2013 NCAA Tournament: African Players Help Make March Mad

Senegal's Gorgui Dieng will help Louisville try to win another NCAA national championship. (Google Images)

Senegal’s Gorgui Dieng will help Louisville try to win another NCAA national championship. (Google Images)

With the exception of Passover and the Easter holiday, ‘March Madness’ a.k.a. the 2013 NCAA Men’s Division I basketball tournament is quite possibly the most important major event happening over the course of the month of March in the United States. Sixty-eight college basketball teams from a variety of conferences play in the single elimination tournament en route to determining the national champion of college basketball.

‘March Madness’ refers to the time period of the bulk of the tournament over which most of the games are played. The ‘March Madness’ moniker is fitting because anything can happen in the tournament, like smaller or lesser known college basketball programs taking down legendary college sports franchises like Cleveland State over Indiana in 1986; Austin Peay over Illinois in 1987 and Santa Clara over Arizona in 1987; University of Richmond over Syracuse in 1991; Coppin State over South Carolina in 1997; Hampton University over Iowa State in 2001; George Mason over Connecticut in 2006 and Northern Iowa over Kansas in 2010. In this year’s Wichita State, which had already taken down Gonzaga, stunned Ohio State last night, taking their place in the 2013 Final Four, the fifth time a 9th seed has done so since the tournament started seeding in 1979.

This year’s tournament has been no different with shocking losses happening like the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles taking down Georgetown University in the second-round of the championship tournament. Florida Gulf Coast just became a Division I team two years ago and this was their first time playing on the NCAA tournament. They brought down the legendary Georgetown Hoyas, who are actually hosting the tournament, shocking everyone, coaches, players and fans alike.

While the 2013 NCAA men’s Division I basketball tournament is a major sports event in American culture, team players come from all over the country and the world. African players have made a significant contribution to teams that are making it happen in this year’s tournament, which is now down to the Final Four (the last four teams playing for the national championship).

You’ve got Gorgui Dieng (Senegal) Louisville’s 6’11 Junior center averaging 10 points a game, 9.9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. There’s Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon (Nigeria), 6’4 Freshman guard averaging 11.5 points, 3.3 rebs and 2.0 assists. The University of Florida has Will Yeguete (Ivory Coast), the 6’7  Junior who is averaging 5.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Syracuse has Baye Moussa Keita (Senegal), the 6’10 Junior playing center and Wichita State has Ehimen Orukpe (Nigeria), the  7’0 Senior at the center position. Michigan has Eso Akunne, the 6’2 Senior guard from Nigeria. All in all, 54 African players were on the roster for the 2013 NCAA men’s Division I tournament. African players are nothing new to American basketball. Can you say Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigerian), Dikembe Mutombo (Congolese) and the late great Manute Bol (Sudanese/University of Bridgeport)? I know Americans are probably thinking Olden Polynice (UVa), but he’s from Haiti.

This article focuses on players from the continent of Africa, but players of African descent (too many to name) are a major force in the most important sports tournament in college basketball in the United States.

We already know Wichita State and Syracuse have made it to the Final Four. Today, we will learn who their opponents will be as the tournament winds down in terms of teams but ramps up in terms of intensity. Will it be legendary college basketball sports teams Duke, Louisville, Florida or Michigan? One thing is for sure, the road to the 2013 NCCA men’s basketball Division I national championship is paved with players from Africa.

This article was written by Nsenga K. Burton, founder and editor-in-chief of The Burton Wire.

To learn more about basketball players from the African continent, visit The Burton Wire’s Videos of Interest on YouTube.

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