We will know later this week how many of our Kiwi men and women attending Division 1 universities in the USA will be headed for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournaments beginning on 14 March.

The NCAA Tournament is often referred to as the Big Dance and one player certain to be attending is Tai Wynyard after the Kentucky Wildcats beat Arkansas 82-65 in the Southeastern Conference Tournament Final in Nashville on Monday (NZ time).
Unfortunately Wynyard didn't take to the court as he has has been unable to force his way into the Wildcats playing rotation of late.

There were 32 conference titles to be decided, both men's and women's. Not only did the winners earn the title of conference champions but they also gained automatic selection to the Big Dance.

Here is a summary of how the Tall Blacks and Tall Ferns got on over the past week.


Three Tall Ferns, Stella Beck, Jacinta Beckley and Katelin Noyer finished close to gaining automatic selection for the NCAA Women's Tournament but ultimately had to settle with runners-up medals.

Waitakere's Katelin Noyer and Fresno State Bulldogs fell at the final hurdle of the Mountain West Conference Championships losing 66-53 to Boise State in the championship game on Saturday. It had been a dream run for the seventh ranked Bulldogs with a couple of wins against higher ranked opposition in the quarter's and semi's but they were comfortably beaten by fourth ranked Boise State in the final.

Beck and Kalani Purcell found themselves in direct opposition in the West Coast Conference semi-finals. It was Beck and Saint Mary's Gaels that prevailed beating BYU Provo Cougars 59-49 to advance to the WCC championship game. Third seeded Saint Mary's mounted a furious third-quarter rally but it was not enough, falling short in the final, beaten 86-75 by No 1 ranked Gonzaga. Beck, a former Hutt Valley stand out contributed a team high 5 assists to compliment 6 points, 3 rebounds and a brace of blocks.

Disappointingly for Beckley she fractured her hand in a game in early February and was unable to suit up for the Seattle Redhawks in the Western Athletic Championships. Beckley has had a strong season for Seattle, the fourth highest scorer on the team has averaged 8.0 points per game, and was sorely missed as the Redhawks were defeated 63-48 by New Mexico State in the final on Sunday.

Former North Harbour player Tai Webster played in every Nebraska Cornhuskers game this season and scored double figures in all but one of the 31 fixtures. The Huskers were only seeded 12th in the Big Ten Conference bowing out 70-67 against Penn in the opening round. Webster finished with 1,116 career points for Nebraska.

Jack Salt, another Harbour product, and the Virginia Cavaliers, fared a little better in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championships in Brooklyn. Virginia beat Pittsburgh in the opening round but fell 71-58 to Notre Dame in the quarter-finals.

In identical fashion Wellington's Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'Afa and Sacramento State had an opening round win in the Big Sky Championships but were downed in the quarters. They lost 89-70 to East Washingtonin the quarters with Le'Afa scoring 5 points. The Wellingtonian guard has had a fine first season but this wasn't his or the Hornets day as they struggled against the more fancied (seeded No 2) Eastern Washington.

In other action on the women's side Waitakere's 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. However the following day they exited the championships losing 65-49 to No 1 ranked Oregon State 65-49.

Both Waikato's Krystal Leger-Walker and Cantabrian Tessa Boagni experienced the agony of single point defeats.

Boagni scored 11 points for Cal State Northridge but the Matadors fell 61-60 against Long Beach State in the semi-final of the Big West Conference tournament. Trailing by eight late in the game, CSUN mounted a furious rally over the final four minutes of action, but fell one point short in their comeback effort against the 49ers.
Boagni had an impressive 13 points, 13 rebounds outing in the Matadors quarter-final win against Hawaii.

Leger-Walker and the Northern Colorado Bears led by 5 points inside the final minute of their Big Sky Conference quarter-final but were run down by Idaho State losing 60-59. Guard Leger-Walker finished with 8 points plus a couple of assists and steals.

In addition to the 32 conference winners an additional 36 best teams at large play knock out games during the remainder of March before the winners are crowned at the Final Four weekend, 1-3 April (31 March - 2 April for the women).

We still wait the announcement of the final 68 teams for the big Dance, due within the next 24 hours.