The NCAA’s annual hoop fest has the field set for March Madness.
The slogan is too catchy to abandon, even though the 64-team single-elimination tournament will carry over well into April. At least, that is, until some creative genius can come up with an equally catchy alliteration for April.
All across the world, brackets are being finalised, as the tournament is a source on entertainment in offices and boozers, even churches where gambling in the name of doing God’s work is tolerated.
Australian representation has grown for eight players last year to 10 this year, which is purely coincidental and not the NCAA seeking revenge for Australian Rules poaching some American college hoopsters. It could be 12, but for Florida’s Gorjok Gak (hands down best name in the tournament) and Aiden Krause (UC Irvine) have been sidelined with medical issues and redshirted by their teams to adhere to NCAA eligibility rules.
Jack White (Duke) and Kody Stattmann (Virginia) head the list. Their teams were always locks for the tournament, but other Aussies and their respective schools had to fight their way in through their respective conference tournaments.
The St. Mary’s Gaels, rife with Aussies, made it through by stunning the No. 11 ranked Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference final.
Number one seeded Duke’s White might see some substantial court time when Duke lines up against either North Carolina Central or North Dakota State.
Jordan Hunter, Tanner Krebs, Jock Perry and Alex Mudronja all play for St. Mary’s. Krebs heads the scoring table with 8.9 ppg for the Gaels, while Hunter trails by one point, but is the clear leader for Australians with St. Mary’s with 6.8 rebounds. Both players should get plenty of minutes in the game, while the other two will come off the bench from time to time.
Betting on the tournament is not for the risk adverse punter. College basketball giants are often slain in the first round. It is not uncommon to see one or two top seeds sent to the exits by teams from schools that have everyone scrambling for an atlas.
Compare it to betting on a two-year-old Thoroughbred race.