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(Mike Groll)
(Mike Groll)

Michael Grange

A question for the hoop heads Add to ...

So a good trip to Buffalo for some NCAEh (and no, that's not original) basketball.

Normally, I'm not one to get caught up in March Madness; primarily because I find NCAA sports a bag of hype bundled in sanctimonious crap peddled by profit-hungry broadcasters enabled by corrupt schools and coaches who trade in flesh for money while never admitting so.

I like pro basketball where it's quite plain: We're trading flesh for money.

I prefer transparency, I guess is what I'm saying.

Normally at this time of year I try to take in the CIS Final 8, but this year, with all the Canadians in Buffalo in the NCAAs, it made for a unique situation and worthy of the trip.

So, my bias aside, here's a question for you Canadian hoop heads out there: Was Sunday's game between Gonzaga and Syracuse the most significant Canadian Div I moment ever? Help me out here.

You have two Canadians - Andy Rautins and Kris Joseph - starting for a No. 1 seed in Syracuse in a second-round NCAA tournament game against a No. 8 seed featuring a Canadian (Vancouver's Robert Sacre) starting at centre as a sophomore with two other Canadians - Kelly Olynyk and Bol Kong as the first and second players off the bench as a freshman and a sophomore respectively. Another freshman, Manny Arop, would also be in the rotation were it not for an injury.

So three starters and five (six with Arop) rotation players in a single game for the right to go to the Sweet 16, with three of the six all playing - to varying degrees - outstanding games (Rautins was nothing short of exceptional; Sacre was very good and Joseph also stood out as a role player).

Has that happened before? Does that kind of showing outweigh Steve Nash engineering an upset of Arizona as a freshman at Santa Clara? Or Jamaal Magloire starting the NCAA championship game as a sophomore at Kentucky?

Totally open on this; my memory is bad, so if I'm missing something let me know, but I actually did think it pretty significant.

Guys have been going south for years, but more have been spit out than have thrived. But if I'm not mistaken there's some momentum building in terms of the volume of talent playing significant roles and the best may be yet to come with respect to the likes of Cory Joseph, Tristan Thompson, Dwight Powell, Myck Kabongo, Kevin Pangos and others. Olu Ashaolu and Andrew Nicholson had excellent seasons as sophomores at schools that didn't make the tournament but are on the rise. (Ashaolu 18 and 10 for Louisiana Tech playing in the CIT tournament, something he's not even sure about)

It will be interesting to watch.

And no, this does not mean I'm advocating more kids heading south is better. My only bias is that if you're going to go, make sure you go where you can thrive on and off the court. You want to see people do well for themselves. There's nothing more disappointing that seeing Canadian kids sitting on the bench or playing minimal roles or bouncing around from school to school for whatever reason.

There are so many places in Canada where you can play great basketball for an excellent coach and build your game while getting a degree that matters.

It's impossible that there are too many basketball coaches in the U.S. that run better programs than Kevin Hanson at UBC or Dave Smart at Carleton just to name two. Neither of them won a title this past weekend in Ottawa - and congratulations to Greg Jockims and the University of Saskatchewan who did - but increasingly it's clear you can play in Canada; play a pretty competitive schedule (particularly with schools playing more NCAA teams in the pre-season) and increasingly get some scholarship money to do it.

I'm not in favour of one route or the other. You just want kids to end up in good places for them and if basketball is their passion that they leverage it to create the best opportunities possible for themselves in the future.

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