In spite of being one of the best teams in the country, Florida doesn’t have much in the way of prospects. They are led by a great senior class and Patric Young, Scottie Wilbekin, and Casey Prather all have shots of latching on to NBA rosters. But Young is the only draftable one of the bunch and barely at that. Florida achieves greatness with experience, coaching, and teamwork moreso than NBA talent.
After losing Spencer Dinwiddie to an ACL injury, Colorado became a pretty weak basketball team and they really don’t belong in the tourney. But sophomore Josh Scott is having a good year nevertheless, and might get drafted whenever he decides to leave Colorado. The strongest prospect of this quartet is Lamar Patterson of Pittsburgh. He is a 5th year senior who project to go in round 2 this year. While he isn’t particularly toolsy, he is a skilled wing who shoots, passes, and rebounds well.
12 Stephen F Austin
UCLA boasts 3 solidly draftable NBA prospects in Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams, and Zach LaVine. While Zach LaVine received the majority of the hype, Kyle Anderson is the gem of the bunch as he is a large and skilled wing who runs the UCLA offense with a tremendous feel for the game. He is having an excellent year and may rise up boards circa draft time. Jordan Adams is likely UCLA’s most unheralded prospect, as he posts staggering stats for somebody who is still only 19 years old. He has athletic limitations but the man is skilled and merits more 1st round consideration than he has fetched thus far. Do not be deceived by Tulsa’s seed, they can play defense and will give the UCLA prospects a real test.
VCU has one shiny object, which is junior Briante Weber. He is an athletic PG capable of highlight reel dunks, and also has a completely absurd steal rate that will be sure to break predictive models. VCU’s defense is centered on their full court press which is tops in the country in forcing turnovers. Once the press is beaten, they do not pose much of a challenge in terms of shot prevention. I actually beileve that Tulsa’s defense is going to be a better litmus test for the UCLA player NBA prospects than the VCU defense, even though the VCU defense is rated higher.
6 Ohio State
14 Western Michigan
Ohio State is led by senior Aaron Craft and junior LaQuinton Ross, who qualify as prospects loosely speaking. I would not draft them, however. Dayton is prospectless.
Syracuse has expected lottery pick Tyler Ennis. You can either watch him play well vs Ohio State’s great defense or poorly vs Dayton and Western Michigan’s mediocre defense. This Syracuse team has a special talent at playing to the level of opposing defenses. Syracuse also boasts impressive putback dunker Jerami Grant as their other prospect who projects to go in round 1, although I believe he is overrated. CJ Fair is also part of the team and some mistakenly believe him to be an NBA prospect. But he does nothing that is discernibly useful to an NBA team, so try not to get too excited if his incessant midrange jumpers happen to fall in a particular tourney game.
7 New Mexico
15 Eastern Kentucky
If you enjoy fringey upperclassmen prospects, New Mexico vs. Stanford is the game for you. New Mexico boasts three fringey prospects in PG Kendall Williams and big men Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow. Williams is the one player who should realistically be drafted of the trio. Stanford counters with big man Dwight Powell, who has an interesting blend of athleticism and skill. But he is also a senior who is not particularly efficient and he may go undrafted because of this.
Kansas has no Joel Embiid this weekend, so that means that we get a healthy dose of Andrew Wiggins taking shots. Sophomore Perry Ellis may also be drafted some day, although I do not believe he is particularly useful to NBA teams. Even though I am not a fan, Wayne Selden is the 2nd best prospect on Kansas with Embiid out. Eastern Kentucky is a fun underdog, as their defense is based on pressing and giving up wide open layups and 3’s in the event that this fails. Their rim defense is so bad that even Andrew Wiggins should be able to make a layup against them. But Wayne Selden’s issues with the press are well documented, so perhaps Eastern Kentucky can get some good bounces in generating turnovers and keep this game interesting.
The second round matchup poses a more serious test for Wiggins. Both Stanford and New Mexico have good size and solid defenses, and New Mexico is especially stingy in the paint. Will Wiggins continue to be a jumpshooter or will he ventures into the paint and finish amongst the trees?
16 Coastal Carolina
9 George Washington
This isn’t a particularly interesting region with respect to prospects. Memphis and George Washington is by far the worst 8/9 matchup. The player most closely resembling a prospect is Memphis sophomore big man Shaq Goodwin.
