Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Canada’s version of March Madness is here | CBC Sports

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By pretty much any measure — number of teams, popularity, broadcast-rights money and gambling activity, to name a few — the Canadian university basketball championships are dwarfed by their NCAA counterparts in the United States. Still, these are quality tournaments, featuring the same single-elimination bracket format that generates so much excitement south of the border.

Here are a few more things to know as the U Sports women’s Final 8 tips off Thursday in Sydney, N.S., followed by the men’s Friday in Halifax:

Women’s

Queen’s ruled the regular season, going 21-1 with a veteran-laden lineup that produced one of the most efficient offences in the country while also playing strong defence. Fifth-year forward Julia Chadwick averaged a team-high 16.4 points and ranked near the top of the country in rebounding with 12 per game.

But the Gaels met their match in Carleton, an elite defensive team that regrouped from a 71-65 road loss to Queen’s in November to smother the Gaels 64-32 back home in Ottawa in January. The Ravens won the rubber match 70-57 in last weekend’s Ontario playoff final at Queen’s to earn the No. 1 seed for the national-championship tournament.

Queen’s fell to No. 3, behind West champion Alberta. Atlantic champ St. Mary’s got the No. 4 seed, followed by West finalist Calgary and the University of Quebec at Montreal, which won its provincial title. Acadia landed the tournament’s at-large entry on the strength of its 16-3 regular-season record. The high-scoring Axewomen are led by guard Haley McDonald, whose 22.5 points per game tied her for second in the country. Host Cape Breton (9-11 this season) rounds out the bracket.

A new national champion will be crowned after 2022 Bronze Baby Trophy winner Toronto Metropolitan (formerly Ryerson) fell to Carleton in the Ontario quarter-finals.

Here’s the schedule for Thursday’s first-round matchups:

(3) Queen’s vs. (6) UQAM at 10:30 a.m. ET
(2) Alberta vs. (7) Acadia at 1 p.m. ET
(4) Saint Mary’s vs. (5) Calgary at 4:30 p.m. ET
(1) Carleton vs. (8) Cape Breton at 7 p.m. ET

The semifinals are Saturday at 2 p.m. ET and 5 p.m. ET, and the championship game is Sunday at 5 p.m. ET. Every game in the women’s tournament will be streamed live on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem. Read more about how Queen’s is approaching its shot at a national title here.

Men’s

When it comes to dominant men’s collegiate basketball programs, most people would say the gold standard is John Wooden’s UCLA teams of the 1960s and ’70s, who captured an incredible 10 NCAA titles in 12 years. But that pales in comparison to what Carleton has done this century in Canada. The Ravens have won an absurd 16 of the 19 national championships awarded since 2003, including an active streak of three in a row.

The good news for everyone else is that Carleton looks vulnerable for a change. The Ravens are seeded No. 3 in the tournament after going a relatively pedestrian 18-4 in the regular season and then getting trounced 79-57 on their own court in the Ontario final by cross-town rival Ottawa. The Gee-Gees’ convincing victory earned them the No. 2 seed.

The top seed is Victoria, which ranks second in national championships with eight, but none since 1997 (the others came in a Carleton-like run of seven in a row in the ’80s). The Vikes went 17-3 in the regular season before beating Winnipeg in the West playoff final. Victoria is led by Diego Maffia, a Brazilian-born point guard who topped the country in scoring this season with nearly 25 points per game. With Maffia controlling its attack, Victoria had the top-ranked offence in the country in terms of both points per game and efficiency.

Atlantic champion St. FX is the No. 4 seed, followed by Queen’s, which received an at-large berth after falling to Carleton in the Ontario semis. Also vying for the W. P. McGee Trophy are Quebec champion UQAM, West playoff finalist Winnipeg and Atlantic finalist UPEI.

Here’s the schedule for Friday’s first-round matchups:

(3) Carleton vs. (6) UQAM at 11 a.m. ET
(2) Ottawa vs. (7) Winnipeg at 1 p.m. ET
(4) St. FX vs. (5) Queen’s at 5 p.m. ET
(1) Victoria vs. (8) UPEI at 7 p.m. ET

The semifinals go Saturday at 5 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. ET, and the championship game Sunday at 5 p.m. ET. Every game in the men’s tournament will be streamed live on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem.

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