Canadians Shine in Historic First Weekend of March Madness
by Max Feldman
In just four days of basketball, we learned to once again expect the unexpected during what truly was pure madness. There were a total of 16 Canadian men and 17 Canadian women in their respective tournaments. Some performances were certainly standouts, and others went under the radar in upset efforts. Here are NPH’s First Weekend NCAA March Madness Tournament Headliners:
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Kentucky Men’s)
Round of 64- 19 pts, 8 rebs, 7 assists and 5 steals
Round of 32- 27 pts, 6 rebs, 6 assists and 2 steals
Gilgeous-Alexander had two of his best performances of the season. He’s playing his best basketball at the right time, and looks to be a leader for a Kentucky team bound to make a run. His NBA stock is still rising, and has proven himself as one of the best point guards in the nation. Gilgeous-Alexander put up 14.4 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds per game during the regular season and has been especially consistent on the defensive end. Kentucky will take on Kansas St looking for an elite eight berth.
Julie Brosseau (Maine Women’s)
Round of 64- 11 pts and 2 assists
The 15 seeded Maine Black Bears took on Texas in the first round. Sophomore guard put up 11.5 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game in the regular season. She capped off her second collegiate season with another good performance. Brossau is a rising star, and is a young Canadian to monitor in the American East Conference.
Mfiondu Kabengele (Florida State Men’s)
Round of 64- 14 pts, 12 rebs and 2 blocks
Round of 32- 9 pts, 6 rebs and 1 block
The 6 foot 8, 245 pound big man has seen more playing time in the first two rounds of the tournament, anchoring the Seminoles down low. Florida State is making a big run, after beating Missouri and 1 seeded Xavier. He played 27 minutes against Mizzou, and 23 minutes against Xavier as he got in foul trouble. Kabengele put up 7.3 points and 4.8 boards per game during the regular season. The Burlington, Ontario native and nephew of NBA great Dikembe Mutombo will look to extended the 9 seeded Seminoles run when they take on Gonzaga in the Sweet 16.
Kia Nurse (UCONN Women’s)
Round of 64- 15 pts, 10 assists and 2 rebs
Round of 32- 13 pts and 3 assists
UCONN’s senior guard is looking to cap off her incredible college career with her third national championship. In two blowout victories, Nurse was a consistent force. She put up 13.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game during the regular season. Nurse, a strong perimeter threat, will look to lead the Huskies against Duke in the Sweet 16. Nurse continues to put together a resume that may end up as one of the best in Canadian women’s basketball history.
Kassius Robertson (Missouri Men’s)
Round of 64- 19 pts and 4 rebs
Robertson had a monster campaign in his 5th year graduate season at Missouri, rallying the Tigers to an NCAA tournament berth and an 8 seed. The Tigers lost a tough battle against Florida State in the first round, but Robertson had another strong game. The 6-3 guard out of Toronto put up 16.3 points, 3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game during the regular season.
Alyssa Jerome (Stanford Women’s)
Round of 64- 3 pts and 2 assists
Round of 32- 2 pts
The 6-2 forward out of Toronto is only a freshman, but consistently plays with maturity beyond her years. She has seen limited playing time, but appears to be a very strong building block for a prominent Stanford Women’s basketball team. She has a few years of experience with the Canadian national team at the U16 and U17 levels. Stanford will take on Louisville in the Sweet 16. Jerome is certainly a name to monitor.
Oshae Brissett (Syracuse Men’s)
Play in Game- 23 pts and 12 rebs
Round of 64- 15 pts, 9 rebs and 3 blocks
Round of 32- 15 pts, 9 rebs, 1 steal and 1 block
Brissett has had an incredible freshman season at Syracuse, and his first three games in the NCAA tournament have been much of the same. During the regular season, Brissett put up 14.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. Syracuse received an 11 seed and had to match up against Arizona State in a play in game. The Orange edged out the Sun Devils by 4 points, largely behind the effort of Brissett who had a huge all around game. They continued their run while grinding out upset victories over TCU and 3 seeded Michigan State. The Orange will need another big game from Brissett as they look to knock off Duke in the Sweet 16.
Shaina Pellington (Oklahoma Women’s)
Round of 64- 14 pts, 4 rebs and 2 assists
Pellington and the 12 seeded Oklahoma Sooners took on Depaul in the first round of the Women’s tournament. Pellington had another strong game but couldn’t complete the upset. Despite the result, Pellington exploded on the college landscape with her mixture of quickness and scoring expertise in only her first season. As the Big 12 Freshman of the Year, she led all first year players in the conference with 13.1 points per game. The Pickering, Ontario native had 7 games with at least 20-points, which also led all freshmen. Pellington appears to be a potential building block for both the Oklahoma Sooners and the Canadian National team.
Kyle Alexander (Tennessee Men’s)
Round of 64- 6 pts, 4 rebs and 2 blocks
Round of 32- Missed Game with Injured Hip
The junior big man out of Milton, Ontario had his best season yet for the Volunteers. Poised for a big run, Tennessee blew out Wright State in the first round, but Kyle Alexander suffered what would be a season ending injury. The Volunteers fell to Loyola-Chicago in the round of 32 on a last second buzzer beater. Alexander put up 5.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game in the regular season, and is primed for a big senior season in the SEC.
Aislinn Konig (NC State Women’s)
Round of 64- 12 pts, 5 rebs and 2 assists
Round of 32- 12 pts, 4 assists and 1 rebound
4th seeded NC State has yet to play in a close game thus far in the tournament and much of their success has been a result of the performances of sophomore guard, Aislinn Konig, out of Surrey, British Columbia. Former two time British Columbia player of the year has had a great sophomore campaign, putting up 10.3 points, 3 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game during the regular season. ‘Ace’ broke out on the world stage this past summer at the FIBA Under-19 Women’s World Cup when she connected on ten 3-pointers for 32 points against Latvia. Konig will be a scoring threat for the Wolfpack for years to come.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Virginia Tech Men’s)
Round of 64- 15 pts, 3 assists and 2 rebs
Highly touted freshman guard out of Toronto had a very strong season for the Virginia Tech Hokies, and still appears to be a sleeper for the 2018 NBA draft. Virginia Tech was given a 9 seed in the NCAA tournament, and took a tough loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide. Alexander-Walker had another strong game, nailing 3 three point shots. If Alexander-Walker does return to college, he’ll definitely be a headliner in the Atlantic Coast Conference.