The Carleton Ravens are on the precipice of winning a record ninth Canadian Interuniversity Sport men's basketball title. Standing in their way are the Victoria Vikes, who also have eight CIS crowns to their credit.
The No. 1 Ravens and No. 8 Vikes meet in quarter-final action as the 2013 CIS men's basketball championship tournament gets underway at Ottawa's Scotiabank Place on Friday.
In the first game of the tournament, the seventh-ranked Lakehead Thunderwolves, the bronze medal winners in the OUA, upset second-ranked Atlantic champions the Cape Breton Capers 74 to 61.
On Saturday they'll meet the other team from the National Capital Region, the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees, who upended the McGill Redmen 82-70.
This evening the No. 4 UBC Thunderbirds (CWUAA champions) play the No. 5 Acadia Axemen in the other quarter-final match.
Team a 'work in progress' says Smart
Carleton has won the championship in eight of the past ten years. In a year where the Ravens had to fill in the void created by the graduation of seniors, they still managed to finish first in both offence and defence during the OUA regular season.
Despite all that success, head coach Dave Smart considers this team to still be a work in progress.
"We've got to keep moving forward because to expect us to play at the level we played at last year when we've lost so much and we've got so many new parts is unrealistic," Smart said. "I'm happy with the success we've had and actually quite surprised with the success we've had, but on the other hand we're not done."
The Vikes, who return to the championship after a six--year absence, have to eliminate the favoured Ravens on Friday to have a chance at regaining the outright lead in overall CIS titles.
"To be honest, there's a lot of history to both programs, but I think these kids are just centred on their year," Vikes coach Craig Beaucamp said. "What it does signify is that you've got two programs that have a lot of history and a lot of success, of excellence but nobody, we anyhow, aren't talking about us versus Carleton in terms of number of national championships."
Smart said rankings don't always mean a lot.
"Once you get here, especially with this year's tournament, there is so little difference between the 'best' team and the eighth best team," Smart said. "And the eighth-best team isn't really the eighth-best team, there is criteria that goes into the seeding.
"They're a pretty good team, they've beaten UBC two out of three times."