Some of America’s best college basketball teams will feature Australian talent at this year’s NCAA tournament.
Boomers forward Cameron Bairstow heads a healthy list of Australian basketballers set to display their talent in the American college showpiece NCAA tournament.
Australians are scattered across the 68 teams invited on Sunday to the knockout tournament, nicknamed The Big Dance, starting this week.
Bairstow, a 206cm, 113kg power forward, will be keen to impress NBA scouts when he leads the seventh-seeded University of New Mexico Lobos against Stanford in Memphis on Friday.
The 23-year-old from Brisbane was named MVP of the Mountain West Conference tournament on Saturday after he led the Lobos to an upset win in the final against the eighth-ranked team in the US, San Diego State, with 17 points and nine rebounds.
“Bairstow is the real deal,” Lobos coach Craig Neal said.
“I think he will be an All-American selection and he deserves it.”
The Lobos also boast guard Hugh Greenwood from Hobart.
Melbourne-raised 208cm centre/forward Mangok Malthiang is a key member of the Louisville Cardinals, the reigning NCAA champions who are seeded fourth and play Manhattan in Indianapolis on Thursday.
If the Cardinals make their way to the second round Malthiang could encounter another young Melbourne big man – North Carolina State’s 216cm centre Jordan Vandenberg.
California’s St Mary’s Gaels has built a reputation as Australia’s US college basketball team after Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova, Daniel Kickert and a dozen or so other Aussies were on the roster over the years, but they didn’t make the tournament this year.
Over on the east coast in New York, the University at Albany may eclipse St Mary’s as the magnet for young Australians seeking a US college stint.
The Albany Great Danes feature four Aussies – brothers Michael and Sam Rowley, Luke Devlin and Peter Hooley – and ironically will play Maryland’s Mount St Mary’s in their first game in Dayton, Ohio, on Tuesday.
The University of Florida, on a 26-game winning streak, earned the top overall seed for the tournament while the other number one seeds were handed to Arizona, Virginia and Wichita State, who had a perfect 34-0 winning season.