Texas Longhorns guard Dogus Balbay (R) fouls Oklahoma Sooners guard Cade Davis during the first half of the quarterfinals of the NCAA menâ€™s Big 12 basketball championship at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri, March 10, 2011.
The NCAA Menâ€™s College Basketball Tournament is just getting underway, and there are a number of talented Muslim basketball players and players from the Muslim world that will be part of the mix. Let us take a look at those players going region by region.
First, in the most difficult region, the East region, there is the largest collection of Muslim players. One of the toughest teams in this region is Syracuse, and they rely on the services of freshman big man Baye Moussa Keita from Senegal. Their fellow Big East Conference teams in this region, West Virginia and Villanova, also sport players from the Muslim world: Villanova with center Maphtao Yarou from Benin and West Virginia with Turkish forward Deniz Kilicli. But the team in the East Region with the most prominent Muslim representation is the number seven-seeded University of Washington, with guard Abdul Gaddy and seven-foot center Aziz Nâ€™Diaye.
In the West Region, Turkish guard Dogus Balbay is an important player for the University of Texas who are considered dark-horse favorites to reach the Final Four. University of Cincinnati center Ibrahima Thomas, from Senegal, plays a prominent role for his team. And French-Muslim forward Mehdi Cheriet plys his trade for number two seed San Diego State University.
The Muslim presence is most sparce in the Southwest Region, with Louisville center Gorgiu Dieng, from Senegal, being the only one in this region. And two more Muslims will be competing in the Southeast Region, with Nigerian center Talib Zanna for power-house University of Pittsburgh, and Mathis Keita for Gonzaga. Keep an eye on these teams and these players as the main rounds of the tournament get going.