BURNABY — For once in a long while the basketball stars at Simon Fraser and UBC have aligned.
The end result?
The Lower Mainland’s longest standing men’s basketball rivals have agreed to make Saturday, Nov. 20 the date for the resumption of the classic Buchanan Cup series, this edition seeing the Thunderbirds traveling up Burnaby Mountain to face host SFU in a 7:30 p.m. West Gym tip-off.
The SFU-UBC game will actually be played within the SFU Showdown series, a two-day (Nov. 19-20) affair which has been modified due to COVID, and features five teams (including Central Washington, Texas Permian and Langara) filling out a predetermined four-game slate.
The SFU-UBC Buchanan Cup game was last contested at Simon Fraser on Oct. 27, 2015 in a contest won 101-71 by the Thunderbirds.
On a separate but related note, the game is sure to stoke interest in the resumption of the football series between the two schools, known as the Shrum Bowl.
There hasn’t been a peep out of either side, but if you look at the football schedules of the two schools, the Oct. 8-9 weekend is free and clear for both.
But back to basketball.
“I think as far as I am concerned, and our program is concerned, it’s going to be great… I think it’s the best match-up in Western Canada,” said SFU head coach Steve Hanson, who was on the bench for SFU the last time the teams played as the lead assistant on head coach Virgil Hill’s staff.
“It’s going to be great for basketball in B.C.” added Hanson.
SFU, in the game’s traditional annual mid-November window, schedules its own NCAA Div. 2 non-conference brethren, all in the name of priming its own power index numbers.
Yet with the challenges of COVID, and with original SFU Showcase invitee Hawaii Pacific having to pull out of the proceedings, Steve Hanson had an opening.
Across town, on the Point Grey campus, veteran UBC head coach Kevin Hanson (no relation) was staring at a reduced Canada West men’s basketball schedule for his club, one in which its Canada West conference had built in bye weeks in case teams needed to schedule make-up games due to COVID cancellations.
“So I called Steve and said ‘I know you have a tourney going on, do you have an opening?’” said Kevin Hanson.
At that point, the deal to resume the Buchanan Cup was struck.
Kevin Hanson added that the only complication that could arise would be any cancellation which might arise over his teams first three sets of Canada West double-headers, set to run on successive weekends beginning Oct. 28.
“I’ve also talked to Steve about that,” Kevin Hanson continued. “If something happens and there is an outbreak of COVID, we would still have to play our Canada West games (Nov. 19-20) and that that would have to trump the SFU game.”
Kevin Hanson, hopeful of no disruptions to the schedule, nonetheless added that the Buchanan Cup game likely wouldn’t be in jeopardy as long as both of the make-up dates din’t need to be used.
And of course, he too, was thrilled with the resumption of the game.
“We want to put our guys in position to play high-profile games, games that are played with a lot of emotion,” Kevin Hanson said. “COVID has been tough on student-athletes and coaches, and what a great way to bring this game back. Should be a great crowd and I am really looking forward to it.”
The Buchanan Cup, like the Shrum Bowl, kept its original appeal with the fact that SFU played in the U.S.-based NAIA, and UBC in Canada in what has variously been known as the CIAU, CIS and now U SPORTS.
For the brief span in which SFU moved into the ranks of CIS, the mojo was spoiled.
“The Buchanan game lost its lustre a little bit,” Kevin Hanson admits following SFU’s flirtation with Canadian-based league competition for about a decade at the turn of the century resulted in SFU-UBC games becoming a regular part of the league schedule. “And then once they got into NCAA, with all of their restrictions, it got even tougher. Look at this game. It’s actually happening three weeks into our conference schedule. COVID provided an opportunity that it worked out this year.”
Simon Fraser’s schedule is more reflective of its B.C. rivals than ever before. And not just because of UBC.
Steve Hanson has scheduled CCAA PacWest schools with regularity as part of the team’s preseason and that will continue this season with its Oct. 19 opener against Abbotsford’s Columbia Bible College Bearcats, and then it’s first game against traditional Canada West rival Victoria Vikes since the same 2015-16 season in which it last faced UBC.
Head coach Craig Beaucamp’s Vikes pay a West Gym visit on Oct 23.
Getting back to the Buchanan Cup, it has resided on the Point Grey campus and has been gathering dust for six seasons.
Said Steve Hanson: “Kevin Hanson confirmed that they have the Buchanan Cup… that it still exists. It’s still going to be called the SFU Showdown but it’s going to be great to bring out the cup after the game and have it presented to the winner.
“It’s still a big part of our history,” he continued.
THE 2021 SFU SHOWDOWN
5:15 p.m. — Central Washington vs. Langara
7:30 p.m. — Texas Permian Basin vs. Simon Fraser
5:15 p.m. — Central Washington vs. Texas Permian Basin
7:30 p.m. — UBC vs. Simon Fraser
On a related note, both Central Washington and Texas Permian Basin will play a series of games against PacWest teams Langara, Douglas College and Capilano Nov. 21-22.
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