NANAIMO — Vancouver Island University is hosting the PACWEST provincial basketball tournament this week.
Not only is VIU the host school they are a good bet to come away with some hardware too.
The men's team is ranked number one in the league with a 17-1 record, while the women finished the season with a 13-5 record - just missing out on second place because of losing a tie breaker.
Mariners Director of High Performance Sport Stephanie White hopes fans come out and support the women's team in the first game at 1 p.m. on Thursday.
"There's lots of people in the community who could be home, they might have young kids, they could be seniors, that are looking for something to do, so one o'clock VIU come on in." said White.
The women have made tremendous strides throughout the season according to new coach Tony Bryce.
"I really think the girls have stuck to it all year. With a new coach, a new system, we've had to be very patient," explained Bryce. "I'm pleased with what they've done this year. We had a long term plan to just keep getting better and I feel we're in a good position heading into the playoffs."
Thursday's quarter final match is against Quest, a team the Mariners handled three straight times in the regular season.
Coach Bryce knows what it meant to the University when the men's soccer team won a national championship on home soil back in November, and he says it would be 'unbelievable' to see his women's team win a PACWEST title in their own gym.
Expectations are sky high for the men who are the favourites and are rated third in the country in the latest CCAA rankings.
PACWEST Men's Coach of the Year Matt Kuzminski has a very even keel approach to the provincial tournament.
"On Friday night (at 8.pm.) we're going to ask them to do their job and that's it, just like we have all season. They're not going to be asked to do anything new because we firmly believe that during these pressure times you're not going to rise to the occasion and do something that you haven't, you're going to sink to the level that you trained at all year. That's going to be the big thing is just doing what we have been trying to do all year to the best of our ability," stated Kuzminski.
One player who has been able to raise his level all season long is PACWEST Men's Player of the Year and First-Team All Star Usama Zaid.
Zaid led the league with 469 points and an average of 26.1 points per game.
He knows he'll be a marked man all weekend.
"I expect them to give me all they got. I expect them to rough me up and foul me," said Zaid. "That's something that I just prepare for, I stay in the gym, I have the support of my team and my coaches, I make sure that I stay in the weight room and I get ready for it - I embrace it."
The VIU men are going after their fourth straight provincial title and a run at a national championship.
The Mariners last national medal was a silver in 2015, they won the CCAA championship in 2013.
On twitter: @danmarshall77
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