The NCAA men’s basketball tournament unveiled its 68-team field Sunday. Amongst those teams, there are plenty of Canadian players in the Big Dance.
Here are a few Canadians to watch on the road to the Final Four, which will take place April 2-4 in New Orleans.
The April 4 date is a big one, as it is the championship game for the men, and it’s also the day many private betting operators launch in Ontario. That’s a big day for the Ontario sports betting world.
Some Canadian players have been starring on teams that have been likely to get in for a while. Others play for schools that made strong late-season and conference tournament runs to make the bracket.
Here are some of the Canadians to keep an eye on this month and odds to know if you want to make your March Madness betting in Canada a kind of patriotic play.
1. Zach Edey, Purdue Boilermakers
Edey, a 19-year-old sophomore center from Toronto, is the tallest player in Big Ten history at 7-foot-4 and 295 pounds. He was named to the conference all-freshman team last season, and has been a force for the Boilermakers this season. He averaged 14.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, and was named second-team All-Big Ten.
That’s pretty impressive for a guy whose first basketball game was only in 2017 . Edey played baseball and hockey before that. But he’s certainly proven to be pretty great on the court as well.
As for Edey’s team, Purdue made a run to the Big Ten tournament championship game. They earned the third seed in the East region of the NCAA tournament. The Boilermakers will open that tournament Friday against the Yale Bulldogs.
2. Bennedict Mathurin, Arizona Wildcats
Mathurin, a 19-year-old 6’6’’ 210-pound sophomore guard from Montreal, is getting some buzz as a potential top-10 NBA draft pick if he chooses to leave school after this year. He averaged 17.4 points and 5.6 rebounds this season, connected on 37.6% of his 5.8 three-point attempts per game. He was also named the Pac-12 player of the year.
Before any draft decision, though, Mathurin and the Wildcats have the potential to make a deep tournament run. Arizona won the Pac-12 tournament, with Mathurin posting 27 points, seven assists, and four rebounds in the title game against UCLA.
The Wildcats are the first seed in the South region. They’ll start Friday against the winner of Wednesday’s Wright State-Bryant play-in clash.
Betting angle: Arizona has the second-best odds to win it all, getting a 7.oo odds listing (+600) at Proline Plus.
3. Andrew Nembhard, Gonzaga Bulldogs
A 22-year-old 6’5’’ 193-pound senior guard from Aurora, Ontario, Nembhard started his NCAA career in 2018 with the Florida Gators. He spent two seasons there before transferring to the Bulldogs ahead of the 2020-21 season.
That move has worked out particularly well for Nembhard this year. He’s averaging career-highs in points (11.7), assists (5.7), rebounds (3.2), and steals (1.6) per game. And his Bulldogs won the West Coast Conference tournament. Nembhard scored a team-high 19 points and added seven assists in their 82-69 title game win over Saint Mary’s.
That win helped Gonzaga claim the #1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament. They’ll be playing in the West region. They begin the tournament Thursday against the Georgia State Panthers.
Betting angle: Gonzaga is the odds-on favourite to win it all, drawing 4.50 odds (+350) at Proline.
4. Clayton Henry, New Mexico State
Henry, a 6’4’’ 200-pound redshirt senior guard from Calgary, Alberta, has been an important contributor for the Aggies throughout this season. His averages of 5.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 0.8 assists per game aren’t the highest he’s posted, but he was named to the Western Athletic Conference all-defensive team.
The Aggies are the 12th seed in the West region. They’ll face the UConn Huskies Thursday.
Betting angle: Proline and PlayAlberta.ca had not yet posted odds for games on Sunday night. However, DraftKings Sportsbook, which will not launch until at least April 4 in Ontario, had UConn as 7-point favourites on Sunday.
5. Matt Grace, Richmond
A 6’9’’ 230-pound senior forward from Hamilton, Ontario, the 23-year-old Grace has been an important figure of continuity for the Spiders across the last four years. And while he only averaged 4.2 points and 2.5 rebounds per game this season, Grace did hit a crucial game-tying layup and then a go-ahead free throw in the final 20 seconds of Richmond’s 64-62 Atlantic 10 championship win over top-seeded Davidson on Sunday.
That win meant the Spiders, only the sixth seed in the A10 tournament, are going dancing. They’re the 12th seed in the Midwest region, and will face the Iowa Hawkeyes on Thursday.