REGENSBURG (David Hein's Eye on the Future) - The birds are chirping a little louder and the buds are coming out. Spring is upon us. Need another sign? Basketball is getting crazy world wide - welcome to March Madness.
A quick search of the rosters of the NCAA Tournament teams shows that 47 of the 64 teams have at least one non-USA or Canada born player or someone who represents another country internationally. That search also found that at least 37 countries - again besides USA and Canada - have players in the March Madness field.
Given time constraints, I cannot guarantee 100 percent that all the players found will even have a chance of getting into action when the NCAA Tournament tips off in earnest later today (Thursday).
Some I caught as Poland for example is not included because Przemek Karnowski is out for Gonzaga with back surgery. And German Kenneth Ogbe hasn’t played since early December for Utah.
Don’t worry, this column will not be a list of every international player or every team with an international on it or even every country represented in the tournament. But it will be a selection of some of the top international stories of this year’s NCAA Tournament.
First off, there are a few pretty high level European players in the field, including Austrian Jakob Poeltl from Utah, Gonzaga's Lithuanian Domas Sabonis, Belgian Thomas Akyazili of Colorado and Greece's US-born Tyler Dorsey from West Regional number one seed Oregon.
And if US President Barack Obama has his way, Ukrainian Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk will win the NCAA Tournament with Kansas.
Serbia seem to be sending more players to the United States and the Balkan giants have a large contingent of players in the tournament with five, topped by USC’s Nikola Jovanovic and Dusan Ristic from Arizona. But even Nikola Rakicevic helped Serbia collect third place at the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championship.
Germany is also seeing a number of youngsters head to the States looking to combine basketball and college. And Deutschland actually has the largest grouping of players with six - not including Ogbe. Basketball fans from the state of Michigan know two of them as Moritz Wagner is with Michigan and Gavin Schilling plays for Michigan State. There is also Dom Uhl with Iowa, Roland Nyama of Stony Brook, Providence's Tyree Chambers and Javon Baumann of St. Joseph’s.
There are also two European players in the tournament who are probably more known at the moment for their brothers in Maryland’s Ivan Bender - older brother to Dragan Bender; and Turkey's Enes Kanter's younger brother Kerem Kanter with Wisconsin-Green Bay. Neither player is expected to play a big role in their teams in the tournament.
One more nice story coming out of Europe is Lis Shoshi from the new federation Kosovo, who is playing a good-sized role with Arkansas Little Rock.
Nigerian fans will be paying special attention to the first game of the tournament as Duke vs UNC-Wilmington means Duke's Sean Obi will be taking on Nigerian compatriot Chuck Ogbodo, who will be looking for one of those upsets which makes March Madness so maddening.
Don't be surprised if basketball fans in Ghana have Connecticut taking on Temple in the Elite Eight of the South Regional in hopes of seeing countrymen Amida Brimah of UConn and Ernest Aflakpui of Temple face off again - like their teams did three times this season including the semi-finals of the American Athletic Conference tournament.