CAMROSE, Alberta — The 2017-18 season was a roller coaster for the University of Alberta – Augustana Vikings on the men’s basketball side of things.
The year got under way with an exhibition win over the Briercrest College Clippers back in September, 88-67. Then the calendar switched to October, and the Vikings couldn’t find their way back into the win column. Three losses in exhibition play were followed up with four straight losses to open the season, and any momentum that they created from their win over Briercrest was gone.
Once the calendar switched to November, and it was like Augustana was a different team altogether. They won their first three games of the month, and went 3-3 over their six games. The Vikings’ three losses were all decided by single digits, giving them a bit of a momentum boost moving forwards.
After dropping a pair of games to the NAIT Ooks in December that would push their losing streak to five, the Vikings entered the Christmas break hoping that the time away would lead to better results in the second half. Instead, their losing streak was extended to nine games before they went on a mini two-game winning streak to close out January.
The Vikings were never able to maintain any sort of positive momentum for longer than a few games. In 2018-19, Augustana will be looking for some sort of consistency on the court as they look to climb in the ACAC standings.
While they had a pair of lengthy losing streaks over the course of the 2017-18 season, the Vikings showed a ton of promise for their future. Eleven of their losses in the regular season were decided by single digit points. After finishing the year with a record of 6-18, their record could have been significantly better if they had been able to come out on the other side of a few of those close losses.
Among those single digit losses were a pair of losses to the nationally-ranked Lakeland College Rustlers on back-to-back nights in November. Despite Augustana falling by seven and eight points, respectively, the Vikings showed that they can compete with the top teams in the ACAC on a nightly basis.
A pair of overtime losses, one each to NAIT and the Keyano College Huskies, also skewed the Vikings’ roster the other direction. A regulation win in one or both of those games for Augustana would have made their record look a bit better at year’s end.
In 2018-19, the Vikings return a veteran group that will look to pick up more wins in those close contests and improve on last season’s 6-18 record against ACAC opponents.
Leading the way will be fourth-year forward Spencer Marion out of Edmonton, Alberta. The 6’4” forward appeared in 16 games last season, making 12 starts for the Vikings. Marion led the team in scoring, averaging an even 16 points per contest on over 49% shooting from the floor. He also shot 42.9% from three-point range, and 73.8% from the free throw line.
From the start of exhibition play through to November 11th, a span of 12 games, Marion recorded at least 11 points in each of them. He recorded seven games with at least 20 points over that stretch before an injury sent him to the sidelines.
Now that he is back healthy in 2018-19, Marion is ready to lead the Vikings on their quest for a league title.
The Vikings will have their top six scorers back from last year’s team, all of whom averaged at least 9.8 points per contest. Second year guard Mason Hunter had himself an impressive debut season in 2017-18, and looks to have a promising career ahead of him with the Vikings. The 6’2” guard from Ardrossan, Alberta posted 10.4 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.
Hunter was one of five players to average double-digit points for Augustana last season, showcasing their balance and depth on the offensive end of the floor.
Michael Stasuik (13.1 ppg, 7.8 rpg), Nathan Bowie (11.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg), and Austin Brulotte (10.4 ppg, 3.0 apg) round out the other three players to average double-digit points per contest. Brulotte assumes the role of point guard, while Bowie gives the Vikings another scoring option in the back court while Stasuik patrols the paint with Marion.
Despite their results from last season, the Vikings have an experienced and talented core group of players back in the mix for the 2018-19 season that should have fans excited for what’s to come.
Head coach Dave Drabiuk has himself a talented roster that could turn some heads this season in the ACAC standings. The conference champion has come from the ACAC North Division just twice over the last six seasons, and the South Division has reigned supreme in each of the last two years thanks to the SAIT Trojans.
Many are hoping that the 2018-19 season will be the North Division’s year, and Augustana should be in the running for a spot in the ACAC Championship tournament. Once they get there, anything is possible in a tournament setting.
With experience and talent across their roster, the Vikings are ready to turn some heads in the ACAC and across the CCAA.
– T. Bennett