1. CARLETON RAVENSRPI / SRS: 1st / +24.2
Odds of winning: 51.7%
Offence and defence: 95-66
Top-100 players and award-winners: Basketball robot Phil Scrubb (1st, player of the year), Tyson Hinz (1st), Thomas Scrubb (2nd, defensive player of the year), Clinton-Springer Williams
How they got here: Host and OUA champions
Bracketology consensus: 1st
Last year: OUA champion, No. 1 seed, 47.5% chance of winning, won tournament.
What we thought: "Anything less than a national title is once again a disappointment for Dave Smart's team. With Ottawa and Ryerson both looking strong, there's more competition for Carleton in the OUA East than in recent years, but it would take a massive upset for either of those (very good) teams to knock off the Ravens"
Opener: Favoured by 24 against UVic, 8pm ET
Outlook: Trying to make it 3 for 3 in national titles in the Scrubb Era, the Ravens have everything to lose as the absolute favourite. That being said, they've reached that status legitimately, with the emergence of Thomas Scrubb this season as another reason for coaches to shake their heads and rub their temples. With an All-Star crew that plays together, it's going to be a tall task for anyone to knock them off.
2. CAPE BRETON CAPERSRPI / SRS: 2nd / +5.9
Odds of winning: 12.6%
Offence and defence: 80-68
Top-100 players and award-winners: Jimmy Dorsey (1st, MVP), Meshack Lufile, AJ Geugjes (2nd)
How they got here: AUS champions, losing only once in conference play and three times overall
Bracketology consensus: 2nd
Last year: Did not qualify.
What we thought: "If both teams are 100%, the battle between Cape Breton and Acadia for the AUS title should be one of the closest nationwide. With a healthy Dorsey, this team is a legitimate threat at the Final 8."
Opener: Toss-up against Lakehead, 12pm ET
Outlook: Behind Dorsey's monster numbers and a unique style of play, the Capers have set themselves up to be a team nobody wants to face at the Final 8. How interesting would a CBU-Carleton final be? The fastest and slowest teams in the country pace-wise would make an interesting chess match, and it's looking like a distinct possibility.
3. OTTAWA GEE-GEESRPI / SRS: 3rd / +13.2
Odds of winning: 11.1%
Offence and defence: 84-73
Top-100 players and award-winners: Johnny Berhanemeskel (1st), Warren Ward (1st), Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue
How they got here: OUA finalists, defeating Windsor by 20 points in an OUA semifinal, then gave Carleton a fight in the Wilson Cup
Bracketology consensus: 3rd or 4th, mostly
Last year: Did not qualify.
What we thought: "Dueling with Ryerson for the second spot in the East is a realistic goal. That would give the Gee-Gees a shot at the Wilson Cup final four, where, as Ryerson showed last year, anything can happen. It would be a great story for Warren Ward to finish his career at nationals in Ottawa."
Opener: Favoured by 9 points against McGill, 2:15pm ET
Outlook: The Gee-Gees have perhaps become the buzz of the tournament, going on an impressive run to reach the Final 8 in their hometown (well, kind of). Beating Ryerson, crushing Lakehead and nearly toppling Carleton has been fun to watch, and with Warren Ward set to give it one last go (plus a draw that doesn't put them against Carleton in the first two potential rounds), it wouldn't surprise many at Scotiabank Place to see Ottawa make a run to the final.
4. UBC THUNDERBIRDSRPI / SRS: 4th / +11.2
Odds of winning: 8.9%
Offence and defence: 81-71
Top-100 players and award-winners: Doug Plumb (1st), Brylle Kamen, David Wagner
How they got here: Canada West champions (holding off UVic's last push)
Bracketology consensus: 3rd
Last year: Did not qualify
What we thought: "UBC has seen its fair share of heartbreak at the Final 8, but missing out on the big dance last year has got to sting for Kevin Hanson's club. With the lead in this year's parity-filled Canada West, UBC could be back in contention for the national title"
Opener: Favoured by 7 points against Acadia, 6:00pm ET
Outlook: Though less star-studded than past Final 8 squads, this year's version of UBC has proven to be up to the task of living up to the program's reputation. That reputation includes a lot of recent heartbreak at the Final 8, and to break out of that shadow, Hanson's squad may need bigger performances from Plumb and Kamen than they've been able to get by with.
