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NCAA Tournament Tidbits on Opening Day


March Madmen all over the globe are about to become one with their favorite sporting event. A quick look at some NCAA Tournament tidbits with quotes spiced in from press conferences:

Eight New Mexico State players, including its top five scorers, were born outside the United States. The Aggies feature four players from Canada, two from France, one from Croatia and and one from South Africa.

New Mexico State not only has the most international team in the tournament, it also has the tallest player. Sim Bhullar, a freshman from Toronto, is a 7-foot-5, 355-pound starting center for the Aggies. Bhullar averages 10.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 24.3 minutes per game.

“I think he changes the whole game for us and other teams as well because a lot of teams are not used to seeing that (much size) in there,” teammate Daniel Mullings said. “And while guys are driving in he’s just a big force, just blocking everything and altering shots. So it’s a great advantage for us having him inside.”

St. Louis junior Rob Loe is the biggest player in most games he plays, but he’ll be giving up six inches and 110 pounds to Bhullar.

*Michigan starters Tim Hardaway Jr., Glenn Robinson III and reserve Jon Horford all are sons of former NBA players.

“Purely coincidence, but we feel really good about it because you know their dads do know basketball,” Wolverines coach John Beilein said.

*One of the better individual tourney matchups pits Michigan’s Trey Burke and South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters, two of the nation’s top point guards, on each other.

“We’ll have Nate on Trey,” South Dakota State coach Scott Nagy said. “I don’t know what they’ll do. ... And I’ve said this before, Nate is a tremendous defender, but we’ve relied on him so much to play 40 minutes and to handle a basketball that I think sometimes people don’t get to see how good a defender he is."

*Bryce Drew is the third member of his family to serve as head coach at Valparaiso University, which faces Michigan State today. His father, Homer Drew, coached the Crusaders for 22 seasons. Bryce’s brother, Scott, was head coach for one year and is in his 10th season at Baylor. Bryce is in his second season as head coach at Valpo. He played six seasons in the NBA after hitting one of the most famous shots in recent NCAA Tournament history. Drew hit a 23-foot buzzer-beater to score an upset of Ole Miss in the first round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament. He said he enjoys watching replays of the shot but never brings it up to recruits.

“I think the last thing that players want to hear is a coach talk about himself or what he’s done,” Drew said.

*At times, it looks as if a rebound or pass sneaks up on Marquette center Chris Otule, catches him by surprise, and he drops it. The temptation is to downgrade his hands when that happens, but it’s actually not the case. Otule wears goggles when he plays to protect his right eye. His left eye is artificial.

“I guess you could call it glaucoma,” Otule told the Milwakuee Journal-Sentinel. “I was born with one ye, actually, and the other one wasn’t full developed. So I had to get an artificial eye, since I was 1 or 2. And every time I grew out of it, I had to go back to the doctor and they’d make a new one.”

Otule, who splits time with more gifted offensive center Davante Gardner, had one of his better games, last season against UConn, the day he met Charlie Krauss, a 2-year-old boy from the Milwaukee area who lost his left eye to a congenital disorder known as Coats’ disease.

“It felt so good holding him, knowing that he’s going through the same thing I went through and that he looks up to me,” Otule told the Journal-Sentinel. “It helped motivate me more in that game, and for the rest of my life, to play for people like him.”

*Three factors contribute greatly to No. 14 seed Davidson becoming such a popular upset pick against third-seeded Marquette: 1. Davidson has won 17 in a row; 2. The Wildcats lead the nation in free-throw shooting, making 80.1 percent; 3. Forward Clint Mann, out since mid-January with an injury, is expected to play.

Not only that, Davidson has all 80 points back this season from the team that scored an 80-74 upset victory against Kansas on Dec. 19, 2011 in Sprint Center.

*If Josh Pastner ever leaves Memphis for another college job, he left himself open for an obvious question at his introductory news conference by saying, “I think our fan base is the best fan base in the entire country, hands down, and that’s not just coach-speak.” The question: How would you compare the fan base of your new school to that of your last one?


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