• As usual, opening weekend of the NCAA tournament had its fair share of exciting games.  Defending champion Villanova was eliminated by 8 seed Wisconsin and Vegas favorite Duke was dropped by 7 seed South Carolina.  We are now down to 16 teams remaining and will get to enjoy plenty of quality games this weekend.  If your bracket was wrecked like mine was, now would be the time to turn your focus towards NBA scouting for the next fantasy season.  Some of the players you see flashing greatness in the tournament may mislead you on what you might expect from them at the next level.  I’m here to provide to insights as to which players you will want to watch this upcoming weekend.

    #7 Michigan v. #3 Oregon

    Michigan has a few solid players in Zak Irvin, Derrick Walton and Duncan Robinson filling the roles of veteran players at the college level.  However, it is the younger D.J. Wilson that fantasy players will want to keep an eye on.  Wilson is a sophomore power forward that will have a big decision to make this spring.  Wilson is projected as a late second rounder (or potentially undrafted) if he leaves for the NBA following this NCAA season.  However, early projections show him as a late first rounder if he sticks around one more season.  Many factors can play in to a major change in these projections over the next couple months, so it is hard to say if we will ever see him filling a significant role in the NBA at this point in time.

    Oregon has a few names for viewers to keep an eye on this coming weekend.  Dillon Brooks and Jordan Bell are the two names that we might see on draft night this summer, with Brooks having much higher odds of being called than Bell.  Big man Chris Boucher also has draft aspirations following his senior year, but is out with a leg injury and viewers will not get to enjoy his defensive skill set.  Finally, Tyler Dorsey is a young gun that fantasy coaches might want to check out.  The sophomore shooting guard has the potential to climb draft boards if he sticks around one more season and takes over for an Oregon squad that is likely losing several veteran players after this season.

    #4 West Virginia v. #1 Gonzaga

    West Virginia is a great team led by a great coach.  More impressive is the fact that they are so competitive while lacking true NBA talent.  This squad will full court press and put up a good fight every game, but you are not likely to see any of members of the West Virginia roster in the NBA next year.

    Many people overlook Gonzaga because they play in a smaller conference, but this team is both talented and deep.  You are likely to see many team members contribute for the Bulldogs this weekend, but Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins are the only names you will need to look out for this summer on draft night.  Nigel Williams-Goss is a solid college point guard, but will likely miss the draft cut this summer.  He may be able to latch on to a summer league roster, but is not likely to have a fantasy impact any time soon.  Collins, on the other hand, stands a good shot as a late first rounder.  He plays power forward, is listed at 7’0″ tall and is only a 19-year old freshman. He has the length of a NBA big and can play inside and out.  He will need to add weight to be effective inside in the NBA but has plenty of potential as a floor spacing big.

    #4 Purdue v. #1 Kansas

    Purdue is not known for rostering a stockpile of NBA talent like its Thursday night opponent, Kansas.  However, the Boilermakers do have one key player to watch closely in this matchup – Caleb Swanigan.  He will play power forward in the NBA, but tends to log a decent amount of center minutes at the college level.  He is only a sophomore, but is projected as a borderline first round pick.  He is listed around 6’9″, but has a 7’3″ wingspan and weighs about 250 pounds.  He is a double-double machine, but will be facing a tough matchup against Landen Lucas.

    While Kansas boasts a starting lineup full of potential professional ball players, Josh Jackson is the real star to watch for this team.  He should be a top 3-5 pick this summer and is a great 2-way player.  The biggest knock on his game is his mid-to-long range shooting, but that has slowly been improving over the course of the season.  Another player to keep an eye on for the Jayhawks is possible player of the year Frank Mason.  He has had an amazing senior season, but comes in on the smaller side for a NBA point guard.  If the Jayhawks are to advance, Mason will be a main reason but do not expect to see him producing the same numbers anytime soon in the NBA.

    #11 Xavier v. #2 Arizona

    Not to brag, but Xavier in the Sweet Sixteen is one of the few bright spots from my bracket.  Trevon Bluiett and Edmond Sumner play for this squad and both have some professional basketball potential, but it does not appear that either are considered high draft prospects this summer.  Sumner has time on his side, as he is only a sophomore, but the 6’5″ point guard is expected to have second round draft potential in 2018.

