In the one-hour special fans are treated to a College Basketball road trip to catch up with the likes of Matt Dellavedova, Ryan Broekhoff, Cody Ellis and Jackson Aldridge as they prepare for the men’s NCAA National Championship – famously known as ‘March Madness’ or the ‘Big Dance.’
March Madness features the nation’s top 68 teams playing a knockout tournament that stops the nation with its emotion, drama, excitement and passion. Cinderella stories unfold as small schools get on a roll and topple powerhouse schools. Seemingly every American (including President Obama) has a ‘bracket’ – their version of footy tipping – where they predict who will win through the next round and who will be going home.
There are 85 Aussies playing Division 1 college basketball in the US this season, highlighting a growing trend towards Australia as a legitimate recruiting frontier for eagle-eyed college scouts and coaches. Australians have forged a reputation for being hard-working, team-oriented and ‘all in.’ After all, you don’t relocate halfway across the world to be half-hearted!
This year’s men’s tournament features a remarkable 11 schools containing one or more Australians and the special catches up with 13 Aussies from eight of the more prominent teams:
New Mexico (Hugh Greenwood & Cameron Bairstow)
St Louis (Cody Ellis)
NC State (Jordan Vandenberg)
Colorado (Shane Harris-Tunks)
Valparaiso (Ryan Broekhoff)
Butler (Jackson Aldridge)
St Mary’s (Matthew Dellavedova, Mitch Young, Jorden Page & Matt Hodgson)
Boise State (Anthony Drmic & Igor Hadziomerovic)
The special explores their individual back-stories and learns a little bit about the identity of their respective teams. Head Coaches talk about their Aussie players and reveal the keys to success for their team this season plus what viewers in Australia can expect to see when they tune in to watch them play.
There are some captivating human interest stories amongst them, such as:
Cody Ellis & the St Louis Billikens, who lost their Head Coach Rick Majerus to heart failure at the beginning of the season. Majerus passed away on December 1 and the team dedicated the season to his memory. They have risen above the pain to claim the Atlantic 10 League & Championship and will commence the tournament as a popular pick to go deep into the latter stages and potentially win it all. Cody, whose father Mike played for the Perth Wildcats in the NBL, is the co-captain of the team in his final season.
Ryan Broekhoff & the Valpo Crusaders – Ryan was a late bloomer. Always the smallest on his team growing up, he hit a growth spurt in his late teens and sneaked under the radar to end up at the AIS. But because he had never even been on a State team until Under 18 level, no US colleges really knew who he was and only ONE showed any real interest – Valparaiso. He signed with the Crusaders and spent two years working hard, waiting for his opportunity. It came in Year 3 of his college level and he grabbed it with both hands, lighting up the Horizon League to win its Player of the Year Award and receive an All-American Honorable Mention as well as an invitation to join the Boomers’ Olympic squad. An incredible story of self-belief and hard work, Ryan has led his team into the tournament, where they hope to revel in their longshot status.
It’s a unique, exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the incredible world of College Basketball, and the perfect preparation for a few weeks of MADNESS .
All games will be shown LIVE on ESPN, ESPN2 and/or ESPN3.com
The Aussies Abroad March Madness special premieres Thursday March 21 at 9pm on ESPN Australia/NZ with an encore screening on ESPN2 Sunday March 24 at 6pm.