Timberwolves face reality of big junp
They competed at the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association men’s basketball nationals four years in a row.
At the 2010 CCAA championship tournament in Calgary, they celebrated the gold medal title. This year, the UNBC Timberwolves won’t even see playoff action.
Welcome to Canada West.
If there’s anybody who thought UNBC would be a shoo-in for the postseason, that person obviously doesn’t follow university sports. If you want professional hockey as a comparison, the jump from the CCAA to Canadian Interuniversity Sport is like advancing from the American Hockey League to National Hockey League.
Bigger players, faster players, stronger players.
After this weekend, there will be no Canada West Universities Athletic Association regular-season action in Prince George until September. Both UNBC soccer teams and its women’s basketball squad also failed to qualify for playoffs.
Once again, who’s really surprised?
Looking back on UNBC’s inaugural Canada West season in 2012-13, most of the results have been what we expected. The soccer squads, still relatively young varsity programs, finished with lower winning percentages than the basketball teams will end up with. (Note: UNBC basketball had already completed eight CCAA seasons when soccer joined the fold in 2007.)
We expected an improved women’s soccer team and, despite ugly defeats, they improved on a pointless 2011 by recording a trio of ties in 12 games. Moving to the next level, the men were also expected to end up at or near the bottom of the standings. Like their female counterparts, they ended up last. But they managed a win, finishing 1-13.
On the hardwood, a women’s basketball team has faced the challenge of dealing with a smaller than average roster. They carry a 6-14 record into this weekend.
Yet it’s the most successful of the four programs, UNBC’s only national winner at the college level, that may have had a more disappointing season than the rest.
Why? It relates to expectations.
With success, the bar gets raised. While nobody was under the illusion that the Timberwolves would be a Canada West frontrunner in men’s basketball, we expected some of their CCAA success to carry over. They had talent and experience, a veteran-laden squad with four fifth-year guards.
Graduates Sam Raphael, Francis Rowe, Jose Araujo and Joel Rybachuk were teammates on the 2010 national-winning team.
The Timberwolves also held the fourth and final playoff spot in the Pacific Division entering Christmas, a .500 record at 5-5. A 10-game losing streak has dropped them to 5-15.
A tougher second-half schedule has played no small role. However, the Timberwolves didn’t raise their game as much as they’d hoped.
A team that was hopeful they’d challenge for the playoffs late in the season enters the final weekend knowing the campaign ends on Saturday night. They entered last weekend’s set against the UBC Thunderbirds all but mathematically eliminated, with razor-thin playoff chances.
The end of the basketball season in mid-February is disappointing. It’s also a feeling that Raphael, Rowe, Araujo and Rybachuk aren’t used to.