With the NCAA tournament officially starting today (let's be real, the First Four isn't actually a part of the tournament), NBA Draft Season has begun in earnest. Now is the perfect time to pay attention to college ball for two weeks, see a player ride a three game hot streak, and decide that he actually has much better draft prospects than anyone had previously thought!
In all seriousness, the tournament is a good opportunity to get a look at some top prospects as they match up against their hardest competitions of the year. Here are some guys you might want to check out today.
Early Afternoon Games:
Brandon Ingram, Duke
Enough has been written about Ingram on this site that there's not much of a need to expand here. He is the only player who can reasonably challenge Simmons' ceiling in this draft. However, he has gone through a bit of a rough patch over the last few weeks. Look to see if he's bothered by physical defenders, and if he can make better use of putting the ball on the floor. His potential second round matchup against Taurean Prince could be a goodie.
Daniel Hamilton, Connecticut
A personal favorite of mine, Hamilton is a do-everything wing for the Huskies who has flown very much under the radar this year. He excelled in the Big East Tournament, where he put up 32 points and 12 rebounds in four overtimes against Cincinnati. He's not a great scorer, but he has an excellent feel for the game, with an outstanding AST% of 29.6%. If UConn makes a run this year, he'll be the engine behind it.
Monte Morris, Iowa State
Morris has been the ultimate point guard over the last three years for this Cyclones' squad. Sporting a record setting AST:TO ratio of 4.1 to 1, he has set the gold standard for managing a team's turnovers and maximizing basketball IQ. He's a decent shooter at 37% from three and 78% from the line for his career. Where he falls short is in his physical tools-- he's an average athlete with below average measurements for the point guard position. Watch how handles AJ English's size against Iona to see how he might deal with some of his limitations at the next level.
Taurean Prince, Baylor
If there's been one constant since Scott Drew came to Waco, it's been his ability to find long, strong athletes and convince them to play for Baylor. Prince is the latest iteration of that trend. He's the prototype for a hybrid wing in the NBA, standing 6'7 with a 6'11 wingspan and plus athleticism. He should be a strong candidate to guard both wing positions and the 4 at the next level, while providing some shooting and secondary playmaking ability from the wing. How he plays against Ingram could show a lot on both sides of the ball.
AJ Hammons, Purdue
Hammons is a behemoth of a center who has been Purdue's rock all season long. While he has experienced some academic issues this year, he's produced at an awesome level when he's been able to play, putting up an insane 25 points and 13 rebounds to go with 4 blocks per 40 minutes. Given the overabundance of centers on the Sixers, he's probably not going to wind up on this team, but he might be the most dominant low post force in the NCAA, and he'll be fun to watch while Purdue is still in the tournament.
Yogi Ferrell, Indiana
As a senior with average physical tools and lacking outstanding production, Ferrell's probably a long-shot to stick in the NBA. But as a college player, he has been a lot of fun. He's produced 20 points and 6 assists per 40 minutes this year on 59% True Shooting. He can score driving to the hoop and especially as a threat from deep. The questions for Ferrell will come on defense, where he's too small to have an impact, and he gets beaten too easily off the dribble. His 0.7 DBPM this year is his first positive DBPM since his freshman year-- not a good sign. Still, for a team in need of a floor general and shooting, he might be an undrafted free agent to pay attention to.
Thomas Bryant, Indiana
If you're interested in some deep cuts, Indiana-Kentucky (assuming both advance) is the game to watch. Bryant has shown some promise as a shooter this year, and given his outstanding 7'6 wingspan, teams hope that he might eventually develop into the white whale of NBA big men. As a freshman at IU, he's had his ups and downs, and hasn't yet displayed consistency as either a shooter or a shot blocker. The bigger issue for Bryant going forward may be how he handles defending in space. While he plays hard and has an outstanding motor, he has really struggled to contain penetration, which would kneecap his NBA career from the onset.
Jamal Murray, Kentucky
Everyone knows about the Wildcats' prospects. Murray may be the most likely selection if the Laker's pick conveys this year. The biggest question for him is his defense, where he has really struggled to put it together this year. Potentially playing against athletic guards from Indiana and North Carolina may help to demonstrate how far he still has to go, or if he's putting it together a bit more.
Kris Dunn, Providence
If you're looking for a franchise-leading point guard this year, Dunn is pretty much the only choice playing in the tournament. He has the size and the athleticism to play in the NBA, but it's his handle and shooting that are still posing questions to GM's. If he can't play without the ball and score efficiently with it, he may be a negative player at the next level. Still, he's produced eye-popping passing numbers for the second year in a row (42% AST rate), and has had to deal with a decidedly below average supporting cast outside of Ben Bentil. A second round matchup with Marcus Paige and North Carolina could be illuminating.