The rivalries of SFU men’s basketball team

What do rivalries really bring to the table?

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Illustration of two runners intensely staring at each other.
ILLUSTRATION: Jill Baccay / The Peak

By: Simran Sarai, Sports Writer

Everyone loves a rivalry. 

Rivalries, between teams or players, are a big part of what makes sports so thrilling. No matter what level of competition you’re at, a high-stakes match against an age-old foe will always get your heart pumping. And since rivalries are as transitional as relationships, their circumstances change. Some rivalries are one and done, and momentarily spark after tensions run high in a game. But others seem to be written in the stars. Like a cross-town rivalry. 

The Peak sat down with SFU men’s basketball player Victor Radocaj to discuss what rivalries are unique to SFU’s men’s basketball team. Radocaj, who’s majoring in computer science, boiled down the essence of a lively rivalry to its history. 

He cited SFU and UBC as a “good example.” He added, “They’re both in BC, they’re the two biggest universities in BC, and there’s a history of us playing each other, even though we’re not in the same league. The only reason we play that game is really because of the rivalry.”

The annual game between SFU and the UBC men’s basketball teams, coined the Buchanan Cup, packs the bleachers every year, irrespective of which school hosts the game. Radocaj said the support from fans has a circular effect, bringing supporters in, and further amplifying the rivalry between the two teams.

“SFU sold out the gym and it was overcrowded — they had to turn people away — which you generally don’t see,” the forward shared in reference to this year’s turnout. “So, it definitely gets the crowd and the people watching the teams more invested, because it’s really easy to rally behind a team when you have something to fight for.”

While some of the most quintessential rivalries in sports occur between two superstar athletes trying to outdo the other, Radocaj said that individual rivalries at this level are kept to a minimum. If anything does occur, it’s “usually interpersonal stuff.” The lack of one-on-one competitive rivalries is due to the constant influx of players coming in and out of the league, which makes it hard to establish and sustain a rivalry. “Without the history, the rivalry can die really quick,” Radocaj added.

Although UBC is an obvious foe for SFU as a whole, with the two schools drawing constant comparisons, the Red Leafs men’s basketball team also has a lengthy history with a nearby stateside school. “I know that Western [Washington University] we consider kind of a rivalry because they’re pretty close,” said Radocaj.

Recently, SFU has been successful against Western Washington. After losing eight games in a row since 2012, the Red Leafs toppled Western Washington both times they played last season. Although, coming up short to their southern rival this year, wins against a tough opponent like Western Washington seem to be frozen in time. So much so, that a single win can make a world of a difference. 

Another difference maker between rivalries is intensity. Radocaj shared that no matter which rival the team is preparing to play, those high-stakes match-ups amp up the energy for the team and individual athletes. “UBC was one of the games we were most excited to play as a team. We were super hyped up, even though half of us aren’t even from BC,” Radocaj joked. 

On the surface, players may treat a rivalry game like any other match, but with history on the line, there’s always extra preparation that goes into playing these types of games. “When a rivalry game is coming up, there’s no messing around. You’re focused on one thing; you’re focused on your goal.”

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