It's time for Canada's version of March Madness
Carleton and Saskatchewan are favoured to win this year's national basketball titles
They don't have nearly the caché of the American ones, but Canada's national university basketball championships still deliver some quality hoops. And they tip off tomorrow. So here are some things to know about the U Sports Final 8 tournaments:
For the first time ever, the men's and women's events are being held in the same place at the same time. They're in Ottawa. All the meaningful games are at TD Place Arena (formerly the Ottawa Civic Centre), while the consolation games take place in Carleton University's gym. The one-city setup is a one-off, though. Next year, the men will be in Halifax and the women in Kingston, Ont.
Like the NCAA tournaments in the States, these are single-elimination brackets. In the first round, the top-seeded team plays No. 8, and it's 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6 and 4 vs. 5. The winners aren't re-seeded for the next round. Unlike in the States, the first-round losers keep playing in a separate consolation bracket for fifth place. There's also a bronze-medal game for the semifinal losers.
The top men's team, as usual, is the Carleton Ravens. They're Canada's answer to the legendary UCLA teams of the '60s and '70s — except more dominant. John Wooden coached those Bruins to 10 NCAA titles between 1964 and 1975 — including seven in a row from '67 to '73. Carleton has won the Canadian title 14 times in the last 17 years, and it reeled off seven straight from 2011 to '17. Calgary stole the crown in '18, but Carleton reclaimed it last year by beating the Dinos in the title game. They'll meet again in the first round.
The Ravens are favoured to repeat after going 24-1 in the regular season and their conference playoffs. They also led the country in both offence (97.8 points per game) and defence (63.5 points allowed per game). Five different Ravens averaged double figures in points this seasons, led by Lloyd Pandi with 16.1. The 6-foot-4 guard also topped the team in rebounding with 6.3 per game. Carleton's only loss this season came to Ottawa. The Gee-Gees are seeded No. 7 in the tournament, so the intra-city rivals wouldn't meet until the championship game. Wouldn't that be something?
The top women's team is the Saskatchewan Huskies. The Canada West champions are 21-2 this season (including their conference playoffs) and lead the country in both offence (83.0 points per game) and defence (49.5 points allowed per game). Their best player is 6-foot-2 forward Summer Masikewich, who's averaging 17.1 points and 9.1 rebounds, and they're coached by Canadian national team head coach Lisa Thomaidis. Saskatchewan has won the national championship only once, in 2016, but the school is appearing in the Final 8 for the 12th time in 13 years. The Huskies' two losses this season came to Alberta, which it could meet in the semifinals, and Calgary, which it could face in the title game.
The women's tournament starts Thursday. All four quarter-finals will be played that day: No. 3 Ryerson vs. No. 6 PEI at 1 p.m. ET, No. 2 Brock vs. No. 7 Calgary at 3 p.m. ET, No. 4 Laval vs. No. 5 Alberta at 6 p.m. ET and No. 1 Saskatchewan vs. No. 8 Carelton at 8 p.m. ET. The semis are Saturday at 1 p.m. ET and 3 p.m. ET, and the final is Sunday at 5 p.m. ET.
The men's tournament starts Friday. The quarter-final matchups are No. 4 Alberta vs. No. 5 Western at 1 p.m. ET, No. 1 Carleton vs. No. 8 Calgary at 3 p.m. ET, No. 3 UBC vs. No. 6 Bishop's at 6 p.m. ET and No. 2 Dalhousie vs. No. 7 Ottawa at 8 p.m. ET. The semis are Saturday at 6 p.m. ET and 8 p.m. ET, and the final is Sunday at 6 p.m. ET.
CBCSports.ca is streaming every game live. That includes both the championship and consolation brackets in the men's and women's tournaments. Watch all the women's games here, and all the men's games here. You can also add all of CBC Sports' basketball live streams, which include the Canadian Elite Basketball League and this summer's men's Olympic qualifier, to your calendar here.
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