Well, that was jarring basketball news to wake up to.
No, not that the Canadian women routed Cuba 110-53 in Edmonton last night – I bid adieu to the game after three quarters because it was one-sided and so late – but that Canada will host one of four last-chance men’s qualifying tournaments next June 23-28 in Victoria.
I’m going to try and find out later who wrote the monstrous cheque to make this happen – it’s got to be north of $5 million when you talk hosting rigbts fees and other expenses – but it’s a huge leg up for a men’s program that really needs it.
We won’t know until Nov. 27 who the other five teams are and only one will advance to the Tokyo Games and it’s going to be a crazy hard thing to do it but playing at home is a big boost.
We’ll get into who says they’ll play and who actually will show up later on but convincing players to spend maybe 10 days in Vancouver training and then a week in Victoria will be a factor of about a million easier than it would have been had they been forced to travel around the world to play.
But, as we’ve said forever, it’s going to be a next to impossible task to win the tournament even at home. They blew their best chance when all those guys bailed out of the World Cup earlier this year and the road back is long and pockmarked. Better to have it at home, though, that’s for sure. And I don’t care what any player tells me over the course of the season, I’m reserving all judgment on who’ll be on the team until their training camp actually begins.
Now, for the women.
It was an easy win as we all figured it would be and they looked really good at times with darn near the best team they could field playing.
The injury-induced absences of Miah-Marie Langlois and Kayla Alexander really are the only blight on the weekend out in Alberta which I fully expect with similarly easy triumphs tomorrow and Saturday.
But the thing to look for – and I know coach Lisa Thomaidis is looking for it more than anything – is how crisp the team look, how it pays attention to detail, how it measures up against itself.
There was a time when winning a FIBA Americas thing was a big deal, it’s still a necessary step and there is always satisfaction in winning something but this team – ranked No. 4 in the world – has to measure itself against teams like the United States, Spain, France, Australia.
Canada’s too good for the minnows of this continent but seeing as these are the last three games before the final Olympic qualification tournament in February making sure they are improving and getting comfortable with each other is the real target.