With the first round of the NCAA tournament in the books (to shocking results), college basketball is in high gear, and this time of year presents a great chance to look at potential future 76ers.
I tend to try to not put too much emphasis on the tournament as a whole, and definitely not the first round. How well Harrison Barnes played against the Vermont Catamounts isn't going to change much of the evaluation I've formed on him over the previous 71 games. That being said, the NCAA tournament presents a great introduction to those who are seeing prospects for the first time, and for some provide players rare glimpses of how they fare against NBA-level athletes (RE: Kenneth Faried last year). For those, I place more emphasis on tournament performance than other players.
With that in mind, here's a look at some of the matchups I'll be keying on in the round of 32. Note that these aren't necessarily the best prospects, nor my favorite prospects. They're a combination of prospects I want more information on, matchups I think could be telling, and players the Sixers could realistically have a shot of drafting and who could potentially be a good fit with the Sixers.
Don't care about the draft when the Sixers are in the middle of a back-to-back against the Heat and Bulls? Phooey. The draft is like jello. There's always room for draft talk, even when the Sixers look to be drafting in the bottom half of the first round.
Kansas vs Purdue
Seeing Thomas Robinson play is a treat in and of itself, and he's my pie-in-the-sky hope that the Sixers can find a way to trade up and get, even if it's completely unrealistic. I said two months ago that he's my second rated big man and I'm sticking by that. If I have a top 5 pick, he's the one I'd bet on after Anthony Davis is off the board.
It will also be interesting to see how 5th year senior Robbie Hummel does against Robinson and Jeff Whitey. There are also Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson as potential NBA prospects, but I don't think Taylor is a good fit at all with the Sixers and Johnson is a virtual lock to return for his senior season to run the show for the first time in his career.
North Carolina vs Creighton
Seeing North Carolina in here probably isn't a surprise, but this game is not drawing my attention because of any of the highly rated UNC players. That's not to say that I don't love me some Harrison Barnes (who I still think would be a terrific fit on this team), John Henson (ditto), that I don't love watching Kendall Marshall, and that don't love the potential ofJ ames McAdoo. But I've seen them plenty and have well formed opinions, and what they do against Creighton isn't going to alter those opinions very much. That being said, if you're not a huge college basketball fan, this team has at least 8 players likely to play in the NBA at some point, so getting yourself familiar with them is probably a good thing.
No, I'm watching this game for Doug McDermott, and to see how he's going to do against the NBA athletes UNC can throw at him in their front line. I have a bit of a man crush on McDermott, and profiled him for DraftExpress earlier in the season. I think his offensive skill set has a decent chance of carrying over to the NBA as a role player, but how much it translates is still up in the air, particularly his deceptive post game. This will give him a chance to go up against the kind of athletes and length he'll see in the NBA. It will also challenge him laterally on the defensive side of the ball, something that is a huge question mark for his draft stock going forward.
Kentucky vs Iowa State
Much of what I said about UNC vs Gonzaga applies here. Sure, I love Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but you can forget about them from the Sixers perspective. And Marquis Teague, likely to go before the Sixers but at least in the ball park that the Sixers could potentially trade up for him, isn't a very good fit for the Sixers, and neither is Terrence Jones. Acquaint yourselves with Kentucky, as they once again have 6+ likely future NBA players on the floor for them.
The key in this once is once again who is trying to play against them: Royce White.
White became the darling of the tournament when he led the Cyclones over Connecticut. The multi-talented big man facilitates a large portion of the Iowa State offense and has one of the rarer skill sets in the draft, not to mention one of the rarer stories. Another good game here could put him out of reach for the Sixers unless they move up, and I'm not 100% convinced his skill set translates all that well when he becomes less of a focal point on a team, like he would on the Sixers with their plethora of ball handlers. That being said, he's definitely an intriguing player and it will be interesting to see him go up against Anthony Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist and that NBA-caliber front line. White has previously had big games against Kansas (18 points, 17 rebounds, 4 assists and 18 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists) and Missouri (20 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists and 16 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists), so there's a precedent to him playing well against top competition.
Baylor vs Colorado
I'd be surprised if Andre Roberson comes out this year, so you'll likely have plenty more time to evaluate him as a prospect. But from what I've seen I have a decent amount of interest. He's far from a polished offensive player, and his listed height of 6'7" is certainly on the small end. But his length and productivity on the glass and as a defender is something the Sixers could certainly use. Per pace-adjusted minutes he was the best rebounder in college basketball this year, and he has the length and timing to alter some shots on the defensive end and can move his feet well enough to provide some help on pick and rolls, all skills the Sixers could use. If he surprises everyone and puts his name in the hat for this years NBA draft he's somebody I could definitely have some interest in during the later half of the first round, and the matchup with Perry Jones III and Quincy Acy will be a good test. Not to mention, Perry Jones III was actually playing some of the most consistent ball of his college career before the 2 point clunker against South Dakota State.
Marquette vs Murray State
Murray State doesn't provide an overly intriguing matchup, at least in terms of a scouting perspective, but Marquette forward Jae Crowder and guard Darius Johnson-Odom deserve your attention, and both guys I would have a ton of interest in with one of our second round picks. I profiled Johnson-Odom not too long ago for DraftExpress, but Crowder is the one I'll really have my eye on. His improvement in his jump shot, combined with his ability to cut off the ball and his overall rebounding and superb hustle presents a lot of intrigue as a role player in the NBA despite his average size and athletic gifts.
Ohio State vs Gonzaga
Robert Sacre and Elias Harris vs Jared Sullinger and the #1 defense in the nation. I wouldn't have much interest Harris and Sacre from the Sixers perspective, even in the second round, but Sacre at least has the size to potentially prevent Sullinger from getting to his spots, and that's reason enough to watch and see how Sullinger responds.
Syracuse vs Kansas State
Not the most intriguing matchup in the world, but Dion Waiters is a guy who, despite not being the biggest need the Sixers have, I think is currently underrated and could end up being a big steal for the Sixers if he comes out this year and is around when they pick. I won't get too in depth about him here, but if he comes out, you'll probably see my thoughts on him later down the line.
Xavier vs Lehigh
Lehigh. LEHIGH BEAT DUKE. That's enough for me to watch this game. Born in Bethlehem and raised in the Lehigh Valley for my entire childhood, I was on cloud nine. Not to mention, C.J. McCollum is a player you'll hear about come draft time if he puts his name in, even as a potential first round pick according to Chad Ford. I'm not sure I'll go that far, but he'll definitely be in second round discussions when he enters the draft, whether this year or next year after his junior season. Match him up against electric guard Tu Holloway? This could be the most underrated matchup of the weekend. Neither players are particularly good fits for the Sixers, but must see TV nonetheless.
P.S. Lehigh actually has a chance against an Xavier team that struggled a bit down the stretch.