MONTREAL, Que. — Basketball fever is sweeping the nation.
For the first time in team history, the Toronto Raptors are in the NBA Finals. With their 118-109 win over the Golden State Warriors in Game One, the Raptors are now three wins away from the NBA Championship. Their playoff run has captivated Canadians from coast to coast, and with the entire country behind them, this could be their year.
While the NBA Finals have grabbed the bulk of the headlines, coaches and players alike from across the country at the U Sports and CCAA levels have begun their preparations for the 2019-20 season. One team in particular has announced some top-level competition in exhibition play ahead of their regular season.
On Friday afternoon, the McGill University men’s basketball team announced that it would be hosting three NCAA Division I opponents in an exhibition series mid-August as a part of their 34-game schedule for the upcoming season. One game will be held at Place Bell in Laval, while the other two would take place on McGill’s campus inside Love Competition Hall.
McGill’s first NCAA opponent will be the South Florida Bulls on August 8th, 2019. The game will take place inside Place Bell, the same venue that hosted McGill’s exhibition game last season against R.J. Barrett and the visiting Duke Blue Devils. The game brought in a crowd of 10,098, a number which set the record for largest attendance in Quebec university basketball history.
Last season in the American Athletic Conference, the Bulls posted a conference record of 8-10 overall, but they finished the season with an overall record of 24-14. South Florida went on a run in the post-season to claim the 2019 College Basketball Invitational title with a 77-65 win over the DePaul Blue Demons.
The Bulls return their top four scorers from last season, a group that includes veteran guards David Collins (15.9 ppg, 3.1 apg) and LaQuincy Rideau (13.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg). Head coach Brian Gregory will look to get the Bulls off to a strong start as they look to get back to the NCAA Tournament in 2020 for the first time since 2012.
From there, McGill will return to their home court for a pair of games to close out the three-game set. First, Valparaiso will come to town looking to notch a quality exhibition win. Last season, the Crusaders struggled in the Missouri Valley Conference, finishing the year with a conference record of 7-11 and an overall record of 15-18. After staring league play with four wins over their first five games, Valparaiso limped to the finish line, losing 11 of their final 14 games.
The Crusaders have been hit hard by transfers this off-season, losing five players from last year’s team. Javon Freeman had himself a strong freshman season in 2018-19, posting 11.0 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, and he will be one of the team’s top contributors this year. Add in former Providence Friars’ guard Ryan Fazekas, and the Crusaders will test McGill when the two meet on August 10th.
Rounding out the three-game set will be a visit from the Quinnipiac Bobcats to Love Competition Hall on August 12th. In the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) last season, the Bobcats posted a league record of 11-7, a record that was good enough to put them into the four-way tie for second place in the regular season standings. The Bobcats accepted an invitation into the 2019 CollegeInsider.com Post-Season Tournament, but a 92-81 loss to the NJIT Highlanders in the First Round brought their season to an end.
The loss of Cameron Young (23.5 ppg) leaves a big hole for the Bobcats to fill this season. Graduate transfer Aaron Falzon from the Northwestern Wildcats will look to take on a larger role with his new team in 2019-20. Junior guard Rich Kelly is coming off a strong sophomore season, and the Shelton, CT native will likely be the go-to option for the Bobcats early in exhibition play as Quinnipiac looks to get their rotation sorted out.
Last season, McGill posted a conference record of 9-7 against RSEQ opponents. Overall, they finished the year with a record of 14-15. Head coach David DeAveiro is back for his 10th season behind the bench, and he will be looking to lead McGill back to the U Sports Final Eight tournament for the sixth time in his tenure at the university.
While the roster has yet to be finalized for McGill, the bulk of the production from last year’s team should be back in 2019-20. The graduation of both Avery Cadogan (Winnipeg, Man.) and Noah Daoust (Dorval, Que.) hurts both the talent and experience of the roster, but returning players like JJ Hamel-Carey (Montreal North, Que.) and Alex Paquin (Candiac, Que.) will look to ensure that McGill won’t miss a beat.
McGill will also take part in a closed scrimmage against the Maine Black Bears on November 3rd, 2019 in Orono, Maine.
General admission tickets are $15 for the August 8th game against South Florida at Place Bell and will be sold online by Evenko, which is also hosting a match-up between Quinnipiac and the Concordia Stingers as part of a twin-bill that day. Hoops fans will also get a chance to see the defending national champion Carleton Ravens take on the Bulls at Place Bell on August 7th.
– T. Bennett
Information from McGill Athletics contributed to this post.