Nearly 5,000 fans filled the stands at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre at UBC to watch the first few games of the Canadian Interuniversity Sport's Men's Final 8 championship on Thursday night. 

UBC is hosting the biggest men's university basketball tournament in Canada for the first time in 40 years. 

"It's been months of excitement, you can tell by our fans!" said UBC student Matthew Guidi. "We've been thinking about it all year!"

The UBC Thunderbirds were one of the first teams to play. They faced off against the Ryerson Rams, the CIS's number one ranked team.

"We were obviously ecstatic — this is a great basketball market," said UBC Athletics senior manager Len Catling. "It has been long overdue to have this tournament here."

Unfortunately, the UBC team lost 109-101. 

UBC last won the championship in 1972. 

John Mills and Jack Hoy were part of that famous Thunderbirds team and were in attendance on Thursday night.

"We had a really good crowd back then as well," said Mills. 

"There is a probably a lot more hype around this tournament than there was around ours. We only had a week to prepare."

That team was honoured at half-time. The men — most of them in their 60s — took the court. 

Other teams on Thursday night included Thompson Rivers playing Carleton, Dalhousie playing Ottawa, and McGill playing Calgary.

The tournament runs until Sunday, March 20.


The CIS Men's Final 8 championship continues until Sunday. (Peter Scobie/CBC)