The NCAA Tournament is here. For the first time in four years, Minnesota fans have a reason to be excited other than watching local players on other teams.
The Gophers are in as a No. 5 seed, and they’re playing No. 12 seed Middle Tennessee State Thursday afternoon in Milwaukee, Wis. It’s easy to forget that even on the Gophers, there are seven hometown products on the roster.
We all know freshmen Amir Coffey of Hopkins and Michael Hurt of Rochester since they’ve both played this year. There’s also Reggie Lynch of Edina, this year’s Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. He paid his dues sitting out after transferring back home from Illinois State, and is now excelling for the hometown team he’s always wanted to play for.
But there’s three other Minnesota natives on the squad who contribute mostly in practice and don’t see much court time. They are walk-ons Brady Rudrud of Eden Prairie and Stephon Sharp of Hopkins, and Darin Haugh of Prior Lake. And don’t forget Jarvis Johnson of DeLaSalle, who isn’t cleared medically to play due to a heart condition.
There are several other Minnesota natives playing for other schools that will be a part of March Madness. Here’s a sample.
Bjorn and Anders Broman – Winthrop
The Broman brothers were two of the top scorers in Minnesota history during their time at Lakeview Christian Academy in Duluth. They’re now both at Winthrop, which faces Butler Thursday afternoon in Milwaukee, Wis. If Winthrop wins, they would face the Minnesota/Middle Tennessee State winner on Saturday. Anders Broman has played all 32 games this season for Winthrop with six starts. He’s averaging 8.3 points per game. Bjorn Broman has started 29 of 32 games and is averaging 5.5 points per game.
Ian Theisen and Andre Wallace – South Dakota State
South Dakota State has a tall task Thursday when it faces No. 1 seed Gonzaga in the West Region, and they’ve got two Minnesotans on the roster. Ian Theisen of Osseo has played in 27 games with five starts, and is averaging about five points per game. Andre Wallace was a standout at Eden Prairie in high school and has played in 25 games with six starts. He’s averaging 4.9 points per game.
Ben Oberfield – Bucknell
The Bucknell Bison will be looking to pull the upset Thursday as the No. 13 seed when they face No. 4 seed West Virginia. Ben Oberfield of Eagan played at Eastview and is a senior at Bucknell. He’s played in one game this season.
Marcus Marshall – Nevada
Marcus Marshall spent his high school days at St. Paul Johnson, and now he’s a senior guard for the Wolfpack. Nevada is a No. 12 seed and takes on No. 5 seed Iowa State on Thursday. Marshall is their leading scorer at 19.8 points per game and has started all 34 games.
Zach Lofton – Texas Southern
Zach Lofton took a roundabout way to get there, but he’s now in the NCAA Tournament with Texas Southern. He starred at Columbia Heights and had a brief college stint at Minnesota. He was recruited by Richard Pitino before being removed from the team for off the court reasons. The Tigers have a huge challenge as a No. 16 seed, taking on No. 1 seed North Carolina on Friday. Lofton leads Texas Southern in scoring at 17 points per game and has started 30 of 34 games at guard.
Carson Shanks and Quinton Hooker – North Dakota
North Dakota won the Big Sky Conference title and is a No. 15 seed, taking on No. 2 seed Arizona on Thursday. The Fighting Hawks have five Minnesotans on the roster. They include Geno Crandall and Josh Collins on DeLaSalle, Carson Shanks of Prior Lake, Quinton Hooker of Park Center and Devon Pekas of Hawley. Hooker leads North Dakota in scoring at 19 points per game, and Crandall is second with 15.6 points per game. Shanks plays about 12 minutes per game and is scoring just more than five points per contest.
Kyle Washington (Benilde) – Cincinnati
Kyle Washington was a standout player at Benilde-St. Margaret’s and started college at N.C. State before transferring to Cincinnati. The Bearcats are a No. 6 seed and face the winner of Tuesday’s Wake Forest/Kansas State play-in game on Friday. Washington is their second-leading scorer at 13.1 points per game and averages nearly seven rebounds per game. He’s started all but one game.
JP Macura – Xavier
J.P. Macura led Lakeville North to a state championship and is now a junior guard at Xavier. The Musketeers went from having a potential top seed to being on the bubble on Selection Sunday. They’re a No. 11 seed and face No. 6 seed Maryland. Macura has started all 33 games this year and is Xavier’s second-leading scorer at 14.3 points per game. He’s shooting 33 percent from three-point range for the season.
Sanjay Lumpkin – Northwestern
Northwestern is the feel-good story of the Big Dance, Making its first NCAA Tournament appearance in school history. The Wildcats are a No. 8 seed and will face No. 9 seed Vanderbilt, and feature a Benilde-St. Margaret’s graduate in Sanjay Lumpkin. He has started all 34 games and is scoring about six points per game and more than five rebounds.
Isaiah Zierden – Creighton
Creighton is a No. 6 seed for the Big Dance and faces No. 11 seed Rhode Island. He was a teammate of Sanjay Lumpkin at Benilde, and is now a senior guard for the Bluejays. He’s played in all 34 games with four starts, and is averaging five points per game.
Alex Illikainen – Wisconsin
Alex Illikainen was a star post player at Grand Rapids before leaving for his final prep year at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire. He was a coveted recruit for the Gophers, but signed with Wisconsin where he’s in his freshman season. He’s appeared in 25 games with no starts, and is averaging about eight minutes per game and 1.4 points. Wisconsin is a No. 8 seed and faces No. 9 seed Virginia Tech.
So if you’re looking to track the Minnesota players in the NCAA Tournament besides those on the Gophers, there’s a list to follow. Get your favorite snack, favorite beverage and enjoy the games.