Local connections plentiful in March Madness
While LSU is Louisiana’s lone representative in the NCAA men’s basketball championship field of 68, the New Orleans area will showcase its talent on multiple title contenders when a March Madness like no other gets underway in Indiana on Thursday.
The most visible contributor is former Riverside Academy standout Jared Butler, who will lead Baylor as a No. 2 overall seed in the tournament and the top seed in the South region.
Butler, the Associated Press’ Big 12 Player of the Year, is the Bears’ leading scorer at 17.1 points per game on 48.8 percent shooting from the floor and 42.9 percent shooting from three-point range. Butler also averages 4.8 assists and 3.3 rebounds for Baylor (22-2), which opens with Hartford on Friday and has to battle through a blue-blood top half of the South bracket that includes North Carolina, Villanova and Purdue.
If Baylor and Villanova meet in the Sweet 16, it would be a matchup of former New Orleans-area guards in Butler and former St. Augustine standout Caleb Daniels, who is in his first season with Villanova after transferring from Tulane.
Daniels started 21 of 22 games this year and averaged 9.8 points per game on 43 percent shooting from the field and 39.6 percent shooting from three-point range. Daniels struggled down the stretch with his shooting, however, hitting just three of 17 from distance over the last four games.
In the Midwest region, No. 2 seed Houston has a pair of former McDonogh 35 Roneagles who have played big roles in the Cougars’ huge season.
Guard DeJon Jarreau has started all 25 games for the Cougars, who spent much of this season in the top 10, and averaged 11.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. The transfer from the University of Massachusetts closed the season well, scoring in double figures in eight of Houston’s last nine games after only topping the mark in four of the first 16 games this year.
Brison Gresham, a 6-foot-8 forward-center, started 19 games for the Cougars this year and averaged 3.1 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. Gresham has made 31 starts for Houston in three seasons since following Jarreau from UMass.
No fewer than two head coaches have New Orleans ties.
Mike White of Florida, the No. 7 seed in the South bracket, is a 1995 Jesuit graduate and has the Gators in their fourth straight NCAA Tournament – a streak that would have likely been five without last year’s COVID-19 cancellation of all NCAA winter and spring championships.
Bryce Drew of Grand Canyon, a No. 15 seed and the Western Athletic Conference champion, played 28 games for the Hornets over their first two seasons in New Orleans from 2002-04. Drew took the Grand Canyon job last year after being fired at Vanderbilt.
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Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…