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U SPORTS – TORONTO (U SPORTS) – The Carleton Ravens look to equal one of the most prestigious Canadian university basketball records this week, while the Saskatchewan Huskies shoot for a second straight national banner, as the ArcelorMittal Dofasco U SPORTS Men’s and Women’s Final 8 tournaments tip off on Thursday.

CHAMPIONSHIP WEBSITES:
Men:
http://en.usports.ca/championships/mbkb/index
Women: http://en.usports.ca/championships/wbkb/index

The national tournaments – hosted by Dalhousie Tigers for the first time since 1987, and the women’s tournament at the University of Victoria for the first time since 1993 – get under way Thursday at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, N.S. and the CARSA Performance Gym, culminating next Sunday, with the men’s final at 2:00 p.m. Atlantic Time (1:00 p.m. Eastern) and the women’s championship at 1:00 p.m. Pacific (4:00 p.m. Eastern), live on Sportsnet 360 and SN Now. Saturday’s semifinals will also be broadcast live on Sportsnet 360 and SN Now (Men’s: 1 p.m. & 3:30 p.m. Atlantic, Women’s: 2:00 p.m. & 4:00 p.m. Pacific).

Livestreaming of all other games from the men’s competition will be webcast on TV1 Webcast and the women’s event on U SPORTS.LIVE.

Following are previews for each Final 8 tournament.

MEN’S FINAL 8

Looking to add to their record collection of 12 W.P. McGee Trophy titles and one shy of Victoria’s streak of seven straight U SPORTS banners (1980-1986), the Ravens earned the second seed for the 2017 tourney behind the Ryerson Rams for the second straight year.

Rounding out the draw are the No. 3 McGill Redmen (RSEQ champions), No. 4 Alberta Golden Bears (Canada West champs), No. 5 Dalhousie Tigers (AUS champions/hosts), No. 6 Manitoba Bisons (Canada West finalists), No. 7 Calgary Dinos (Canada West bronze medalists/At-large berth) and No. 8 Saint Mary’s Huskies (AUS finalists). A full schedule is available below.

No. 1 Ryerson Rams (OUA Champions)
2016 result: Bronze
Off Rank: 4th (88.7)
Def Rank: 6th (67.6)

Statistical leaders
Points per game: Adika Peter-McNeilly (19.2)
Rebounds per game: Adika Peter-McNeilly (7.1)
Assists per game: Jovan Leamy (4.0)
3PT%: Myles Charvis (.431)

No.2 Carleton Ravens (OUA Finalists)
2016 Result: Gold
National titles: 2003-2007, 2009, 2011-2016
Off Rank: 2nd (92.0)
Def Rank: 1st (58.6)

Statistical leaders
Points per game: Connor Wood (19.2)
Rebounds per game: Eddie Ekiyor (6.4)
Assists per game: Kaza Kajami-Keane (5.2)
3PT%: Stanley Mayambo (.565)

The Rams who went 17-2 in the regular season, narrowly advanced with 76-75 win over Ottawa in the OUA semifinal, before snapping Carleton’s undefeated season in an 86-79 victory in Saturday’s Wilson Cup final. The win claimed back-to-back OUA banners for Ryerson to go along with the No.1 seed. Carleton, meanwhile, reached the final by defeating Brock 89-64. 

“It’s always special to win a championship at the conference level. It’s something we will cherish,” said Ryerson head coach Roy Rana. “Our focus has shifted now to the bigger prize and we are thankful to have an opportunity. Our preparation will remain the same and the work has already begun.”

“The team is excited to be heading back to Halifax since the hosts always put on a great event,” said Carleton head coach Dave Smart. “The Maritimers love Canadian university basketball and they are some of best fans in the country. We hope to be playing well when we arrive out east.”

No.3 McGill Redmen (RSEQ Champions)
2016 result: Lost in consolation semifinal
Off Rank: 29th (74.8)
Def Rank: 2nd (60.3)

Statistical leaders
Points per game: Jenning Leung (14.2)
Rebounds per game: François Bourque (7.9)
Assists per game: Dele Ogundokun (3.6)
3PT%: Kendrick Jolin (.485)

The Redmen (13-3 regular season) won their fourth RSEQ title in five years, eliminating Laval in the semifinal with a 59-48 win, before topping UQAM 82-65 in the conference championship.