Virginia earned their 1 seed with elite team defense, and like Florida do not have any prospects of particular note. They are led by sophomore Malcolm Brogdon, who was non-descript both as a freshman and as a sophomore during non-conference play, and then had a huge breakout in ACC play. He is the most likely NBA prospect on the team, followed by sophomore big man Mike Tobey who played for Team USA in the FIBA u19 games and anchors their defense as their leading shotblocker.
4 Michigan State
Michigan State’s feature prospect is sophomore guard Gary Harris, who does a little bit of everything and projects to be a lottery pick. They also boast Adreian Payne who is an excellent college player as a big man who hits 3’s, but before you get too excited about his NBA prospects bear in mind that he is already 23. Their unheralded prospect is Branden Dawson, as he is a SF that cannot hit 3’s. But he is strong, athletic, and brings some interesting production to the table nevertheless.
Cincinnati is led by 24 year old man Sean Kilpatrick, who is a college star. But if you are 24 and not approximately the best college player of all-time, you are probably not much of an NBA prospect. Harvard doesn’t have any prospects of note, but they are a good and well balanced team that is a particularly strong 12 seed. This should be a close, competitive game, even if lacking in prospects.
3 Iowa State
14 NC Central
James Michael McAdoo used to be a prospect for UNC, but then he grew up into a mediocre college player with a horrible beard. He has had a mini-resurgence in ACC play and might find himself sneak back into the 2nd round, but I am not particularly enthused for his future. The slightly more appealing prospect is sophomore PG Marcus Paige, who likely will stay 4 years and then get selected in the 2nd round. Fun fact: after some strong 2nd half performances, his teammates came up with the exceptionally creative nickname of “2nd half Paige.” Of all of the wordplay that his last name offers, they opted for the most flavorless nickname in the history of that is what they came up with.
Really the most interesting prospect of this quartet is not a player, but a coach. Fred Hoiberg coaches Iowa State and he’s awesome at it. He stands out as the NCAA coach with the strongest odds of becoming a good NBA coach. If you want to tune in to see how his team plays, the game vs NC Central might actually be interesting as it is only an 8.5 pt spread. Iowa State is led by seniors DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim who are a bit too old to be drafted, especially Kane who turns 25 in June.
10 St. Joseph’s
UConn is led by senior PG Shabazz Napier who projects to be a 2nd round pick and the best Shabazz in the NBA. They also have an interesting project in 7 foot freshman Amida Brimah, who is a incredibly raw shotblocker. St Joe’s is led by senior 3 point bomber Langston Galloway, who is not quite a prospect.
Villanova is another pesky team that excels with good coaching and teamwork as opposed to NBA talent, and doesn’t have much in the way of prospects. Their most intriguing player is sophomore big man Daniel Ochefu. He is limited offensively and turns it over far too much, but he is a good passer and an excellent rebounder and defender. He’s worth keeping tabs on.
16 Weber State
9 Oklahoma State
Arizona is rife with prospects, notably their freshmen forwards Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Gordon gets the bulk of the hype, but Hollis-Jefferson isn’t much worse and could sneak into the 1st round. Both are athletic SF’s who shoot poorly but launch away from midrange anyway. Most of their value derives from their finishing and defense. Nick Johnson is also an intriguing flier, as he also plays a large role in Arizona’s defensive dominance but is a SG stuck in a PG body so will likely end up getting picked in round 2. I think he has decent potential to be a rotation player nevertheless, and he is quite the spectacular dunker. Sophomore big man Kaleb Tarczewski also has some appeal as a prospect, and if you look at his stats and wonder why his block rate is so low it’s because Arizona’s guards and wings don’t let anybody get to the rim. They take on Weber State led by senior wing Davion Berry who likely will not get drafted, but could catch on as an undrafted FA.
Marcus Smart and company take on the new look Gonzaga Bulldogs. After perpetually being an offensive powerhouse, they now have an elite defensive team anchored by sophomore center Przemek Karnowski. He appears to be unskilled and uncoordinated which limits his offensive value, but he’s 7’1 and his team is playing well on the end that matters for him so he will inevitably get draft consideration when he chooses to declares. Other than Smart, Markel Brown is the Cowboys’ other prospect of note as the senior guard has a solid shot of getting drafted in round 2 as he brings solid passing, shooting, and athleticism to the table. Le’Bryan Nash was a 5 star recruit and had 1st round hype once upon a time, and even though he has improved into a good college it’s probably too little too late. He is 6’7, can’t hit 3’s, and does his best work scoring in the low post against small college bigs and I simply don’t see how he fits in on an NBA roster. If the Cowboys can sneak past Gonzaga’s defense, they get the privilege of facing Arizona’s #1 defense. Marcus Smart can do wonders for his NBA draft stock with solid performances this weekend.
