It's March, so that means it's time for college basketball — but not NCAA March Madness. This is Canada after all. It's time for the CIS Final 8.
What's that, you ask? The CIS Final 8 is Canadian university basketball's national championship tournament. Eight teams from across the country will compete in a single elimination tournament at UBC — for the first time since 1972, when UBC won the title — over the next four days.
But really, you should know what it is by now because the entire city of Vancouver is carpeted in ads for the event. They are on the buses, on billboards, strewn across campus and all over Facebook and Twitter. I can't even visit my favourite news sites without seeing CIS Final 8 ads all over them. Congrats UBC Athletics, you've finally entered the 21st century — it only took 16 years.
It's great to see UBC advertising the event so hard, but who is Athletics really advertising to? Tickets for students are $5, which is up from the normal $2 — fair enough. But top tickets for the gold medal game are $70-$80 and it seems the farther I go from campus, the more advertising I see. Maybe I'm just a grumpy old sports editor, but I'd have liked to see just a bit more interest in jumping on the student engagement bandwagon (see Homecoming and Winter Classic) and a little less interest in making money on the part of athletics.
But the $3 increase for student tickets hasn't stopped UBC's first round game against the first place seeded Ryerson University Rams (today, 8 p.m., be there or be square) from already almost selling out and will likely set a record for basketball attendance on campus.
But what if the number eight ranked ’Birds fall? Well, they'll play at least one more game in the consolation bracket, so all hope is not lost. People will hopefully come out to the rest of UBC's games and the gold medal game, but imagine if they went all the way? A CIS championship run by the ’Birds this year could put student engagement forward five years. An early round loss would be disappointing, but not disastrous. No pressure, gents. So what are UBC's chances?
“Looking at the stats all year long, the Ontario teams have been ranked one, two and three all year. The top teams from the conferences, if you look down the statistics, are all very similar in all categories. There's not an underdog in the tournament,” said UBC head coach Kevin Hanson. It's a toss up, but UBC will definitely have a tough time against the Rams.
“It's pretty cool [being on bus ads]. It's a unique experience. I've never had something like this go on,” said Jordan Jensen-Whyte, fourth-year guard and Arts student. “It's good to see my face, but it's team first and everything. I'm just excited to be here and hopefully we can take the win.”
A St. Patrick's Day's sold out CIS quarterfinal game where UBC looks to upset the first place seed— followed by an after-party not to be remembered — is going to go down in campus history. You won't want to miss it. Win or lose, it's going to be an example of what sports culture on campus could be and it's going to be a hell of a lot of (slightly drunk) fun.