March Madness showed UVA's international players the game

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- For Virginia a third of the team grew up outside of the United States and for many the NCAA Tournament was their first taste of college basketball.

Players like Francesco Badocchi, who grew up in Milan, chances to catch a college basketball game in Italy were limited at best.

"There's not much visibility on the NCAA and college basketball," the redshirt freshman forward Badocchi said, "There's more just like NBA."

So for most of Virginia's international contingent, March Madness was their first glimpse.

"College basketball wasn't big in New Zealand," senior center Jack said, who is from New Zealand, "But when it got to the tournament it was pretty big."

"That was the first time I watched a college basketball game and it was the NCAA Tournament," freshman Argentinian center Francisco Caffaro said.

"In 2014, I watched one of the the National Championship games and that was probably my first real experience with a college basketball game," freshman guard Kody Stattmann from Australia said.

Even before Francisco Caffaro committed to UVA, he and Kody Stattmann watched last year's NCAA Tournament together while Caffaro played for the NBA Global Academy in Australia.

"He had already committed to Virginia when we were living together and watching the games," Caffaro said, "When Virginia lost to UMBC I was actually talking trash to Kody and well here I am now in this situation."

Now Caffaro and the rest of the Cavaliers are past that game, but still taking in all that March Madness is.

"Pretty surreal coming here and seeing how much of a big deal it is, just nationwide how invested everyone is into it," Salt said, who has played in four NCAA Tournaments, "But that's what makes it so exciting, everyone's kind of focused for this month."

"You don't really get a sense of how big it is and how amazing it is from Italy," Badocchi said, "Actually being in stadiums, 16,000 people, 17,000 people and just millions of people watching you."

Now players hope their ride through March Madness keeps going.

"Last year with the NBA Academy we came to watch the Final Four and it looks good," Caffaro said, "But it didn't look as good as living it from the inside."

"It's unreal, I'm really excited for it," Stattmann said, "Something I never imagined that I'd be doing, but here I am, so I'm just enjoying the ride."

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