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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — March Madness is officially underway with the beginning of the NCAA Tournament.

68 teams for the men’s and women’s tournaments will battle to see who can claim the top trophy in college basketball.

This year also includes a high-powered combination of local teams in Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri.

Defending champion Kansas was led to their title by local talents Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun who have since thrived in the NBA. While the Jayhawks don’t have any Kansas City area talent on their team, Mizzou and a host of other teams hope their KC players can lead them to a few wins and more in the postseason.

Kansas State has Grandview’s Taj Manning who chose to redshirt for his freshman year.

Let’s go through the list.

Aidan Shaw, Mizzou, Freshman

The freshman from Blue Valley High has consistently stayed in the Tigers’ rotation all season. His 6’8 frame and 40+ inch vertical are hard to keep off the floor.

While his stats are minuscule (2.8 points a game, 57% from the field in 10 minutes a game average) his impact can be felt at times on defense and on the offensive end when he’s slamming down alley-oops.

7-seed Mizzou faces 10-seed Iowa State at 12:40 on Thursday.

Conrad Hawley, Iowa State, Sophomore

One of the most interesting stories in college basketball is coming off the bench for the Cyclones.

Hawley led Raymore-Peculiar to a state championship in football as a quarterback and spent his freshman year of college as quarterback for Kansas.

Now he is a sophomore at Iowa State basketball. He’s only played in 10 games but his title as ‘chief energy officer’ suggests that his role on the team is pivotal to their success.

6-seed Iowa State will play 11-seed Pittsburgh on Friday at 2:10.

Xavier Rhodes, Northern Kentucky, Fifth Year

The 6’1 guard from Lee’s Summit will attempt to help his team pull off the seemingly insurmountable by trying to knock off 1 seed Houston.

Rhodes is on his third team after starting his career by winning a Divison II national championship with Northwest Missouri State in 2019. The next year he transferred to D2 Florida Southern College for three seasons; in his best season (last season), he averaged 14.5 points and 5.3 assists per game.

This season, the Rockhurst alum is NKU’s fourth-leading scorer averaging 7.7 points a game while shooting 44.6% from the field.

The 16-seed Norsemen face Houston on Thursday at 8:20.

Lukas Milner, Boise State, Fifth Year

Olathe North is represented in Idaho by this 6’10 center.

Milner began his college career at Johnson County Community College where they went to the NJCAA DII national championship.

Milner has been in the Broncos’ rotation in his three years in Boise receiving spot starts. In 32 games this season, he averages 3.1 points and 2.8 rebounds.

10 seed Boise has a short trip to Sacramento to face Northwestern at 6:35 on Thursday.

Christian Bishop, Texas, Senior

KU and K-State fans ought to be familiar with this Lee’s Summit West alum.

The 6’7 senior is one of Texas’ most valuable pieces off the bench with 6.3 points and 3.6 rebounds a game. He’s coming off of an Honorable Mention All-Big 12 season last year.

Bishop began his career at Creighton for three seasons where he helped lead the Bluejays to the 2021 Sweet Sixteen.

The Longhorns are a hot team right now after winning the Big 12 Tournament. 2-seed Texas plays 15-seed Colgate on Thursday at 6:25.

Tamar Bates, Indiana, Sophomore

One of the most star-studded names on this list is straight out of Kansas City, Kansas.

Before heading to IMG Academy for his senior year, Bates led the Piper Pirates to their first basketball state championship in school history.

While he only averages 6.5 points a game, Bates is a natural scorer who can get hot at any moment. He shoots 42% from the field and 39.8% from three but has some of the best players in the country in front of him in Trayce Jackson-Davis and Jalen Hood Schifino.

4 seed Indiana plays 13-seed Kent State on Friday at 8:55.

Mark Mitchell, Duke, Freshman

Another KCK player is making his mark on one of the hottest teams in the country.

Before Mitchell moved to the highly acclaimed Sunrise Academy in Bel Aire, Kansas for his senior season, he and K-State’s Manning led Bishop Miege to a state championship.

Now the 6’8 forward is one of the top scorers on a blue blood program that many thought didn’t have the juice since legendary Coach K left the helm; they have since won the ACC Tournament and are in the tournament as a 5 seed.

Mitchell’s 9.1 points per game along with 4.4 rebounds, 47.4% shooting and his athletic play even have some murmurs of first-round NBA Draft pick potential.

Duke faces 12-seed Oral Roberts on Thursday at 6:10 p.m.