U SPORTS Men’s Basketball Teams Return to face NCAA competition

HAMILTON, ON – With the return of U SPORTS men’s basketball comes the return of NCAA vs U Sports exhibition games. 

U SPORTS schools have scheduled exhibition games against numerous NCAA schools from various conferences. While most of these games take place in Canada, they have occurred in the United States and other countries as well. 

Many high-profile NCAA teams have travelled to Canada for their foreign trip – Duke, Syracuse, Wisconsin and others. NCAA schools are allowed to take one foreign tour every four years. This year’s schedule features some notable matchups as well. 

Here is a look at all the teams facing NCAA teams this year and a look at some of their U SPORTS exhibition games and tournaments as well. 

Calgary’s Noah Wharton (Photo: David Moll/Calgary Dinos Athletics)

Calgary Dinos

NCAA Opponents: Colorado State, Pepperdine, UNC Charlotte, UNLV

The Dinos are a consistent contender in the Canada West conference and have a high number of exhibition games. They have five games in six days lined up in San Jose, Costa Rica, including playing Colorado State and UNC Charlotte twice. 

Calgary then plays the UNLV Running Rebels on UBC’s campus before hosting the Calgary Cup and taking part in the StFx Coach K Invitational. They are also taking part in the UQAM tournament in late December.  

Look for returning Canada West all-stars Aidan Smith and Noah Wharton to shine against a number of high-quality competition. 

Carleton Ravens

NCAA Opponents: Northeastern, Oregon, Florida State, Kentucky

The Ravens’ victories over NCAA opponents are famous. They’ve beaten Wisconsin, Wichita State, Cincinnati, Ole Miss, Alabama and countless other opponents. In 2022, their schedule is just as loaded. 

Carleton hosts Northeastern, Oregon and Florida State while traveling to Nassau, Bahamas to take on Kentucky. Those games are all in August. Although it’s yet to be announced, it’s likely they will take on some U Sports teams in exhibition play in September and October. One memorable moment from last season was when the Regina Cougars beat them in Laval. 

These games also provided head coach Taffe Charles and his staff to see how this year’s team looks as they have lost Lloyd Pandi, Alain Louis, Grant Shephard and others. Meanwhile, other players will step into those roles while they also have eight recruits announced in their class so far. 

Windsor Lancers

NCAA Opponents: Northern Illinois

The Lancers are another team with several incoming players. There are multiple transfers: Najee Brown-Henderson (Northeastern State), Daniel Cummings (Tennessee State), Jomel Puno (Fraser Valley) and Isaiah Scipio (York). 

They join a solid group of returning players, including team MVP and OUA All-Star Thomas Kennedy. Kennedy has had a busy summer, playing well with the Fraser Valley Bandits and the Canadian U23 team in Globl Jam. 

It’ll be interesting to see how he does back in U Sports as they face the Northern Illinois Huskies in their lone NCAA matchup. However, the Lancers travel to face StFx while also taking on UQAM, Dalhousie and Cape Breton in the Naismith Classic in Waterloo. 

TMU’s Aaron Rhooms (Photo: Curtis Martin/TMU Athletics)

Toronto Metropolitan University

NCAA Opponents: Northern Illinois, St. Michael’s (Vermont), Oregon

TMU continues their tradition of facing NCAA competition as they host Northern Illinois, St. Michael’s and Oregon. 

After losing to Carleton in the OUA quarter-finals last season, head coach Dave DeAveiro’s squad looks to build on that. TMU had six first-year players last year, including OUA East and U Sports Rookie of the Year Aaron Rhooms, who led the team in scoring and rebounds. 

Rhooms spent the summer with the Scarbrough Shooting Stars while DeAveiro is an assistant coach with the Ottawa BlackJacks. The NCAA games will provide a good test for the team. They also host the Alberta Golden Bears and will play three games in the Concordia Invitational (Trinity Western, Dalhousie, Concordia). 

Ottawa Gee-Gees

NCAA Opponents: Northern Illinois, Florida State, Northeastern, Oregon

The Gee-Gees have also made a presence in the CEBL this summer as head coach James Derouin is the head coach of the Ottawa BlackJacks. Maxime Boursiquot and Guillaume Pepin are also playing for the BlackJacks. 

Meanwhile, the exhibition games will have OUA East All-Rookie team members Cole Newton and Quincy Louis-Jean a chance to shine. The Gee-Gees have many games lined up with four NCAA tilts and games in the Brock RBC Tournament and McGill Redbird Classic tournament. 

Concordia Stingers

NCAA Opponents: Northeastern, Vermont, St. Michael’s (Vermont)

Given that the RSEQ only has five teams, the exhibition season provides the Stingers an opportunity to face out-of-conference teams. They faced five OUA schools last year (including Queen’s, McMaster, Carleton and Ottawa). 

