An unprecedented number of Australians are set to take part in March Madness, and several will have the opportunity to progress deep into the tournament.
Selection Sunday ended with the full bracket of 68 teams; 10 of which feature Australians, with a total of 17 players from Down Under set to compete in the annual NCAA Tournament.
One of those running out will be Keanu Pinder, whose father Kendall ‘Tiny’ Pinder won NBL championships with the Perth Wildcats in 1990 and 1991.
Coincidentally, the younger Pinder plays for Arizona, also called the Wildcats.
Australia is represented on both ends of the seedings, in a wide range of schools: from No.2 Kentucky, Duke, and Louisville, to No.13 Winthrop and No.16 UC Davis.
Here’s everything you need to know.
ARIZONA (Keanu Pinder) — WEST No.2
Arizona earned an automatic ticket to the Big Dance after winning the Pac-12 Championship. They were named the #2 seed in the West.
The team features one Australian – Perth’s Keanu Pinder – who is averaging 2.4 points and 3.1 rebounds per game, and has provided an energetic presence for the Wildcats throughout the season.
The Wildcats’ first game is against North Dakota, tipping off on Friday, March 17, at 9:50am (AWDT).
If Arizona progresses through to the Round of 32, as expected, they’ll likely go up against Saint Mary’s; an extremely capable team that features seven Australians.
KENTUCKY (Isaac Humphries) – SOUTH No.2
Kentucky was crowned the 2017 SEC Champions, and subsequently earned the #2 seed in the South.
Isaac Humphries, a native of Sydney, NSW, has performed admirably as the team’s back-up centre, averaging 2.8 points and 2.9 rebounds in just under 10 minutes per game.
The Wildcats’ first game is against Northern Kentucky, which will tip off on Saturday, March 18, at 9:40am (AWST).
Should each game progress as expected, look out for a star-studded match-up between Kentucky and UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen.
DUKE (Jack White) — EAST No.2
Duke completed a comeback win over Notre Dame to win the ACC Championship, and was eventually named as a No.2 seed in the East.
Melbourne’s Jack White received occasional minutes throughout the season, but isn’t expected to see the floor in his tournament, unless the Blue Devils are involved in a blowout.
The team’s first matchup is against Troy, tipping off on Saturday, March 18, at 7:20am (AWST).
Should Duke progress to the Sweet Sixteen, they’ll likely be matched up against either Baylor or SMU; two schools that had impressive stretches throughout the regular season and conference play.
LOUISVILLE (Deng Adel and Mangok Mathiang) — MIDWEST No.2
After a 24-8 season, Louisville earned the No.2 seed in the Midwest, with a first round matchup against Jacksonville State set to tip off at 2:45am on Saturday, March 18 (AWST).
Louisville features two Australias – Deng Adel and Mangok Mathiang – who are both expected to play key roles for the Cardinals.
Adel, from Melbourne, is the team’s starting shooting guard, and is averaging 11.9 points and 4.5 rebounds in just under 30 minutes of action per game.
Also from Melbourne, Mathiang is one of the team’s only seniors, and will bring size and experience to the Cardinals’ front-court.
If everything occurs as expected, Louisville’s first test will come in the Sweet Sixteen, where they’ll likely be matched up against Oregon.
BAYLOR (Jo Lual Acuil Jr.) — EAST No.3
Baylor was once the No.1 team in the nation, but dropped off to the point where they’re now the No.3 seed in the East.
Jo Lual-Acuil Jr, a junior out of Melbourne, has been a revelation, averaging 9.2 points, 7.0 rebounds, ad 2.6 blocks per game; numbers that Scott Drew will hope the big-man emulates in March.
The Bears’ first-round matchup is against New Mexico State, and will tip off on Saturday, March 18, at 12:40am (AWST).
FLORIDA (Gorjok Gak) — EAST No.4
Florida wasn’t able to progress far in the SEC Tournament, but their impressive regular season was enough for them to earn an at-large big as the East’s No.4 seed.
The team features Sydney’s Gorjok Gak, a 6’11 big-man, who isn’t expected to play extended minutes for the Gators.
Florida’s first game is against East Tennessee State, tipping off at 3:10am on Friday, March 17 (AWST). Should the Gators win that first-round match-up, they’ll likely face a tough Virginia side in the Round of 32 action.
SAINT MARY’S (Dane Pineau, Emmett Naar, Jock Landale, Kyle Clark, Jordan Hunter, Tanner Krebs, and Jock Perry) — WEST No.7
Saint Mary’s fell to Gonzaga in the 2017 West Coast Conference Basketball Championship game, but were good enough to earn at at-large big: the No.7 seed in the West.
Seven Australians call themselves Gaels, with Jock Landale and Emmett Naar emerging as the clear standouts. Landale led his team with 16.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, while Naar continued his impressive point guard play, averaging 9.5 points and 5.8 assists per game.
Melbourne’s Dane Pineau, along with Tasmania-natives, Tanner Krebs and Kyle Clark, are among the role players for the squad, while Jordan Hunter and Jock Perry aren’t expected to get much time on the court.
Saint Mary’s’ first game is against VCU, tipping off at 7:20am (AWST) on Friday, March 17. A win would see the advance to the Round of 32, where a match-up against No.2 Arizona will likely await.
MIAMI (Dejan Vasiljevic) — MIDWEST No.8
Miami earned the No.8 seed in the Midwest, and will immediately face a tough challenge against Michigan State.
Melbourne’s Dejan Vasiljevic is the resident Australian on the Hurricanes, improving as the season has progressed, averaging 6.1 points and 1.3 rebounds, shooting 35.2 percent from beyond the arc.
The combo guard comes off the bench as a sharpshooter, and will be crucial for his team’s matchup against the Spartans — tipping off at 09:20am, on Saturday, March 18 — and, if they progress, Miami’s potential Round of 32 game against Kansas.
Vasiljevic trained with the Perth Wildcats before leaving for college.
WINTHROP (Xavier Cooks) — SOUTH No.13
Winthrop earned an automatic big to the NCAA Tournament after winning the Big South Championship, and their Australian played a key role.
Wollongong’s Xavier Cooks averaged 16.3 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, emerging as one of the team’s stars over their 26-6 regular season, as well as conference play.
To open this tournament, the Eagles will face Butler, tipping off at 1:30am on Friday, March 17 (AWST). Should they win what’s expected to be a tough matchup, as well as their Round of 32 game, they’ll likely come up against No.1 Kansas.
UC DAVIS (Chima Moneke) — FIRST FOUR No.16
Not only did UC Davis earn an automatic big to the NCAA Tournament after winning the Big West Championship, but that tournament’s MVP was Australian wing Chima Moneke.
The junior out of Canberra is averaging 14.4 points and 9.4 rebounds in his first season with the Aggies, and will be a key factor for their progression in the Big Dance.
The team’s first game is a First Four matchup, and is against North Carolina Central, tipping off at 6:40am on Thursday, March 16 (AWST).
SCHOOLS THAT FEATURE REDSHIRT AUSTRALIANS
Marquette (Harry Froling — R-Fr) — EAST No.10
Mount Saint Mary’s (Jonah Antonio — R-Fr) — EAST No.16
Jacksonville State (Keeto Browne — R-So) — MIDWEST No.15