UBC to host U SPORTS men's and women's national basketball championships in 2025

Feb 10 2023, 2:46 am

Canada’s March Madness is heading to UBC.

On Thursday, U SPORTS, Canada’s governing body for university sports, announced that UBC Athletics will host both the men’s and women’s U SPORTS Final 8 National Basketball Championships in 2025.

It’s the first time the two marquee tournaments will be hosted in a single university simultaneously, bringing the best of Canadian university basketball to UBC’s War Memorial Gym and Doug Mitchell Thunderbirds Sports Centre.

The tournaments will play games at both venues, with the medal rounds set for the 5,000-person Doug Mitchell Thunderbirds Sports Centre.

“We’re so looking forward to celebrating talented and dedicated male and female student-athletes from across the country in a unique way on the biggest stage at our fantastic venues,” said Kavie Toor, Managing Director of UBC Athletics and Recreation.

“There is such a strong basketball culture throughout the Lower Mainland, and our focus is on showcasing this premier event while creating an unforgettable experience for all Thunderbird supporters, our passionate alumni, our industry partners and valued community,” Toor added.

As hosts, the UBC Thunderbirds will get an automatic berth, while the rest of the seeds will be determined through the playoff systems in the four U SPORTS conferences of Canada West, RSEQ (Quebec), OUA (Ontario), and AUS (Atlantic Canada).

UBC has hosted the men’s tournament twice before but never the women’s. Yet the women’s program has been one of Canada’s most successful, winning six titles, including three in five years from 2004-2008.

The TMU Bold won the latest edition of the tournament.

With the “Bronze Baby,” the name given to the national trophy, up for grabs in Point Grey for the first time, second-year head coach Erin MacLennan is ready to push her team toward the Final 8 ahead of their automatic berth at the 2025 tournament.

UBC currently sits 8th in Canada West and has not competed at the Final 8 since 2015. The 2023 U SPORTS Women’s Final 8 is at Cape Breton University, with the 2024 tournament at the University of Alberta.

“We are excited to showcase the elite level of student-athletes competing in U SPORTS basketball to fans in Vancouver and the greater BC basketball community,” MacLennan said. “We hope this tournament will inspire the next generation of students to become future Thunderbirds and U SPORTS student-athletes.”

The Thunderbirds last hosted the men’s tournament back in 2016 but won on their home court in 1972. Despite just two national titles in their history, the Thunderbirds have been consistent contenders, winning Canada West in 2020 before capturing Final 8 bronze. Meanwhile, the Thunderbirds were the only U SPORTS school to defeat an NCAA Division 1 program last summer when they downed UNLV 79-72 in front of a sold-out crowd.

The Thunderbirds sit 5th in Canada West, with playoffs beginning on February 17.

Nova Scotia’s St. Francis Xavier hosts the 2023 U SPORTS Final 8 at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, which also hosted the 2023 IIHF World Juniors gold medal game. The host for the 2024 tournament has not been awarded.

The Carleton Ravens won the 2022 edition of the U SPORTS Final 8.

“To showcase the top 8 teams in the country is a privilege for us,” said T-Birds men’s head coach Kevin Hanson, who has the most wins (515) among any current SPORTS coaches. “It provides a great opportunity for our local basketball community to see the best teams in the country play live. We are looking forward to a magnificent event.”

Hosting U SPORTS National Championships isn’t a new venture for UBC Athletics, which hosted women’s soccer nationals in 2015, and men’s soccer in 2018. It is set to welcome the women’s volleyball championship this year from March 17-23.

Ben SteinerBen Steiner

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