    Arizona had one of the highest ranked recruiting classes coming in to this season and are likely going to be successful for quite a few years.  Lauri Markkanen seems like a surefire lottery pick and is often compared to Dirk Nowitzki.  Allonzo Trier, Kobi Simmons, Rawle Alkins and Kadeem Allen are all players to keep an eye on as some expect them to enter their names in draft classes over the next few years.

    #4 Butler v. #1 N. Carolina

    Many NBA fans are only familiar with the Butler Bulldogs because of the success of Gordon Hayward.  Since then, this school has become one of the most respected mid major programs in the nation.  This year, Kelan Martin (junior) and Kamar Baldwin (freshman) are two names that fantasy players can watch.  While it may be a stretch to bank on Martin in the NBA, Baldwin still has a chance but the point guard will need to really impress during his time in college.

    North Carolina, on the other hand, has plenty of top ranked players.  Justin Jackson is really the key man to watch no matter how far these Tar Heels go in the tournament.  Jackson is a junior small forward and is in consideration for player of the year.  He profiles as a late lottery pick to mid first rounder.

    #7 S. Carolina v. #3 Baylor

    P.J. Dozier is the leading NBA prospect for this South Carolina squad that surprised fans with a Sweet 16 spot. At 6’6″, the sophomore shooting guard has a decent shot at being a second round pick in any of the next couple draft classes.  His 3-point and free throw shooting is far from stellar, but the kid has size and finds ways to contribute across the stat sheet.

    Jonathan Motley has been a surprise treat for Baylor this season as he has worked his way up draft rankings.  The junior power forward is projected as a late first rounder.  He stands 6’9″ and has shown his abilities on both ends of the court.  Ideally he would be a little bit taller, but he may be able to carve out a decent role as a rotation big in the NBA.

    #3 UCLA v. #2 Kentucky

    As the year goes on, more and more media attention shifts towards Lonzo Ball.  While his play is stellar for a freshman, it is more due to the mouth of his father.  Ball comes from a family of 3 brothers born to play basketball.  He continues to slide up draft boards and is now considered an option at number one overall.  Besides Ball, keep an eye on T.J. Leaf, Aaron Holiday and Ike Anigbogu (an overlooked center that could go in the first round).

    Per usual, Kentucky is loaded with draft prospects of their own and this game may very well be the most important game to catch for fantasy players.  Between the two teams, we could be watching around eight future NBA players.  For Kentucky, De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk lead the way as potential lottery picks.  Bam Adebayo, Isaiah Briscoe and many more have potential as picks later in the draft.

    #8 Wisconsin v. #4 Florida

    Wisconsin has a couple of guys, Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ, that have been mentioned in draft projections.  Happ will likely stay in college and hope to improve his draft stock as he is only a sophomore.  He currently projects as a second rounder in 2018.  Nigel Hayes is the unfortunate player that stayed in college too long and continues to fall on draft projections.  He is now a senior and is likely to go undrafted, due to his size and lack of improvement.  However, Hayes must play a fairly large role on this Badger team if they hope to advance.

    The main guy to watch for Florida is Devin Robinson.  The junior small forward is currently projected as a second rounder in 2017 but has the luxury of waiting another season if he so desires.  The 6’8″ small forward has potential and posts a decently well-rounded stat set.

Fantasy News

  • Luka Doncic
    PG-SF, Dallas Mavericks

    Luka Doncic was sublime in Friday's 120-112 win over the Blazers, dropping 35 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, a steal and eight 3-pointers.

    Doncic had an answer for everything that the Blazers threw at him and even responded to some signature stretches out of Damian Lillard that put the game back in the balance. He did go 5-of-8 at the free throw line and has shot just .681 on his freebies over the last two weeks but we're hoping that will correct given the much larger sample of great shooting from earlier in the year. It's a joy to watch him play.

  • Tim Hardaway Jr.
    SF, Dallas Mavericks

    Tim Hardaway Jr. was feeling it on Friday night, helping the Mavs to a home win with 29 points, a steal and five 3-pointers.

    Hardaway goes on runs of big production but overall he's still outside the top-150 on the year. His poor shooting nights can ruin your week but THJ has started to level out to a certain extent, scoring in double digits in each of the last seven after a three-game absence. That sounds good, but only two of those games feature 20-plus, while four are games of 15 points or fewer. THJ is boom or bust and it's just a matter of getting on board at the right time.

