March Madness is officially here! All eyes will be focused on the NCAA Tournament and the action that will determine which school walks away as the National Champion. However, the focus is also on the standout players who will make the biggest impact for their teams.
What some may not know is that there are a few collegiate standouts from north of the border who will make a huge difference for their teams this March.
Let’s take a closer look at five of the top Canadian players playing in the tournament this year.
Zach Edey, C, Purdue
You can’t mention impact players from anywhere in the tournament, let alone simply in Canada, without mentioning Edey. Purdue finished as one of the coveted number-one seeds in this year’s tournament bracket and a large part of that has to do with Edey.
The Boilermakers are +1100 – one of the favourites – to win the tournament this year and will enter their first-round matchup with the winner of Texas Southern/FDU as a massive favourite, although odds won’t be posted until the conclusion of the Final Four matchup.
Edey has been as good as they come for one of the top teams in the country. A native of Toronto, the 20-year-old has been one of the most dominant big men in the NCAA over the last two seasons. He had high expectations coming into the year, taking second-team All-Big Ten honours last year.
The 2022-23 season has been one full of milestones and accolades for Edey. He became the 11th player in Purdue program history to hit 100 career blocks. He also hit 1,000 career points, the 55th in school history to reach the feat. He also tied the school record for most Big Ten Player of the Week honours (six) while also moving to second all-time in the Big Ten in that category, tying Evan Turner.
Edey took home major awards for his work during the 2023 season. He was named First-team All-Big Ten as well as first-team All-American. If that weren’t enough, he was named Big Ten Player of the Year as well as SN Player of the Year. He will be a force for Purdue and a major factor in determining how far they go this March.
Marcus Carr, PG, Texas
Texas has been near the top of a very competitive Big 12 Conference this season and Carr has been a driving force. The transfer from Minnesota has been an impact player for a Longhorns group that has reached second-seed status in the tournament.
The Longhorns are +1600 to win it all and enter as -13.5 favourites (-1200 on the moneyline) against 15-seed Colgate in the first round.
Texas enters the tournament with all the momentum in the world. It’s coming off of a dominant win in the Big 12 Conference Tournament finale, winning 76-56 over top-seed Kansas en route to its second conference championship in three years.
Carr, who hails from Toronto, had a pair of successful seasons at Minnesota before transferring to Texas prior to the 2021-22 season. The fifth-year senior was a strong player last season, but he’s taken his game up a notch for Texas this year. He went from averaging 11.3 points per game last year to 15.8 points per game this year, a big jump and a huge reason why Texas is successful.
Carr made an improvement in nearly every major statistical category. He saw an increase in minutes, three-pointers made, three-point percentage, free throws made, free-throw percentage, rebounds, assists, and steals per game while cutting down his turnovers per game. He led Texas in points, assists, and steals throughout the season as well.
Though he may not be the most dominant player on the floor at any given time, there is little doubt that Carr is a key contributor for Texas.
Olivier-Maxence Prosper, F, Marquette
The future may be bright for both Marquette and Prosper, both in the NCAA Tournament and beyond. Marquette enters the tournament somewhere in the middle of the pack at +2500 at online sportsbooks to win the entire thing, though it’s -10.5 (-650 moneyline) to defeat 15-seed Vermont in the first round.
Marquette is coming off of a Big East Conference Tournament victory, defeating Xavier in the final, 65-61, to enter the tournament as a two-seed. Though much of the focus on Marquette goes to Oso Ighodaro and Tyler Kolek, don’t sleep on the contributions of Prosper.
A big power forward with NBA potential – he’s projected as a second-round pick currently – Prosper has made a difference from all over the floor. The 20-year-old sophomore from Montreal is still a little rough around the edges but, at 6-foot-8 and 230 pounds, has the potential to dominate.
Though he has no individual accolades to speak of on the court, Prosper has been honoured as part of the Big East All-Academic team. He shows smarts on and off the court, posting over 12 points per game, nearly three rebounds per game, and showing that he can be effective on the defensive side of the ball.
For teams to make a run deep into the NCAA Tournament, there needs to be more than one standout. Marquette is fortunate to have more than a few solid players on its team, with Prosper being near the top of the list. He’s going to be an impact two-way player for Marquette.
Emanuel Miller, SF, TCU
It has been a good year for the Horned Frogs, who saw their football team play for the collegiate national championship in January and will now see their basketball team head to the NCAA Tournament. As a six-seed, the Frogs are coming in with something to prove and hope to have a deep run.
In the Big 12 Conference Tournament, the purple and black attack ran up against a strong Texas team in the semifinals. There, they lost to the favoured Longhorns, 66-60, ending their bid to walk away with a conference championship. Still, they are likely favoured against either Arizona State or Nevada in the first round, though they are somewhat longshots to win it all at +3500.
If you look at the leaders on the stat sheet for TCU, you’ll will find Miller’s name everywhere. The 2024 NBA Draft hopeful has been a complete player this season. Averaging nearly 30 minutes per game, he’s in the top five on the team in points (third), rebounds (first), assists (fourth), blocks (second), and steals (fifth).
The Scarborough native averages more than 12 points per game, but his real value comes on the defensive end of the floor. Miller averages 6.6 rebounds and nearly a block and steal per game while playing tough minutes for TCU.
The Big 12 Conference was loaded this season and TCU managed to find its way even among the big boys. Miller will be a crucial part of any NCAA Tournament success that the Frogs have and his defensive presence will be welcome against superior competition.
Ryan Nembhard, PG, Creighton
Creighton, a six-seed in the NCAA Tournament, is a bit of a lost name in the Big East Conference. While much of the national media attention goes to teams like Xavier and Marquette, Creighton has proven itself a tough team to play against this season. It was hoping to sneak in under the radar and claim the Big East crown, but ran into a buzzsaw in Xavier in the semifinals, losing 82-60.
Creighton is a longshot to win the whole thing at +4000 but is a sizable favourite in its first-round matchup with North Carolina State at -220 on the moneyline. The success of Creighton will depend heavily on the likes of Nembhard, who is looking to do his hometown of Vaughan proud.
A sophomore, Nembhard has seen a marked improvement over his freshman campaign from a year ago. His impact on Creighton cannot be disputed as he led the team in minutes and finished in the top five in points, rebounds, assists, and steals for the Bluejays. He’s truly an impact player in all facets of the game.
Creighton has a balanced attack with scoring coming from all over the floor, evidenced by Nembhard tying for fourth on the team with 11.9 points per game. If anything, Nembhard has shown to be a distributor, leading the team in assists at 4.9 per game. He’s a true dual-threat with his scoring and passing ability.
Nembhard, whose older brother, Andrew, plays for the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, is one of the younger Canadian-born players in the tournament and this could be his chance to announce his presence on the big stage.