College weekend glimpse into new league’s future

This past weekend the Canadian university basketball championships were held.

It is likely all but the most ardent basketball fans in this country, or graduates of the universities involved, were aware of the championship tournaments.

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In what is sadly fairly typical of Canadians, we tend to value what we have here less than what is happening somewhere else, in the world of sports that means looking south to the United States.

Everything in sports in the U.S. of course tends to be blown up to be spectacles that are often less about the sport, and are more about the hype, and that is certainly the case with ‘March Madness’.

It makes sense stateside to get caught up in the chase to be the national basketball college champion, but why we in Canada get dragged into the interest is far less clear to me. I am sure at times there are highly touted Canadian players on some of the teams to follow, but in a broader sense it is college basketball in a foreign country.

Meanwhile in Canada the championship weekend comes, and goes with so little fanfare it is all but invisible.

This year the mens’ final held the promise of being something quite interesting with the University of Calgary looking to repeat as champions against perennial powerhouse Carleton. Of course not every interesting storyline plays out to be exciting, and this final was not. The Dinos were never really in the game as the Ravens rolled to an 83-49 score. The game was disappointing, but as the Canadian championship was one I tuned into, albeit by the second half I was reading keeping only a sort of half eye on the game.

Still there was an interesting story in that the crown was the 14th in 17 years for Carleton. It was also the Ravens’ eighth W.P. McGee Trophy of the last nine-years. If that was a string stateside it would have made national headlines.

The McMaster Marauders upset top-seed Laval Rouge et Or 70-58 to capture the U Sports women’s basketball title.

The Ottawa Gee-Gees won bronze coming back from a 19-point first-half deficit to beat the Saskatchewan Huskies 63-62.

While the mens’ final Sunday was not exactly one to create memories, unless you are a big Carleton fan, I was interested at least to get a better look at who was graduating from the best programs in the sport in Canada. The graduating players this year have a new opportunity ahead, at least for some of them I expect.

The fledgling Canadian Elite Basketball League is set to tip off in early May, and the six-team loop has a Canadian content rule – think how the Canadian Football League operates in terms of Canadian players, only for basketball. That will mean the new teams, including the Saskatchewan Rattlers based in Saskatoon, will need to draft and recruit Canadian players, most coming for the college system in this country.

The CEBL recently announced it will be holding its 2019 Entry Draft Reveal on March 23. Invitees will be present to witness top Canadian and international basketball players get announced into the CEBL through a reveal event that will unveil the picks made March 16 by the league’s teams during the closed door CEBL Entry Draft. The invite-only event, which will be held at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, will also be live streamed internationally on CEBL.tv.

The draft will go 13 rounds as teams look to stock their rosters which must include seven Canadians.

It is the Canadian content that has me most intrigued for the new league, and that has the Rattler home opener May 9, marked on my calendar as an event that I want to make it to.

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