VIU Mariners player Bryson Cox grabs a rebound during practice Monday at the Vancouver Island University gym. GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin

VIU men’s team goes into PacWest championships as the favourites

Top-seeded Mariners get bye into Friday’s semifinals

The VIU Mariners will try to win a championship and at the same time, showcase high-level college hoops to the community.

Vancouver Island University’s men’s basketball team is the No. 1 seed heading into the Pacific Western Athletic Association championships which start Thursday, March 1 at the VIU gym.

VIU has a first-round bye into the next day’s semfinals and will take on either the Camosun Chargers or the Capilano Blues in Friday night’s feature game.

“It’s exciting to be at home,” said Matt Kuzminski, Mariners coach. “We get great crowds in our regular-season games, so I imagine it’ll be a packed house, a really live environment.”

The M’s have had a playoff berth sewn up for some time, but they didn’t ease up and continued to focus on different areas of their game.

“I don’t think we’ve ever settled and thought, we’ve already made the playoffs and … we’re good enough as it is. We’ve always had that mentality where we’ve got to get better,” said Bryson Cox, a graduating player on VIU.

It’s paying off, as he said things are shaping up really well.

“We’re starting to mesh together finally and get to the point where we wanted to be for the end of the season,” Cox said. “Now we just have to play our game and execute and compete for a full 40 minutes.”

Kuzminski said while the Mariners are grateful for the bye, it makes the semis unpredictable. He said VIU’s coaching staff is split in its predictions of whether the Chargers or Blues will make it through the first round.

Jerod Dorby, Mariners centre, said he likes his team’s chances and thinks the M’s have “all the right pieces” to win a championship.

“I’m extremely confident with these guys and extremely happy with the way we’ve played over the whole season,” he said.

GAME ON … The VIU Mariners play their semifinal against a to-be-determined opponent on Friday, March 2 at 8 p.m. at the Vancouver Island University gym. Day passes to the tournament are $10 for adults or $5 for youths, seniors and alumni. Tournament passes are $20 for adults or $10 for youths, seniors and alumni. VIU students and children 12 and under will be admitted free.

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