New year, new challenges for Vikes basketball

–APShutter.com (photo)

–APShutter.com (photo)

The Vikes entered the December break with a pair of home wins over the University of Alberta Golden Bears, firmly planting them in third place in Canada West’s Pioneer Division. However, once the Vikes resume play in January, they will be bearing down on the toughest section of this season’s schedule. The Vikes’ first four games are against Manitoba schools, both of which are currently in the top-five of the Pioneer Division.

On Jan. 8–9, the Vikes play on the road against the second-place University of Manitoba Bisons and the following weekend face the University of Winnipeg Wesmen at home. The schedule offers little relief after that as the Vikes then travel to Calgary to face the first-place University of Calgary Dinos on Jan. 23–24, a matchup that could have serious playoff implications for both teams.

So far this season, the Vikes have been led by strong play from their veteran players, including six-foot-10 forward Chris McLaughlin who ranks in the CW top-five in field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage, rebounds per game, and points per game. Complimenting McLaughlin is fourth-year point-guard Marcus Tibbs who scored 23 points in the final CW game before the Vikes’ December break.

The playoffs are a near certainty for the Vikes—the top seven of 10 teams in the Pioneer Division make the playoffs—but this first stretch of games will go a long way in determining the playoff positioning for the Vikes.

Conversely, the women’s basketball team is eager to leave what happened in 2014 behind them and use the changing of the calendar as a fresh start for their 2014–15 campaign.

The Vikes currently sit in second-last place in the Pioneer Division—out of a playoff spot, but with two games at hand against the teams immediately ahead of them. The Vikes opened their conference season with a pair of wins over the University of Regina Cougars but have failed to register a win since. When the season resumes, the Vikes will have an excellent opportunity to improve their record as they face last-place University of Manitoba Bisons on Jan 9–10.

A bright spot so far for the Vikes this season has been the play of rookie guard Amira Giannattasio, who sits second in CW in three-point percentage and eighth in field-goal percentage.

This season seems to be somewhat of a rebuilding year for the Vikes as Giannattasio is one of seven rookies on the roster. However, the season is a long way from over and if the Vikes can scrape together a few wins in January they will be right back in the thick of the playoff race in the Pioneer Division.

The first men’s and women’s home basketball game is Jan. 16–17 against the University of Winnipeg at McKinnon Gym.

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