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Boston-area stars have key roles in NCAA Tournament

Arlington native Pat Connaughton had plenty of reason to celebrate after leading the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to an ACC tournament title.Grant Halverson/Getty Images

With the second round of the NCAA Tournament set to tip off Thursday, much of the local rooting interest will be centered around Harvard and Northeastern, and for good reason. They are both great stories, with the Huskies making their first tournament appearance since 1991, and Harvard capturing its fifth straight Ivy League title and heading to the tourament for the fourth year in a row.

The Crimson boast a pair of Northfield Mount Hermon products, Matt Brown of Barrington, R.I., and Evan Cummins of Westborough. Caleb Donnelly of Hudson, N.H., plays for the Huskies.

But there are some local fans who can be forgiven if their loyalties lie elsewhere, particularly with regard to Northeastern's opponent in the Midwest Regional, third-seeded Notre Dame.

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The Fighting Irish have three players from the Greater Boston area: Pat Connaughton of Arlington, Zach Auguste of Marlborough, and Bonzie Colson of New Bedford.

Connaughton played at St. John's Prep, where he led the Eagles to the Division 1 state championship and was the Globe's Division 1 Athlete of the Year in 2011. He was heavily recruited, and even visited Northeastern. He talked about the experience on Sunday night after the NCAA selection show.

"When I was a sophomore or junior in high school I went over to a game. I met the coach, that sort of thing." said Connaughton.

The senior swingman planned on spending this week learning about the Huskies.

"I have a lot of close friends that have played vs. Northeastern. Guys at Harvard, guys at different programs around the Boston area, so I'm sure I'll talk to them and find out a few things here and there."

Notre Dame has not played well in the postseason in recent years, but a third place regular-season performance in a very tough ACC, as well an impressive run to the conference tournament championship has set expectations high for the Irish.

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"We're very happy to be a third seed," said Connaughton, who averaged 12.8 points and 7.5 rebounds this season. "I think this program has done lot this season that it's never done. I don't think we really cared what seed we were, it was just knowing who we were going to play in the first game."

Zach Auguste and Bonzie Colson celebrated after defeating North Carolina in the championship game of the ACC tournament.Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Auguste, a junior forward, attended Marlborough High and New Hampton School in New Hampshire. He started 32 of the 33 games that he played in, averaging 12.4 points and 6.2 rebounds.

Colson played at St. Andrew's School in Rhode Island, and appeared in 28 games, averaging 5.9 poits and 2.8 rebounds in just his freshman year.

Wayne Selden Jr. of Roxbury was a starter on a Kansas Jayhawks team that finished atop the Big 12 in the regular season.Charlie Riedel/AP

A potential opponent in the Sweet 16 for the Irish could be the second-seeded Kansas Jayhawks. Sophomore guard Wayne Selden Jr. of Roxbury started all 34 games for Kansas, averaging just fewer than 10 points. Selden played his high school basketball at Tilton School in New Hampshire.

Kansas lost the Big 12 tournament to Iowa State, which features Georges Niang of Methuen. Niang also played at Tilton, and averaged 15.5 points and 5.4 rebounds while playing for the Cyclones this season as a junior forward.

Methuen’s Georges Niang helped lead Iowa State to the Big 12 tournament title.Charlie Riedel/AP

Another team in the Midwest bracket is the fourth seed, Maryland, which has two players from the area: Jake Layman of Wrentham and Evan Smotrycz of Reading.

Layman, a junior, played his high school basketball at King Philip. He has started 32 of 33 games, averaging 12.8 points and 5.9 rebounds.

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Smotrycz played three years at Reading High before moving on to New Hampton Prep. As a senior, he has played in 25 games and averaged 4.6 points and 4.1 rebounds for the Terrapins.

Jake Layman and Evan Smotrycz played big roles in Maryland’s second-place finish in the Big 10.Nam Y. Huh/AP

Senior Sam Malone of Scituate is a member of the Kentucy Wildcats, the top seed in the Midwest.

Former Central Catholic star Carson Desrosiers is a senior for the Providence Friars. Desrosiers started 27 games, averaging 7. 2 points and 4.6 rebounds.

In the East Region, North Carolina State comes in as the ninth seed. Frehman Abdul-Malik Abu started in 19 of the 33 games he played, averaging 6.0 points and 4.5 rebounds. Abu played two years at Marblehead High before moving on to Kimball Union Academy.

Another freshman, Jacquil Taylor, is on the Purdue roster and appeared in six games. Taylor was born in Cambridge and played at Beaver Country Day School. Senior guard Ted Bancroft played in 19 games for the Friars. Bancroft is from Marion, and Played his high school ball at Bishop Stang.

Nick Pagliuca of Weston appeared in seven games for the Blue Devils. Pagliuca played at Milton Academy.