Maybe the SFU Clan had the Olympics on their mind this afternoon, as they fell 63-61 [Mike Tucker, UVic Sports Information] on the road to the sixth-ranked University of Victoria Vikes in their final league game. It would be all too easy to see the Vikes' upset of the top-ranked Clan as some sort of game-changing moment for CIS women's basketball, but there's more to it than that. The Clan had won 49 straight games, or 54 if you count the playoffs, so it's certainly noteworthy that someone finally found a way to beat them. In truth, though, this probably just shows that Canada West is about more than just SFU.
As the most recent Top 10 rankings show, the conference is absolutely stacked in women's basketball. They have No.1 SFU, No.2 Regina, No.4 Saskatchewan, No.6 Victoria, No.8 Alberta and No.10 UBC, six out of the ten slots. Back in 2008, I wrote a piece for the Queen's Journal about the West's dominance in men's volleyball. What I wasn't able to include for space reasons is that they've been just as dominant in women's basketball, and for similar reasons (earlier introduction of athletic scholarships and earlier investment in facilities).
Canada West teams have won the last 18 national championships since Laurentian's back-to-back wins in 1990 and 1991. In fact, since the first national championship in 1972, there have only been nine championships won by non-Canada West teams, seven by Laurentian and two by Bishop's. It's not like it's been one absolutely dominant team, either; starting with the 2000 championship, Regina has one title, Victoria has two, UBC has three and SFU has four. That shows there's a long tradition of outstanding basketball in the conference, and it means it's not that surprising that someone finally knocked the Clan off.
The win also shows the progress the Vikes have been making, and suggests they'll be a tough team to face in postseason play. Kayla Dysktra had a huge game for UVic, scoring 18 points and adding 13 boards, while Debbie Yeboah dumped in 21 points, including 15 in the second half and the final buzzer-beater. The Vikes didn't get discouraged after being held to four points in the second quarter, which suggests they're a resilient bunch. They'll have their hands full against No. 4 Saskatchewan in the playoffs, but counting them out wouldn't be a wise move.
Don't go writing off SFU just yet, though. They lost to the No.6 team, on the road, in a game that was meaningless for their playoff position, on an improbable buzzer-beater. That's quite a collection of circumstances, and it's one that may not be repeatable. Moreover, their streak is made even more impressive by the quality opposition it's come against. The Clan have been incredibly dominant for the past two years; I watched them lay a smackdown on a very good UBC team just two weeks ago, and a single loss doesn't mean that incredible team has disappeared. Moreover, they'll be still looking to exit CIS competition with a bang. Sure, they're no longer invincible, but that doesn't make them any less of a juggernaut.
[Cross-posted to The CIS Blog]