McGill and Dalhousie look to get finally over the hump in MBB Final 8

Ottawa, ON – So it’s all come down to this.

With the Brock Badgers’ 95-75 win over the Queen’s Gaels in the 2022 Wilson Cup, all eight teams have been set. It’s time to wait and prepare until Friday when the ball tips off from the Saville Community Sports Centre in Edmonton, Alberta, for the 2022 U SPORTS Men’s Basketball Final 8.

The Carleton Ravens have essentially given the W.P McGee Trophy a permanent residence at the Raven’s Nest in Ottawa over the last 20 years. Still, all eight teams head to Alberta with a shot at becoming the first U SPORTS champions since the Ravens lifted the trophy on their home court in 2020.

Two of those teams set to try and dethrone the Ravens while also trying to dispel their own demons are the RSEQ champion McGill Redbirds and the AUS Champion Dalhousie Tigers.

Let’s break down how they got here.

McGill Redbirds

The McGill Redbirds enter the U SPORTS Final 8 for the first time since 2018 and the ninth time in program history following a 48-46 win in the RSEQ title game over Concordia on March 26. For the Redbirds, it was the culmination of what has been an incredible season as their title run completed a perfect 14-0 year.

McGill comes in with the lowest offence of any Final 8 team at just 74.3 points per game, with the Redbirds relying on two key veterans to contribute. Fifth-year guard Sam Jenkins picked up a double-double in the championship against Concordia while averaging 14.7 ppg for the Redbirds. Leading the way through has been Jamal Mayali. The fellow fifth-year guard averaged 16.8 ppg for the Redbirds while shooting 41.9% from three-point range, good for 19th in all of Canada.

Facing a Final 8, though, that includes the Top 4 offences in U SPORTS in Brock, Victoria, Alberta and Carleton, the Redbird’s defence, ranked fourth in the country, is what will truly be put to the test. McGill’s best finish at the U SPORTS Men’s Final 8 has been fourth place results in 1977, 2016 and 2018. Facing off as the #6 seed in a primetime matchup at 6:00 PM MT against the host Alberta Golden Bears on Friday, the Redbirds will be in touch in 2022.

Dalhousie Tigers

@DalTigers on Twitter

There is probably no team in U SPORTS that has been hoping to get back to the national stage more than the Dalhousie Tigers. Over two years ago, in the final days before COVID, the Dalhousie Tigers took the Carleton Ravens to the wall in a 40 minute battle at TD Place Arena in Ottawa. The Ravens ultimately took the game 74-65, denying the Tigers their first-ever championship.

The Tigers rolled through the AUS in 2021-2022, finishing first in the regular season before taking down Acadia, Memorial, and then UPEI to claim their third consecutive AUS title. As tradition has been for the last few years, a line can be drawn from Dalhousie’s success to two men, Alex Carson and Keevan Veinot.

Veinot, the 2020 AUS MVP, could not match his award-winning performance in 2022 but still earned AUS First-Team All-Star honours with an 18.5/6.2/3.5 season for the Tigers. Carson finished with the higher point per game total at 18.8 while also finished 6th in the AUS shooting 42.7% from three-point range, all to be named a First-Team All-Star for the third time in his career. Along with coach Rick Plato earning AUS Coach of the Year, the Tigers present as formidable a squad as they have ever shown as they search for that first National Title.

The Tigers head to Edmonton to get past falling short in back-to-back championships. They get their first shot on Friday in a matchup against the surprise OUA finalist Queen’s Gaels.

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