This year, they take on Northeastern and Vermont at Brebeuf College before hosting the Concordia Invitational against Dalhousie, Trinity Western and TMU. Rastko Popovic’s squad will look to improve on their 6-6 regular season in 2021-22, which ended in an RSEQ championship loss to McGill. 

McGill Redbirds

NCAA Opponents: Florida State, Vermont, Oregon 

Same as their conference rival Concordia, McGill also hosts several games. In fact, all their announced exhibition games are at home (seven total). In addition to the NCAA opponents, they also host Nipissing before taking on SMU, Lakehead and Ottawa in the Redbird Classic. 

The Redbirds won the conference title in head coach Ryan Thorne’s second season (first season if you don’t count 2020-21). Thorne had an illustrious career with the McGill women’s team, including winning U Sports Coach of the Year and the national title. It’ll be interesting to see if he can continue that success into 2022-23. 

UQAM Citadins 

NCAA Opponents: Vermont

The Citadins are hosting Vermont as part of their trip to Quebec. They themselves are travelling to Waterloo to face Laurier, Windsor and Waterloo in the Naismith Classic. In December, they will host the UQAM tournament. 

The exhibition games will bode well for a team that finished with a 4-8 record in the RSEQ last season before losing a close 77-71 game to McGill in the RSEQ semi-finals. One player to watch for is Samuel Cayo, who averaged 11. 9 points and 3.9 rebounds last season and was named to the RSEQ All-Rookie Team. 

UBC Thunderbirds 

NCAA Opponents: UNLV 

The Thunderbirds may only play one NCAA opponent but the War Memorial Gym will also host a game between the Calgary Dinos and UNLV. 

UBC then goes to Calgary to participate in the Calgary Cup. It is yet to be announced if there are any other exhibition games in September and October. The team is coming off a 16-2 season when they lost a nailbiter to the Saskatchewan Huskies in the Canada West quarter-finals. 

The Thunderbirds program has built plenty of momentum in recent years, including finishing third at U Sports nationals in 2019-20. The exhibition games provide an opportunity to continue to build positive momentum going into the regular season.

UFV’s Dario Lopez (Photo: Gibi Saini/UFV Athletics)

Fraser Valley Cascades 

NCAA Opponents: UNLV

Fraser Valley is another team UNLV will be facing on their trip to British Columbia. It is a welcomed opportunity for the Cascades to test themselves against tough competition. Fraser Valley also scheduled two road games against the Alberta Golden Bears in addition to hosting Mount Royal and Regina right before the regular season. 

Spanish forward Dario Lopez won the Cascades Male Rookie of the Year award last season and it will be interesting to see how he improves and performs this season. He is joined by transfers Courtney Anderson (Douglas College), Arminas Ilciukas (Saskatchewan) and Christopher Jackson (Mount Hood CC). 

Regina Cougars 

NCAA Opponents: Minot State 

The Cougars had arguably the most memorable pre-season victory last year, an 82-80 win over Carleton in the Tournoi Rouge et Or. It led to a successful season which ended with them just missing out on a berth to nationals thanks to a 97-93 overtime loss to Saskatchewan in the Canada West bronze medal game. 

Regina hosts Minot State, who play in the NCAA Division II – Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, for a pair of games. The Cougars then host Winnipeg and Brandon in the Cougar Classic before taking part in the Calgary Cup and facing Thompson Rivers, Fraser Valley and Mount Royal in Abbotsford. 

The games will be good preparation for a Cougars team that could be primed to take that next step and make nationals. 

Waterloo at the Naismith Classic against Ontario Tech in 2021 (Photo: Courtney Caird/Waterloo Athletics)

Waterloo Warriors

NCAA Opponents: Ferris State

Waterloo hasn’t played in an NCAA team since 2016, when they lost to Northwestern State. Before that, their last game was in 2008. The Warriors take on the Ferris State Bulldogs, who are part of the NCAA Division II – Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. 

The Warriors also host their 53rd annual Naismith Classic against Dalhousie, Cape Breton and UQAM. They will also take part in the Shoveller tournament in late December in Halifax. 

Look for sophomores Raf Llorin and Josh Akuamoah, who both won the Letterman Award for team rookie of the year, to continue to make an impact. 

Laval Rouge et Or

NCAA Opponents: Merchant Marine Academy 

Laval has established a tradition of playing NCAA teams, which they have done every year from 2004-2019. This year, their lone NCAA game (announced so far at least) is against NCAA Division III side Merchant Marine Academy.

The Rouge et Or do have some quality U Sports exhibition games against McMaster and Nipissing. They play Western and Laurentian in the Bishop’s tournament before hosting Algoma and Saskatchewan in the Tournoi Rouge et Or. 

Laval also returns to playing a late December tournament after not doing so last year. They play three games in the Wesmen Classic in Winnipeg. 

Featured Image: Valerie Wutti/Carleton Athletics

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