“We’ve had a good season, have gotten better throughout the year and we’re playing our best as we head out to Halifax,” said McGill bench boss David DeAveiro, the RSEQ coach of the year. “We’re known for our defence, we’re a defensive-minded team that likes to make our opponent take tough shots and to make it difficult for them.”

No.4 Alberta Golden Bears (Canada West Champions)
National titles: 1994, 1995, 2002
Off Rank: 12th (82.5)
Def Rank: 13th (74.0)

Statistical leaders
Points per game: Mamadou Gueye (15.9)
Rebounds per game: Brody Clarke (7.1)
Assists per game: Austin Waddoups (3.7)
3PT%: Austin Waddoups (.468)

No.6 Manitoba Bisons (Canada West Finalists)
National titles: 1976
Off Rank: 11th (82.8)
Def Rank: 30th (79.2)

Statistical leaders
Points per game: Justus Alleyn (17.4)
Rebounds per game: Keith Omoerah (8.7)
Assists per game: Ilarion Bonhomme (4.8)
3PT%: Justus Alleyn (.425)

No.7 Calgary Dinos (Canada West Bronze Medallists)
2016 result: 2nd
Off Rank: 3rd (89.8)
Def Rank: 14th (75.6)
Statistical leaders
Points per game: Thomas Cooper (22.7)
Rebounds per game: Thomas Cooper (7.5)
Assists per game: David Kapinga (4.1)
3PT%: David Kapinga (.481)

Alberta (14-6) put an end to Manitoba’s (12-8) cinderella run through the Canada West playoffs, capturing the school’s 12th title and first since 2014 with a convincing 92-73 win. The Bisons, appearing in their first U SPORTS national tournament since 1985, had previously swept through nationally-ranked Calgary in the semifinals and UBC in the quarters. The Dinos (16-4) earned the wild-card entry following a 111-106 overtime win in the bronze medal game against Saskatchewan.

“It’s been a roller coaster season for us as we have had some great road wins, and some inconsistent performances in losses,” said Alberta head coach Barnaby Craddock. “We feel like the last few games we have started to have everything coming together, and are excited to play the best teams in the country at nationals in Halifax. We know all the games at nationals will be tough, and it’s a challenge we have been building up to all season long.”

“I have incredible memories of competing at the U SPORTS Championship in Halifax over 20 years ago,” said Manitoba head coach Kirby Schepp. “The city is an incredible host for this event and I am excited for our guys get a similar experience this year. McGill has been one of the top programs in the country for several years now. Coach DeAverio has built a powerhouse team that has become a mainstay of the national tournament. We know it will be a tough first round match up but our guys have tremendous confidence right now and we are really looking forward to the challenge.” 

“It’s a great opportunity for our team, for the fifth-year guys who have been there before,” said Calgary head coach Dan Vanhooren of earning the at-large berth. “Our comfort level will be better this time compared to last year. It’s great for our program with the young guys we have and the guys returning – it’s a great opportunity for us.

“Anytime you can play Carleton is great for a program. They’re clearly the best team in the country, and when you have the opportunity to play them it’s a good thing. We’re going to enjoy the challenge – if I could play them every day I would play them every day to get better.”

No. 5 Dalhousie Tigers (AUS Champions, Host)
2016 result: 4th
Off Rank: 15th (81.8)
Def Rank: 9th (71.0)

Statistical leaders
Points per game: Kashrell Lawrence (15.2)
Rebounds per game: Kashrell Lawrence (6.8)
Assists per game: Ritchie Kanza Mata (5.9)
3PT%: Alex Carson (.560)

No.8 Saint Mary’s Huskies (AUS Finalists)
Off Rank: 9th (85.5)
Def Rank: 35th (81.0)

Statistical leaders
Points per game: Marquis Clayton (19.0)
Rebounds per game: Achuil Lual (9.1)
Assists per game: Marquis Clayton (3.9)
3PT%: Tristan Arthurs (.478)

Host Dalhousie (16-4) booked their spot in the Final 8 through the front door, three-peating as AUS champions after a 63-60 win over Saint Mary’s (13-7). Along the way the Tigers also knocked off Acadia, while the Huskies defeated StFX in the quarter-finals and UNB in the semis.

