EUROPEANS IN THE NCAA
|German international Elias Harris and the Gonzaga Bulldogs went out in the Round of 32 |
By David Hein
Number one seed Gonzaga and the European duo of Elias Harris and Przemyslaw Karnowski were shocked in the Round of 32 by the Wichita State Shockers, who also surprised second-seeded Ohio State in the West Regional final to reach the NCAA Final Four - which will take place without Europeans on any of the semi-final teams.
Three of the eight teams in the Regional finals had Europeans on the squads, but none of their teams advanced to Atlanta, where the Final Four will see Louisville take on Wichita State and Michigan play Syracuse on 6 April and the champion crowned on 8 April.
Michigan's victory over Florida in the South Regional final kept two of the stronger Europeans from reaching the Final Four as Frenchman Will Yeguete averaged 6.3 points, 6 rebounds and 1 steal in the Gators' four games. Erik Murphy, who holds a Finnish passport and is reportedly being courted to play for Finland at EuroBasket 2013, averaged 9.3 points, 6 rebounds and 1.2 assists.
After a combined 33 points in the first two games, Murphy slumped to 2-18 shooting and just four points in the last two contests though he helped his team in other ways, including eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks in the quarter-final loss against Michigan.
Murphy's younger brother Alex Murphy, who starred for Finland at the 2012 U20 European Championship Division B, just missed his chance for the Final Four as Duke lost 85-63 against Louisville in the Midwest Regional final. Murphy did not play a big role in Duke's push to the Elite Eight, playing just one minute in each of Duke's first two games against Albany and Creighton.
Wichita State took out another European in beating Ohio State and Italian freshman Amedeo Della Valle, who played six minutes and had two points in the Buckeyes' blowout win against Iona in the Round of 64.
The Shockers' first shock came in the Round of 32 when the ninth seed knocked off West Regional top seed Gonzaga with German star Harris and Polish backup center Karnowski. Harris struggled shooting in the tournament, making just 4-of-18 shots in two games for 17 total points to go with 7.5 rebounds per game. Karnowski picked up two points and three rebounds in four minutes of Gonzaga's opening win over Southern.
The biggest upset specialists were Florida Gulf Coast (FGCU), who stunned second-seeded Georgetown in the opening round in the South Regional and then beat San Diego State to become the first 15th-seeded team to reach the Sweet 16. The Eagles, who joked that they were from "Dunk City", saw their Cinderella run stopped by the University of Florida Gators.
FGCU's team includes a trio of Europeans in Switzerland's Christophe Varidel, Filip Cvjeticanin of Croatia and German Alexander Blessig. Blessig did not play in the NCAA tournament while Cvjeticanin had zero points in 12 minutes over the three games with one rebound. Varidel played just six minutes and had zero points against Georgetown but then collected 11 and 10 points against San Diego State and Florida, respectively.
One of the top Europeans in the tournament was Bandja Sy of New Mexico State as the Frenchman collected 17 points, 9 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 assist and 1 block in the Aggies' opening round loss to Saint Louis while teammate Remi Barry of France had six points and five rebounds and Croatian Matej Buovac went scoreless in two minutes.
|Christopher Czerapowicz and his team Davidson suffered a narrow defeat to Marquette|
One European nearly helped his team to a big upset with Swede Christopher Czerapowicz struggling on 2-of-9 shooting but collecting five points, two rebounds, one assist and one block as No. 14 seed Davidson nearly knocked off third-seeded and eventual quarter-finalists Marquette 59-58 in the opening round.
Minnesota and Oto Osenieks reached the second round as the Latvian picked up two points, one rebound and one assist in 19 minutes in the Golden Gophers' opening round win over UCLA and then went scoreless in six minutes in the Round of 32 defeat against Florida.
England's Teddy Okereafor also reached the Round of 32 with Virginia Commonwealth (VCU) as he collected two points, three assists and two steals in 18 minutes against Akron and then one rebound in two minutes in VCU's loss against Michigan.
A number of Europeans went out at the Round of 64 stage, including Latvian Aleksejs Rostovs (11 points, two rebounds, one steal) and Turkey's Kevin Kaspar (zero points, six minutes) of Western Kentucky (lost against Kansas); France's Amath M'Baye's (eight points and four rebounds) from Oklahoma (lost to San Diego State); and Kevin van Wijk of the Netherlands (two points, seven rebounds) for Valparaiso (losers to Michigan State).
A couple of Europeans did not play in their teams' Round of 64 losses, including Croatian Mislav Brzoja of Villanova and Belgian Thomas De Thaey of North Carolina State; also Poland's Tomasz Gielo went scoreless with five rebounds and one block as Liberty lost in the play-in game against North Carolina A&T.