U Sports Final 8 Preview

U Sports Final 8 Preview

TORONTO (U SPORTS) –  The Saskatchewan Huskies shoot for a second straight national banner, as the ArcelorMittal Dofasco U SPORTS Women's Final 8 tournament tip off on Thursday. 

CHAMPIONSHIP WEBSITE: 
Women: http://en.usports.ca/championships/wbkb/index

The national tournament hosted at the University of Victoria for the first time since 1993 - get under way Thursday at the CARSA Performance Gym, culminating next Sunday, with the women's championship at 1:00 p.m. Pacific (5:00 p.m. Atlantic), live on Sportsnet 360 and SN Now. Saturday's semifinals will also be broadcast live on Sportsnet 360 and SN Now Women's: 6:00 p.m. & 8:00 p.m. Atlantic). 

Livestreaming of all other games from the  competition will be webcast on U SPORTS.LIVE.

Following are previews for each Final 8 tournament.

 

Women's Final 8

Saskatchewan enters the Women's Final 8 looking to defend its U SPORTS title after capturing the first national banner in school history last season. 

The Huskies are joined in Victoria by the the No.1 Carleton Ravens (OUA Champions) the No. 3 Queen's Gaels (OUA finalists), No. 4 McGill Martlets (RSEQ champs), No. 5 Regina Cougars (Canada West finalists), No. 6 Cape Breton Capers (AUS champs), No. 7 Laval Rouge et Or (At-large berth) and No. 8 Victoria Vikes (hosts).

A complete schedule is available below.

Of the remaining contenders, only Regina (2001) and nine-time champion Victoria (1980, 1981, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1992, 1998, 2000 and 2003) have captured the Bronze Baby in the past. 

No.1 Carleton Ravens (OUA Champions)
Off Rank: 14th (68.2)
Def Rank: 1st (51.1)

Statistical leaders
Points per game: Catherine Traer (14.6)
Rebounds per game: Heather Lindsay (10.8)
Assists per game: Jenjen Abella (3.1)
3PT%: Elizabeth Leblanc (.395)

No.3 Queen's Gaels (OUA Finalists)
Off Rank: 5th (73.7)
Def Rank: 6th (56.2)

Statistical leaders
Points per game: Marianne Alarie (10.7)
Rebounds per game: Robyn Pearson (10.2)
Assists per game: Emily Hazlett (4.1)
3PT%: Bridget Mulholland (.324)

The Ravens are tournament favourites after winning their first OUA Critelli Cup in program history via a 49-41 victory over host Queen's (18-1 regular season). Carleton went 21-1 on the year (regular season and playoffs), running the table after losing its opening game of the campaign, including edging McMaster 55-54 in the semis. The Gaels settled for silver with the loss to Carleton, after beating Windsor in their semifinal 64-56.

"From our team retreat in early September, this team recognized it had the make-up of a championship-calibre team," said Queen's bench boss Dave Wilson, who was named OUA Coach of the Year. "They have continued their relentless pursuit - first to host the Final 4 and then to medal at the nationals. That goal remains intact and attainable. We will put our best effort forward this week to realize that goal." 

"Our players have developed a belief in each other which is a rare quality in a team," said Carleton head coach Taffe Charles. "We have held each other accountable throughout the season and the results have shown. I am looking forward to seeing what this team can achieve at the national championship in Victoria."


No.2 Saskatchewan Huskies (Canada West Champions)
National titles: 2016
Off Rank: 9th (70.3)
Def Rank: 12th (59.3)

Statistical leaders
Points per game: Sabine Dukate (16.2)
Rebounds per game: Megan Lindquist (6.6)
Assists per game: Libby Epoch (3.7)
3PT%: Megan Lindquist (.457)

No.5 Regina Cougars (Canada West Finalists)
National titles: 2001
Off Rank: 2nd (75.1)
Def Rank: 2nd (52.8)

Statistical leaders
Points per game: Katie Polischuk (15.7)
Rebounds per game: Kyanna Giles (7.3)
Assists per game: Michaela Kleisinger, Avery Pearce (2.5)
3PT%: Kyanna Giles (.412)

No.8 Victoria Vikes (Host)
National titles: 1980-82, 1985, 1987, 1992, 1998, 2000, 2003
Off Rank: 10th (69.8)
Def Rank: 32nd (67.2)

Statistical leaders
Points per game: Jenna Bugiardini (16.1)
Rebounds per game: Jenna Bugiardini (10.0)
Assists per game: Jenna Krug (3.8)
3PT%: Jenna Bugiardini (.478)

The Huskies (15-5) were tabbed as the No.2 seed following a 64-53 win over Regina (17-3), for its fourth Canada West title and second in a row. Saskatchewan reached the final thanks to a 72-62 semifinal win over Alberta, while the Cougars topped eventual bronze medalist Winnipeg 81-70, who returned to the Final 4 after a decade-long absence. Host Victoria (12-8) meanwhile, dropped its Canada West Quarter-final series to the Wesmen, falling 92-65 in the deciding game of the Best-of-3. 

"We are very excited to be returning to the Final 8 this season to represent Canada West," said Huskies head coach Lisa Thomaidis, who is also the bench boss of the Canadian national team. "Victoria has such a long and storied history of success in women's basketball in this country, so it will be an honour to be there competing for the Bronze Baby.  We are a very different team from a year ago, but both our youth and returning veterans have done a great job getting this team back to nationals by focusing on the process."

