For years, Canadian basketball fans have hoped that U Sports teams will get a chance to participate in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men’s basketball tournament. For now, however, they will have to settle for watching the best local talent lead American schools to victory. Ahead of this week’s Round of 64, The McGill Tribune has compiled a list of the top Canadian athletes to keep an eye on.
PG Luguentz Dort (Freshman); Arizona State
The Montreal-born guard drives hard to the basket, and he is driving up NBA teams’ draft boards, too. As a dynamic scorer for the 11th-seed Arizona State Sun Devils, Dort averaged 16.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.3 assists this season. He is a strong athlete with a six-foot-nine wingspan, and, because of his excellent defensive fundamentals, he can guard almost anyone on the floor.
SG Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Sophomore); Virginia Tech
Alexander-Walker’s all-star play has been key to his Virginia Tech Hokies’ outstanding season. The Toronto native will likely join his cousin Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a 2018 Los Angeles Clippers lottery pick, in the NBA next season. A talented athlete capable of playing multiple positions, Alexander-Walker will shine thanks to his steady ball-handling and versatility.
SF R.J. Barrett (Freshman); Duke
Barrett has had a stellar first campaign in the NCAA. The Duke freshman, who is a consensus top three pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, is averaging 22.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 4.1 assists thus far and was named to the Associated Press All-ACC team. The 18-year-old from Mississauga, Ontario, and his star-studded Blue Devils squad hope to take home the title in April, but they will have to escape a tough East region first.
PF Ignas Brazdeikis (Freshman); Michigan
Brazdeikis is one of college basketball’s most entertaining characters. The second-seeded Michigan Wolverines have silenced their opponents’ crowds all season with big wins during road games. The six-foot-seven forward from Oakville, Ontario has played a key role in the team’s success. The Lithuanian-Canadian puts his personality on full display: He blows kisses to opposing fans and flexes after big shots. With him, Wolverines games are must-see television this March.
C Kyle Alexander (Senior); Tennessee
Alexander hopes that he and his second-seeded Tennessee Volunteers will head to Minneapolis in early April for the tournament’s Final Four. Their path in the South region will be tough, and it will take a team effort to advance: The six-foot-eleven athlete from Milton, Ontario plays an important role under the basket for Tennessee. He averages 7.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game and is often tasked with guarding the toughest players that the Volunteers’ opponents have to offer.
Sixth Man: PF Mfiondu Kabengele (Sophomore); Florida State
Kabengele, NBA Hall-of-Famer Dikembe Mutombo’s nephew, earned the 2019 All-ACC Sixth Man of the Year award and for good reason: The six-foot-ten forward from Burlington, Ontario came off the bench and averaged 12.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. Kabengele has astonishing defensive instincts, and fourth-seed Florida State will rely on his shot-blocking ability as they look to advance out of the West region.