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First hurdle at CIS nationals a steep one for Vikes

UVic draws top-ranked Carleton in quarter-finals
Chis McLaughlin and the Vikes are looking to add another CIS championship banner to McKinnon Gym this weekend in Ottawa.

In a sort of fitting cosmic sporting symmetry, this is a matchup that just had to be.

The highly-touted Carleton Ravens, currently tied with the University of Victoria Vikes with eight all-time CIS national men’s basketball titles, are trying to become the first team to win nine.

Unless the Vikes get there first.

One of those teams will take a big step closer to the record book Friday at 5 p.m. Pacific when the host and top-ranked Ravens meet the Canada West runner-up and nationally eighth-seed Vikes in the quarter-finals of the 2013 CIS national tournament in the big-arena backdrop of Ottawa’s Scotiabank Place.

The Vikes are making their first appearance at the national tournament since losing in the 2006 championship game to, who else, but the Ravens.

“We’re going there to win it [national title],” said an adamant UVic head coach Craig Beaucamp.

“The best chance to beat them [Ravens] is in the first game. They get better the deeper they get into the tournament.”

The Vikes goal is to not let the two-time defending champion Ravens go deep.

Beaucamp is not underestimating the task at hand. Just as UVic was in the 1980s, Carleton is the dominant Canadian university men’s hoops program of the 2000s, having won eight of the last 10 national titles. The Ravens are 25-1 against CIS opponents this season, including a comfortable victory against UVic in the pre-season.

“Other than the major programs, Carleton would consistently beat [NCAA] Division 1 teams,” noted Beaucamp.

But the Vikes are undaunted and believe they can pull off a massive upset Friday.

“They [Ravens] are beatable,” said Beaucamp, whose team goes in with a 19-7 regular-season and playoff record.

In the other quarter-finals on Friday: Seventh-seed and Ontario third-place Lakehead Thunderwolves take on the second-seed and Atlantic-champion Cape Breton Capers; Ontario runner-up and national third-seed Ottawa Gee-Gees play Quebec-champion and sixth-seed McGill Redmen; and Atlantic runner-up and fifth-seed Acadia Axeman meet the Canada West-champion and fourth-seed UBC Thunderbirds.

The semifinals will be broadcast live Saturday on The Score at 2:30 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. Pacific, with the championship game Sunday live on The Score at 12:30 p.m. Pacific.

THREE-POINTERS: After Carleton and UVic with eight, the schools with the next most national men’s basketball titles are the St. Mary’s Huskies, Brandon Bobcats and Windsor Lancers with four each, but none in this century.