TJ Leaf and Lauri Markkanen face off in a game this year. TJ Leaf and Lauri Markkanen face off in a game this year. UCLA's TJ Leaf and Arizona's Lauri Markkanen are two of the top foreign-born players in the NCAA Tournament. (Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

International stars who could make or break your March Madness bracket

These ballers will be play a big role in their teams' NCAA tournament success.

Basketball is a popular global sport, which has meant a growing international influence on the game stateside. This is no more apparent than at the college level, where many of the nation's best players were actually born abroad.

With March Madness upon us, we take a look at these international players who could have the biggest impact on the tournament – and who are proving that basketball knows no borders.

Angel Delgado: Seton Hall Pirates, Dominican Republic

Angel Delgado reacts to a play during a game against the Villanova Wildcats.Angel Delgado leads the NCAA in rebounding and is averaging a double-double this season for Seton Hall. (Photo: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Delgado has been nothing short of spectacular for Seton Hall this year. The nation's top rebounder has also proven himself adept on the offensive end, averaging 15 points a game. And while his streak of 13 straight double-doubles was snapped in his team's loss to defending national champion Villanova in the Big East Tournament, the 6-foot-10 junior will get a chance at redemption, as Seton Hall is a No. 9 seed in the South Region. Of course, how well they fare will depend largely on how far Delgado can take them.

TJ Leaf: UCLA Bruins, Israel

UCLA Freshman TJ Leaf pushes the ball up the court.UCLA Freshman TJ Leaf has been a top contributor on one of the best college basketball teams in the country this year. (Photo: Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)

Leaf has operated in the shadows of freshman sensation and Pac-12 Player of the Year Lonzo Ball for most of the season, but he's no slouch himself. A highly touted McDonald's All-American who was born in Israel and spent his formative years playing ball in California, the 6-foot-10 power forward has put up impressive numbers all season long. If the Bruins do damage in the tournament, Leaf will have to be at his best.

Przemek Karnowski: Gonzaga Bulldogs, Poland

Przemek Karnowski takes a breather during a game for Gonzaga.Przemek Karnowski has been a steady presence in the middle this season for the top-seeded of the Gonzaga Bulldogs. (Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Gonzaga has gone from perennial March underdog to top-seeded favorite thanks to its ability to consistently attract talent like Przemek Karnowski. The senior from Poland gives the Zags something that most college teams can only wish for: a legit big man in the post who is consistent at both ends of the floor. Look for Karnowski to up his play this month as he tries to end his career on a high note.

Deng Adel: Louisville Cardinals, Sudan

Deng Adel drives to the hoop during a game for the Louisville Cardinals.Deng Adel's itinerant childhood led him to Louisville where he has become one of the nation's best players. (Photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Adel's road to Louisville was a long one – he fled Sudan for Uganda before heading to Australia and finally making it to the United States – and now he's being touted as a top NBA prospect. Before he can make the jump to the pros, though, Adel has business to take care of in this month's NCAA tournament for the No. 2 seed Cardinals. The 6-foot-7 forward is a steady presence for the team and will have to be at his best if they want to make a run.

Lauri Markkanen: Arizona Wildcats, Finland

Arizona's Lauri Markkanen drives the baseline in a game versus Arizona State.Lauri Markkanen has not only been one of the best freshmen in the country this year, but one of the best players. He is expected to be a top pick in this year's NBA draft. (Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

If you know college basketball, then you know freshman Lauri Markkanen. The 7-footer is one of those rare talents who can hurt you from anywhere on the floor, and it wasn't a surprise when he was named a third-team All American. The Wildcats lost just four games this season and earned a No. 2 seed in this year's tournament. How they fare in March will depend largely on how well Markkanen plays.

Chima Moneke: UC Davis, Australia

Chima Moneke during a game for UC Davis this year.Star forward Chima Moneke helped lead the UC Davis Aggies to their first NCAA tournament this year. (Photo: Twitter)

UC Davis doesn't quite ring a bell like the other programs on this list, and for good reason: this will be the Aggies' first NCAA tournament. The reason for that has much to do with the play of the 6-foot-6 Chima Moneke. The Big West Tournament MVP showed the Aussie's versatility in his team's recent conference championship game, scoring nine points and pulling down seven rebounds, while adding three blocks and a steal in his team's victory over UC Irvine. If he can play like that against top-seed North Carolina, they might just have a fighting chance.


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