By Jamie Umbach, Vikes Communications
A new era for the University of Victoria Vikes men’s basketball program began at the onset of the 2015-16 season with the opening of the Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities. The Vikes moved across Gabriola Way from their traditional home of McKinnon Gym to the confines of the brand new, state-of-the-art athletic facility and the CARSA Performance Gym.
After winning the Canada West title in 2014-15 and finishing fourth at the 2015 CIS Championship in Toronto, Ont., the Vikes said goodbye to seasoned veterans Marcus Tibbs and Canada West Outstanding Player of the Year and CIS First Team All-Canadian Chris McLaughlin and welcomed some key additions that included Joshua Charles, brother of third year Jordan Charles, and six-foot-five Nanaimo, B.C. product Tyus Barfoot. Head coach Craig Beaucamp entered his 13th season at the helm of the Vikes men’s basketball program alongside assistants Craig Behan, Phil Ohl and Josh Mullen.
This season would also be the last for seniors Mack Roth, Reiner Theil and Brandon Dunlop as they were set to finish their five-year varsity careers as Vikes. Roth and Theil were key parts in the Vikes qualifying for three consecutive CIS championships from 2012-14 and winning their first Canada West title since 2006 last season while Dunlop returned for his final year after taking a three-year hiatus from the Vikes.
A boisterous, capacity crowd of 2,100 greeted the Vikes on Oct. 2 in their first game at the CARSA Performance Gym against reigning CIS champions the Carleton Ravens during the Guy Vetrie Memorial Tournament, which returned for a second-consecutive year to celebrate CARSA’s grand opening. Despite losing their first game, the experience demonstrated the facility’s ability to put on one of the prime varsity sporting events in the CIS. The Vikes continued their preseason with two more games against the Saskatchewan Huskies and Fraser Valley Cascades in the Guy Vetrie Tournament before playing three games in Ontario against Brock, McMaster and Guelph and two down south in Oregon at the Quinn Classic against Eastern Oregon and the College of Idaho.
The Vikes started their 2015-16 Canada West campaign with the hot hand, going 6-1 in their first seven games with series sweeps over Trinity Western and Saskatchewan and a split home series with the powerful Calgary Dinos. Roth sealed a 72-71 victory for the Vikes over the Dinos on Nov. 20 with a last-second shot from the line to lift the Vikes to 5-0 in their first five games.
A torrent start for the Vikes to their Canada West season was followed by a rough stretch of 10 losses in 12 games, including a series sweep at the hands of pacific rivals and 2016 CIS championship hosts the UBC Thunderbirds on Jan. 29-30. The Vikes ultimately missed out on the playoffs, marking the first time since 2009 that the University of Victoria would not see Canada West men’s playoff basketball.
However, the Vikes were keen to end their season strongly and give graduating athletes Roth, Theil and Dunlop an appropriate send-off. The Vikes swept the Brandon Bobcats in their final two home games, with Roth registering 21 points and four rebounds in a 90-74 win on Feb. 20.
The Vikes men have only missed the playoffs four times in their past 16 seasons (2002, 2003, 2009 and 2016) and aim to return to the postseason in 2016-17 following a rebuilding year and the departure of three influential starters in their lineup. Beaucamp and his coaching staff begin the five-year cycle once again, as is tradition in varsity athletics, with a fresh and exciting cast of new Vikes next season to compliment a core that includes Grant Sitton, Hassan Abdullahi and Justin Kinnear.
Canada West Record: 9-11
Last CIS title: 1996-97
Last Canada West title: 2014-15