"We definitely would have loved to have won Canada West last weekend, but I'm thrilled with our record to this point given some of the adversity we've faced this season," said Regina head coach Dave Taylor. "Going into the year, this is where I wanted us to be and I'm extremely happy to be heading back to nationals for the second year in a row. As it always seems to, this weekend will come down to whichever team can stay healthy, get a little luck with the draw, and is playing well under pressure. We'll just have to focus on what we can control."

"We are excited for teams to arrive and to have the opportunity to still be playing at this time of year," said Vikes head coach Dani Sinclair. "It's going to be a great tournament all around and we are working hard to prepare for our first round match up against a very good and very tough Carleton team."

4. McGill Martlets (RSEQ Champions)
2016 result: 4th
Off Rank: 37th (59.4)
Def Rank: 13th (59.4)

Statistical leaders
Points per game: Alex Kiss-Rusk (14.1)
Rebounds per game: Alex Kiss-Rusk (9.1)
Assists per game: Gladys Hakizimana (2.6)
3PT%: Marika Guérin (.423)

7. Laval Rouge et Or (At-Large Berth)
Off Rank: 8th (71.6)
Def Rank: 11th (58.9)

Statistical leaders
Points per game: Jane Gagné (13.6)
Rebounds per game: Raphaëlle Côté (8.6)
Assists per game: Sarah-Jane Marois (4.3)
3PT%: Jane Gagné (.373)

McGill (9-7) continued its dominance of the Quebec conference, earning a sixth straight RSEQ banner with playoff wins over UQAM and Concordia at the Final 4. Despite their 69-65 semifinal loss to the Stingers, the Rouge et Or (14-2) earned the wild-card berth having been ranked all season in the U SPORTS Top 10, spending five weeks at No.1.

"We are obviously pleased to have earned the at-large berth for the U SPORTS Final 8," said RSEQ Coach of the Year Guillaume Giroux. "We had a quick look at what happened against Concordia in the RSEQ semifinal, and the players are in a good frame of mind. We will absolutely need to play our biggest basketball at the right time, since we had some problems in the last couple of weeks. We cannot beat Saskatchewan if we don't come out big. Their guards are very solid, so it will be an interesting matchup. It's a team that performs very well, and they are well coached. They know exactly where they are going with their offensive. It's a big challenge for us in the first round because they do not have a lot of weaknesses."

"No matter who we play, it's going to be tough because they're all good teams," said Ryan Thorne, head coach of the Martlets. "We're just finding our stride as our lineup is finally back to full-strength," noted Thorne. "We had a great start in the preseason with a full squad but as soon as the regular season started, we had to deal with numerous injuries. Playing Regina is not a bad matchup for us. They probably have a little more size but we may have more quickness. While their 'bigs' are comparable to ours, I think they have a little more depth." 

No. 6 Cape Breton Capers (AUS Champions)
Off Rank: 12th (68.7)
Def Rank: 20th (62.8)

Statistical leaders
Points per game: Alison Keough (19.3)
Rebounds per game: Alison Keough (9.9)
Assists per game: Valentina Primossi (2.5)
3PT%: Natasha Roach (.340)

After finishing the regular season third in the AUS standings at 13-7, Cape Breton recorded two close wins over sixth-seeded Memorial (55-53) and second-ranked UNB (56-52) before topping Acadia 79-61 in the final for its first title since 2011. 

"Our season was a bit of a roller coaster ride," said Cape Breton head coach Fabian McKenzie. "We started out well, slumped in mid-season and then back up for the playoffs. The team battled hard and showed resiliency all year. Our goal at nationals is to play our style of basketball and compete hard."

SCHEDULE & RESULTS (all times AST)

Wednesday, March 8
6:30 p.m. 2017 U SPORTS Women's Basketball All-Canadian Awards

Thursday, March 9
4:00 p.m. Quarter-final 1: No.3 Queen's vs. No. 6 Cape Breton (USPORTS.LIVE)
6:00 p.m. Quarter-final 2: No. 2 Saskatchewan vs. No. 7 Laval (USPORTS.LIVE)
10:00 p.m. Quarter-final 3: No. 4 McGill vs. No. 5 Regina (USPORTS.LIVE)
12:00 a.m. Quarter-final 4: No. 1 Carleton vs. No. 8 Victoria (USPORTS.LIVE)

Friday, March 10
10:00 p.m. Consolation 1: Loser QF 1 vs. Loser QF 2 (USPORTS.LIVE)
12:00 a.m. Consolation 2: Loser QF 3 vs. Loser QF 4 (USPORTS.LIVE)

Saturday, March 11

6:00 p.m. Semifinal 1: Winner QF 1 vs. Winner QF 2 (Sportsnet 360/ SN Now)
8:00 p.m. Semifinal 2: Winner QF 3 vs. Winner QF 4 (Sportsnet 360/ SN Now)
11:00 p.m. 5th-place game (USPORTS.LIVE)

Sunday, March 12
2:00 p.m. Bronze (USPORTS.LIVE)
5:00 p.m. Final (Sportsnet 360/SN Now