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Five Canadians to watch in NCAA men's basketball tournament


March Madness has arrived with several Canadians looking to leave their mark.

The NCAA men's basketball tournament begins Tuesday with two First Four games, followed by 32 first-round games on Thursday and Friday. The Final Four is set for Glendale, Ariz. on April 6-8.

The Canadian Press takes a look at five players to watch in the men’s NCAA tournament.

Zach Edey, Purdue

The seven-foot-four centre out of Toronto has only improved on his game after a major breakout junior season in 2022-23. Edey is once again the favourite to win the Wooden Award as the top player in the country, leading the NCAA in scoring (24.4 points per game) and third in rebounds (11.7), to go along with 2.2 blocks per game. The Boilermakers went 29-4 but aim to avoid a disaster like last season — being upset in the first round as a No. 1 seed. Purdue opens play Friday in the Midwest Region, with its opponent yet to be determined.

Ryan Nembhard, Gonzaga

The younger brother of Indiana Pacers guard Andrew Nembhard, has left an imprint of his own as a junior transfer guard with the Bulldogs. Ryan Nembhard has averaged career highs in points (12.9), assists (6.7) and rebounds (4.1) in 32 games for Gonzaga. The six-foot, 175-pound point guard from Aurora, Ont., has had five double-doubles while the Bulldogs have gone 9-2 in their last 11 games heading into this year's tournament. Nembhard helped lead Creighton to an Elite Eight appearance last season as a sophomore, including a 30-point second-round performance in a win over Baylor. Fifth-seeded Gonzaga opens play Thursday against 12th-seeded McNeese State in the Midwest Region.

Emanuel Sharp, Houston

The six-foot-three, 205-pound redshirt sophomore guard helped lead an impressive 30-4 Cougars squad to the top seed in the South Region and finished No. 2 in the AP top 25 rankings. Sharp was third on the team in points (12.2) and second in steals (1.5) in his first year as a starter. Houston made it into the Sweet 16 last season as the top seed in the Midwest Region, having fallen to Miami. The Cougars open against No. 16 Longwood on Friday in Memphis.

Emanuel Miller, TCU

The fifth-year senior out of Toronto has enjoyed one of his better college seasons. The six-foot-seven, 215-pound forward has paced Texas Christian University with 15.9 points per game and 5.9 rebounds per game as the Horned Frogs went 21-12, last falling to Houston in the Big 12 quarterfinal last Thursday. TCU made it into the tournament as the ninth seed and will first meet eighth-seeded Utah State in Midwest Region action on Friday.

Aden Holloway, Auburn

Holloway enjoyed a solid freshman season for the Tigers, averaging 7.6 points, 2.8 assists and 20.4 minutes per game, with the only teammates ahead of him in scoring all being juniors and seniors. The six-foot-one, 178-pound guard helped Auburn to a Southeastern Conference (SEC) title, defeating Florida 86-67 on Sunday. Entering the tournament as the fourth seed in the East Region, Auburn — which went 27-7 and finished seventh in the AP Top 25 rankings — will meet 13th-seeded Yale on Friday in first-round action.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2024.