A capsule look at the U Sports men's basketball Final 8

A capsule look at the eight teams competing in the U Sports men's basketball Final 8 in Halifax.

Teams are listed by seeding heading into the tournament, along with their respective regular season records. The tournament runs from Friday to Sunday.

No. 1 Victoria Vikes (17-3)

Behind U Sports scoring leader Diego Maffia (24.9 points per game), the Vikes are out for redemption after a disappointing finish at the 2022 nationals. The reigning back-to-back Canada West champions entered last season’s tournament as the No. 2 seed but suffered a 17-point loss at the hands of eventual champion Carleton in the opener. Being the first seed for the first time since 2006 and seeking its ninth championship in school history, Victoria begins the tournament against the UPEI Panthers.

No. 2 Ottawa Gee-Gees (17-5)

The newly crowned OUA champions continue their search for the program’s first national title. The Gee-Gees defeated the then-No. 1 Carleton Ravens in resounding fashion, 79-57, last Saturday for their first Wilson Cup since 2014. Ottawa has been among the very best in the country throughout the season and gets another crack at being more than a national contender or runner-up, as it was in 2014 and 2015 to in-city rival Carleton.

No. 3 Carleton Ravens (18-4)

The powerhouse Ravens enter the tournament coming off a loss for the second year in a row, and having not won the OUA title since 2020. But Carleton, which has won a record 16 national titles since 2003, isn’t too concerned with where it enters. The reigning back-to-back-to-back national champs won last year’s tournament as the seventh seed (and with the at-large berth) after falling to Queen’s in the OUA semifinals.

No. 4 St. Francis Xavier X-Men (17-3)

The X-Men come in with momentum and confidence backed by a 50-point victory in the AUS title game against UPEI. It was St. FX’s first conference title since 2006.The X-Men will now set their sights on winning their first national title since 2001, when they won the second of a back-to-back, and fourth in school history.

No. 5 Queen’s Gaels (17-5)

The Gaels are the at-large berth of the tournament, and look to take out yet another AUS champion in the opening round. After upsetting Carleton in last year’s OUA semifinals and eventually falling to Brock in the title game, Queen’s took out AUS champion Dalhousie in the opener of last season’s nationals. The Gaels begin the tournament against St. FX this time around.

No. 6 UQAM Citadins (10-6)

The lone team out of the RSEQ to make it to nationals, the conference champion Citadins will be put to the test immediately in an opening game against defending champion Carleton. UQAM defeated Bishop’s 88-71 to claim the RSEQ crown. Led by Alix Lochard, the fifth-leading scorer and seventh-leading rebounder in the conference, the Citadins will arguably have the steepest uphill battle to face.

No. 7 Winnipeg Wesmen (15-5)

Relying on a balance of offensive contributions, the Wesmen squeezed out two three-point wins en route to the Canada West final before falling 95-80 to Victoria. It’s the first time the Wesmen have made it to the nationals since 1993-94. But they will face a stiff opening test in Ottawa.

No. 8 UPEI Panthers (15-5)

With Elijah Miller leading the way at a career-best 19.7 points per game, the Panthers earned a first-round bye and cruised past Dalhousie into the AUS final. However, UPEI was dismantled by St. FX 104-54 in the conference championship game. The Panthers will have their hands full taking on a Victoria team that’s been near or at the top of the national rankings for much of the season.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 9, 2023.

Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press