March 22, 2017, 12:27 pm
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.