Several Canadians to play key roles in NCAA March Madness tournaments

March Madness, the highly anticipated conclusion to the NCAA basketball season, has arrived with several Canadians looking to make an impact.

The Canadian Press takes a look at eight players to watch across the men’s and women’s tournaments.

Zach Edey, Purdue

The Toronto native is among the top names in the Player of the Year conversation in what has been a sensational junior season. The seven-foot-four, 305-pound centre is tied for seventh in scoring and is third in rebounding (22.1 points, 12.8 rebounds per game) in the NCAA. The fifth-ranked Boilermakers, who are the top seed in the East Region, were reeling in February, going 3-4 and falling from their No. 1 spot. But five straight wins and a Big Ten tournament title has Purdue very much in the mix for a title, with Edey leading the way.

Marcus Carr, Texas

The six-foot-two, 175-pound guard has been the lead man all season for the seventh-ranked Longhorns, who enter as the second seed in the Midwest Region. In his fifth season, the Toronto native has averaged 15.9 points and 4.1 assists per game, while helping Texas claim its second Big 12 tournament title in three years with a 76-56 drubbing of third-ranked Kansas on Saturday. Longhorns interim coach Rodney Terry says Carr should have been up for the Big 12 Player of the Year, but the Canadian is more concerned with closing out his final year with a national title.

Olivier-Maxence Prosper, Marquette

Prosper has enjoyed a career season in an impressive year for the Golden Eagles. The Montreal native is averaging 12.4 points on 51.3 per cent shooting and has been a presence on both ends of the floor. Marquette, meanwhile, has flown up the rankings to No. 6, and won its first Big East tournament crown on Saturday. The six-foot-eight, 230-pound Prosper will be a key cog on a Golden Eagles team that enters the tournament as the second seed in the East Region and is vying for its second national title in school history.

Emanuel Miller, TCU

The Toronto native has flown under the radar among Canadians in the NCAA, while playing for a solid Horned Frogs squad that narrowly fell in the Big 12 semifinals to eventual champion Texas. The six-foot-seven forward is third on the team in scoring (12.4 per game) and first in rebounding (6.6 per game) in his senior season. TCU is the sixth seed in the West Region and opens play Friday.

Aaliyah Edwards, UConn

Edwards has been the backbone of a Huskies team that has dealt with injuries throughout the season — namely, star guard Paige Bueckers before the season — and is still ranked seventh in the NCAA. The Kingston, Ont., native has averaged career highs of 16.6 points and 9.2 rebounds per game as UConn found its way to winning the Big East tournament crown. Despite the long season and increased workload, the junior is confident about the Huskies’ ability to show their mettle on the big stage. UConn enters the tournament as the second seed in the Seattle 3 Region.

Shaina Pellington, Arizona

Pellington has enjoyed a career year in her fifth and final season, averaging 13.3 points per game on 53.5 per cent shooting and 3.7 assists. All three marks are team bests for the Wildcats, who finished the year at 24th in the AP top 25 rankings. Entering the tournament as the seventh seed in Greenville Regional 1, Arizona and their five-foot-eight guard out of Pickering, Ont., will open against West Virginia.

Shayeann Day-Wilson, Duke

The Toronto native saw a decline in her scoring from her freshman season last year but remains a key part of a Blue Devils squad that is ranked 13th in the country and third in the Seattle 4 Region. Day-Wilson is the team’s third-leading scorer, but holds the top assists mark (8.4 points, 2.5 assists per game). After falling in the ACC tournament semifinal to Virginia, Duke will look to redeem itself on the big stage.

Laeticia Amihere, South Carolina

The six-foot-four senior forward has played her best basketball on a balanced, dominant South Carolina team that has eyes set on back-to-back national titles. Amihere has averaged 7.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 16.2 minutes per game coming off the bench for the top-ranked Gamecocks. South Carolina went 32-0, including an SEC tournament title, and is one of three teams in the top 10 of the AP rankings to have three or fewer losses.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 13, 2023.

Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press