College basketball fans rejoice; March is here and the madness has begun.
From avid fans of the sport, all the way down to the casual viewer, there is no question that March is one of the most exciting, unpredictable, and most wonderful months in all of sport, culminating with the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament.
The NCAA Tournament consists of 68 teams that compete in single elimination games across seven rounds. Buzzer beaters, overtime, upsets and shocks are all expected. Legends will be created and legacies cemented.
The two teams fortunate enough to make it to the final will compete in the National Championship game to crown the new kings of college basketball.
Australia’s presence in both the month of March and the NCAA Tournament is storied. These are some of the best.
Andrew Gaze – Seton Hall Pirates, 1989
Andrew Gaze is one of the most beloved Australian athletes of all time as arguably the greatest Australian to ever step foot onto the hardwood.
In 1989, he made history becoming the first Australian to ever play in a National Championship game, although he wouldn’t be the last. In front of nearly 40,000 fans Gaze’s 31-6 Seton Hall Pirates came up against the 29-7 Michigan Wolverines.
The game was broadcast live throughout Australia, a rarity for a college game in the 80’s, and much like his whole career, the country was behind Gaze. Coming into this championship game Gaze had just dropped 20 points on 50 per cent shooting, leading Seton Hall in scoring and defeating Duke in the Final Four.
Although not his best offensive output finishing with just five points, he was given a more defensive role on Michigan star and eventual fourth overall pick in the 1989 NBA draft, Glen Rice.
After a seesawing affair, regulation couldn’t separate these two teams. The game went into overtime where unfortunately for Gaze, the Wolverines would end up one-point victors 80-79.
Despite only attempting five field goals, Andrew Gaze lost no fans and gained plenty, bringing Australia to the grandest stage in college basketball for the world to see.
Luke Schenscher – Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, 2004
The second and last Australian to ever compete in the NCAA National Championship game was Luke Schenscher for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
It can’t be understated just how important Schenscher was for the Yellow Jackets in their Final Four win that got them to the Championship Game.
Up against Oklahoma State University, Luke not only led his team in scoring with 19 points, but also in rebounds racking up 12. In a game that was only decided by two points, the Yellow Jackets simply don’t make the championship game without the Australian centre’s production.
Sadly for Schenscher and the Yellow Jackets, they would fall to a nine-point defeat at the hands of the University of Connecticut Huskies.
The dominance from the Huskies didn’t stop Luke from having another great game in front of just under 45,000 fans and finishing just one-point shy of another double-double with nine points and 11 rebounds.
More Basketball News
Andrew Bogut – Utah Utes 2005
The 2005 NBA draft saw Andrew Bogut go first overall to the Milwaukee Bucks, and there’s a reason why.
One of the best Australian centres to ever play the game was a dominant force and was on full display in March of 2005. It all started with a Round of 64 victory against the UTEP Miners. Bogut loomed large, pouring in 24 points to go along with 11 rebounds and was even feeling it from deep hitting a couple of three-pointers.
Next up was the Round of 32 matchup against the Oklahoma Sooners. Bogut and the Utes moved past the Sooners with a nine-point victory on the back of a 10 point, 11 rebound double-double from Bogut as well as seven assists from the big man.
The victory also meant that the Utah Utes would be making an appearance in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in seven years.
Matthew Dellavedova – Saint Mary’s Gaels, 2010
The Saint Mary’s Gaels headed into the 2010 NCAA tournament as the 10th seed.
The campaign started with a nine-point victory over the seventh seeded Richmond Spiders where Dellavedova didn’t quite have his best game offensively only managing six points from one field goal attempt, seven rebounds and three assists.
Dellavedova however would come through for his team when they needed him most.
Coming up against the heavily favoured Villanova Wildcats who had already beaten them earlier in the year, Dellavedova found his rhythm with 14 points, four rebounds and two assists as the Gaels would hang tough and grind out a historic 75-68 victory.
With this victory the Saint Mary’s Gaels would move on to the Sweet Sixteen for only the second time in the program’s history.
Peter Hooley – Albany Great Danes, 2015
This entry isn’t so much a performance, but a moment that will live forever in the hearts of everyone.
It’s the America East final and the Great Danes are battling it out with the Stony Brook Seawolves, a team that had beaten the Danes by three points just a month prior. But this was the game that mattered most.
Not only was the America East title up for grabs but also a ticket to the NCAA Tournament. Albany trailed for the entirety of the second half before Peter Hooley would not only etch his name in the history books of college basketball but would cause a worldwide audience to cry tears of joy for the young Australian.
After fighting from behind for most of the game, Albany was within two points of Stony Brook. With 16.9 seconds left on the clock and possession of the ball, Ray Sanders drove into the lane missing a wild shot and the ball was knocked back out to the top of the three-point line landing right into Hooley’s hands.
Despite having not made a single three all night, he didn’t shy away from the moment. He gathered, let it fly and the ball nearly ripped the netting off the hoop, a perfect swish to give Albany a one-point victory.
The Albany fans rushed the court and began to mob Hooley, who was overcome with emotion, dropping to his knees in tears, as his mother had tragically lost her battle with colon cancer recently.
You could only imagine the heartbreak and pain that was felt by Hooley and his family during what was one of the toughest periods of his life.
It’s safe to say his mother was watching over him with a huge smile that night in March of 2015 as he sent the Albany Great Danes through to the NCAA Tournament with an angel by his side.
Subscribe to our newsletter!