This year’s NCAA Men’s and Women’s tournaments have been nothing short of spectacular, and the drama will kick up a notch over the next four days as both tournaments conclude. From a Canadian perspective, this year’s Madness featured a record number of Canucks, with 25 men and 27 women entering the competition at its starting point two weeks ago. Now as the two tournaments enter their biggest stages and brightest lights, Canada will still be represented, with 1 Canadian on the men’s side and an impressive 4 Canadian women still battling (one left on every team!). In this article, we will detail the remaining Canadians, examine their performances throughout the tournament, and look at how likely they are to make an impact in these final games.
Aaliyah Edwards – #1 UConn
Canadian Aaliyah Edwards spent most of her freshman NCAA season as a prominent bench player, but the Kingston, ON product’s role has increased at the season’s most important time. Edwards has started the last 3 games for the Huskies after guard Nika Muhl went down with injury, and the results have been fantastic. On a dynasty such as UConn, it can be hard to carve out your own space, but Edwards has proven herself these past few weeks as a tournament player who deserves to be starting. Edwards scored 19 points in the second round against Syracuse and 18 points in the Sweet 16 against Iowa. On top of the impressive scoring she’s averaging just about 7 RPG for the tournament alongside 2 APG, proving just how well-rounded her offensive game is, and that’s not even considering the contributions on the defensive end. Moving forward to the Final Four, UConn have to be the favourite once again as they head into their game against Arizona on Friday night, and what’s for certain is that Aaliyah Edwards will factor into the game in a massive way; putting Canadian hoops on the map on the biggest stage of women’s collegiate basketball.
Laeticia Amihere – #1 South Carolina
Sophomore Laeticia Amihere has impressed all season long for the Gamecocks, and she carried her impressive regular season results seamlessly into the tournament. Amihere has been one of the team’s most prominent bench players all year long, and she’s done the same in March Madness with stat lines that look like they could be coming from the starters. South Carolina is an extremely deep team, and so there aren’t always the largest opportunities for bench players, but Amihere has made herself essential, scoring in double figures in three out of their four tournament games thus far. The Mississauga native is averaging 11 PPG, 8 RPG and 1 APG during their run to the NCAA Final Four, and incredibly had 9 blocks in their Elite 8 game against Texas. Moving forward, Amihere will feature largely for the Gamecocks as they look to push past #1 seed Stanford.
Andrew Nembhard – #1 Gonzaga
Andrew Nembhard has been nothing short of spectacular for undefeated Gonzaga this season, and has been a welcome addition to a team that was already one of championship caliber. Nembhard featured in a bench role for most of the season, leading to him winning the WCC 6th Man of the Year Award, but he’s been starting as of late, and has put up great numbers while doing so. Nembhard is a player who’s good enough to start on just about every team in the NCAA tournament, but the competition is fierce when you’re on the best team in the country, and he’s thrived in this situation. Nembhard is averaging just under 9 PPG, 5 APG and 2 RPG in the tournament, while playing terrific defence. The Canadian isn’t just a scorer, he’s a facilitator, and his ability to make good reads off of ball screens has opened up the entire Bulldogs offence. Nembhard will continue to start for 30-0 Gonzaga moving forward as they look to get past UCLA and reach the title game for the second time in school history.
Shaina Pellington – #3 Arizona
The Arizona Wildcats have made an incredible run to the Final Four, and Canadian redshirt Junior Shaina Pellington has been a key role player for the entire journey. Pellington started in a few games early in the season, but for the most part the guard from Pickering, ON has contributed off of the bench for this team, and has had consistent success doing so. Pellington is averaging 5 PPG, 2 APG and 1 RPG in the tournament for Arizona, and has been a key contributor on the defensive end as well. While the numbers may not jump off of the page, Pellington plays her role perfectly amongst a team of players that know how to do exactly that, and that’s the main reason why they’ve had so much postseason success. Moving forward, Arizona will be massive underdogs against UConn on Friday night, in a game where Pellington will certainly find playing time to try and make a difference.
Alyssa Jerome – #1 Stanford
The Stanford Cardinal have been a force to be reckoned with all season, and Canadian forward Alyssa Jerome has been a part of their success. In this her senior season, Jerome has played some valuable minutes off of the bench, and was able to start in a game versus Utah earlier in the year. In this year’s tournament, Jerome has played in 2 of the team’s 4 games, and was able to grab 5 rebounds in the team’s second round win over Utah Valley. Moving forward, Stanford has a legitimate chance to win the entire thing, and it will be interesting to see if the senior Jerome will get the chance to feature in one of the next 2 games should they get past a very tough South Carolina team on Friday night.
Written by Kyle Oliveira