offensively, Golden Bears have plenty of balance and love to start the offense with a post touch. 6’8″ Brody Clarke, son of former St. Bonaventure and Canadian national team star Norman Clarke, is a classic paint-area post player with solid back-to-the-basket moves, solid, willing passing skills and the ability to stretch out on the perimeter. Clarke, only in his second year, has been somewhat foul prone throughout his career which has been accentuated in this post-season – in the Bears five playoff games, he has fouled out of two and had minutes limited in two other games with 4 fouls. Clarke did stay out of foul trouble and subsequently broke out in the Canada West championship game with 29 points and 12 rebounds against Manitoba.
While Bears can score in the quarter court, Alberta really wants to get easy scores and their maestro in transition is 6’2″ third-year import guard Austin Waddoups, who has averaged 17.4 ppg in the post-season including a near triple-double vs. Lethbridge and 20 points in the CW semi-final win over Saskatchewan. Having played a key role in the national junior college championship game last season in Utah, Waddoups is comfortable with the ball in his hands at the end of games. He is shooting .500 from downtown (16 for 32) in the post-season. 6’2″ Dwan Williams starts in the back-court and brings aggressiveness guarding the ball and on the glass.
Alberta’s finest overall athlete is silky smooth 6’6″ Mamadou Gueye, a long, active wing who can punch it on your head as well as knock down 3’s. Gueye flashed his All-Canadian-type talent with 30 points and 8 rebounds in the nationals clinching win over Saskatchewan this past Friday night and really is at his most effective when competing on the glass and locking down other team’s top scorers. 6’6″ fourth-year forward Lyndon Annetts helps spread the floor – he can make open shots – and brings experience defensively and on the glass.
Alberta’s post-season revelation has been 6’6″ Geoff Pippus, the UBC transfer who is shooting a ridiculous 20 for 37 from beyond the arc in the playoffs including a 26 point effort in the clinching win against Lethbridge in the quarter-finals. 6’1″ second-year guard Ivan Ikomey has also flashed his long-range stroke, going a perfect 4 for 4 from beyond the stripe in that same Lethbridge game when Bears shot 19 for 39 from 3 to win going away by 23 points. 6’2″ all-CW freshman team selection Andre Kelly, son of former Brandon All-Canadian Jude Kelly, shook off a meaningful mid-season injury when he lost about 3 weeks to contribute about 10 mpg in the playoffs off the bench. 7’1″ Brett Roughead could be effective depending on the available match-ups, especially on the offensive glass and in the middle of the Bears zone that they typically play with Roughead in the game.
Pre-tournament recap: Golden Bears sandwiched an OT loss in game two of the CW quarter-final with a pair of dominant wins over Lethbridge at home before dusting Saskatchewan 83-70 in the nationals-clinching game. Alberta was subject to some controversy after resting some of their best players in their regular season finale – their opponents Lethbridge did the same – as the Pronghorns came back from a late 15 point deficit to win in double OT, preventing the Bears from hosting the CW Final 4 – skeptics believe Bears did not want a semi-final match-up with UBC. I watched the entire second half and OT of the Lethbridge game in question and the Bears had the game well in hand until very late when “what could go wrong, did go wrong”; this was not a tank in my strong opinion. Alberta also traveled east in the pre-season to the Frank Tindal Memorial tournament at Queen’s, dropping the opening game by 10 to uOttawa Gee-Gees before defeating the host Gaels and Memorial soundly. Alberta defeated Manitoba three out of four games this season – their only loss to the Bisons was in the championship game of the Wesmen Classic at Christmas. Golden Bears split with Calgary Dinos, the only other Final 8 team they have faced with each winning on the other team’s home floor.
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Usual Starters: 6’2″ Austin Waddoups (3rd Year), 6’2″ Dwan Williams (2nd year), 6’6″ Lyndon Annetts (4th Year), 6’6″ Mamadou Gueye (4th Year), 6’8″ Brody Clarke (2nd Year).
First wing off the bench: 6’6″ Geoff Pippus (4th Year)
Other wings off the bench: 6’2″ Andre Kelly (freshman), 6’1″ Ivan Ikomey (2nd Year)
Reserve Center: 7’1″ Brett Roughead (5th Year).
Coach Craddock has recruited well in Eastern Canada with Clarke and Williams both products of legendary Toronto Oakwood Collegiate and Kelly from Mississauga. Gueye comes from Quebec City while Golden Bears have 2 imports in Waddoups (Utah) and Pippus (Colorado) but the U.S. bred shooter has strong ties to B.C. basketball with his uncle having played for UBC in the late 70’s, early 80’s and grandfather, Hugh Marshall, a B.C. high school basketball coaching legend. Local Alberta talents include Annetts, Ikomey (Calgary) and Roughead.