LANGLEY, B.C. – Coming off an historic season in which the Trinity Western women’s basketball team posted its best-ever regular season record and won its first ever playoff series, the Spartans enter this season set to take yet another next step up the Canada West ladder. TWU, who is ranked seventh in the Canada West preseaon poll, opens the season this weekend in Edmonton, as the Spartans play the University of Alberta Friday and Saturday.
2017-18 SEASON PREVIEW
COACH CHERYL JEAN-PAUL
“We want to build on what we’ve achieved over the last two years, without the assumption that we’re going to get there again. We’ve had some roster changes and we’ve lost some significant pieces, but I also feel that we have some players who are ready to step into bigger roles. We’ve had a lot of positive signs in the preseason that players are ready to take on those roles, but now it’s about being consistent and playing well as a group and playing up to our potential.”
With the graduation of both Luca Schmidt and Natalie Carkner, the Spartans enter a new chapter at the guard position. Guiding the offence this year will be second-year point guard Julia Marshall (Langley). The Brookswood Secondary product averaged 10.6 minutes per game in her first year with TWU and is ready to take over point guard duties from the now-graduated Schmidt. Alongside Marshall, the backcourt will see veterans Jessie Brown (Langley) and Sarah Buckingham (Surrey, B.C.) carry the offensive load.
Last year, Brown led Canada West in three-point shooting, knocking down a TWU record 61 three-point shots. She also finished third in the conference with a 42.1 shooting percentage from beyond the arc. As a fourth-year player, look for Brown, who averaged 15.1 points per game, to once again be a key leader for the Spartans. Meanwhile, Buckingham looks ready to move into a starting position after averaging 14.7 minutes per game and 3.2 points per game last year. If the preseason is any indication, it would seem Buckingham is well-suited to take on a much larger role this season.
Off the bench, Jean-Paul has a variety of options, including third-year Breanna Cabuco (Coquitlam, B.C.), as well as first-years Kianna Wiens (Regina) and Jenna Van Delft (Prince George, B.C.) and fourth-year transfers Lucy Golubic (Koprivnica, Croatia) and Tessa Needham (Port Moody, B.C.). All five have the ability to play key roles off the bench and will be critical pieces in the Spartans success this year.
The duo of fifth-year Kayla Gordon (Prince George, B.C.) and fourth-year Tessa Ratzlaff (Abbotsford, B.C.) will once again be a huge focal point for the Spartans this year. Both were dominant players last year and TWU fans can expect more of the same from the veteran pair.
Last season, Ratzlaff led the team in both scoring, with 16.7 points per game (4th in Canada West), and rebounds, with 7.4 per game (11th in CW) and was named a Canada West Second Team All-Star. This year, she has the ability to move into that elite tier of women’s basketball players in Canada West. Gordon, who is one of just two fifth-year players on the TWU roster, led Canada West in shooting percentage (53.2) last year and she has the ability to once again be one of the most dangerous scorers in the conference. For Gordon, who was TWU’s top minute-muncher last year (30.9 per game), there’s no reason to believe she can’t finish her Spartans career with her best season to date.
Beyond TWU’s top forward duo, look for Ashleigh Barnes (Oceanside, Calif.) to take on a more prominent position this year coming off the bench. Barnes, who averaged 16.4 minutes per game, gives the Spartans an energetic lift every time she hits the court. Second-year Teanna Bradshaw (Oshawa, Ont.), who averaged just 3.0 minutes per game, has also taken significant strides in her game and will be a much more regular contributor in 2017-18.
BY THE NUMBERS
2016-17 CW regular season record: 12-8, 7th
2016-17 post-season record (CW and U SPORTS combined): 2-3, 5th (tied)
Last CW championship / total CW championships (if no championships, list highest previous finish): 2017 / 5th (tied)
Last U SPORTS championship / total U SPORTS championships (if no championships, list highest previous finish): N/A
2016-17 CW regular season ranks:
Offence: 68.3 PPG, 6th
Defence: 67.1 PPG, 9th
2016-17 CW regular season leaders:
Points per game: 16.7 – Tessa Ratzlaff, F
Assists per game: 3.6 – Luca Schmidt, G
Rebounds per game: 7.4 – Tessa Ratzlaff, F
Blocks per game: 0.5 – Tessa Ratzalff, F & Kayla Gordon, F
Key additions (name / position / eligibility / hometown / last team):
Jenna Van Delft / G / 1 / Prince George, B.C. / Cedars Christian
Tessa Needham / G / 4 / Port Moody, B.C. / Quest University
Kianna Wiens / G / 1 / Regina / Michael A Riffel
Lucy Golubic / G / 4 / Koprivnica, Croatia / University of Winnipeg
Key losses (name / position / hometown / years with program):
Natalie Carkner / G / Port Coquitlam, B.C. / 5
Luca Schmidt / G / Langley, B.C. / 5
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 women’s basketball pre-season coaches poll
Place / Team / Points (First-place votes)
1. Regina / 256 (16)
2. Saskatchewan / 241 (1)
3. Alberta / 223
4. UBC / 193
5. Calgary / 184
6. Winnipeg / 174
7. Trinity Western / 172
8. Brandon / 150
9. Victoria / 144
10. UNBC / 128
11. Fraser Valley / 116
12. Lethbridge / 91
13. Thompson Rivers / 62
14. MacEwan / 58
15. Manitoba / 44
16. Mount Royal / 40
17. UBC Okanagan / 35
NOTES: First-place vote worth 16 pts., second-place worth 15 pts. etc.