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HAMILTON, ON – The Ontario field of the CIS is now down to four teams as the Wilson Cup opens on March 4, live from McMaster in Hamilton, Ontario. NPH CIS Analyst Cahrles Blouin-Gascon offers his predictions prior to tip-off at 6:00 PM Eastern Time.
Four teams will battle for one of two entry spots into the CIS Final 8, held in Halifax a week later. This Final Four might not be as popular as its American counterpart – really, what is? – but as far as university basketball in Ontario is concerned, it is the biggest event of the year.
Though every team’s goal likely remains to win the Wilson Cup, both finalists will punch their ticket for the CIS Championships from March 11-13 in Halifax. Therefore, all four teams will look to win their first game on Friday night to be invited to the big dance.
Simply put, win or go home.
The Carleton Ravens look to win the OUA for the fourth straight year, a number they could not reach in their earlier three-peat from 2002 to 2005. The Ravens seem poised to do just that, since they were undefeated during the regular season and were both the best offensive and defensive team in the OUA. Their main strength is their unbelievable depth with 12 players able to contribute quality minutes every game and score points when given the chance. This allows head coach Dave Smart not to overwork important players like fourth-year player Eliot Thompson and sophomore Tyson Hinz. Carleton faces the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks in their first game, a team they beat 88-80 in their third game of the season. This was their closest margin of victory of the whole season.
The Lakehead Thunderwolves won the West division of the OUA, which was perhaps more balanced than the East. They did so with strong defensive play and were led offensively by fifth-year guard Jamie Searle and third-year player Venzal Russell who each averaged 13 points during the regular season. Lakehead was the best defensive team after Carleton, but face a tough test in its first game against the Ottawa Gee-Gees. Their first meeting ended in a narrow 68-65 Lakehead victory. With a little luck, fans will witness a similarly close game on tonight.