The University of Alberta Golden Bears’ basketball team’s monotony of summer prep work and training for the upcoming season will take a break in early August for the annual Battle of the Borders tournament.
The six-day event is set for August 7-12 at the University of Calgary. There, the host U of C team, the U of A and Calgary’s Mount Royal university will each play a game against NCAA Division 1 schools, the University of Wyoming Cowboys and the Montana State University Bobcats.
U of A head coach Barnaby Craddock isn’t concerned with the team’s record in the tournament, as he still has yet to even practice with the team. But he sees other benefits the tournament offers to the Golden Bears, being an exciting week for players during their months of training.
“It’s our goal to compete for a national championship in March, and the results of these games don’t have a lot to do with that,” Craddock said.
“It’s more of a chance for us where it’s exciting to play D1 teams, it’s nice publicity and everyone’s interested in how CIS programs compete compared to D1 programs in the states. It’s nice to go up against those guys, but as far as our preparation for the end of the year and competing for a national championship, it’s a different test.”
The comparison between the CIS and NCAA programs is often the main draw for the Battle of the Borders. NCAA is widely regarded to have the best collegiate basketball and often gets more attention — particularly with the March Madness tournament — than CIS basketball. In last year’s tournament, the NCAA schools went 4-0 against CIS schools.
“It’s always very situational. A lot of the time you can be losing by 30 or 40 points, but at the same time CIS programs beat NCAA division one programs occasionally. You see all sorts of scenarios occur, and it’s the same situation for the American teams,” Craddock said.
“These aren’t the most important games for their seasons. They won’t start their real training until September and October, so for them it’s a chance to get to see their incoming freshmen in redshirts, have their whole roster play and the international trip and experience involved with it. For all of the programs it’s an exhibition game.”
The performance of the other CIS teams could potentially be interesting for the Golden Bears. This will be their first glimpse of this year’s U of C Dinos and the Mount Royal University Cougars, entering their first season in CIS basketball this fall.
However, a lot about both the Golden Bears and their provincial rivals could change in the two months before the CIS season begins.
“We won’t put a lot of stock in these pre-season games for our performance or the other team’s performance,” Craddock said.
“We’re never stepping on the court where we’re not competing or giving 100 per cent, but at the same time we’ll have had a minimal amount of practice time going into the games. It’s more of a chance to see our guys get to play with each other, as well as rewarding the guys on our team and letting them compete against a high level of competition.”
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