Cody Zeller has had a very good freshman campaign for the Indiana Hoosiers. He'll have a big test in the Sweet 16, going up against Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of Kentucky. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
As I did for the round of 32, I will be writing about what I'm going to be keying in the Sweet 16.
To reiterate, I don't place a whole lot of emphasis on the NCAA tournament. There are exceptions, particularly when small school players go up against NBA-level competition for what may be only the second or third time in their career, like Kenneth Faried did last year, and C.J. McCollum did this year (I did a report for DraftExpress on McCollum today).
Also, this isn't necessarily a list of the best prospects, and certainly not all the prospects. These are the ones I'm keying on as a Sixers fan/scout, because they could be good fits with the Sixers, because I want more data on them, or because they're going up against a matchup that intrigues me.
Syracuse vs Wisconsin
As I previously said, Dion Waiters is a guy who I think is drastically underrated right now. He responded with 18 points on 9 shots in Syracuse 16 point win against Kansas State, and was by far the best player in the first half of that game. He will be going up against Jordan Taylor and one of the best defenses in the nation tonight, so this will be a good test for the second year 6th man.
Ohio State vs Cincinnati
Jared Sullinger against Yancy Gates makes this an intriguing matchup in and of itself, as Gates has the lower body strength and post defense to force Sullinger to work. Sullinger struggled with foul trouble against the big Gonzaga front court, only managing to get up 9 field goal attempts and 4 rebounds during his 26 minutes, although he did manage 18 points on those 9 shots, goign 6-7 fom the charity stripe.
William Buford and Aaron Craft are also guys likely to play in the NBA, and Buford especially brings a skill set that could be value to a team like the Sixers, particularly Buford, although current depth at the Sixers makes that hazy. I'm not sure I can see Buford and Jodie Meeks getting significant time on the same team, and we know Collins likes Jodie.
Louisville vs Michigan State
Louisville in and of itself isn't all that interesting from an NBA draft perspective, their best prospect is a freshman who hardly plays, but represents an interesting matchup for one of the darlings of the NCAA tournament, Draymond Green. Green had one of the most ridiculous lines in recent NCAA tournament play, putting up 24 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, and 0 turnovers in a 22 point win against Long Island in the opening round. He followed that up with "only" putting in 16 points, 13 rebounds, and 6 assists against St. Louis. Green is one of the more polarizing figures in draft talks, as his out of shape body (although if you look at where he was at in high school, he's come a long way) defies the production he's currently providing. Who will he guard in the NBA? No idea. But he's fun to watch.
Louisville has Gorgui Dieng, an incredibly long freak of a 6'10" athlete and shot blocker extraordinaire that they can throw at Green to try to slow him down. Besides watching the two drastically conflicting prospects, Dieng is a player who I could envision the Sixers and their dearth of an interior defender having an interest in.
Florida vs Marquette
This one has a whole bunch of intriguing matchups, from Bradley Beal vs Darius Johnson-Odom and Vander Blue to Patric Young vs Jae Crowder. Johnson-Odom's physicality and Vander Blue's length and athleticism could give Bradley Beal some struggles, and it'll be interesting to see how he reacts against those two very different players. Similarly, how Patric Young defends against the increasingly versatile Crowder when they're matched up will be interesting to watch.
Baylor vs Xavier
If there's anybody hurting their draft stock so far this tournament, it's been Perry Jones III. Jones has scored a grand total of 9 points on 14 shots so far this tournament, with Baylor struggling against 14th ranked South Dakota State. Xavier guard Tu Holloway, while likely not in the Sixers plans, is also always a good watch, and Quincy Acy is a guy I wouldn't be surprised to see the Sixers work out come draft time and take a serious look at with one of their second round picks.
Indiana vs Kentucky
Cody Zeller has likely improved his draft stock as much as anybody with his stellar play so far this year, and that has continued into the tournament, averaging 15 points and 9.5 boards on 10-18 from the field in two games so far. Playing against Kentucky will be a great front court matchup. Zeller has already gone up against Kentucky once this year, a 1 point defeat where he scored 11 points and pulled down 7 rebounds.
Also, obviously, you get the chance to watch Anthony Davis (dream), Terrence Jones (unlikely), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (no chance), and Doron Lamb (potential pick) play as well. I would expect all 4 of those will be in the NBA next year.
Ohio vs North Carolina
Ohio is utterly boring from an NBA draft perspective, and shouldn't test UNC, even without Kendall Marshall. What will be interesting, however, is how Harrison Barnes and John Henson react to not having their floor general around if Marshall can't play, which is what I'm expecting. If you remember, Harrison Barnes was really under-achieving his freshman year before Marshall became the starter. How much of the burden of generating offense for UNC can Barnes shoulder? That will be interesting to watch, although even more-so in later rounds if UNC does advanced against the still-overmatched Ohio Bobcats.
N.C. State vs Kansas
I have no real interest in Tyshawn Taylor on the Sixers, this matchup is all about Thomas Robinson vs Richard Howell and C.J. Leslie, more about what (if anything) Howell can do defensively against Robinson. T-Rob on the Sixers. Get 'er done, Rod.