The top two teams in the country meet for their final 2014-15 regular season game in the OUA.tv Marquee Matchup when the Ottawa Gee-Gees and Carleton Ravens tip-off at the Canadian Tire Centre – home of the NHL's Ottawa Senators – on Friday, Feb. 6 at 8 p.m. for the 9th Annual MBNA Capital Hoops Classic.
The Gee-Gees come into the game ranked No. 1 in CIS men's basketball and remain the only undefeated team in the country, but are seeking their first Capital Hoops win since the inaugural game in 2007.
There is not a single player on Ottawa's roster who was around for that win, but with the Gee-Gees undefeated, and Carleton having dropped two games this season – including a 68-66 loss to Ottawa on Jan. 10 – for the first time in a while, Ottawa is arguably the favourite coming into the game.
"Every game we play against each other seems to be a battle," said Ottawa head coach James Derouin. "In terms of the standings, we're two games apart so it has big implications for playoffs and hosting the finals, so it's definitely a big game for both teams."
With the teams meeting in last year's Wilson Cup and CIS national championship, and with Ottawa emerging as a national power no longer content playing the role of 'little brother' in the nation's capital, the rivalry has intensified even further between the two teams and is now a national spectacle for university basketball fans across the country.
"The rivalry's awesome having the two best schools in the same city," said fifth-year Ravens guard Victor Raso. "It's really fun and there is a level of pride around both schools that makes these (games) more important. It's not just two good schools, it's the two best schools."
No player on either side is as synonymous with the excitement the two teams are capable of producing as Ottawa's fifth-year guard and OUA leading scorer Johnny Berhanemeskel. In his five years at Ottawa, the Gee-Gees have gone 2-10 against the Ravens but in both those wins Berhanemeskel made the go-ahead basket with under five seconds remaining in the game.
For Carleton, it has been veteran forward Philip Scrubb who has scorched the Gee-Gees in his five-year career. Scrubb has started in all 12 meetings between the two teams, averaging 16.3 points and scoring more than 25 points on three occasions, including this season's meeting.
If the Ravens were to lose on Friday it would be just the third time since 2001 that they've lost three games in a single regular season, and would all but end their run of 14 consecutive divisional titles.
The playoffs are on the horizon, and for the final time in the regular season the two top teams in the country will go head-to-head. Over 10,000 tickets have already been sold for what is expected to be a thrilling game and an electric atmosphere.
If you can't catch the game in person, be sure to watch it live on OUA.tv!
It will also be broadcast locally in the Ottawa region on Rogers Cable 23 (French) and on TSN 1200. Rogers Cable 22 will air an English broadcast at 10 p.m.
Tip-off is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 6 at 8 p.m. and tickets are available at CapitalTickets.ca.
Marquee Matchup By the Numbers
2007 – The last time that Ottawa swept its regular season series against Carleton. However, though Ottawa won both regular season matchups that year, Carleton won both playoff games when the teams met in the OUA East Final and CIS Semi-Final. Ottawa will have a chance to complete another regular season sweep on Friday.
94.2 – Points per game averaged by the Ottawa Gee-Gees, tops in CIS. The Ravens rank third in the country scoring 90.6 points per game and also boast the best defence allowing 58.9 points per game; Ottawa ranks fifth allowing 69.3 on average.
22.6 – Points per game for Johnny Berhanemeskel, the OUA leader. Thomas Scrubb leads Carleton averaging 17.6 points per game, and is followed closely by his brother Philip at 17.1. The Scrubb brothers rank ninth and 13th, respectively, in the conference in scoring.