  • Dwight Powell
    PF, Dallas Mavericks

    Dwight Powell had a mediocre game on Friday night, dropping eight points (3-of-6 FG), six rebounds and two assists against Hassan Whiteside and the Blazers.

    Powell has a nasty habit of posting uninspiring lines like this right after he gets people back on the bandwagon. Still, he's been an easy middle-round value over the last couple of weeks thanks to an insane .783 mark from the floor and is now up to top-150 value on the full season. It's been a disappointing year overall, but Powell is at least trending in the right direction.

  • Maxi Kleber
    PF, Dallas Mavericks

    Maxi Kleber logged 33 minutes on Friday night and was able to post 10 points, five rebounds, three blocks and two 3-pointers.

    Nothing too special, but it'll certainly play. Kleber's up to top-155/140 value on the full year and has been a top-90/75 player while starting for Kristaps Porzingis (knee) over the last two weeks. Keep him locked and loaded until KP returns.

  • Seth Curry
    SG, Dallas Mavericks

    Seth Curry put up 16 points off the bench in Friday's win over the Blazers, rounding out his night by going 6-of-14 from the field with four rebounds, three assists, a steal and three 3-pointers.

    The Blazers are dropping like flies and probably miss Curry quite a bit. He's been up and down this season but his mix of threes and relatively sound efficiency, plus some timely hot streaks, have him sitting with top-200 value. The Dallas bench can be volatile from night to night and in this game it was Curry and Jalen Brunson (13 points, one steal, one 3-pointer) well ahead of Delon Wright (3-5-4 in 15 minutes). Wright remains the best fantasy option of the bunch even if he didn't show it tonight.

  • Mario Hezonja
    SG, Portland Trail Blazers

    Mario Hezonja (back) returned from a two-game absence on Friday night and had seven points in 19 minutes.

    Hezonja has been in and out of the rotation, but could find himself looked to for scoring if CJ McCollum's ankle injury ends up being serious. Not-So-Super Mario is only a deep-league option these days, and not a good one at that.

  • Damian Lillard
    PG, Portland Trail Blazers

    Damian Lillard played through an illness on Friday night and kept the Blazers in the game, scoring 34 points on 13-of-25 from the field while adding 10 assists, two steals and three 3-pointers.

    Lillard was a game-time decision tonight but this one would've been a blowout had he not been able to suit up. Portland's on the outside looking in on the playoff chase right now, and as long as that deficit is manageable we should see Lillard emptying the tank to get the Blazers back into the postseason.

  • Hassan Whiteside
    C, Portland Trail Blazers

    Hassan Whiteside kept on rolling in Friday's loss, notching 21 points, 18 rebounds, five blocks and a 9-for-10 shooting line.

    Whiteside is stuck on automatic and figures to remain that way until Jusuf Nurkic returns. He's been a huge steal for fantasy GMs this season and while we'd bet on him slowing down over the last couple of months, you're free to ride this wave to its completion considering his ADP.

  • Kent Bazemore
    SG, Portland Trail Blazers

    Kent Bazemore battled through early foul trouble on Friday night and finished with 11 points, three rebounds, four assists, a steal and two 3-pointers.

    Bazemore didn't start the second half but did manage to play 31 minutes despite racking up four fouls. If CJ McCollum has to miss time with his ankle sprain, Bazemore will be thrust into a more offensive role. A 14-16-team guy over the last couple of weeks, the stars have been aligning to get Bazemore back inside the top-150. He has yet to take advantage, but this could be another coin flip that lands the right way for him.

  • Anfernee Simons
    SG, Portland Trail Blazers

    Anfernee Simons started the second half in place of CJ McCollum (sprained ankle) on Friday night and posted seven points, five rebounds, five assists, a steal and a 3-pointer in 28 minutes.

    Simons is really the only logical alternative if McCollum has to miss time, which puts him on the map as a low-end addition in standard leagues. He's best viewed as a source of scoring with non-negligible assists, but don't get too crazy chasing him on the wire or anything. That could change depending on McCollum's timetable but there's no need for drastic action just yet.