On Thursday morning, the Canada West conference unveiled its basketball schedule for the 2017-18 season.
In men’s action, the Alberta Golden Bears will begin their conference title defence at home against the Trinity Western Spartans on Feb. 27-28. On the women’s side, the reigning conference champion Regina Cougars will begin on the road, taking on Manitoba from Nov. 3-4.
The opening round of the playoffs will take place between Feb. 8-11, and, new for this season, the conference will feature a one-game championship instead of the typical Final Four format. The championship will be hosted by the highest remaining seed on either March 2nd or 3rd.
As the hosts of the women’s national championship, the Cougars have already punched their ticket to the Final 8, taking place from March 8-11 in the Queen City. The men’s tournament will occur in Halifax, N.S. for a second consecutive year, with Acadia taking over the hosting duties.
Additionally, there have been a few tweaks to the conference’s ratings performance index (RPI) formula, which was introduced last season in order to help seed playoff teams based on varying strengths of schedules.
The new formula will see increased value in a team’s win/loss record, while reducing the value assigned for away wins and increasing the value for home wins.
With all that being said, here are eight key matchups to keep an eye on during the 2017-18 regular season.
Regina at Manitoba: November 3-4, 2017
The Bisons and Cougars faced off twice in the regular season and twice in the playoffs last year, and each contest was a battle until the final buzzer.
Manitoba won all four games, however the Cougars demonstrated their never-say-die attitude, nearly coming back from double-digit deficits in the four quarter on both separate occasions.
In game one of their Canada West Play-In Series, it was Manitoba who showed their resolve, coming all the way back from 16-points down to knock off the Cougars.
After getting bounced from the playoffs by the Bisons in 2017, Regina will be looking for revenge. The Herd, on the other hand, are out to prove that they’re still a top contender after making it to the Final 8 for the first time in over 30 years last season.
Calgary at Saskatchewan: December 1-2, 2017
Viewers are in for a treat in the final week before the winter break, as the Dinos take on the Huskies in a rematch of last year’s conference bronze medal encounter.
Calgary got the better of the Green Dogs in their playoff battle—an overtime thriller that ended 111-106. Saskatchewan maintained a two-possession lead for most of the game, and were up by eight with 3:45 remaining before the Dinos fought back, led by Thomas Cooper’s team-high 32 points.
These two squads are typically near the top of the conference standings, and with playoff seedings likely on the line, this series should bring the house down.
Winnipeg at Brandon: January 5-6, 2018
Those familiar with the conference are likely aware of the long-term rivalry that exists between Manitoba and Winnipeg. This is in part due to the annual Duckworth Challenge, as well as the fact that a number of these athletes know each other so well from high school.
On the outside looking in however is the third Manitoba team: the Brandon Bobcats. Brandon swept the season series with the Bisons last year and will look to do the same in 2017-18 against the Wesmen.
Winnipeg and Brandon both made the playoffs last year and this contest could offer a taste at what two of the up-and-coming teams in the conference have to offer.
Alberta at Lethbridge: February 5-6, 2018
Who doesn’t want to see two provincial rivals battle it out in the final week of the regular season? Fans will get what they wished for in early February as the Golden Bears and Pronghorns square off in a rematch of last year’s quarter-final tilt.
Alberta ended up laughing last, winning the three-game series 2-1 and were able to parlay their momentum all the way to a conference championship.
The Pronghorns handed the Golden Bears their only loss in the playoffs however, and will be sure to have a few tricks up their sleeve when the two teams meet again this season.
Alberta at Winnipeg: November 3-4, 2017
Two of the best teams in the conference last season will meet early on in 2017-18, in a rematch of last year’s bronze medal game.
Winnipeg got the better of Alberta in last season’s face-off, coming back from 18 points down to claim victory. The Pandas will certainly have retribution on their mind.
Both teams graduate impact players at the guard position, but will have an arsenal of talent at their disposal for this highly anticipated contest.
UBC at UNBC: November 10-11, 2017
The Thunderbirds will look to continue their winning ways against provincial-rival UNBC in 2017-18, after taking all four contests against the Timberwolves last season, including a two game sweep during their playoff Play-In Series.
UNBC on the other hand, is out to prove that they can compete with a top contender. They showed flashes in a Feb. 4 regular season contest last season where they led at halftime against the T-Birds, before being overpowered by a well-balanced UBC attack.
Brandon at Trinity Western: December 1-2, 2017
These two teams fought tooth and nail against each other during their Play-In Series in 2016-17, and they’ll get reacquainted with one another right before the winter break.
The Spartans were able to top the Bobcats in a deciding game three last season, marking the first playoff series win in program history. Trinity Western will look to pick up where they left off, after posting a winning record for the first time in school history as well.
Brandon on the other hand, will hope to silence the resilient squad and build off of what was a promising 2016-17 campaign.
Regina at Saskatchewan: February 2-3, 2018
The best has been saved for last, as Regina and Saskatchewan will face off for provincial supremacy in the final week of the regular season.
Redemption will be on the Cougars mind, after being defeated by the Huskies in the championship final last season, while Saskatchewan will aim to prove that they’re still the cream of the crop in Canada West.
You can view the entire 2017-18 Canada West basketball schedules here.