The 2017 NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball championship tournament, one of the most popular annual sporting events in the United States, has reached the Final Four stage with some talented international big men in the spotlight at University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona.
Gonzaga will go against South Carolina in the first semifinal April 1, in a match-up of schools making their Final Four debuts. Each team features five international players on its roster. “The Bulldogs” of Gonzaga have players from Canada, Denmark, France, Japan and Poland.
Polish center Przemek Karnowski, 7’1″ and 300 lbs., is the biggest of the bunch. The senior has won 136 games during his career at Gonzaga, the most wins for any player in NCAA history, and he’s expected to be a top pick in the 2017 National Basketball Association Draft.
The bearded Karnowski is also a Gonzaga fan favorite. During the team’s 83-to-59 victory over Xavier March 25th, supporters of “The Zags” could be seen in the stands in San Jose, California, wearing imitation beards in honor of the big Pole.
“The Gamecocks” of South Carolina have players from Australia, Canada, Estonia, Gabon and Senegal.
Gabonese forward Chris Silva, a 6’9″ sophomore, and the Estonian Maik Kotsar, a 6’10” freshman, both played key roles in South Carolina’s 77-to-70 victory March 26th over Southeastern Conference rival Florida. Silva scored 13 points and had a game-high nine rebounds, while Kotsar tallied 12 points.
In the second semifinal April 1, Oregon will play North Carolina. “The Ducks” of Oregon are in the Final Four for the first time since 1939, when they won the first NCAA national championship tournament.
“The Tar Heels” of North Carolina are bidding for their sixth national title, after losing the 2016 final in heartbreaking fashion to Villanova in Houston, Texas. Villanova’s Kris Jenkins made a buzzer-beating, championship-winning, three-point shot as Villanova defeated North Carolina, 77-to-74.
North Carolina has no international players on its roster, but Oregon has five – three from Canada, one from England and one from Israel.