The Gophers are back in the NCAA field for the second time in three seasons, thanks in part to contributions from former Minnesota high school players — including star junior Amir Coffey, formerly of Hopkins. But while you’re likely aware of the in-state players on the Gophers, you might have lost track of other former prep stars who have gone on to great heights with other schools that are also in this year’s tournament. So let’s catch you up to speed.
Note: This is not a comprehensive list of every Minnesotan in the NCAA field but rather a look at 10 players to keep an eye on as play begins this week:
Final Four bound?
Tre Jones, Duke: His older brother, Tyus, won a national championship as a freshman at Duke. Now Tre is trying to do the same — only this time, the title would come just up the road from Apple Valley at U.S. Bank Stadium. Zion Williamson gets a lot of the headlines for the Blue Devils, but as the point guard Jones really makes this team go.
Reid Travis, Kentucky: The Wildcats won the sweepstakes for the former DeLaSalle standout after he went the graduate transfer route and left Stanford. The 6-8 forward enters the tournament averaging 11.1 points and 6.9 rebounds for second-seeded Kentucky.
Geno Crandall, Gonzaga: Another former DeLaSalle player who transferred (from North Dakota) into a more prominent program, Crandall is averaging 5.3 points in a little over 19 minutes per game for the No. 1-seeded Bulldogs.
Neighbors to the east
Brad Davison and Nate Reuvers, Wisconsin
Both have started all 33 games for the fifth-seeded Badgers. Davison, a sophomore guard from Maple Grove, has had his share of controversies — including an awkward placement of his foot against the Gophers as Jordan Murphy grabbed a rebound — but he’s third on the team in scoring at 10.7 points per game. Reuvers (Lakeville North) leads the team with 60 blocked shots and is versatile enough to shoot 37.5 percent from three-point range.
Sacar Anim and Theo John, Marquette: Both have been regular starters for the Golden Eagles, who earned the No. 5 seed in the West and will open against Murray State. John (Champlin Park) has 68 blocks, almost half the team’s total. Anim (DeLaSalle) is a versatile player averaging 8.6 points and shooting 40.9 percent from three-point range.
Freddie Gillespie, Baylor: How’s this for a story? Gillespie is a walk-on at Baylor who transferred from Division III Carleton in Minnesota after a nice prep career at East Ridge. After sitting out last season, he’s developed into a key player for the Bears — averaging 5.2 points on 64.3 percent shooting while playing more than 18 minutes per game. Baylor drew the No. 9 seed in the West.
Vinnie Shahid, North Dakota State
The Bison are the underdog of underdogs this year, having reached the Big Dance after winning the Summit League tournament as the No. 4 seed. Shahid, a 5-11 junior guard who played at Hopkins, is NDSU’s leading scorer at 12.8 points per game and also leads the team with 88 assists. The Bison are the No. 16 seed and enter with an 18-15 record. They’ll have to beat N.C. Central in the First Four in Dayton for the right to play — gulp — No. 1 overall seed Duke.
Donnell Gresham Jr., Northeastern: The redshirt junior out of Cretin-Derham Hall averages 9.8 points and shoots 39.3 percent from three-point range for Northeastern, which defeated top-seeded Hofstra in the Colonial title game to make the NCAA tournament. Gresham might need to catch fire if No. 13 seed Northeastern is going to upset No. 4 Kansas in its opener.