A handful of key Canadians remain part of the U.S. national championship mix as NCAA basketball's March Madness tournament enters its Sweet 16 round.
Jamal Murray, unfortunately, will not be part of the action. After leading talent-stuffed Kentucky in regular-season scoring with 20 points per game, the 6-foot-5 freshman guard scored 19 in an easy first-round win over Stony Brook. Murray added 16 in the second round against Indiana, but Kentucky lost 73-67 in an entertaining battle between the traditional powers. Still, the Kitchener, Ont., native showcased his exciting blend of scoring and playmaking ability on the big stage, burnishing his status as a top NBA lottery pick should he go pro as expected.
With Murray out, here are the top Canadians to watch as third-round action tips off on Thursday night.
Dillon Brooks and Chris Boucher (Oregon)
Like good Canadian guys, the forwards took turns leading the Ducks in scoring in their first two games. Boucher, a senior from Montreal, notched 20 in an opening-round blowout of overmatched Holy Cross before Brooks dropped 25 on St. Joseph's in a 69-64 win on Sunday (Boucher tried only three shots, making one). Brooks, a sophomore forward from Mississauga, Ont., who is leading Oregon in scoring this season, will need to deliver more of the same when the West's top seed meets the defending national champs in the Sweet 16.
Next game: Thursday 10:07 p.m. ET vs. Duke
Marial Shayok (Virginia)
According to kenpom.com, the Cavaliers are now the top team in the tournament as measured by overall efficiency. The Midwest's top seed also plays at the slowest pace of any of the 351 Division I teams, setting up an interesting contrast with its next opponent, which plays much faster. They say styles make fights, and Shayok looks like he can land a few shots of his own. The 6-foot-5 sophomore guard from Ottawa scored 10 and 12 in the first two rounds – way above his season average of 4.4.
Next game: Friday 7:10 p.m. ET vs. Iowa State
Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga)
It's not often a No. 11 seed is favoured in the Sweet 16, but Wiltjer and the Zags find themselves in that spot after toppling a No. 6 (Seton Hall) and a No. 3 (Utah) to reach the semifinals of the Midwest bracket, where they'll meet a No. 10. The senior forward, who's a dual citizen, led Gonzaga in scoring for the second straight year after transferring from Kentucky, where he contributed to the Anthony Davis-led team that won the title in 2012. Wiltjer scored a combined 30 points over the first two rounds after averaging north of 20 in the regular season.
Next game: Friday 9:40 p.m. ET vs. Syracuse
Kia Nurse (Connecticut)
The women's tournament gets only a sliver of the attention paid to the men's, but Nurse is a key sophomore contributor on an undefeated UConn team looking to win its school's fourth straight title and 10th since the turn of the century. The Canadian national team star from Hamilton scored 14 points in the Huskies' tournament-opening 101-49 romp over Robert Morris, and added seven in a 97-51 win over Duquesne.
Next game: Saturday 11:30 a.m. ET vs. Mississippi State