Canadian RJ Barrett, left, with teammate Zion Williamson, was named the NCAA’s most overrated player according to a player survey. Photo by Keenan Hairston, CC 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:RJ_Barrett_%26_Zion_Williamson_-_Keenan_Hairston.jpg

Canadians to watch during NCAA’s March Madness

With March Madness season here, NCAA basketball fans will be tuning in to catch first round games today.

While American athletes traditionally dominate in numbers, there will be a number of Canadians trying to make their mark on the court this year. 

Canada currently has 19 active players in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, but here are five notable ballers to watch for. 

1) R.J. Barrett — Duke

At 6’7, 202 lbs, R.J. Barrett, the son of Canada Basketball executive Rowan Barrett leads his team with 22.9 points per game.

His shooting percentage checks in at 66.2 per cent and he has an average of 7.5 rebounds, the second most on his team. The Mississauga Ont., native was recognized on the Naismith Trophy Men’s watch list of the year and was recently named USA Today’s player of the year. 

He has broken the Atlantic Coast Conference scoring record, as well as the Duke scoring record for a freshman.

In 2017, he won a gold medal with Canada at the U19 world championships where he was also crowned tournament MVP. 

2) Andrew Nembhard — Florida

While Andrew Nembhard, a freshman from Aurora Ont., only averages 8.1 points per game, he is described on his team’s website as one of the best passers in the 2018 recruiting class. His free throw percentage stands out at 76.9 per cent. 

Last week, he made headlines for sinking a three point shot with one-second left that captured a win against the LSU Tigers in the Southeastern Conference quarterfinals. 

In his international career, he helped lead Canada’s U18 men’s team to a silver medal at the 2018 FIBA Americas, averaging 15.7 points and 8.8 assists over the course of six games. 

3) Luguentz Dort — Arizona State

Luguentz Dort’s coaches describe him as a physically tough, aggressive player with an impressive defensive game. At 6’4, 215 lbs., he has a total of 79 defensive rebounds, 33 offensive rebounds and 16.1 points on average per game.

He began his season with Arizona State on Nov. 6, 2018 and within that month he broke his school’s record for most points by a freshman in a debut with 28 points. Dort also earned PAC-12 Player of the Week after he was named MVP tournament during the MGM Resorts Main Event. 

4) Lindell Wigginton — Iowa State

Lindell Wigginton is another player who was named to the Naismith Trophy Watch List. The Dartmouth, N.S., native was his team’s best player last season as a freshman, but during one of his first games this season, he injured his foot.

Though he has played considerably less, he still currently averages 13.5 points a game. This year, he is eligible for the NBA draft. 

He played a key role in Team Canada’s silver medal victory in the 2016 FIBA America’s U18 championship. 

5) Brandon Clarke — Gonzaga

With his height of 6’8, it is a no brainer that Brandon Clarke would dominate the boards. Clarke has an average 8.4 rebounds per game. He is ranked third in NCAA’s first division with 3.1 blocks a game.

This season at Gonzaga, the Vancouverite was the first player to be named the West Coast Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year in the same season. 

He also helped represent Team Canada on its U19 team when the team received gold medal status at the FIBA 2017 World Cup. 

A full list of Canadians in the NCAA can be found below: 

West Regional:Brandon Clarke (Gonzaga), Oshae Brissett (Syracuse), Devonte Bandoo (Baylor), Joseph Chartouny (Marquette), Mfiondu Kabengele (Florida State), Stef Smith (Vermont), Dominic Johnson (Buffalo), Luguentz Dort (Arizona State), Andrew Nembhard (Florida), Ignas Brazdeikis (Michigan).

Midwest Regional:Clayton Henry (New Mexico State), Marial Shayok (Iowa State), Lindell Wigginton (Iowa State).

South Regional:Kyle Alexander (Tennessee).

East Regional:R.J. Barrett (Duke), Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Virginia Tech), Jonathan Kabongo (Virginia Tech), Eze Dike (Yale), Ja’Shon Henry (Bradley).