4 San Diego State
13 New Mexico State
12 North Dakota State
San Diego state is led by senior guard Xavier Thames, who unexpectedly blossomed into a star after 3 average seasons to start his career. He suddenly is looking draftable as he has improved his entire game and gone from a bit player to the offensive centerpiece of another great defensive team. Sophomore forward Winston Sheppard also loosely qualifies as a prospect. The Aztecs will face New Mexico State led by 7’5 355 lb center Sim Bhullar, who is not much of a prospect in spite of being a giant.
Oklahoma doesn’t have much in the way of prospects, as sophomore big man Ryan Spangler is a good college player but is for all intents and purposes an undersized garbage man. Sophomore Buddy Hield is a great shooter but is also old for his class and is not a strong prospect. The star of this game belongs to the underdog North Dakota State Bison, led by senior Taylor Braun. Braun is more or less the Larry Bird of the Summit League, as he scores in a variety of ways and can also rebound, pass, and make plays defensively. He deserves round 2 consideration and may end up getting drafted.
Baylor is led by big men Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson. Jefferson is the better college player, but is 23 years old and is a center in a PF body so he really is a late 2nd flier at best. Austin is a former 5 star recruit who is blind in one eye and his stock has eroded to the 2nd round, but somebody will likely gamble on him nevertheless and rightfully so. While he will likely not become a good pro, he is a 7’1 shotblocker with some semblence of a scoring and shooting ability. If he adds weight and develops into a more efficient scorer, he could be a solid roleplayer. The counter argument would be that having vision in just one eye inhibits his upside as a shooter, as he is just 31.3% from 3 and 65.5% on FT’s in his college career. You can watch him go up against the upstart Huskers led by sophomore Terran Petteway. Petteway may seem like a prospect but he turns 22 in October, so do not be deceived by the sophomore classification. He is fringe at best.
Creighton vs ULL is likely the first ever 3 vs 14 game where the two best prospects play for the 14 seed. OK, maybe it’s going a bit overboard to rate under the radar sophomore big man Shawn Long above projected lotto pick Doug McDermott, but they are much closer than public perception suggests and there is a case to be made that Long will be the superior pro. He is 6’9 and not much of a leaper, but he is strong and does have enough length to block shots in the Sun Belt conference. He is a solid 3 point shooter, a great rebounder, and a good low post scorer. The question is whether he will still be able to get his shot off vs longer and more athletic competition in the paint, and that question will not be answered in this game. Creighton has the 3rd lowest block rate in the country, so he should not have any problem getting shots off in the paint. But the real gem of the team is PG Elfrid Payton, who is tall, long, has weird hair, and does everything on the floor but hit outside shots. To me he’s a surefire 1st round value and has upside as a Rajon Rondo-esque two way PG. The Ragin Cajuns do not play particular good defense, so McDermott’s should be able to get McBuckets as per usual. The winner of this game will face a more stringest defensive test vs. Baylor or Nebraska.
Oregon is led by junior guard Joseph Young and senior forward Mike Moser. Moser had some prospect equity once upon a time, but did not develop as well as hoped and is now too old to have much value. Joseph Young’s value is inhibited by the fact that he is 6’2 and lacks PG skills, but he is one of my favorite college players to watch. He is a fantastically efficient college scorer, and he also has a permanent scowl on his face which I find to be endearing. His NBA prospects are fringey but he could be worth a late 2nd round flier. BYU is led by Tyler Haws who is too old and not toolsy enough to make an impact in the NBA.
Wisconsin has a surprising amount of prospects this year. The guys to watch are Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky, both of whom belong in round 1 in my estimation. Dekker is the consensus late first pick, and Kaminsky is the one who is not getting much consideration and may always be underrated due to failing the face test. Also freshman Nigel Hayes is an intriguing player in a funky mold and may eventually become a solid prospect. American actually plays better defense than either Oregon or BYU, so the Wisky guys won’t be facing any NBA-esque tests in the first weekend.
