NCAA Men’s Tournament: Best Canadian Round 1 Performances
The first round of this year’s NCAA Tournament provided more than anyone could have asked for. Crazy upsets and dominant individual performances highlighted the first two days of the big dance, as most brackets busted before they even had a chance to get going. From a local perspective, Canada sent an impressive 25 men to the tournament this year, showing on the biggest stage how quickly the sport is growing in this country. In this article, we will delve into the best individual round 1 performances from Canadian talent.
M.A. Moncrieffe F 6’7″ Freshman – #4 Oklahoma State
Even with all of the upsets over Friday and Saturday, many were confident when it came to Oklahoma State’s chances against Liberty. Most of that confidence comes from having the top NBA prospect Cade Cunningham on your side, but the Cowboys are a deep team that can apply pressure on both sides of the ball with weapons beyond just Cade. One of those supporting pieces that can take over is Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe, and he did just that in the first round. Moncrieffe scored 9 points on 4-7 shooting in his 35 minutes of action, contributing with a crucial 9 rebounds as well. Moncrieffe was able to control the glass for his team, and got some really crucial buckets when the offence began to sputter. Moving forward, Oklahoma State has a draw that they can take advantage of, and Moncrieffe will be a big factor in how they play collectively against Oregon State in the second round.
Andrew Nembhard PG 6’5″ Junior – #1 Gonzaga
Whenever a 1 seed goes up against a 16 seeded team in the first round of the tournament, you have the potential for a contest that is essentially decided by halftime, and Gonzaga’s thrashing of Norfolk State was one of those instances. The Bulldogs starting five completely dominated the game, and Canadian Andrew Nembhard was asked to do little once entering. Nembhard played 27 minutes in the blowout and struggled a bit from the field, shooting 1/5 for 4 points. Although the Aurora native couldn’t find his shot, he was able to impact the game in other ways, contributing with 4 rebounds and 5 assists. One of Nembhard’s biggest assets is how versatile he is on offence, and he showed that in this game. Even when Nembhard’s shot isn’t falling, he manages to put his fingerprints all over the game, and Saturday night was a clear instance of that. Moving forward, Gonzaga has a tricky matchup against Oklahoma on Monday; where Nembhard will be looking to continue his playmaking, but add his shot back to his arsenal.
Keeshawn Barthelemy G 6’2″ Freshman – #5 Colorado
When filling out their brackets, the public decided on Georgetown as the biggest chance at an upset, and were proven wrong early Saturday afternoon. The Colorado Buffaloes steamrolled the Hoyas in their first-round matchup, and Canadian Keeshawn Barthelemy played well in the 12 minutes he received. Barthelemy averaged around 11 minutes-a-night in the regular season, but minutes are never guaranteed in a postseason tournament, so it’s important to make the most of them, and that’s exactly what Barthelemy did. The Montreal product scored six points on 1/2 from the field 3/4 at the free-throw line and contributed with 4 assists as well. In a game that was this lopsided, everyone plays a role in helping their squad, and Barthelemy played perfectly within the flow of the game plan and served as a valuable piece off of the bench. With their next game against Florida State destined to be a cagey affair, Barthelemy will look to continue his positive play and gain even more opportunities moving forward.
Aher Uguak F 6’&” Redshirt Senior – #8 Loyola-Chicago
The Loyola-Chicago Ramblers came into this tournament as the #8 seed, but anyone who watches college basketball knows that they should have been seeded much higher. This team can flat out play, and has the right balance between individual performers and team effort. Canadian Aher Uguak has been solid in his role all season, and that continued in their first-round win over Georgia Tech. In an 8-9 matchup the game is typically going to be close, and so it often comes down to what you can get from everyone outside of your star guys, and Uguak provided a spark like he so often does. The numbers may not jump off the page, but the Edmonton native plays hard, and his 4 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists are not completely indicative of how important he was out there. Uguak and so many others on this Ramblers team have a specific role to fill, and if those guys are able to keep coming through when it matters, Loyola-Chicago could be on their way to another long run in March with Sister Jean in attendance.
Maurice Calloo F 6’10” Senior – #12 Oregon State
Even though they entered the tournament as a 12 seed, Oregon State wasn’t highly-picked to upset #5 seed Tennessee in the first round, but that’s exactly what they did. Oregon State played a very poised and composed 40 minutes, and you could see Tennessee begin to panic more and more as the game wore on. Windsor’s Maurice Calloo has carved out a very nice role for himself this season, and he was able to come through when given the opportunity on Friday night. In 12 minutes of action, Calloo took 3 shots, which were all from beyond the arc, and made 2 of them. They came at important parts of the game, and really provided a lift to a Beavers team that was looking to gain a stranglehold. He likely won’t get the most screen time on the roster, but Calloo has a defined role, and a repeat performance of this one would take Oregon State a long way in their second-round matchup against his former team Oklahoma State and star Cade Cunningham.
Written by Kyle Oliveira