When sports betting in Ontario became a reality, folks in Canada were unable to get the full effect of March Madness betting. Legal sports wagering launched on the same day as last year’s National Championship game between North Carolina and Kansas.
Fast-forward to 2023, and people in Ontario are knee-deep in everything that is March Madness. Retail Ontario sportsbooks could also draw American March Madness bettors to the province from nearby states.
In recent years, a string of Canadian players have had a significant impact on the results of the tourney. With folks filling out their brackets and betting slips, we’ll give you the five Canadian players to watch in the 2023 NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament.
Zach Edey – #1 Purdue
Only one player on this list is under consideration for the 2023 Naismith Men’s College Player of the Year Award. That player is Zach Edey of Purdue. In fact, he is the odds-on favorite at . The 7’4 junior from Toronto has been a force in college basketball this season. He helped lead his team to a Big 10 Conference Championship and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The stats are ridiculous. Edey led the Purdue Boilermakers in both points (22.3) and rebounds (12.8). He was also the third-leading rebounder in college basketball and the sixth-leading scorer. He is also the only unanimous selection for the Associated Press 2022-23 All-America men’s basketball team.
Purdue is the No. 1 seed in the East Regional. It is not an easy path to the Final Four. Purdue’s side of the bracket is filled with blue-blood schools like Duke, Kentucky and Michigan State. Not to mention legendary coaches like John Calipari and Tom Izzo. The Boilermakers should make it out of the first round without much of a problem. However, they may have their hands full if they run into Tennessee in the Sweet 16.
The best thing going for Purdue is that Edey is the most unstoppable player on this side of the bracket. Some might give the edge to Duke’s Kyle Filipowski, But no team should be able to combat Edey’s size and presence in the paint. Expect him to dominate his matchups. The big key is if he will be able to avoid foul trouble. Purdue will always have a huge advantage if he can stay on the floor.
Marcus Carr – #2 Texas
Another one of Toronto’s sons is on this list. Marcus Carr played for St. Michael’s College School in Toronto during his first two years of high school. He then transferred to a US school in Florida, where his grandmother lived. He’s bounced around during his college career, having spent time at Pittsburgh and Minnesota before finding a home with the Texas Longhorns.
During the 2022-2023 season, Carr has been fantastic for Texas. He is averaging 15.9 points per game. Texas is the No. 2 seed in the Midwest Regional, where powerhouse Houston could be waiting for them in the Elite Eight. Carr is the leading scorer on Texas, but he has a great supporting cast. Based on who else is in their bracket, I don’t see them in danger until the Elite Eight, but anything is possible.
Carr is known as a scorer that plays at a fast pace. His game is tailor-made for the kind of basketball the NCAA Tournament becomes. While Edey is the best player on this list, Carr might be the player that shines the brightest on this list. The NCAA Tournament is a guard’s game. The primary ball handlers and the three-point shooters are the ones that really leave their stamps on the action. Carr has a tenancy to get hot, and if he stays hot over the next three weeks, Texas could be hoisting the National Championship trophy.
Olivier-Maxence Prosper – #2 Marquette
The first player in this tournament from Montreal that we will feature on this list is Olivier-Maxence Prosper. Basketball is in his blood, as both of his parents played at Concordia University in Montreal.
Prosper is a do-it-all forward and energy guy who is very efficient with his touches and is starting to show an expanded offensive game. During the 2022-2023 season, he has averaged 12.4 Pts and 4.6 Reb per game. He may not dominate the action, but he could make some key players on offense and defense that could win games for the Marquette Golden Eagles.
Marquette is the No. 2 seed in the East Regional. Meaning they could be on a collision course with Edey and Purdue. The Golden Eagles are well-balanced and will give other teams problems with their athleticism. I’ve got them going far in my bracket, and Prosper will undoubtedly play a role in making that happen.
Emanuel Miller – #6 TCU
Emanuel Miller is one of the key figures of the TCU Horned Frogs team. Miller is originally from Scarborough, ON, and has represented Canada in multiple world tournaments. He was an integral piece of Canada’s gold-medal run in the 2017 FIBA U19 World Cup held in Egypt. He also shined at the 2018 FIBA U18 Americas Championship, averaging over 17 points per game.
This season, Miller is averaging 12.4 Pts, 6.6 Reb for the Horned Frogs. He knows exactly what it is like to face heated competition after TCU faced the gauntlet that is the Big 12 Conference. Seven of the ten schools in the Big 12 qualified for the tournament, and no team is seeded lower than ninth in their respective regionals.
TCU is the No. 6 seed in the West Regional. Meaning they could end up facing juggernaut Gonzaga in the second round. However, because the Horned Frogs are battle-tested, don’t be surprised if they make a deep run.
Ryan Nembhard – #6 Creighton
Creighton is another team that I think can make waves in the tournament. One of the biggest reasons for that is because of guard Ryan Nembhard, who was born in Aurora, ON.
Nembhard attended a school in the US called Montverde Academy in Florida, where he played alongside future NBA players such as Cade Cunningham, Scottie Barnes, Jalen Duren, Precious Achiuwa and Moses Moody. Nembhard has also represented Canada in several international competitions. At the 2019 FIBA Under-16 Americas Championship in Brazil, he averaged 14.3 points, nine assists and two steals per game. In the 2021 FIBA Under-19 Basketball World Cup in Latvia, he averaged 15.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game, leading his team to the bronze medal.
Nembhard has played a ton of basketball before helping lead the Creighton Bluejays to the No. 6 seed in the South Regional, where the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament awaits in the Alabama Crimson Tide. The good news for Creighton is that they can attack you from multiple places. Five players on the team average double-figure scoring, including Nembhard. And as mentioned earlier, the NCAA Tournament is a guard’s game. He could be the driving force behind a Creighton cinderella run to the Final Four.