“If I could summarize the season in one word, it would have to be ‘pride,’” said AUS Coach of the Year and Dalhousie bench boss Rick Plato. “Our squad has played with the pride of a champion through a very difficult exhibition schedule, all the way through to the AUS Championship…As hosts of this year’s Final 8, I can promise you we will play every game with the determination and ferocity of Tigers.  We have been preparing for this opportunity since last year’s semifinal loss to Carleton and I am confident that the best is yet to come.”

“We are looking forward to the opportunity to compete for a national championship, and are excited to see where we stack up against the best in the country,” said Saint Mary’s head coach Jonah Taussig. “Ryerson is a terrific team and we will need to be at our best on Thursday night.”

SCHEDULE & RESULTS (all times AT)

Wednesday, March 8
5:30 p.m. 2017 U SPORTS Men’s Basketball All-Canadian Awards

Thursday, March 9
12:00 p.m. Quarter-final 1: No.2 Carleton vs. No.7 Calgary (TV1 Webcast)
2 p.m. Quarter-final 2: No.3 McGill vs. No.6 Manitoba (TV1 Webcast)
6 p.m. Quarter-final 3: No.1 Ryerson vs. No.8 Saint Mary’s (TV1 Webcast)
8 p.m. Quarter-final 4: No.4 Alberta vs. No.5 Dalhousie (TV1 Webcast)

Friday, March 10
6 p.m. Consolation 1: Loser QF 1 vs. Loser QF 2 (TV1 Webcast)
8 p.m. Consolation 2: Loser QF 3 vs. Loser QF 4 (TV1 Webcast)

Saturday, March 11
1 p.m. Semifinal 1: Winner QF 1 vs. Winner QF 2 (Sportsnet 360/SN Now)
3:30 p.m. Semifinal 2: Winner QF 3 vs. Winner QF 4 (Sportsnet 360/SN Now)
8 p.m. 5th-place game (TV1 Webcast)

Sunday, March 12
11:30 a.m. Bronze (TV1 Webcast)
2:00 p.m. Final (Sportsnet 360/SN Now)

Women’s Final 8

Saskatchewan enters the Women’s Final 8 looking to defend its U SPORTS title after capturing the first national banner in school history last season.

The Huskies are joined in Victoria by the the No.1 Carleton Ravens (OUA Champions) the No. 3 Queen’s Gaels (OUA finalists), No. 4 McGill Martlets (RSEQ champs), No. 5 Regina Cougars (Canada West finalists), No. 6 Cape Breton Capers (AUS champs), No. 7 Laval Rouge et Or (At-large berth) and No. 8 Victoria Vikes (hosts).

A complete schedule is available below.

Of the remaining contenders, only Regina (2001) and nine-time champion Victoria (1980, 1981, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1992, 1998, 2000 and 2003) have captured the Bronze Baby in the past.

No.1 Carleton Ravens (OUA Champions)
Off Rank: 14th (68.2)
Def Rank: 1st (51.1)

Statistical leaders
Points per game: Catherine Traer (14.6)
Rebounds per game: Heather Lindsay (10.8)
Assists per game: Jenjen Abella (3.1)
3PT%: Elizabeth Leblanc (.395)

No.3 Queen’s Gaels (OUA Finalists)
Off Rank: 5th (73.7)
Def Rank: 6th (56.2)

Statistical leaders
Points per game: Marianne Alarie (10.7)
Rebounds per game: Robyn Pearson (10.2)
Assists per game: Emily Hazlett (4.1)
3PT%: Bridget Mulholland (.324)

The Ravens are tournament favourites after winning their first OUA Critelli Cup in program history via a 49-41 victory over host Queen’s (18-1 regular season). Carleton went 21-1 on the year (regular season and playoffs), running the table after losing its opening game of the campaign, including edging McMaster 55-54 in the semis. The Gaels settled for silver with the loss to Carleton, after beating Windsor in their semifinal 64-56.

“From our team retreat in early September, this team recognized it had the make-up of a championship-calibre team,” said Queen’s bench boss Dave Wilson, who was named OUA Coach of the Year. “They have continued their relentless pursuit – first to host the Final 4 and then to medal at the nationals. That goal remains intact and attainable. We will put our best effort forward this week to realize that goal.”

