NCAA March Madness tournament features plenty of Canadians
Saskatoon's Lyles a key cog in Kentucky machine
It can be tricky to get a handle on the number of meaningful Canadian players participating in the NCAA men's basketball tournament. (Should we count guys that have appeared in only a handful of games this season? What about redshirts, who don't dress at all?) But there's no doubt that Canadians have become more visible on the March Madness stage.
Last year, 27 Canadians played for teams that qualified for the tournament, according to Canada Basketball numbers, including future No. 1 NBA draft pick Andrew Wiggins of Kansas, Michigan sharp-shooter Nik Stauskas (later picked eighth) and Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis (chosen 18th).
There may not be any stars of that calibre this year, but 28 Canucks are involved in the tournament by The Canadian Press' count, including a good measure of Canadian content among the top contenders.
Here's a look at some of the more notable players:
Lyles contributes for unbeaten Kentucky
The top team in the tournament includes a Canadian. Saskatoon-born freshman forward Trey Lyles is part of the absurdly deep rotation for No. 1 overall seed Kentucky, which is trying to become the first team in nearly four decades to finish undefeated. He’s averaging 8.4 points and 5.4 rebounds in 22.3 minutes, which seems like modest playing time until you consider that no Wildcat averages more than 25.8 minutes per game.
Dylan Ennis is a junior guard for Villanova, the No. 1 seed in the East Region. He’s not the pro prospect his younger brother was, but he’s averaging 9.8 points per game this season.
Zags stocked with Canadians
Gonzaga senior guard Kevin Pangos is the top assist man (5.0 per game) and second-leading scorer (11.5 points) for the No. 2 seed in the South Region. The native of Holland Landing, Ont., (just north of Toronto) has made more three-pointers than anyone in Bulldogs history and is hitting 44 per cent of his attempts from beyond the arc this season.
If you want to stretch it a bit, Gonzaga’s top scorer, Kyle Wiltjer, was born and raised in Portland, Ore., but has a Canadian father and dual citizenship. The 6-foot-10 senior forward, who transferred from Kentucky, is averaging 16.7 points and 6.0 rebounds, with a nice long-range shooting touch.
Dustin Triano — son of former Raptors and Canadian national team coach Jay Triano — is also on the Bulldogs' roster, but he's buried pretty deep on the bench. The redshirt freshman appeared in only 11 games this season, averaging less than three minutes and less than a point.
More Canucks among better seeds
Kenny Chery, a senior guard from Montreal, is the top assist man (4.0) and averages 11.4 points for Baylor, the No. 3 seed in the East.
Another third seed, Iowa State, gets 10.3 points from Naz Long, a junior guard from Mississauga, Ont.
Six-foot-five freshman guard Marial Shayok of Ottawa is a contributor for Virginia, the East's second seed. He's averaging 3.7 points and 14.7 minutes.
Aggies harvest Toronto talent
Among the less heralded teams, New Mexico State is the most Canadian-heavy. The Midwest's No. 15 seed is unlikely to survive its opener against Kansas, so you may not get much chance to see the four Canadians (all from the Toronto area) who suit up for the Aggies.
Senior guard Daniel Mullings is the team's third-highest scorer (12.6 points per game) and tied for the team lead in assists (2.8). Freshman guard Jalyn Pennie chipped in 2.3 points per game. Further down the bench are Rashawn Browne and Tanveer Bhullar, who played in only one and nine games, respectively. The 7-foot-3 Bhullar is the younger brother of 7-5 Sim Bhullar, who last summer became the first player of Indian descent to sign with an NBA team. He's now playing for the Sacramento Kings' D-league affiliate.
Valparaiso, a 13th seed with a history of scoring upsets, will look to freshman Tevonn Walker of Montreal (10.2 points per game) in its opening game against Maryland.
Eighth-seeded Oregon's third-leading scorer is freshman forward Dillon Brooks of Mississauga, Ont., whose scoring (11.5 points per game) will be needed in the Ducks' toss-up matchup with ninth-seeded Oklahoma State.
Junior forward Dyshawn Pierre, also from the Toronto area, is in the tournament proper for the second straight year after scoring nine points in Dayton's 56-55 win in its play-in game against Boise State. Last year, Pierre helped the 11th-seeded Flyers make a surprise run to the Elite Eight, where they fell to Florida.
Here's the full list of Canadians participating in this year's tournament, courtesy of The Canadian Press:
Gonzaga — Kevin Pangos (Holland Landing, Ont.), Kyle Wiltjer (Portland, Ore., holds dual citizenship), Dustin Triano, (Tsawwassen, B.C.)
San Diego State — Kevin Zabo (Gatineau, Que.)
Utah — Dallin Bachynski (Calgary)
Iowa State — Naz Long (Mississauga, Ont.)
Villanova — Dylan Ennis (Brampton, Ont.)
Lafayette — Jake Newman (Surrey, B.C.)
Providence — Junior Lomomba (Montreal)
Dayton — Dyshawn Pierre (Whitby, Ont.)
Oklahoma — Dinjiyl Walker (Thornhill, Ont.)
Albany — Richard Peters (Pickering, Ont.)
Virginia — Marial Shayok (Ottawa)
Oregon — Dillon Brooks (Mississauga, Ont.)
Harvard — Agunwa Okolie (Ajax, Ont.), Chris Egi (Markham, Ont.), Patrick Steeves (Montreal)
Baylor — Kenny Chery (Montreal)
Buffalo — Jarryn Skeete (Brampton, Ont.), Rodell Wigginton (Dartmouth, N.S.)
Kentucky — Trey Lyles (Saskatoon)
New Mexico State — Daniel Mullings (Toronto), Tanveer Bhullar (Toronto), Matthew Taylor (Brampton, Ont.), Jalyn Pennie (Ajax, Ont.), Rashawn Browne (Toronto)
Valparaiso — Tevonn Walker (Montreal), Max Joseph (Montreal)
With files from The Canadian Press