Andrew Wiggins is probably the most famous Canadian player in college basketball.
Dylan Ennis is also from north of the border, and he’s also pretty good.
Both newcomers will try to help their 5-0 teams reach the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game Friday night when Wiggins and No. 2 Kansas take on Ennis and Villanova.
The Jayhawks have serious national championship hopes because of Wiggins. The swingman, averaging a team-best 16.8 points, is widely expected to turn pro after his freshman season.
Wiggins hails from Ontario, the same province where Ennis grew up. Ennis is a transfer who played at Rice in 2011-12 before joining Villanova.
Ennis had yet to play due to a broken right hand before he made an immediate impact off the bench in his Wildcats debut in Thursday’s 93-79 victory over Southern California. The 6-foot-2 guard scored 12 of his 14 points in the first half, as the Wildcats built an 11-point lead at the break before holding on.
”He’s got an intangible that is really valuable, his energy,” said Villanova coach Jay Wright about Ennis. ”He’s got great energy off the court, as a student, as a person, teammate. And on the court he’s got great energy. I was more concerned that he would be out of his mind because he’s so excited to be back playing.”
Villanova’s leading scorer is junior JayVaughn Pinkston, a forward averaging 18.6 points.
While Ennis spearheaded a strong bench effort for Villanova, Kansas showcased its depth in Thursday’s 87-78 win over Wake Forest. Frank Mason and fellow freshman Joel Embiid combined for 23 of the reserves’ 41 points.
”Our bench was really good,” coach Bill Self said.
Like the Wildcats, the Jayhawks built a double-digit lead at halftime as they led by 14 before they withstood a series of runs by the Demon Deacons.
With two freshmen along with Memphis transfer Tarik Black in his lineup, Self wasn’t apologizing about the nature of the win.
”I’ve always taken great pride in winning ugly,” Self said. ”I think it’s good to win ugly. I’d rather win pretty, but there’s nothing wrong with winning ugly. The thing about it that’s frustrating to me, and I think these guys will probably agree, we’ve always been a team that won ugly by not allowing the other team to score.”
What has been ugly has been the 3-point shooting by both teams.
Kansas shot a season-low 20.0 percent from beyond the arc Thursday, going 3 for 15, as its overall percentage dropped to 33.8. Villanova actually shot a season-best 39.3 percent against the Trojans, but is only shooting 28.7 percent in 2013-14.
The Jayhawks are off to their best start since beginning 18-0 three seasons ago. This is the Wildcats’ best start since going 9-0 to open 2009-10.
Kansas has taken three of four meetings, winning 72-57 in the last one in the 2008 NCAA tournament en route to Self’s lone career national title.