“Our players have developed a belief in each other which is a rare quality in a team,” said Carleton head coach Taffe Charles. “We have held each other accountable throughout the season and the results have shown. I am looking forward to seeing what this team can achieve at the national championship in Victoria.”

No.2 Saskatchewan Huskies (Canada West Champions)
National titles: 2016
Off Rank: 9th (70.3)
Def Rank: 12th (59.3)

Statistical leaders
Points per game: Sabine Dukate (16.2)
Rebounds per game: Megan Lindquist (6.6)
Assists per game: Libby Epoch (3.7)
3PT%: Megan Lindquist (.457)

No.5 Regina Cougars (Canada West Finalists)
National titles: 2001
Off Rank: 2nd (75.1)
Def Rank: 2nd (52.8)

Statistical leaders
Points per game: Katie Polischuk (15.7)
Rebounds per game: Kyanna Giles (7.3)
Assists per game: Michaela Kleisinger, Avery Pearce (2.5)
3PT%: Kyanna Giles (.412)

No.8 Victoria Vikes (Host)
National titles: 1980-82, 1985, 1987, 1992, 1998, 2000, 2003
Off Rank: 10th (69.8)
Def Rank: 32nd (67.2)

Statistical leaders
Points per game: Jenna Bugiardini (16.1)
Rebounds per game: Jenna Bugiardini (10.0)
Assists per game: Jenna Krug (3.8)
3PT%: Jenna Bugiardini (.478)

The Huskies (15-5) were tabbed as the No.2 seed following a 64-53 win over Regina (17-3), for its fourth Canada West title and second in a row. Saskatchewan reached the final thanks to a 72-62 semifinal win over Alberta, while the Cougars topped eventual bronze medalist Winnipeg 81-70, who returned to the Final 4 after a decade-long absence. Host Victoria (12-8) meanwhile, dropped its Canada West Quarter-final series to the Wesmen, falling 92-65 in the deciding game of the Best-of-3.

“We are very excited to be returning to the Final 8 this season to represent Canada West,” said Huskies head coach Lisa Thomaidis, who is also the bench boss of the Canadian national team. “Victoria has such a long and storied history of success in women’s basketball in this country, so it will be an honour to be there competing for the Bronze Baby.  We are a very different team from a year ago, but both our youth and returning veterans have done a great job getting this team back to nationals by focusing on the process.”

“We definitely would have loved to have won Canada West last weekend, but I’m thrilled with our record to this point given some of the adversity we’ve faced this season,” said Regina head coach Dave Taylor. “Going into the year, this is where I wanted us to be and I’m extremely happy to be heading back to nationals for the second year in a row. As it always seems to, this weekend will come down to whichever team can stay healthy, get a little luck with the draw, and is playing well under pressure. We’ll just have to focus on what we can control.”

“We are excited for teams to arrive and to have the opportunity to still be playing at this time of year,” said Vikes head coach Dani Sinclair. “It’s going to be a great tournament all around and we are working hard to prepare for our first round match up against a very good and very tough Carleton team.”

4. McGill Martlets (RSEQ Champions)
2016 result: 4th
Off Rank: 37th (59.4)
Def Rank: 13th (59.4)

Statistical leaders
Points per game: Alex Kiss-Rusk (14.1)
Rebounds per game: Alex Kiss-Rusk (9.1)
Assists per game: Gladys Hakizimana (2.6)
3PT%: Marika Guérin (.423)

7. Laval Rouge et Or (At-Large Berth)
Off Rank: 8th (71.6)
Def Rank: 11th (58.9)

Statistical leaders
Points per game: Jane Gagné (13.6)
Rebounds per game: Raphaëlle Côté (8.6)
Assists per game: Sarah-Jane Marois (4.3)
3PT%: Jane Gagné (.373)

McGill (9-7) continued its dominance of the Quebec conference, earning a sixth straight RSEQ banner with playoff wins over UQAM and Concordia at the Final 4. Despite their 69-65 semifinal loss to the Stingers, the Rouge et Or (14-2) earned the wild-card berth having been ranked all season in the U SPORTS Top 10, spending five weeks at No.1.

