For the first time in over 40 years, the University of British Columbia will be hosting the biggest men's university basketball tournament in Canada.

Canadian Interuniversity Sport's Men's Final 8 championship begins March 17, and Kavie Toor with UBC's athletics department, says hosting the tournament will be an opportunity grow the sport even more in Western Canada.

"We're thrilled and excited to have the tournament here, it means a great deal to build the brand of basketball," he told The Early Edition host Rick Cluff.

"We really want Vancouver to be the hub of basketball in Canada. Obviously, Toronto has the Raptors, and that's wonderful, but Vancouver, we think, can be a hotbed for basketball."

While he won't be on the court, Kamloops's Kelly Olynyk, who plays for the Boston Celtics, will be serving as "ambassador" for the event.

Toor says Olynyk's family has strong CIS roots — including his father, a coach and athletic director at Thompson Rivers — and while Olynyk never played in the CIS himself, he says he shows the calibre of players coming out of Western Canada.

"He can add a lot of value to [the tournament] when people hear Kelly Olynyk talk about how good the basketball is in Canada and how exciting the tournament is," he said.

"The level of basketball between the March Madness in the States and the March Madness in Canada isn't as significantly different as most people think."

The Final 8 begins on March 17. Thompson Rivers will play Carleton, Dalhousie will play Ottawa, McGill will play Calgary and UBC will play Ryerson.

The tournament runs until Sunday, March 20.

With files from The Early Edition


To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: UBC hosting CIS men's basketball Final 8 after 40-year absence

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story reported that Kelly Olynyk would be at the event as an ambassador. While he will be serving as an ambassador, he will not be at the event in person.
    Mar 17, 2016 2:20 PM PT