Men's basketball: Final 8 notebook, part 1

Peter James is in Halifax for the Final 8 and has kindly offered us a daily notebook. This is his first installment. Be sure to check out his tournament preview published for Postmedia as well.

  • With Canada West, Ontario and Atlantic conferences all getting two bids to the Final 8 this year, conference championship games didn't mean much on paper.

    Yet Fraser Valley's loss to Alberta in the Canada West final had one unintended consequence for the Cascades — they drew the worst time slot for their quarter-final game against Lakehead.

    The noon start time in Halifax translates to an 8 a.m. start time for the Fraser Valley players, something that doesn't excite head coach Barnaby Craddock.

    "We're disappointed to be in the McMuffin Classic," he said this week. "The game ends up being at 8 a.m. our time. We haven't practised or played basketball at 8 a.m. once this year. That's the hand that's dealt to you and you've got to play it. I may talk about it to the media, but our team, we've just got to put our heads down and go for it."

    Alberta, meanwhile, got an evening time slot and drew Ryerson in the first round.

  • The Concordia Stingers didn't win a game at the CIS Final 8 last year, but head coach John Dore said his team still gained some valuable experience.

    "The whole thing, not just getting to the tournament, being in the hotel, coming to this facility having been here before," Dore said after his team's practice on Thursday. "I think it helps prepare you. There's not that shock and awe, so hopefully we'll be more ready this year than we were last year."

    The Stingers were a young team in 2011 and upset Laval in the Quebec playoffs to qualify for Halifax.

    This year's more veteran Stingers squad is the third seed and will play St. Francis Xavier on Friday in the quarter-finals.

  • Two years ago it was the Lakehead Thunderwolves who were the underdog story at the Final 8. The Northwestern Ontario school hadn't been to nationals in a while and were a new face in a tournament often dominated by basketball powers.

    On Friday the Thunderwolves, now making their third straight appearance in the Final 8, are playing another newbie in the Fraser Valley Cascades.

    Lakehead head coach Scott Morrison said he remembers his team's first game at nationals in 2010, when they built an early lead against favoured UBC only to see it slip away in a 21-point loss.

    Now Lakehead is the favourite and Fraser Valley is the upstart.

    "I think that Fraser Valley is quite a bit better than we were at that time," Morrison said. We have to be ready for them to come out blazing, but not to get too down if they do, because it's a long game of 40 minutes and we have the experience that may serve us well down the stretch."
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