March Madness- A Canadian Dreams in France

Each year in March, literally, millions of fans in the United States scramble to fill in their brackets for the NCAA Basketball tournament. Perhaps the most appealing aspect of the NCAA tournament is the opportunity it gives for the small colleges to play the major basketball powers and pull off a miracle upset. In Europe, most nations stage a similar tournament for all their clubs with a few major differences. The tournament is usually conducted throughout the year and interspersed with regular league matches. Additionally, the lower division club usually gets to host the match making the possibility of an upset a little more likely. Recently, Canadian International Backcourt, Alexis Bertrand, and his Div 2 Cesson Handball teammates had their own chance to pull off a miracle as they hosted perennial French champion (7 in a row at last count), Montpellier this past Tuesday in a Round of 16 matchup in the Coupe de France.

I had some email correspondence with Alexis and he assured me that Cesson was more than a little bit excited about the opportunity, but were also realistic about their chances. In fact, they had recently played Montpellier and lost 33-23 in a friendly tournament. And that match had taken place during the World Championships and Montpellier had played without their International stars. This time around Wissem Hmam, Michel Guigou, David Juricek and others would be playing in a match that counted. That being said the goal was to keep it close and provide a packed gym of 1,200 fans a good show. And if they could keep it close then who knows what could happen in the last few minutes.

Cesson did, in fact, keep the match close in the first half, trailing only 11-9, but the wheels fell of the wagon in the 2nd half with Montpellier winning 28-18. With their Coup de France dreams over, Cesson will now try and focus on finishing 2nd in Division 2 and gaining promotion to Division 1. Currently, they are in 4th place, just 4 points behind 2nd Angers, who’s also played 1 more game than Cesson. Alexis has indicated that injuries have had an impact on the team and that he still isn’t 100% yet. Still the schedule is favourable for Cesson as most of their home games are against the teams in the top half of the standings. If they can win those home matches and also take care of business on the road against some of the weaker teams they may very well have 2 matches against Montpellier next year—in the First Division

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