A few years ago the St. Mary's Gaels became the tournament darlings when they unexpectedly advanced to the Sweet 16. Since there is a week delay between the opening rounds and the Sweet 16, the media has a chance to explore all of the angles. And what became public knowledge was how much the Gaels were leaning on Australian players. But when you play in a high school sized gym and have one of the smallest athletic budgets in Division I, you have to find some advantage, which is what coach Randy Bennett did. Prior to his arrival, SMC had been to three tourneys in their history. Since 2005 they've been five times.
The Gaels are continuing their Australian pipeline by adding Dane Pineau this season, and are heavily involved with all-world player Dante Exum for next year.
But there is another school quietly building an roster littered with Australians, and this school isn't exactly known for their basketball prowess either.
Boise State advanced to this year's First Four out of the Mountain West Conference. That team featured sophomores Anthony Drmic and Igor Hadziomerovic. Both were starters. And both - it turns out - are from Australia. Drmic led the Broncos with 17.7 points per game,while Hadziomerovic was more of a role player. Drmic finished the year as a 2nd Team All Mountain West player.
Looking forward to next year, the Broncos have another Australian on his way in Nicholas Duncan. The 6-7 power forward is currently averaging 8.8 points and 5.8 boards in the FIBA U-19 World Championships.
After the FIBA tourney Duncan will report to Boise State, where he'll begin his freshman season. And if the Broncos make back-to-back tourneys for the first time in 20 years, then those features we were watching about St. Mary's in 2010 will be remade, only this time they'll feature Boise State.