Is this Providence or Perth?
When No. 10 seed St. Mary’s plays seventh-seeded Richmond in the South Regional on Thursday, six of the players suiting up will be from the deep, deep south: Australia.
Five Aussies play for the Gaels, who have had a pipeline from Down Under since Adam Caporn came over in 2001. He attracted Daniel Kickert to the program, who helped attract Patty Mills, and the rest followed.
“Mills kind of opened up the flood gates as far as that goes because he’s such a big-name guy all the kids look up to,” said St. Mary’s coach Randy Bennett. “If it was good enough for Pat and Daniel and Caporn, I guess the rest of them thought it was good enough for them.”
Forward Ben Allen said he transferred from Indiana after talking to fellow countryman Lucas Walker while on an Australian basketball tour.
“He was on the St. Mary’s team, just transferred as well,” Allen said, “and he talked to me about transferring. I wasn’t getting much playing time for Indiana, and I thought it would be a better idea for me to go out and get more playing time.”
Allen said he doesn’t know Josh Dunker, the sophomore from Sydney who plays for Richmond.
Crikey, it’s a big country.
FORMER NEIGHBOURS: Villanova coach Jay Wright will be playing a former neighbour when his No. 2 seed Wildcats take on 15th-seeded Robert Morris in the South regional on Thursday.
Colonials coach Mike Rice used to live right down the street in Philadelphia when he was an assistant at Saint Joseph’s from 2004-06. And there’s just a little bad blood there.
“I’m just upset that Mike told a story about me smoking a cigar when I told my wife I wasn’t smoking cigars at my kids’ Little League games,” Wright joked.
Rice took advantage of his time in Philly to build a recruiting base. Robert Morris has four players and three coaches from the city.
“A lot of people don’t go into the city of Philadelphia and recruit, because they say, ‘Oh, you’re never going to get that kid. Oh, you don’t have a connection there,” Rice said. “To be there and to coach there, to really build that relationship is going to be a lasting positive.”
The Colonials also start a player named Dallas Green at forward. But he’s no relation to the former baseball manager who led the Phillies to the World Series title in 1980.
PICKS AND POLITICS: Kansas State guard Jacob Pullen tried to act nonplussed when told President Barack Obama picked the Wildcats to reach the Final Four out of the West Regional.
“I voted for him so he had to vote for us,” Pullen said Wednesday.
Actually, the Wildcats were honoured to be a favourite on the executive bracket. Playing out in the Little Apple, they don’t get much national attention.
“We’re from small Manhattan, Kansas, and we’ve got President Obama watching us, which means we’re doing something big,” said forward Curtis Kelly said.
Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl thinks there might have been a political motivation behind President Obama’s decision to pick his No. 6-seeded Volunteers to advance past No. 11 San Diego State in the first round of the Midwest Regional.
“I think President Obama overwhelmingly carried the State of California,” Pearl said. “He doesn’t need to be concerned there. He didn’t carry Tennessee.”
The president has Tennessee losing in the second round to Georgetown. His Final Four is Kansas, Kansas State, Villanova and Kentucky, and he has Kansas beating Kentucky for the title.
“I think it’s really neat that he’s willing to do the brackets and (tick) half the people off,” Pearl said.
SUNFLOWER LOCKER-ROOM: Here’s an interesting locker room pairing in Oklahoma City: Kansas and Kansas State.
The two in-state rivals aren’t actually in the same room, but they’re right next to each other inside the Ford Center.
Has there been any animosity?
For all the heat of this rivalry, the players actually like each other.
“I don’t know if I’m pulling for them, but they’re good guys,” Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor said. “We have good competition and I love playing with them. I’m rooting for my Big 12 teams, so I guess I can say I hope they do well.”
LOUISIANA APPETITE: There are several reasons why Baylor coach Scott Drew was pleased to open the NCAA tournament in New Orleans – and not all of them have to do with basketball.
The coach’s father, Homer Drew, was an assistant to longtime LSU coach Dale Brown in the 1970s. The younger Drew said he ate his first solid food in Louisiana, “so that’s why I love Cajun food, I guess.”
Drew is also a fan of Louisiana athletes. His starting guards, Tweety Carter and Lacedarius Dunn, are both from the state. Carter grew up near New Orleans, while Dunn is from Monroe. Both went to small Christian high schools and played against each other in the state playoffs.
“We come down here just to eat, so recruiting makes it easy,” Scott said. “There’s a lot of great talent in this state, and we’ll continue to recruit here most definitely.”
Baylor, the No. 3 seed, opens against Sam Houston State on Thursday.
AP Sports Writers Brett Martel in New Orleans and John Marshall in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.