“We are obviously pleased to have earned the at-large berth for the U SPORTS Final 8,” said RSEQ Coach of the Year Guillaume Giroux. “We had a quick look at what happened against Concordia in the RSEQ semifinal, and the players are in a good frame of mind. We will absolutely need to play our biggest basketball at the right time, since we had some problems in the last couple of weeks. We cannot beat Saskatchewan if we don’t come out big. Their guards are very solid, so it will be an interesting matchup. It’s a team that performs very well, and they are well coached. They know exactly where they are going with their offensive. It’s a big challenge for us in the first round because they do not have a lot of weaknesses.”

“No matter who we play, it’s going to be tough because they’re all good teams,” said Ryan Thorne, head coach of the Martlets. “We’re just finding our stride as our lineup is finally back to full-strength,” noted Thorne. “We had a great start in the preseason with a full squad but as soon as the regular season started, we had to deal with numerous injuries. Playing Regina is not a bad matchup for us. They probably have a little more size but we may have more quickness. While their ‘bigs’ are comparable to ours, I think they have a little more depth.”

No. 6 Cape Breton Capers (AUS Champions)
Off Rank: 12th (68.7)
Def Rank: 20th (62.8)

Statistical leaders
Points per game: Alison Keough (19.3)
Rebounds per game: Alison Keough (9.9)
Assists per game: Valentina Primossi (2.5)
3PT%: Natasha Roach (.340)

After finishing the regular season third in the AUS standings at 13-7, Cape Breton recorded two close wins over sixth-seeded Memorial (55-53) and second-ranked UNB (56-52) before topping Acadia 79-61 in the final for its first title since 2011.

“Our season was a bit of a roller coaster ride,” said Cape Breton head coach Fabian McKenzie. “We started out well, slumped in mid-season and then back up for the playoffs. The team battled hard and showed resiliency all year. Our goal at nationals is to play our style of basketball and compete hard.”

SCHEDULE & RESULTS (all times PT)

Wednesday, March 8
6:30 p.m. 2017 U SPORTS Women’s Basketball All-Canadian Awards

Thursday, March 9
12:00 p.m. Quarter-final 1: No.3 Queen’s vs. No. 6 Cape Breton (USPORTS.LIVE)
2:00 p.m. Quarter-final 2: No. 2 Saskatchewan vs. No. 7 Laval (USPORTS.LIVE)
6:00 p.m. Quarter-final 3: No. 4 McGill vs. No. 5 Regina (USPORTS.LIVE)
8:00 p.m. Quarter-final 4: No. 1 Carleton vs. No. 8 Victoria (USPORTS.LIVE)

Friday, March 10
6:00 p.m. Consolation 1: Loser QF 1 vs. Loser QF 2 (USPORTS.LIVE)
8:00 p.m. Consolation 2: Loser QF 3 vs. Loser QF 4 (USPORTS.LIVE)

Saturday, March 11
2:00 p.m. Semifinal 1: Winner QF 1 vs. Winner QF 2 (Sportsnet 360/SN Now)
4:00 p.m. Semifinal 2: Winner QF 3 vs. Winner QF 4 (Sportsnet 360/SN Now)
7:00 p.m. 5th-place game (USPORTS.LIVE)

Sunday, March 12
10:00 a.m. Bronze (USPORTS.LIVE)
1:00 p.m. Final (Sportsnet 360/SN Now)  

About U SPORTS

U SPORTS is the national brand for University Sports in Canada. Every year, over 12,000 student-athletes and 500 coaches from 56 universities vie for 21 national championships in 12 different sports. U SPORTS also provides higher performance international opportunities for Canadian student-athletes at Winter and Summer Universiades, as well as numerous world university championships. For further information, visit usports.ca or follow us on:

Twitter: @USPORTSca
Facebook: @USPORTSCanada
YouTube:  @USPORTSca
Instagram: @USPORTSca
Snapchat: @USPORTSca

For further information, please contact:

Ken Saint-Eloy
Manager, Communications
U SPORTS
Cell: 647-871-7595
ksainteloy@usports.ca

Alan Hudes
Coordinator, Communications
U SPORTS
Off: 905-508-3000 ext. 242
Cell: 647-991-5343
ahudes@usports.ca

Men’s Final 8
Angela Barrett-Jewers
Dalhousie University
Off: 902-494-2137
Cell: 902-220-0774
angela.barrett@dal.ca

Women’s Final 8
David Conlin

University of Victoria
Off: 250-721-8410
Cell: 250-418-5633
vicvikes@uvic.ca