If this were hockey, it would be like the Montreal Canadiens coming to town.
If it were baseball, think the New York Yankees.
The subject, however, is university basketball and B.C.'s most historic and powerful program will be represented at the Northern Sport Centre tonight and Saturday. The UBC Thunderbirds men's and women's teams will be here to tip off against the UNBC Timberwolves in the most anticipated home contests of UNBC's first season in Canada West.
True, local hoops fans have already seen the University of Alberta squads and the University of Saskatchewan Huskies on the NSC hardwood. But now the T-birds will step onto the court and that's something extra special.
Weekends like this are the reason why UNBC as an institution pushed so long for Canada West membership. As a respected Canadian university, UNBC felt its athletics teams deserved to compete against the best in the country.
For years, across the whole spectrum of university sports, that's what UBC has been.
The numbers? How about 85 Canadian Interuniversity Sport national titles and six more in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. In basketball alone, the UBC men have two CIS championships to their credit and the UBC women have six. As for Canada West conference titles, the male Thunderbirds own nine of those and the T-bird women hold seven.
This season, both UBC teams are powerful again. The men currently lead the Pacific Division with a 16-2 record and are ranked second in Canada. The UBC women, meanwhile, sit at 14-4, a mark that has them second in the Pacific and rated No. 6 in the nation.
Todd Jordan, head coach of the male Timberwolves, concurs that having the Thunderbirds in Prince George is a big deal.
"UBC is one of the biggest universities in the country, both from an athletics standpoint and an academic standpoint," he said. "They're right up there with the elite so it definitely is special to have those guys coming into our building. They're ranked No. 2 in the country right now so it will be a great opportunity for the people of Prince George to see what the elite level of basketball in this country is about."
Loralyn Murdoch, leader of the UNBC women's program, offered similar thoughts on the arrival of the T-birds.
"[Playing a team like UBC] is part of what the whole process of going CIS is," she said. "We've played some very big schools this year and UBC just happens to be the biggest one in B.C. and so they're kind of what we've always strived towards. They're very, very good. They're UBC and they have some tradition there."
Both UNBC squads have officially been eliminated from playoff contention in Canada West but they plan to leave everything on the floor against the T-birds.
"[The Thunderbirds] are very talented top to bottom," Jordan said. "They've got size, they've got athleticism and as far as CIS basketball goes they've got all the pieces. We'll have to go out and be really tough. For us, it's about going out and playing as hard as we can for the next two games and trying to create a couple memories."
Added Murdoch: "All I can ask of the girls at this point in the season is to compete hard and to stick to the game plan and to really believe in what we're striving to do. Do we have a bench of 15 to run with the big dogs? No, but we have nine players that are willing to work their tails off, day in and day out."
The UNBC men take a 5-13 record into tonight's game and the UNBC women sit at 6-12. Next weekend, the Timberwolves will end their seasons with home dates against the Mount Royal University Cougars, fellow Canada West expansion teams that are based in Calgary.
It's also worth mentioning that five UNBC players are down to the final four games of their careers. Men's players who are wrapping things up are Sam Raphael, Francis Rowe, Joel Rybachuk and Jose Araujo. For the women, Kady Dandeneau is the lone graduating team member.
So, Prince George basketball watchers, there are plenty of reasons to be in the NSC bleachers this weekend and next.
Tip-off times tonight and Saturday are 6 p.m. for the women and 8 p.m. for the men.
See you there.