March Madness kicked off on Thursday. It is the time sports fans pay attention south of the border to college basketball. I always find it fascinating why Canadian sports fans are so much more interested in American college sports than Canadian Interuniversity Sport which gets so little fan support. Here are the events I will be watching this weekend.
World Freestyle Skiing and Snowboarding Championships—Ski Cross–www.cbcsports.ca—6:25 a.m. PT—For some strange reason the world sports administrators combine snowboarding and freestyle skiing into one World Championship. The world’s best ski cross racers compete Saturday in Sierra Nevada, Spain. This past season on the World Cup circuit, Canadian Olympic gold medalist Marielle Thompson of Vancouver won the Crystal Globe, while Calgary’s Brady Leman finished second in the World Cup standings behind Jean Frederic Chapuis of France.
World Freestyle Skiing and Snowboarding Championships—Halfpipe Skiing—www.cbcsports.ca—12 p.m. PT—Four Canadians have qualified for the final in the men’s event of halfpipe skiing at the World Championships in Sierra Nevada, Spain. The quartet is headlined by Canadian Olympic silver medalist Mike Riddle of Edmonton. The other Canadians are Winter X Games silver medalist Noah Bowman of Calgary, Winter X Games gold medalist Simon D’Artois of Whistler, British Columbia and Brendan McKay of Calgary.
World Baseball Classic—Puerto Rico vs. Venezuela—Sportsnet—12:30 p.m. PT—The second round of the 2017 World Baseball Classic continues on Saturday from Petco Park in San Diego. On Tuesday, Puerto Rico had a very impressive 3-1 win over the defending champion, the Dominican Republic. Puerto Rico also beat Venezuela 11-0 in only seven innings in round one. It was a fantastic game for Puerto Rico catcher Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals against the Dominican Republic. Molina hit a home run and threw a strike to second base in helping to get out Nelson Cruz who was attempting to steal a base.
NCAA College Basketball—March Madness Round Two—(3) Florida State vs. (11) Xavier—TSN—3:10 p.m. PT—The third ranked Florida State Seminoles play the 11th ranked Xavier Musketeers in the West region from Orlando. Why they have a game in Florida in the West Region does make any geographical sense, but that is beside the point. In what might be a bit confusing to viewers is the first name of one of Florida State’s top players. Seminoles junior guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes hails from Scarborough, Ontario and averaged 10.4 points per game for the Seminoles this season. Florida State beat Florida Gulf Coast University 86-80 in round one, while Xavier upset Maryland 76-65.
NCAA College Basketball—March Madness Round Two—(4) Purdue vs. (5) Iowa State—TSN—6:40 p.m. PT—Canadian basketball fans will be focused on Cyclones senior guard Nazareth Mitrou-Long of Mississauga, Ontario as they take on the University of Purdue Boilmakers from Milwaukee. Mitrou-Long averaged 15.4 points this season and had 13 points in the first round in the Cyclones’s 84-73 win over the University of Nevada Wolf Pack on Thursday. The Boilmakers beat the University of Vermont Catamounts 80-70 in round one. It was the Catamounts first loss since they were beaten by Butler 81-69 on December 21.
World Baseball Classic—Dominican Republic vs. United States—Sportsnet One–7 p.m. PT—There have been three World Baseball Classics in the past, but surprisingly the United States has never won one. Things could change in 2017, but in order for that to happen the United States will have to beat the explosive squad from the Dominican Republic. The Dominicans are led by Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, who is batting .333 so far in the tournament, but has had a remarkable WBC because of his stellar play at the hot corner.
NHL—Vancouver Canucks @ Edmonton Oilers—CBC—7 p.m.—No folks, it is not 1984. You might think that however by watching the Oilers prolific offense in the last two games where they scored 14 goals in wins over the Dallas Stars and Boston Bruins. The Oilers are currently eight points up on the Los Angeles Kings for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Edmonton has not been to the postseason since 2006. Their 11 year draught is the current longest streak in the NHL.
World Women’s Curling Championships—Canada vs. Russia—TSN—11 p.m. PT—Ottawa’s Rachel Homan will be playing her third game of the 2017 Women’s World Curling Championships in Beijing after playing the host Chinese and Germany on day one of the competition. Russia is represented by Anna Sidorova, who is a two-time European and Winter Universiade champion. Off the ice, Sidorova has been a successful model over the last couple of years.
World Freestyle Skiing and Snowboarding Championships—Slopestyle Skiing—www.cbcsports.ca—4 a.m. PT—The 2017 World Freestyle Skiing and Snowboarding Championships comes to a close on Sunday with men’s and women’s slopestyle skiing. Two Canadians finished in the top ten in the World Cup standings this year. Teal Harle of Whistler, British Columbia was fifth and Alex Bellemare of St-Boniface, Quebec was sixth. On the women’s side, the top Canadian on the World Cup circuit was Olympic gold medalist Dara Howell of Huntsville, Ontario who was 12th.
CIS Hockey—University Cup—Sportsnet 360—9 a.m. PT—The Canadian Interuniversity Sport National Hockey Championship final takes place Sunday from Fredericton, New Brunswick. The University of Acadia plays the University of New Brunswick in one semi-final on Saturday. The other two quarterfinal games on Friday have the University of Saskatchewan playing the University of York and the University of McGill playing the University of St. Francis Xavier.
WTA—Tennis Masters Series 1000 Indian Wells—Women’s Final—TVA Sports 2—11 a.m. PT—The semi-finals are set for the 2017 Tennis Masters Series event in Indian Wells, California. The players hoping to play Sunday are Russia’s Elena Vesnina and Svetlana Kuznetsova, the Czech Republic’s Karolina Pliskova and France’s Kristina Mladenovic. Of the four semi-finalists, the only major winner is Kuznetsova, who won the U.S. Open in 2004 and the French Open in 2009.
ATP—Tennis Masters Series 1000 Indian Wells—Men’s Final—TSN1—1 p.m. PT—In the biggest tennis tournament since the Australian Open, the world’s best tennis players are in southern California this weekend. This tennis tournament will be remembered by the fact that Canadian Vasek Pospisil upset world British superstar Andy Murray in the second round. Among the players left in the tournament on the men’s side are Switzerland’s Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka, Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta, American Jack Sock and Japan’s Kei Nishikori.
NBA—Indiana Pacers @ Toronto Raptors—Sportsnet One—3 p.m. PT—The Toronto Raptors are in desperate need to get their all-star point guard Kyle Lowry back as he is out with wrist surgery. In the meantime, if they play around .500 basketball until he gets back (which should be close to playoff time), the Raptors should be OK. The Raptors however were hammered 123-102 to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday as Russell Westbrook picked up his amazing 34th triple double of the season. Indiana is sixth in the Eastern Conference, four games back of Toronto.
World Women’s Curling Championships—Canada vs. United States—TSN—6 p.m. PT—This will be Rachel Homan’s fourth game of the 2017 Women’s World Curling Championship and in this draw she will be facing her continental rivals. The United States are represented by skip Nina Roth of McFarland, Wisconsin. This will be Roth’s second World Championship as she was a third for Erika Brown at the 2010 Women’s World Curling Championship in Swift Current, Saskatchewan.
NHL—Los Angeles Kings @ Calgary Flames—Sportsnet One—6:30 p.m.—The Calgary Flames saw their amazing ten game winning streak end on Wednesday when they were beaten 5-2 by the Boston Bruins. The Flames are currently seven points up on the Kings for a playoff spot. On Thursday, Jonathan Quick made 26 saves for his first shutout of the season in a 2-0 Los Angeles win over the Buffalo Sabres.