Can Tigers “Four-Peat” ? … If the early season is any indication, there is every reason to believe that the revamped Dalhousie Tigers are in a legitimate position to capture their fourth consecutive AUS tournament victory – Tigers have won 7 in a row at the great Halifax early March event and have impressed this early season with 6’6″ All-Canadian candidate Sven Stammberger leading the way aided by the emergence of 6’4″ combo guard Keevan Veinot, one of the top freshmen in the country… Expect the AUS playoff race to be closer than the past two seasons when the post-season participants were all but decided with weeks remaining in the regular season. St. FX X-Men have a veteran core that was within one “in-and-out” three pointer of knocking off the Tigers this past Saturday night in Antigonish and X has two more chances this week at being considered a conference favorite with games at Dal on Wednesday and at home in Antigonish against the Tigers on Saturday. Three games in 8 days between two programs generally in the forecast for finishing at/near the top of the AUS is likely to test the emotions of both sides so expect some high-tempo, high-energy action even this early in the regular season – alot at stake already in these games. X tries to shake off last season’s first round one-point loss to eventual AUS runner-up Saint Mary’s with 6’7″ Kevin Bercy‘s missed free throw with 3 seconds remaining being the difference. UNB Varsity Reds had a solid pre-season that saw the roster slowly build in depth as players returned from injuries. This will be the fifth and final season for 6’0″ Javon Masters and the lefty from Kitchener, who is just 128 points away from tying UPEI’s 6’6″ Curtis Robinson on the AUS all-time individual career points scored list, looks to shake off an 0-4 post-season record with all losses at the Metro Center including last season, when V-Reds finished second in the regular season and had a first-round tournament bye before losing handily 81-68 to Saint Mary’s… With a guaranteed spot at the U-Sports Final 8, Acadia does not have to play their way into the National championship tournament however Axemen have played several exciting matches at the AUS tournament recently including last season’s semi-final when Acadia led eventual tournament champion Dalhousie by six with 4 1/2 minutes remaining but watched as Stammberger completed another gut-check Tigers comeback with a breakaway slam in a 78-75 win. Tigers welcome back 6’8″ center Rhys Larry after a two year absence and have at least one impact freshman in 6’6″ Mason Maddaugh to augment their pair of AUS honours candidates in 6’9″ Eric Nissen and 6’3″ Ben Miller. Saint Mary’s must replace virtually their entire rotation from last season with the exception of 6’3″ Kemar Alleyne but return 6’8″ Osman Barrie who sat out all of last season plus impact 6’6″ freshman Nikita Kasango (Montreal). Second-year Cape Breton coach David Petroziello welcomes his first true recruiting class to Sydney and expect that the virtually brand new roster will require time to absorb Petroziello’s emphasis on defense and rebounding and what the rotation will look like down the stretch of the season. A situation similar to CBU’s last summer is evolving in Charlottetown where former Panther star Darrell Glenn only took the reigns of UPEI in May, hardly enough time to a thorough job of evaluating his team, let alone recruit. Still, Panthers have brought in multiple new, high-potential faces, potentially the most impactful of which could be 6’8″ Southern U. (NCAA D1) transfer D’Adrian Allen (Brampton, ON) and 6’2″ Moshe Wadley. Getting his team to play the way the experience mentor Glenn wants to, especially consistently at the defensive end, will likely be the near-term challenge. Memorial lost several starters including 6’9″ Vasilije Curcic to graduation but returns 6’6″ sophomore Nathan Barker, a rising star in the AUS and will need 5’11” fifth-year point guard Davion Parnsalu, injured for much of the pre-season, to set the table for their array of athletic finishers led by 6’3″ Daniel Gordon.
AUS 2017-18 Regular Season Forecast:
- St. FX
- Saint Mary’s
- Cape Breton
AUS 2018 Tournament Predictions:
First Round – St. FX over Cape Breton; Saint Mary’s over UNB
Semi-Finals – Dalhousie over Saint Mary’s; St. FX over Acadia
Championship – Dalhousie over St. FX.