While there are fewer Canadians in action during the NCAA’s annual knockout tournament this year than last, when 22 Canucks strutted their stuff on college basketball’s biggest stage there’s no shortage of standout talent.
From stars on perennial contenders to valuable role-players on potential bracket-busters, here’s a look at seven Canadians to keep an eye out for during March Madness this year:
SHAI GILGEOUS-ALEXANDER, PG, Kentucky (Fr.)
Gilgeous-Alexander is the highest-rated Canadian NBA draft prospect and you don’t have to look much further than his performance in Sunday’s SEC championship win to understand why.
The freshman point guard scored a team-high 29 points for Kentucky while logging a game-high 37 minutes in the Wildcats’ 77-72 victory over Tennessee. More impressive was his 10-of-16 shooting, including a tidy 2-for-3 from beyond the arc.
He was Second Team All-SEC this season, made the conference’s all-freshman team and was named Most Outstanding Player of the SEC tournament, playing his best ball of the season at just the right time.
What a tournament for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and @KentuckyMBB!
The freshman guard is the #SECTourney Most Outstanding Player! #BBN pic.twitter.com/HmOQRGoqR0
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 11, 2018
At six-foot-five, Gilgeous-Alexander is an effective ball-handler and can get into the lane thanks to an expanding arsenal of moves. He’s also an active defender who led his team in steals with 1.6 per game. With a consistent jumper he’s an ideal pro point guard and one NBA teams in need of a long-term answer at the position won’t hesitate on drafting in the lottery.
Although the Hamilton, Ont., native showed off his scoring prowess when it mattered most, he’s excelled as a distributor for the Wildcats this season, averaging five assists per game. And while he’s hardly a volume shooter from deep, he’s looked far more comfortable shooting the three as of late, hitting 50 per cent of his three-point attempts over his last seven games.
Kentucky is in a tough bracket, sharing the South region with top-overall seed Virginia and a dangerous Arizona club, but the Wildcats are 7-1 in their last eight heading into the tournament and Gilgeous-Alexander has scored in double figures in all but one of those contests.
KASSIUS ROBERTSON, G, Missouri (Sr.)
After four seasons at Canisius — including a red-shirted freshman year — Robertson transferred to the bigger stage of the SEC, and has flourished. The Toronto product averaged a career-best 16.2 points per game to lead the Tigers this season, knocking down just over three triples per game at a 42.5 per cent rate.
Robertson is a streaky but potentially lethal scorer who dropped at least 20 points eleven times this season. And while his ability to put the ball in the basket stands out, he has an all-around game and can find his teammates off the dribble:
Is there a better grad transfer in the country than Kassius Robertson? I don’t see how pic.twitter.com/yvtt14gVp4
— Represent Mizzou (@RepresentMizzou) February 3, 2018
Robertson was named First Team All-SEC this season and will be key to …read more