1 Wichita State
16 Cal Poly/Texas Southern
9 Kansas State
Wichita State’s best prospect is sophomore Ron Baker, who got off to a fantastic start this season and then was slowed by an ankle injury and played hurt from the Tennessee game onward. He seems to have recovered to near full health, so we get to see how he does running through a possible gauntlet of Kentucky and Louisville. Also sophomore PG Fred Van Vleet is undersized but has fantastic efficiency and could be a 2nd rounder sleeper at some point. Senior Cleanthony Early is an exciting college player, but is likely too old to be worth drafting.
If you do not enjoy well coached teams that lack NBA prospects, Kentucky offers a poorly coached team that is full of future NBA busts! Willie Cauley-Stein is really the only prospect who is particularly enthralling at this point, as he uses his elite length, quicks, and athleticism to make impressive plays defensively. Offensively he is just an offensive rebounder and finisher. Julius Randle and James Young are still worth 1st round picks, although I am not particularly enthused about either. I had some hope for Aaron Harrison which is rapidly waning, and Andrew Harrison is simply the worst. Dakari Johnson still has some hope as a prospect and has not generated much discussion in spite of a mini-breakout in college. Kansas State is led by freshman shooter Marcus Foster, who could enter prospect radar with a good progression as a sophomore. Kansas State does not have the shot blocking to cause a world of grief for Randle and company, and if they should advance Wichita State’s defense will pose a much stingier test.
5 Saint Louis
12 NC State
TJ Warren is the prospect to watch in the 5/12 matchup, as he has drawn comparisons to Antawn Jamison. It seems like a reasonable comp to me, as he plays questionable defense and dominates with his floater. I am not a Jamison fan so I am not too high on Warren, but it is reasonable to include him in the 1st round nevertheless. Saint Louis plays great defense and offers a solid test.
Louisville is the best 4 seed of all time, as they are arguably the best team in the country. Their prospects are sophomore forward Montrezl Harrell and senior guard Russ Smith. Montrezl is an incredibly fun and exciting college player with questionable translation issues to the pros. He is a PF who is likely too small to play center, and he needs to develop into more than just a dunker to have a good pro career. He still merits 1st round consideration since he has expanded his game considerably as a sophomore, but still has a long way to go before becoming a solid NBA PF. Russ Smith is arguably the best college player in the country, and is worth a 2nd round pick as a possible poor man’s Kyle Lowry. He is only 6’0 but he is incredibly fast and has quick hands on defense, and he fills it up on offense as he has greatly improved his outside shooting, decision making, and PG skills over his tenure at Lousiville. He turns 23 in April so upside is limited, but he is a fun fun college player who could become a useful pro.
The Iowa/Tennessee play in game tonight features a number of fringe guys. The best prospect is Tennessee big man Jarnell Stokes, who has been playing great as of late and could sneak into round 1. Jordan McRae figures to get 2nd round consideration but is also quite old. Iowa’s best prospect is senior Roy Devyn Marble, who should be drafted in round 2. Junior Aaron White likely will not be drafted but has some small NBA equity. UMass is a mediocre A-10 team that has no business being a 6 seed and will be a clear underdog against either team.
Duke’s big time prospect is freshman Jabari Parker. Mercer should not be much of a defensive test, and neither should Iowa. But Tennessee is the exact type of defense that has given him trouble, so it is worth watching his performance in that game should Duke and Tennessee match up. Rodney Hood is considered a lottery pick by many, but I’m not sure he even belongs in round 1. He is a smooth shooter who doesn’t have the best tools and is awful defensively. Duke’s actual 2nd best player is sophomore Amile Jefferson, whose NBA prospects are limited by the fact that he is a skinny 6’9 garbage man, and he will likely stay 4 years and then get picked in round 2. Also sophomore guard Rasheed Sulaimon still has some lingering value as a prospect.
10 Arizona State
Arizona State is led by sophomore PG Jahii Carson, who really is vastly overrated as a prospect. I wouldn’t touch him anywhere in the draft since he’s undersized, bad defensively, and really not much of a college player considering he’s going to turn 22 in August. He will likely have trouble scoring in the paint vs Texas’s bigs. Texas’s best prospect is sophomore big man Cameron Ridley, who rebounds, blocks shots, and finishes in the paint.
Michigan boasts projected mid-late 1st round pick Nik Stauskas, who is a slick and talented offensive player. He went through a mini-rough patch since I wrote about him, but he has picked it up lately and can aid his stock with a strong tourney showing. Sophomore Glenn Robinson has seen his stock erode due to issues with his outside shooting and BBIQ, but he is an elite finisher converting 86.4% of his rim attempts on the season. He is still likely worth an early 2nd round pick.