By: William Brown & Luke Galati
HALIFAX — It’s all set.
The U Sports men’s basketball tournament Final 8 is already underway, as the Carleton Ravens and Calgary Dinos finish up the first of four games today. Ryerson fans travelling to Halifax arrived this morning by plane and took the bus downtown to support their team. They now wait patiently for 6 p.m. (5 p.m. EST). The Rams, the No. 1 ranked team in the nation, will take to the court for their matchup with the St. Mary’s Huskies.
The Huskies are the eighth-ranked team in the tournament, so Ryerson comes into the contest as the heavy favourite. If the Rams lose, it would be a huge upset. Some would say that St. Mary’s just squeaked into the tournament, as Dalhousie, the host team, won the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) title, giving them a second bid in the final. St. Mary’s, the AUS runner-up, was automatically granted that second bid. While their 13-7 record is representative of a solid season, they’re hardly considered to be in the same class as teams like Ryerson, Carleton and McGill.
That’s not to say that Ryerson should take its first game lightly. Coach Roy Rana and the Rams are looking to win Ryerson’s first ever national championship. But the beauty of sports is that nothing is ever guaranteed. This evening’s opening round game against the Huskies is far from an easy win.
St. Mary’s attacks without a designated star scorer. Its balanced attack features guards Marquis Clayton, Theon Reefer and Brian Rouse, who all hover near the top of the team’s scoring with 19, 17.5 and 15.5 points per game, respectively. This will be a challenge for Ryerson’s dynamic backcourt of Adika Peter-McNeilly, Ammanuel Diressa and Myles Charvis. So while St. Mary’s lacks a definitive star player, their success comes by committee.
St. Mary’s was the third-placed team in the AUS regular season and has not been ranked among the top 10 in Canada all season. Ryerson fans will surely be met by a contingent of Halifax fans, supporting their local east-coast Huskies.
But surely, the Rams will be expecting a first-round win in tonight’s game. Anything less would be a massive disappointment for a program that has made huge progress in recent years. Ryerson hopes that tonight marks step one towards three wins. That’s what they’ll need to win it all.
You can catch the game live online. Make sure to follow the Ryersonian’s Facebook and Twitter pages to keep up-to-date with the action. Tipoff is at 5 p.m. EST.