7. LAKEHEAD GREAT GROUP OF DUDESRPI / SRS: 10th / +10.3
Odds of winning: 5.0%
Offence and defence: 78-69
Top-100 players and award-winners: Yoosrie Salhia (1st), Ryan Thomson (1st), Greg Carter (defensive player of the year)
How they got here: Won the OUA bronze-medal game after a 21-point loss to Carleton in the OUA semifinal
Bracketology consensus: 7th
Last year: Wildcard choice after losing an OUA semifinal, No. 4 seed, 5.8% chance of winning, lost 83-71 to UFV in the McMuffin Classic
What we thought: "A win at Winnipeg's Wesmen Classic over the break, feasting on lesser OUA West foes and the return of Thomson should all help Lakehead improve in 2013. An 11-3 mark against the West would give them a 14-7 total and a reasonable shot at finding their way into the Wilson Cup Final Four. If they can do more and catch Windsor, however, they'll have a better shot at facing a non-Carleton team in the semi-finals and possibly punching their fourth straight ticket to the Final 8."
Opener: Tossup against CBU, 12pm ET
Outlook: It's been a fun ride with the GGODs, hasn't it? Thanks to a core of seniors that will be gone after this year, their four trips to nationals after a stunning rise from obscurity have Lakehead a staple of the CIS hoops scene. They may not have enough to make a run to the final (especially with Thomson's status up in the air after a knee injury), but they'll be fun to watch doing it.
8. VICTORIA VIKESRPI / SRS: 5th / +6.2
Odds of winning: 4.4%
Offence and defence: 80-74
Top-100 players and award-winners: Terrell Evans (somehow only a 2nd-team all-star), Chris McLaughlin, Michael Acheampong
How they got here: CW finalists
Bracketology consensus: 8th
Last year: Did not qualify
Opener: 24-point underdogs against Carleton, 8pm ET
Outlook: Evans has been criminally underrated this year, and with McLaughlin the Vikes provide some serious matchup issues for the undersized Ravens in round one. That may not be enough to stop Carleton on their quest to pass UVic on the all-time national titles list, but it's a solid stepping stone for the program to get back here nonetheless.
6. MCGILL REDMENRPI / SRS: 9th / +4.2
Odds of winning: 3.6%
Offence and defence: 72-66
Top-100 players and award-winners: Vincent Dufort (1st), Aleksandar Mitrovic (2nd)
How they got here: RSEQ champions
Bracketology consensus: 6th
Last year: Did not qualify
What we thought: "Not long ago, it looked like McGill was the favourite to come out of Quebec. They've fallen since, but behind the strong play of Dufort and their defence, it's possible for them to return. The RSEQ title and a trip to the Final 8 is still a very, very reasonable goal."
Opener: 9-point underdogs against Ottawa, 2:15pm ET
Outlook: Hey, reaching the Final 8 for the first time in 34 years is sweet, no matter what conference you squeak your way out of. With Ottawa looking solid it's an uphill climb to get out of round one, but the McGill bunch overcame doubts from our midseason previews to get here.
5. ACADIA AXEMENRPI / SRS: 12th / +3.6
Odds of winning: 2.7%
Offence and defence: 78-68
Top-100 players and award-winners: Owen Klassen (1st, defensive player of the year), Tyler Scott, Anthony Ashe (2nd)
How they got here: Wildcard team after reaching the AUS final
Bracketology consensus: 7th or 8th
Last year: Surprise AUS champions, No. 8 seed, 3.9% chance of winning, lost 82-68 to Carleton in the first round
What we thought: "If Klassen can return [after his ankle injury and his February court date for assault] and Sears can help on offence, it should be a pretty good battle for the AUS title between Acadia and Cape Breton. If not, however, it could be a long winter in Wolfville."
Opener: 7-point underdogs against UBC, 6pm ET
Outlook: In tough against UBC in a rematch of their 2011 first round game that we covered, the Axemen have grown in leaps and bounds since that underdog appearance two years ago. Klassen gave the Thunderbirds mismatch issues then and he will continue to do so this weekend. With both teams playing a fast pace, this one could be a track meet.