Roll up the tide, boiler up and get that tiger pride revved-up for live NCAA basketball in Toronto, Canada.
Barely a month and a half into the off-season and amidst the flurry of transfer portal and live period recruiting news, teams are starting to release their schedules for the upcoming 2023-24 NCAA season.
In an exciting announcement, the Alabama Crimson Tide will face the Purdue Boilermakers, and the Texas Christian University (TCU) Horned Frogs will take on the Clemson Tigers in NCAA men’s basketball non-conference double-header matchups on Saturday, December 9th, 2023, as part of Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame’s 2023 Hall of Fame Series.
Currently, three of the four teams feature high-impact underclassmen Canadians on their rosters.
The game between Alabama and Purdue could see two of Canada’s premier shot-blockers go at it, as Charles Bediako (Brampton, Ont.) and Zach Edey (Toronto, Ont.) battle for paint supremacy in a big-time homecoming showdown.
The Horned Frogs’ roster also features multi-talented Canadian forward Emanuel Miller (Scarborough, Ont.), who played an integral role in TCU reaching the NCAA tournament for consecutive seasons.
Edey, the 2023 Naismith college player of the year, averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, and 1.5 in 34 games in a historic individual season for the Boilermakers. Bediako finished his sophomore season with averages of 6.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks. Miller contributed 12.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 29 minutes per game.
All three Canadian players have declared for the upcoming 2023 NBA Draft, while maintaining the option of returning to their respective schools by the May 31st NCAA early entry withdrawal deadline.
Under Nate Oats, Alabama has done a solid job recruiting from Canada, landing commitments from Joshua Primo, Ken Ambrose-Hylton in 2020, and Bediako in 2021. Oats took over the Crimson Tide program in 2019 and has amassed a 92-42 record in four seasons.
Meanwhile, Edey is the first Canadian to play at Purdue. Head coach Matt Painter, a former Boilermaker guard turned bench coach, played four seasons with the Boilermakers from 1989-1993. Painter took over the helm in 2005 and has a record of 413 wins and 198 losses in 18 seasons.
Alabama and Purdue both secured the No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament, but their paths diverged dramatically from there. While Alabama breezed through the first two rounds with wins over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Maryland, they ultimately fell to San Diego State in the Sweet 16.
Purdue, on the other hand, suffered a stunning upset in the first round at the hands of Farleigh Dickinson, ending their tournament hopes prematurely.
Overall, the number of NCAA games in Canada continues to grow, and this NCAA non-conference double-header is just the latest example of the growing popularity of NCAA college basketball in Canada.
In 2018, the Vancouver Showcase brought together 12 NCAA basketball teams – four men’s and eight women’s – for the first NCAA men’s and women’s tournament held outside the U.S.
Announced in 2019 by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the James Naismith Classic brought Tennessee, Washington, Buffalo, Harvard, St. Bonaventure and Rutgers to Toronto for a one-day super triple-header at the Scotiabank arena.
Last season, six NCAA Division I teams travelled to Place Bell in Laval for the Northern Classic, including UNC Greensboro, Hofstra, Stephen F. Austin, Quinnipiac, Middle Tennessee State University and Montana State.
The new-look Kentucky Wildcats are scheduled to visit Toronto as part of the 2023 GLOBL Jam event.
With so many high-profile college basketball games and events taking place in Canada, it is clear that the country is quickly becoming a major player in the world of NCAA hoops.