March Madness: Minimum 20 Kiwis Involved in Championships

There is a huge amount of Kiwi interest as March Madness continues to unfold over the next couple of weeks. Here’s a complete run down of the fixtures from the Men’s and Women’s NCAA Division I Championships, the Men’s and Women’s Division I National Invitation Tournaments and the Men’s and Women’s Junior College National Championships. No fewer than 20 Kiwis are involved.


First we take a look at the NCAA Division II Women’s Championship, which began last week.

Ella Bradley and Hannah Wentworth and their respective colleges made it all the way to the Sweet Sixteen for the very first time, emerging from this tourney with contrasting fortunes.

While Wentworth and Eckerd College lost 76-53 to #3 ranked Tampa University, Bradley and her University of Texas at Tyler team emerged victorious from a titanic struggle against Lubbock Christian – registering a 67-64 double-overtime victory.

Bradley, a multiple championship winner with Waikato and St Peter’s School Cambridge, filled the stat-line as she played 47 out of the possible 50 minutes of the game. She tallied 4 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals as the Patriots booked an Elite Eight berth for next Tuesday.

Following her 23 points haul in the last round, Wentworth scored 14 points in Eckerd’s loss. Hitting 4-9 from downtown, the former Harbour guard finished with 99 made threes for the season – an Eckerd programme-best and just one shy of tying the Sunshine State Conference single-season record.


Upcoming Fixtures (date are in US time):


Men’s NCAA Division I National Championship

Virginia return to the championships for the ninth time in Tony Bennett’s tenure as head coach while Marquette, the Big East Conference champions, will be making their second consecutive appearance and 35th overall.

> March 16: University of Virginia (Taine Murray) v Furman

> March 17: Marquette University (Ben Gold) v Vermont


Women’s NCAA Division I National Championship

First time Pac 12 champions, Washington State will be making their third consecutive (and fourth overall) visit to the National Champs while Portland, the West Coast Conference Tournament winners will be making their sixth appearance.

Colorado heads back to the Big Dance for a second consecutive year after a third place finish in the Pac 12 regular season.

> March 18: Washington State University (Charlisse Leger-Walker) v Florida Gulf Coast

> March 18: University of Portland (Emme Shearer, Melika Samia & Florence Dallow) v Oklahoma

> March 18: University of Colorado (Charlotte Whittaker) v Middle Tennessee


Men’s NCAA Division I National Invitation Tournament

The NIT is the second-tier tournament that features teams that do not receive a berth at the Division I National Championships. Akiva McBirney-Griffin is the sole Kiwi representative in the 2023 tournament.

> March 15: University of California Irvine (Akiva McBirney-Griffin) v Oregon


Women’s NCAA Division I National Invitation Tournament

A record six Kiwis are competing in the Women’s NIT in the 2023 tournament.

> March 16: Southern Methodist University (Ella Brow) v Little Rock

> March 16: Wofford College (Helen Matthews) v Florida

> March 16: Colorado State University (Jess Moors) v Northern Iowa

> March 17: University of California Irvine (Olivia Williams) v Oregon

> March 17: Brigham Young University (Kaylee Smiler & Arielle Mackey-Williams) v Rice


Men’s National Championship I Wheelchair Baksetball

Wheelchair basketball athlete – and Manawatu native – Luke McDowell is set to compete at the US National tournament for his second-ranked University of Alabama team.

Last year McDowell became the first ever Kiwi to secure a roster position at an American university to play wheelchair basketball, and this will be the second straight year the Alabama Roll Tide have progressed to the National Championships.

> March 16: University of Alabama Roll Tide (Luke McDowell) v TBC


Women’s NJCAA (Junior College) National Championship

All three teams with Kiwi representation received at large invitations being top-20 ranked teams.

> March 22: Collin College (Waiata Jennings) v Cochise

> March 22: Dodge City Community College (Leah and Jenna Rose Mafua) v New Mexico

> March 22: Eastern Arizona (Alana Paewai) v North Dakota State College of Science


Men’s NJCAA (Junior College) National Championship

Trinidad State and Midland College gained automatic entry following Regional Championship success.

> March 20: Trinidad State College (Finn Lally) v Tallahassee

> March 21: Midland College (Ollie Hayward)  v TBC