There are over 60 Kiwi women and over 50 Kiwi men playing National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) at universities in the United States on partial or fully funded scholarships.

In the NCAA Division 1 alone there are 351 mens university teams playing in 32 divisions known as conferences - the numbers are almost identical for women - 349 teams in 32 conferences.

For the NCAA, March is a big month. The regular season has recently concluded, teams complete their conference leagues to establish rankings - the team with the best record are obviously ranked number one. These rankings are then carried into the conference championships that are currently underway.

There is plenty at stake in these championships as the winner is crowned conference champions and also gains automatic selection to the NCAA Mens and Womens National Tournament .

Fans of college basketball fondly call these two tournaments, March Madness, which is the climax of the college season. The 32 conference winners and 36 best teams play knock out games during the last two weeks of March, before the winners are crowned at the Final Four weekend, 1-3 April.

And this year, similar to the last few years, there are a number of teams featuring New Zealands very own Tall Ferns and Tall Blacks.

Most of the teams are still fighting it out in their home conference championships. One intriguing tie has thrust a couple of Tall Ferns into direct opposition whilst Tai Wynyard, a freshman (first season player) who has had a tough time watching more senior players from the bench at the University of Kentucky is the only player to pick up a conference regular season title.

Former North Harbour player Tai Webster is having a brilliant season for the Nebraska Huskers seeded 12 in the Big Ten Conference. Webster is only the fifth player in Huskers history to record 500 points and 100 assists in a season and had scored double figures in 30 straight games before the final regular season game against Michigan. Unfortunately he came up just short of a 31st double digit outing scoring 8 points as Nebraska was thumped 93-57 on Sunday.

Another Harbour hometown player, Jack Salt, has been a regular starter for Virginia; the Cavaliers, who are seeded No 6 in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championships this week in Brooklyn. The big centre snared a game high 9 rebounds and added 4 points plus a block and a steal as Virginia beat Pittsburgh 69-42 on Saturday to finish 11-7 in league fixtures.

Waitakeres Tai Wynyard has hardly been sighted in a Kentucky singlet in recent weeks. However, the Wildcats won the in Southeastern Division regular season title with a 71-63 victory against Texas A&M on Saturday.

In contrast Wellingtons Izayah Mauriohooho-LeAfa has played big minutes for Sacramento State in his freshman year. The Hornets are seeded third in the Big Sky Conference getting a boost by beating top placed North Dakota 57-53 on Friday. LeAfa, earning a reputation as a lock down defender, had 5 points, 4 rebounds and a couple of steals against ND. They play in the first round of the play-offs for the Big Sky Championships on Wednesday

On the womens side Tall Ferns Kalani Purcell, Stella Beck and Penina Davidson have already tasted championship play with the West Coast Conference and Pac-12 beginning play-off games late last week.

Saint Marys Gaels used a big second half to defeat BYU Provo Cougars 59-49 and advance to the West Coast Conference Championship game for the first championship appearance since the 2010-11 season. The output from the opposing two Tall Ferns in the contest was immense. Stella Beck put together an impressive stats line for the victorious Gaels. The Gaels leading scorer this season collected 9 points, captured 7 rebounds, dished 4 assists and added 3 steals and a block in 32 minutes of non-stop action. Senior Kalani Purcell was one of two BYU players in double figures scoring 15 points, the power forward also adding 9 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 assists and a block as the Cougars attempted in vain to return to the conference final. Saint Marys will face top seeded Gonzaga in Wednesdays conference final.

Waitakeres Penina Davidson had a solid game for Cal Berkley Golden Bears as they rolled USC 71-58 at Key Arena, Seattle in the Pac-12 champs on Friday. However the following day they exited the championships losing 65-49 to No 1 ranked Oregon State 65-49. Davidson played 24 minutes in that one for 2 points, 3 rebounds, a steal and a block.

Tessa Boagni is playing well for Cal State Northridge having now recovered from a broken nose. The Cantabrian centre scored 11 points in the defeat to UC Davis on Sunday. The Matadors have finished 3rd in the Big West Conference with a 10-6 record and open their championship campaign on Thursday at Long Beach.

Freshman Katelin Noyer has recently been rewarded with extended playing time for Fresno State. However the Waitakere forward only appeared for a couple of minutes as the Bulldogs finished 8-10 in the Mountain West Conference after going down 54-38 in a low scoring encounter with Nevada Las Vegas. Seeded seventh they face No 10 Nevada in the opening round of the MWC Championships on Tuesday.

Waikatos Krystal Leger-Walker, also in her first year, has been a regular starter for Northern Colorado. The Bears are seeded 3rd in the Big Sky Conference after wrapping up regular season action with a convincing 102-74 win on Saturday against Sacramento State. Leger-Walker had a more than useful 7 points, 6 rebounds and 8 assists against Sacramento.

The Bears now head to Reno for the Big Sky Championships to play the winners of the Idaho State/Montana clash in the quarter-finals on Thursday.

Kapatis Jacinta Beckley has had some impressive performances for Seattle in this campaign. Unfortunately she fractured her hand in a game in early February and is currently rehabbing following surgery. The Redhawks are seeded second in the Western Athletic Conference and will meet Chicago State on Thursday with Beckleys participation in play-off action in serious doubt.

In Summary:

- Beck (St Marys Gaels) seeded 3 meets No 1 Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference Tournament Final.

- Beckley (Seattle) seeded 2 in Western Athletics Conference.

- Boagni (California State Northridge) seeded 3 in Big West Conference.

- Davidson (University of California, Berkeley) eliminated at the quarter-final stage of the Pac-12 Championships.

- Leger-Walker (Northern Colorado Bears) seeded 3 in the Big Sky Conference.

- Mauriohooho-Leafa (Sacramento State Hornets) seeded 3 in Big Sky Conference.

- Noyer (Fresno State Bulldogs) seeded 7 in Mountain West Conference.

- Purcell (BYU Cougars) seeded 2 were eliminated by St Marys in the semi-final of the West Coast Conference Tournament.

- Salt (Virginia Cavaliers) seeded 6 in Atlantic Coast Conference.

- Webster (Nebraska Cornhuskers) seeded 12 in Big Ten Conference.

- Wynyard (Kentucky Wildcats) seeded first in Southeastern Conference.

- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Basketball New Zealand