LANGLEY, B.C. – After finishing with a 3-17 record last year and seeing themselves ranked last in the Canada West preseason coaches poll, the Spartans are set to make a statement in 2017-18. With a few key additions and a seasoned lineup, Trinity Western’s men’s basketball team has plans for a turnaround season that should have Spartan fans excited for the next chapter of coach Aaron Muhic’s team.
2017-18 SEASON PREVIEW
COACH AARON MUHIC
“I’m excited to see our guys really grow and step up this season. I think we’ll be better than last year. I know Canada West is really good, but I think if we take things one game and one weekend at a time, we’ll be able to move forward. I think we’re a more mature group. We’re not as long, but I think we’re tougher inside and I know we have better ball-handling. I think we’re in a good spot.”
For the second year in a row, the backcourt will be led by the point guard Josiah Meppelink (Langley) and three-point shooting star Pogos Trunyan (Sacramento, Calif.). Trunyan, who is one of just two fifth-year players on the Spartans roster, will once again play a key offensive role for TWU this year. He led the Spartans in scoring last year with 14.7 points per game. His work from beyond the arc was particularly impressive, as he equaled a TWU season record with 65 treys. With a year of experience playing Canada West basketball, expect Trunyan to be even better in 2017-18. As for Meppelink, after starting six games last year and averaging 24.2 points per game, he’ll take over full-time starting duties at point guard this year. In his second year with the Spartans, look for Meppelink to improve on his 4.3 points per game and 3.7 assists per game.
On the wing, Vartan Tanielian (Surrey, B.C.) looks set to play a crucial role for the Spartans at both ends of the court. Last year, he averaged 11.8 points per game, but he’s returned this year in fine form and could well become TWU’s go-to scorer. In the Spartans only preseason game against Canada West competition, Tanielian scored a team-high 24 points in a 73-70 win over UBC Okanagan. He capped his preseason with a 23-point night against Eastern Oregon.
While Meppelink will likely see starting minutes at point guard, look for Ethan DaSilva (Calgary), who transferred from Briercrest College, to fill regularly off the bench. Eric Rogers (Chilliwack, B.C.), Josiah Allison (Abbotsford, B.C.), Nathan Allison (Abbotsford), Ben Reddy (Victoria) and first-year Levi Leyenhorst (Langley) will all be part a strong TWU contingent at the guard position.
Up front, the Spartans lost some height with both Patrick Vandervelden and Matt Hayashi leaving the program, but, as Muhic suggests, they’re a tougher group in the paint. Australian Max Viitala (Melbourne) averaged 10.9 points per game in his first year with TWU and, as a regular starter this year, he will most certainly take a step forward. Alongside Viitala, look for Aaron Paetkau (Parksville, B.C.), who is in his first year of eligibility after redshirting last year, to take a starting position. Muhic has high praise for Paetkau and the youngster will be given ever chance succeed this year.
Tee Maberry (Pasadena, Calif.), who picked up an injury in preseason, will be a strong contributor when his returns. Fifth-year Peter Spangehl (Surrey, B.C.) will find ways onto the court and will once again put together valuable minutes for TWU. Last year Spangehl averaged 20.2 minutes per game. Look for first-year redshirt Daniel Stead (Langley) along with Steve Sesink (Edmonton) to also see regular minutes off the bench.
BY THE NUMBERS
2016-17 CW regular season record: 3-17, 16th
2016-17 post-season record (CW and U SPORTS combined): Did Not Qualify.
Last CW championship / total CW championships (if no championships, list highest previous finish): 2011 / 3rd
Last U SPORTS championship / total U SPORTS championships (if no championships, list highest previous finish): 2011 / 2nd
2016-17 CW regular season ranks:
Offence: 75.5 PPG, 14th
Defence: 89.8 PPG, 17th
2016-17 CW regular season leaders:
Points per game: 14.7 – Pogos Trunyan, G
Assists per game: 4.3 – Tyus Allen, G
Rebounds per game: 7.2 – Patrick Vandervelden, F
Blocks per game: 1.3 – Patrick Vandervelden, F
Key additions (name / position / eligibility / hometown / last team):
Ethan DaSilva / G / 3 / Calgary / Briercrest College
Steve Sesink / F / 2 / Edmonton / The King’s University
Levi Leyenhorst / F/ 1 / Langley, B.C. / Credo Christian
Key losses (name / position / hometown / years with program):
Matt Hayashi / C / Langley, B.C. / Churchill Secondary / 2
Patrick Vandervelden / F / Abbotsford, B.C. / Yale Secondary / 3
REVISED RPI FORMULA
RPI was used a season ago for playoff seeding purposes in both CW men’s and women’s basketball. Again this season, RPI will be used to seed playoff teams, while win/loss records will be used to determine playoff qualification – just as it was a season ago. The CW RPI was implemented for the 2016-17 campaign to account for varying strengths of schedules, resulting from the conference’s unbalanced schedule.
While RPI remains, the formula used in 2016-17 doesn’t. Alterations have been made to the RPI formula, following review by Canada West’s sport committee. The new formula, listed below, has been amended to both increase the value of a team’s win/loss record, while reducing the value assigned for away wins and increasing the value for home wins.
The formula used in 2016-17 was:
RPI = 25% team winning percentage (WP) x 1.2 away win + 0.8 home win, 50% opponents' average winning percentage (OWP), and 25% opponents' opponent’s average winning percentage (OOWP).
The formula that will be used in 2017-18, with changes in bold, is:
RPI = 35% team winning percentage (WP) x 1.1 away win + 0.9 home win, 40% opponents' average winning percentage (OWP), and 25% opponents' opponent’s average winning percentage (OOWP).
NEW PLAYOFF FORMAT
In addition to the altered RPI formula, a new playoff format is also coming to CW basketball this season, as the conference eliminated the CW Final Four tournament in favour of a one-game championship hosted by the highest remaining seed.
The number of playoff teams (12) has not changed from last season. The first round of conference playoffs will see the top four seeds earn byes, while the remaining eight teams will play single-elimination games (12 @ 5, 11 @ 6, 10 @ 7, and 9 @ 8) between February 8 and 11.
The conference quarter-finals (best-of-threes) are set for February 15-18, the CW semis (best-of-three) February 22-25, and finally the CW Finals (and bronze medal games if necessary to determine national tournament berths) March 2 or 3.
The U SPORTS Final 8 tournaments are slated for March 8-11 this season, with the University of Regina set to host the women’s event, and the Halifax Metro Centre set to welcome the men’s event. Canada West is guaranteed three women’s berths, with the host Regina Cougars welcoming two additional CW teams, while two men’s teams are guaranteed a trip to the Maritimes for a shot at national glory.
Once again this season, every CW regular season and playoff basketball game will be available online at Canada West TV. You can watch the games by purchasing a Canada West TV pass here.
2017 CW men’s basketball pre-season coaches poll
Place / Team / Points (First-place votes)
1. Alberta / 254 (14)
2. UBC / 242 (3)
3. Calgary / 223
4. Lethbridge / 208
5. Winnipeg / 170
6. Regina / 169
7. Victoria / 162
8. Manitoba / 152
9. Brandon / 138
10. Thompson Rivers / 133
11. Saskatchewan / 115
12. Fraser Valley / 95
13. Mount Royal / 81
14. UNBC / 67
15. MacEwan / 47
16. UBC Okanagan / 29
17. Trinity Western / 27
NOTES: First-place vote worth 16 pts., second-place worth 15 pts. etc.