The second weekend of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament kicks off Thursday, with a quintet of Canadian-born players left in the Sweet 16.
From Pac-12 Player of the Year Bennedict Mathurin to role players like Andrew Nembhard (Gonzaga) and Caleb Houstan (Michigan) — Canadian players should be on center stage as the Big Dance reaches its denouement.
The Canadian influence in the tournament may give those interested in Ontario sports betting a little extra reason to make a wager.
Betting is currently only available at PROLINE+. But that will change when iGaming in Ontario launches, which is expected on April 4.
Here’s a rundown of the players from the Great White North to keep an eye on during the Sweet 16 contests on Thursday and Friday.
NCAA Men’s Basketball Title Odds
|🏀 Gonzaga (Andrew Nembhard)||+230|
|🏀 Arizona (Bennedict Mathurin)||+500|
|🏀 Purdue (Zach Edey)||+230|
|🏀 Michigan (Caleb Houstan)||+5000|
|🏀 Providence (Matteus Case)||+5000|
Bennedict Mathurin, Arizona
Few if any Canadian players have had more of an impact on their respective teams than University of Arizona sophomore Bennedict Mathurin.
The Montreal native captured the Pac-12 Conference’s Player of the Year Award in 2021-22, thanks in large part to his deft shooting touch. He led the Wildcats in points per game (17.8), while shooting 45.5% from the floor.
Mathurin’s dynamic performance on both ends of the court spurred Arizona to a 31-3 record entering March Madness, earning the Wildcats their first No. 1 seed in eight years.
The sophomore is a big part of why Arizona is currently among the 2022 NCAA title frontrunners, with the Wildcats sitting at No. 3 overall on multiple mobile sportsbooks — odds ranging from +500 (BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook, and DraftKings Sportsbook) to +600 (FanDuel Sportsbook).
Mathurin and the Wildcats are currently two-point favorites against Houston in the program’s 20th Sweet 16 appearance, in a game that tips off at 9:59 p.m. Eastern time Thursday.
Andrew Nembhard, Gonzaga
One of the key players for the top overall seed in the tournament hails from Aurora, Ontario.
The senior guard has put up 12 points per game this season to go with 5.8 assists and 3.3 rebounds for the Bulldogs and is coming off a 23-point effort in Gonzaga’s 82-78 win over Memphis in the tournament’s second round on Saturday night.
The fourth-year guard is averaging career highs in all three of the aforementioned statistical categories, to go with a high of 86.8% shooting from the free throw line and 38.5% from 3-point land.
Nembhard is also shooting 46.2% from the floor this season, the second-best percentage of his college career.
The Bulldogs currently have the best NCAA title odds on four major online sportsbooks, ranging from +200 on DraftKings Sportsbook to +240 on FanDuel Sportsbook.
The senior Ontario native will join his Gonzaga teammates against Arkansas in their Sweet 16 showdown, tipping off at 7:09 p.m. Eastern time Thursday.
Caleb Houstan, Michigan
The freshman forward from Mississauga has been one of the surprise elements of coach Juwan Howard’s Michigan team this year.
The 6-foot-8 freshman has averaged 10.2 points per game to go with 4.0 rebounds and figures to feature prominently in the team’s attack as the Wolverines go for a berth in the Elite Eight.
Houstan scored 13 points in Michigan’s 75-63 opening round win over Colorado State, but struggled against Tennessee in Saturday’s second round, going scoreless in 32 minutes in the team’s 76-68 victory.
The freshman will look to assert himself more on the offensive end in the Wolverines' Sweet 16 showdown with second-seeded Villanova in a game that tips off at 7:29 p.m. Eastern time Thursday.
As for the Wolverines NCAA title odds, Michigan currently sits at +5000 on BetMGM and Caesars Sportsbook.
DraftKings Sportsbook has the Wolverines at +6000, while FanDuel Sportsbook has Michigan at +6500.
Zach Edey, Purdue
The 7-foot-4 big man from Toronto has been a one-man tour de force in the paint for the Purdue Boilermakers this year, setting the team up for its Sweet 16 matchup with No. 15 seed St. Peter’s on Friday.
The sophomore center averaged 14.5 points per game to go with 7.9 rebounds and 64.7% shooting, nearly doubling his totals from a year ago (8.7 points and 4.4 rebounds).
Edey has seemingly saved his best for last, scoring in double figures in each of Purdue’s last five games, including 27 points in 35 combined minutes during the team’s wins over Yale (78-56) and Texas (81-71) during the tournament.
The Boilermakers will look to advance to the Elite Eight at 7:09 p.m. Friday against the Peacocks, with Purdue currently sitting at +800 to win the title on FanDuel, +900 on BetMGM and DraftKings Sportsbook, and +1000 on Caesars Sportsbook.
Matteus Case, Providence
Case has the longest shot of the Canadian quintet to hoist the hardware in New Orleans next month, as the Friars look to knock off top seeded Kansas on Friday.
The Pickering, Ontario, native has sparingly been used by Friars coach Ed Cooley this season, appearing in four games and averaging 1.0 points per game for Providence.
The Friars will look to advance to the Elite Eight at 7:29 p.m. Eastern time Friday against the Jayhawks.
The freshman played one minute against Richmond during Providence’s 79-51 win in Saturday’s second round of the tournament, representing his first game action since Jan. 1.
Providence currently has +5000 odds of winning the 2022 NCAA title on BetMGM and Caesars Sportsbook, +7000 odds at DraftKings Sportsbook, and +7500 championship odds on FanDuel Sportsbook.