Dalhousie is ready to welcome the best university basketball teams in Canada to Halifax, as they host of the 2017 U-Sports Final 8 men’s basketball national championship from March 9th to 12th in the Scotiabank Centre.
“There is a huge tradition of playing the national tournament in this city, so I think people are glad that it is back,” said Tigers coach Rick Plato.
In the tournament’s 54-year history, Halifax has hosted the tournament 31 times, the last time being in 2012.
Tim Maloney, Dalhousie’s Director of Athletics, expects the tournament to be a success, which he says would be 20,000 total fans. The tournament has outsold last year’s University Cup, which was hosted in Halifax, in pre-package ticket sales.
As the host, Dalhousie will get a portion of the profits from the event. Maloney would not say what percentage of the profits Dalhousie will receive, but he did say the money will be put into Dalhousie’s athletic program.
The Tigers were guaranteed entry into the tournament because they are the hosts. However, they are happy they managed to earn their way into the tournament by winning the AUS championship. This will be the Tigers’ third straight appearance in the Final 8, but it will be the first time for this group to play in the tournament at home.
“It is going to be great to have the city behind us in this building,” said Tigers senior Kashrell Lawrence. “We have a great fan base and support system at Dal. The fans always try to love and support us and we love their support. Having that sixth man behind us is really going to jolt us and bring out our best basketball.”
Tigers fans are also excited to watch their team in the Final 8.
Tigers fan Robert Jeffcock is excited for the national tournament. “We have a solid team and I think we can go far and bring home that cup,” he said.
Fans of the Saint Mary’s Huskies will also be excited to watch their team in the Final 8. The Huskies lost to the Tigers in the AUS championship but, because Dal was guaranteed entry, there are two AUS teams in the tournament; Saint Mary’s will fill the other spot as the AUS runner-up.
“I think it adds to the community feel of the event,” said David Goldstein, the Chief Operating Officer of U Sports. “It’s more occasion for local fans to see their student athletes compete and get to wear their colours…so I think it adds some fun for the spectators and hopefully they have a great showing.”
Plato has first hand experience of what it is like being the home team in this tournament. He won the tournament in Halifax for Saint Mary’s in 1978. He is excited that Halifax gets to host the tournament again.
“I have no doubt in my mind that Halifax is the best university basketball city in the country and between the AUS playoffs and the nationals in the next two years it is going to be pretty exciting. So I’m glad for everybody.”
Dalhousie won their first game against Alberta in a nailbiter, 67-65
St. Mary’s lost their first game to Ryerson, 79-70