On both sides of the border, March Madness has arrived for collegiate basketball. Unlike the United States, where 64 teams make ‘the Big Dance’, only eight teams compete for Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) National Championship supremacy.
Both the Gee-Gees men’s and women’s teams have qualified for their respective tournaments, and if you haven’t been following the action closely, you’re in luck—here you’ll find a breakdown everything you need to know about both tournaments.
Graphic: Kim Wiens.
What to watch for (Men’s):
The Ryerson Rams are the favourites for the title, after defeating Carleton twice and Ottawa once this season. The Gee-Gees have an early matchup against Dalhousie that promises some excitement as Dal is a great team on defence and many of their losses this season were in overtime thrillers. The marquee first-round matchup is Calgary taking on McGill, as both teams are explosive and are the top teams of their respective conferences.
Another interesting element of this year’s tournament is that there will be a new pair of teams in the final for the first time in two years, as Carleton and Ottawa are on the same side of the bracket. The Ravens will face a much easier test in the Thompson Rivers Wolfpack, who play in the less competitive Explorer division of the Canada West.
There is some upset potential in Ryerson’s first round matchup with the host UBC Thunderbirds. Playing in front of a home crowd and coming off of a four-loss season might give the T-Birds enough confidence to take down the top-ranked Rams. Regardless of how things play out, it should be an exciting tournament as a new (or returning) champion is crowned.
“You can make as many excuses as you want, but at the same time you just need to show up and be ready to play. Being at nationals is a gift, there’s a whole bunch of teams across the country that don’t have the chance… you have to suck it up because it’s better than being at home.”—Gee-Gees forward Caleb Agada on travel and time changes.
“I’ve always felt the OUA (Ontario University Athletics) teams were at an advantage on their way to nationals because they got two really tough games against good competition… it’s the best preparation playing against good teams.”—Gee-Gees head coach James Derouin on the OUA’s advantage at nationals.
“If you’ve seen us we have a few games that I can throw up on the film that’ll keep their heads on straight… I think it’ll get them back down to earth pretty quick.”—Carleton Ravens interim head coach Rob Smart on staying level headed going into the Final 8.
What to watch for (Women’s):
Unlike the men’s tournament, the women’s Final 8 is more open, and really any team has a chance at going home with the Bronze Baby. Top-ranked McGill shouldn’t have much issue with UNB, and although Saskatchewan is a high-level basketball team they could have their hands full with the Gee-Gees.
If the Gees can down the Huskies, they have a much easier path to the final than the other side of the bracket. OUA champion Ryerson will have a difficult time against fourth-seeded Regina, coming off of a 17-3 regular season and a narrow loss to Saskatchewan in the CanWest finals.
Of any team, the Gee-Gees have the most Cinderella potential with a low-ranking for amount of wins, good coaching, and tough attitude. The tournament promises excitement on the path to seeing who becomes the new national champion, as the action gets underway on the east coast.