NCAA Men: The ultimate guide on the Aussies in March Madness
A total of 18 Australians across 11 teams have been drawn to play in the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
Joining those who had qualified with automatic bids thanks to winning conference tournaments were a host of nationally ranked teams, including #9 Baylor, #10 Louisville, #17 Florida and #19 Saint Mary's.
We take a look at the teams and the brackets as they were drawn.
Aussies in the 2017 NCAA Tournament
Winthrop | Xavier Cooks - Big South Champions
UC Davis | Chima Moneke - Big West Champions
#14 Duke | Jack White - ACC Champions
#7 Arizona | Keanu Pinder - Pac-12 Champions
#8 Kentucky | Isaac Humphries - SEC Champions
#9 Baylor | Jo Lual-Acuil Jr
#10 Louisville | Mangok Mathiang & Deng Adel
#17 Florida | Gorjok Gak
#19 Saint Mary's | Dane Pineau, Emmett Naar, Jock Landale, Kyle Clark, Jordan Hunter, Tanner Krebs & Jock Perry
Miami | Dejan Vasiljevic
South Carolina | Ran Tut
There is no doubting that the four nationally ranked teams given at-large bids were deserving. Baylor were at one stage during the season ranked #1 nationally, while Louisville and Saint's Mary's were in the Top 25 all season. All those we previewed earlier in the month have made the cut, as was also discussed in The Pick and Pop special edition March Madness podcast.
Aussies in the Bracket
This is how all the teams boasting Australians were drawn (all dates converted to Australian times).
#16 UC Davis vs #16 North Carolina Central (Moneke) - winner to play #1 Kansas
#4 Florida vs #13 East Tennessee State (Gak) | 17 March in Orlando, FL
#2 Duke vs #15 Troy (White) | 18 March in Greenville, SC
#3 Baylor vs #14 New Mexico State (Lual-Acuil Jr) | 18 March in Tulsa, OK
#2 Louisville vs #15 Jacksonville State (Mathiang & Adel) | 18 March in Indianapolis, IN
#8 Miami vs #9 Michigan State (Vasiljevic) | 18 March in Tulsa, OK
#2 Kentucky vs #15 Northern Kentucky (Humphries) | 18 March in Indianapolis, IN
#13 Winthrop vs #4 Butler (Cooks) | 18 March in Milwaukee, WI
#2 Arizona vs #15 North Dakota (Pinder) | 17 March in Salt Lake City, UT
#7 Saint Mary's vs #10 Virginia Commonwealth (Pineau, Naar, Landale, Clark, Hunter, Krebs & Perry) | 17 March in Salt Lake City, UT
Assessing the draw
Big West Champions UC Davis were selected to play in a First Four game for the right to take on #1 seed Kansas. The opportunity will provide the Aggies with a great chance to record their first ever NCAA Tournament victory in their first ever appearance. Expect Big West Tournament MVP Chima Moneke to play a big role in driving the Aggies' charge.
Florida have drawn a great first-round contest against East Tennessee State and would love their chances. #5 seed Virginia likely awaits in the second round which should be a cracker of a contest. Gorjok Gak is not expected to see many minutes if any at all.
As a #2 seed, Duke has what looks to be a favourable draw, with the winner of South Carolina and Marquette waiting in the second round. Get through to the Sweet 16 and #3 Baylor or SMU awaits - that's where things get a little harder for the ACC champs. Freshman Aussie forward Jack White is not expected to feature for the Blue Devils. Baylor's first 2 rounds would be games they would normally pencil in for wins, against New Mexico State and then likely SMU. Baylor versus Duke would be a great Sweet 16 game to look out for. Center Jo Lual-Acuil Jr who was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and to the All-Defensive First team is set to anchor the middle for the Bears and be an integral part of their tournament run.
While Louisville was up-ended by eventual champions Duke in the ACC Tournament, they look to have a good draw too. Michigan or Oklahoma State await in the second round, and a win there could set up a contest with Oregon or Creighton and that's' when things start getting tough. However the Cardinals have talent to burn and were unfortunate to run into a hot Duke in their tournament. They have the talent, experience and hunger to go deep in this tournament with both Mangok Mathiang and Deng Adel playing lead roles as parting of the starting line-up.
Miami have a tough first round match against perennial contenders Michigan State who were not at their best this season. Get past them and #1 seed Kansas awaits - that's tough! Freshman Dejan Vasiljevic's ability to find his shooting groove from beyond the arc could be critical. The Hurricane's are young and relatively inexperienced, and they will find it challenging to progress.
In the South bracket, Kentucky and Isaac Humphries seem destined to meet with UCLA in the Sweet 16. However before that they have to get through likely second round opponents Dayton. As one of the hottest teams heading into the tournament, they would be favoured to progress through to the Elite 8 barring a major upset.
Winthrop enters the big dance as a #13 seed and were drawn a challenging yet not insurmountable match-up against #4 Butler. Behind Australian Xavier Cooks and Keon Johnson, Winthrop has the talent and athleticism to cause an upset or two. They will be hoping for just that in their return to March Madness.
In great news for Aussie Gaels fans, Saint Mary's avoided being snubbed by the selection committee for the second straight year. VCU will be their round 1 opponent and they would surely like their chances of progressing where Keanu Pinder and Pac-12 Champions Arizona will be likely waiting. This is a game Aussie college fans would be calling for to be on ESPN Australia. Florida State or Maryland are then likely to meet the winner of that contest in the Sweet 16. Arizona are playing well and were unlucky to not be granted a #1 seed. They could well enter the tournament with a chip on their shoulder and this will make it tough for anyone they meet.
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