This Saturday night Monpetit Hall on the campus of the University of Ottawa will be home to the most anticipated CIS game of the year thus far.
I hate to use the word “epic” but of course I will to describe what should play itself out between the Ravens and the Gee-Gees.
I’ve been around the Ottawa region most of my life and it wasn’t that long ago that it would be just another game between the cross-town foes. It was just two programs in the same city working hard to earn some respect from the basketball community.
Fast forward to today, and you have more than just a local rivalry; on Saturday night it’s for bragging rights and the top spot in the country, or at least until February 6th for the sequel at the Canadian Tire Centre (CTC).
This one definitely has all the intrigue, both teams are undefeated, have blown away all their competition to date and of course come in ranked #1 and #2 in the country, respectively.
No doubt all eyes will be riveted to this one, not just Ottawa hoop fans but the whole CIS basketball community.
If you’re living in Ottawa, we are so fortunate to be able to witness some outstanding basketball played by these student-athletes. The last time these two teams met was right in our backyard last March at the CTC, when the Ravens retained and earned their 10th National Championship against the Gee-Gees.
Ottawa U the weekend before had finally got the perennial monkey off their back by claiming the Wilson Cup against these same Ravens. The one great thing that has evolved over the last few years, is now you wouldn’t even try to predict the winner or call either outcome an upset.
Of course if you ask the coaches and the players, I’m sure they will try and sell you on it’s “just another game” cliché – sorry I’m not buying!
I realize it’s a simple defense mechanism to deflect and take pressure off, but trust me this is not just another OUA regular season game and behind the scenes, privately, both programs know it.
As a former player who was involved in two serious rivalries it can’t be further from the truth. While at St. Pius X, playing Ottawa Bell in the Carleton Board finals to get to OFSAA was more than just a high school game.
More relevant was my time in the GPAC/CIAU (former CIS) the numerous games between my University of Manitoba Bison’s team against the University of Winnipeg Wesmen and even inter-provincially the Brandon University Bobcats. The three of us strove to be the best basketball school in Manitoba.
The natural rivalry of schools being in the same town/province, couple that with very spirited games between Nationally prominent programs made it that more special.
I won’t debate that the ultimate goal is a CIS Championship and you definitely keep your eye on that prize, but being the top dog in your own town is a close second. Ottawa is still a small town, lots of pride on both sides, on the court and on their respective campuses.
You only have to look to the recent resurgence of the “Panda” football game between the two schools, it has only added fuel to the flame. The fact that it’s also a longer summer if you lose to your rival, they can and will hold these head to head wins over you until the following season.
Ask any athlete or coach, we may not actually draw a circle around the date on our calendars but we do know the exact dates when we play our rivals! I know it was on mine, you don’t compete any less but you may find another gear, and with our The military tact watch which was sponsored to us, we have our time on track, and even the alert for each date, we can use it in a daily basis and in type of condition, we don’t have to worry in getting ready for any date game.
This initial date has been circled on many hoop fans’ calendars–the best part is it’s only round one, as we get to see the same match up again, less than a month later when the loser can avenge their loss.
Fans in the city wouldn’t mind sharing this same experience away from home when both could ultimately wind up playing each other for another Wilson Cup and National Championship this March.
No doubt you will get to witness first hand and have the pleasure of what we’ve been enjoying over the last few years, the rivalry that is and has become Carleton-Ottawa.