As the NCAA tournament is set to begin the Sweet 16, we continue to take a look at draft prospects who could potentially be 76ers come the end of June.
I want to reiterate this, don't place too much stock in the NCAA tournament. It's a trap many fall into. The NCAA tournament (from a draft perspective) is great for people who haven't followed college basketball all year to get acquainted to prospects and find out who to scout further. It's important for players in smaller conferences who may not have gone up against NBA caliber opponents. It's good to see how players react to pressure packed situations. But it should not override evaluations made from the previous 30+ games worth of data.
With that being said, here's some of what I'm looking for tonight.
Thursday, March 28th
7:15 PM - Miami vs Marquette
This game will be a tough matchup for Marquette, I think. Miami can be a streaky shooting team, but when Shane Larkin, Durand Scott,Trey McKinney Jones, Rion Brown and even Kenny Kadji get on a role, they can be dangerous. So far this tournament, they have been hot, and Marquette's defense can at times be hurt from the outside.
From an NBA perspective, Vander Blue has really helped his draft stock so far during this tournament run, perhaps as much as anyone. He was excellent against Butler, with 29 points on 15 attempts . Blue has always had a ton of athletic gifts, and he was starting to put them together as the season went on. He's averaging 19 points per game on 59.6% from the field over the last 5 games. If he continues to show legitimate range on his jump shot, he has the athleticism and defense to move up in the draft. That being said, I can't see him working himself up to the lottery, and I can't see him falling to the second round anymore, so that limits the interest level from the 76ers. But it's always good to stay up on potential targets should the 76ers acquire another first round pick.
On the Florida side, Shane Larkin is again likely the highest draft pick out of Miami when he does come out, but the 76ers should have very little interest. The lottery is just too high to draft somebody who can only really be a backup point guard on your team.
Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji are the other two Miami prospects you'll hear about on draft day, both of whom I profiled over at Draft Express (Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji). I have very little interest in Johnson, but I wouldn't mind grabbing an extra second round pick and taking a flyer on Kadji. He'll be 25 by the time of the draft, but he can impact the game in a number of ways. He has struggled somewhat so far this tournament, but I could see him finding a spot on a roster next fall.
7:47 PM - Ohio State vs Arizona
Again, there's just not much from these teams that I think will interest the 76ers, at least not in this draft class. Aaron Craft hit that huge game winner, but I don't really see him having much success in the NBA. Deshaun Thomas and Solomon Hill are both guys I have my eye on in the second round, so keep an eye on those two, especially since you'll likely see them matched up against each other. Both have NBA bodies and improving perimeter games.
The best prospect in the game may be Brandon Ashley, the freshman power forward for Arizona, a McDonalds All-American last year who was starting earlier this season. He's been a role player of late, and I don't expect him to leave Arizona yet, but he's somebody to keep an eye on.
9:45 PM - Indiana vs Syracuse
The marquee matchup of the night, both in terms of marketable college teams and NBA prospects. I've written before about my man-love for Oladipo, who hit the huge shot over Temple to help Indiana advance. He'll have his hands full with Syracuse, who has a number of wing scorers to lock down.
The three most interesting things to watch in this game, to me, are:
- How well Michael Carter-Williams can do against Indiana's stingy defense, especially if Oladipo defends him for long stretches as I suspect he will. Carter-Williams has really struggled to find his own offense here down the stretch, and the Orange could really use him to have an impact scoring the ball
- How well Cody Zeller can bounce back after that absolutely dreadful Temple game? Syracuse has some good depth on that front line with Christmas, Keita, et al.
- How well Zeller and Oladipo respond to the zone of Syracuse.
10:17 PM - Wichita State vs La Salle