Thursday, 12 March 2009

Canadian Press article previewing Nationals

Ravens hope to get back on track with CIS men's basketball title from the Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Seeding might indicate what a team has done during the regular season, but it's no guarantee of success in the Canadian university basketball championships.

Just ask the Carleton Ravens, who last year hoped to capture their sixth consecutive men's title only to lose out in the semifinals, or the Brock University Badgers, the underdogs who ended up carrying away the championship.

The Ravens are back as the No. 1-ranked team, and with the hometown crowd and a 24-game winning streak they will be tough to beat.

As disappointing as it was to lose last year, Carleton head coach Dave Smart said that's ancient history.

"I don't know if last year even comes into play at all," Smart said. "We're just going to try and win basketball games.

"It's a tough trial. It's a tough trial for everybody. Our side of the trial is extremely tough."

After claiming five straight CIS trophies in Halifax from 2003 to 2007, the Ravens' hopes of closing in on Victoria's all-time record of seven in a row came to a disappointing end when they dropped an 82-80 double-overtime decision to Acadia in the semifinals.

The loss also ended Carleton's record-tying streak of 18 straight wins at the national tournament, dating back to 2001.

"Last year I thought we played extremely well but we shot the ball very tight," Smart said. "The last two times we've been in this place we've shot the ball pretty well.

"Hopefully we can play as well as we did last year but shoot the ball a little better."

The Ravens have won every game since an 80-68 conference-opening loss at Windsor on Nov. 7, and enter the Final 8 sporting a 33-1 mark against CIS rivals.

The rest of the field that begins play Friday at Ottawa's Scotiabank Place includes No. 2 Canada West champion Calgary Dinos, No. 3 Canada West finalist UBC Thunderbirds, No. 4 Ontario finalist Western Ontario Mustangs, No. 5 OUA bronze medallist Ottawa Gee-Gees, No. 6 Atlantic champion Dalhousie Tigers, No. 7 Quebec champion Concordia Stingers, and the No. 8 AUS finalist St. Francis Xavier X-Men.

St. Francis Xavier earned the wildcard berth in a vote by CIS coaches.

Brock isn't back to defend its title after it missed the OUA playoffs, going 8-14 on the season after graduating several of their top players.

University of Ottawa head coach Dave DeAveiro says his club would love to make the home crowd exclusively its own but regardless of who they play, they'll be giving it their best shot.

"We've never had that opportunity where it has been entirely an Ottawa U crowd. If we get that chance it would be a great thing," DeAveiro said. "You work all year to get to this point.

"The year comes down to three games and it's do or die. If you're not ready to play now, you're never ready to play."

Calgary faces Concordia on Friday to tip off the tournament, followed by UBC versus Dalhousie. The evening schedule has Ottawa battling Western Ontario and Carleton taking on St. FX.

Semifinals are scheduled for Saturday, while the championship game is Sunday (4 p.m. ET).

Copyright © 2009 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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