• Every March, certain players take their game to the next level and shine on the national stage.  This is an opportunity for some players for a last ditch effort at draft rankings, while other high profile draft targets may not even have the chance to play.

    For the purpose of March Madness series I’m writing, I will be focusing on tournament players to watch for fantasy basketball purposes in the near future.  This first article will focus on potential lottery picks to watch during the opening weekend.

    As the field of teams thin out, I will expand my article scope to include guys that may have a big impact in the tournament, but may or may not be drafted.

    Don’t forget to get in on the Hoop-Ball.com bracket challenge!

    Winning the Lottery

    Lonzo Ball (PG, UCLA) – Freshman, T.J. Leaf (PF, UCLA) – Freshman

    Ball has risen to the top as the star of this draft class.  While it is still up for debate whether he is the top player in the draft class, he is surely the most famous at this point in time.  A lot of this stems from his family life.  He comes from a family of three boys, all committed to UCLA.  He is the first of the three and has served as a dynamite point guard in turning the UCLA program around during his single year in attendance.

    Ball is projected as a top 3 pick currently and will first play as a three seed.  At 6’6″, he should serve as a solid franchise point guard for any NBA team that drafts him near the top.

    Leaf also plays for the Bruins, but unlike Ball he is far from a guaranteed lottery pick.  I’ve seen him as high as 10th overall, but as low as a late first rounder.  Leaf is a 6’10” power forward known for his abilities to stretch the floor.  He is the leading UCLA scoring this season and shoots 45% from outside on nearly 2 attempts per game.  Where he lacks in athletic upside at the next level, he easily makes up for in efficiency.  He’s not known as a rim protector, but still plays decent defense at the college level.

    Josh Jackson (SF, Kansas) – Freshman

    Jackson started the year as one of the top recruits in the class and has done plenty to help his draft stock as the year has gone on.  He needs to work on his free throw and 3-point shooting to be a valuable fantasy asset, but has shown his hustle and work ethic throughout the season.

    Where he used to struggle with foul trouble, the freshman phenom has quickly adjusted to play smarter and roll as the number two option on this top ranked team.  He plays great defense and some have compared his level of competitiveness to Kevin Garnett.

    Jackson will surely play a big role as this Kansas squad looks to go deep in the tournament.

    Jonathan Isaac (F, Florida St.) – Freshman

    Isaac is unique as a one-and-done in a program that hasn’t experienced a large amount of freshman phenoms in recent years.  At 6’11”, the Seminole would have nice length as a NBA small forward.  This Florida State squad comes in as a three seed and a run to at least the Sweet 16 would surely help Isaac’s draft stock.

    Jayson Tatum (SF, Duke) – Freshman, Harry Giles (PF/C, Duke) – Freshman

    The combo of Tatum and Giles played a big factor in to Duke obtaining the preseason number 1 ranking.  However, the Blue Devils have been very inconsistent and lost several games they should not have.  That being said, the team has has started to heat up and right time and could be the last team standing (according to Vegas oddsmakers).

    Tatum is more likely to have the spotlight on him during the tournament, as one the top scorers and rebounders for this team.  He has a well rounded game and could be valuable for fantasy purposes as early as next year, given the right opportunity.  His numbers are efficient and he can fill up the stat sheet, but will need big minutes right away to be roster worthy.

    Harry Giles as a lottery pick is actually based more on potential than actual NCAA production.  Giles comes off the bench and only averages around 12 minutes per game, but his length and upside still has him projected as a late first rounder at minimum.  If Giles shows up big in the tournament, his stock could climb quickly.

    De’Aaron Fox (PG, Kentucky) – Freshman, Malik Monk (SG, Kentucky) – Freshman, Bam Adebayo (PG/C, Kentucky) – Freshman

    As usual, Kentucky boasts one of the most NBA-ready rosters in the tournament.  They’ve had their usual growing pains, but come in as a number 2 seed having won a relatively weak SEC conference.  That being said, any team facing them in the tournament should have a tough time matching up with them.

    Fox has potential as a combo guard at the next level, but isn’t necessarily a great passer quite yet.  He needs to improve his outside game, but his length and youth serve as big reasons to why he still ranked so high. Malik Monk has showcased his abilities to light up the scoreboard throughout the season.  He has a smooth jumper and received lots of attention when he dropped 47 points on North Carolina this season.  While only 6’4″, his scoring abilities should be welcome on any NBA team.

    Adebayo has actually fallen the hardest of the three freshman.  He entered the season as a top draft pick, but now looks to be more of fringe lottery pick.  At 6’10” and 255 pounds of muscle, the kid looks like a fully developed man.  He’s a true post player, but has not looked as dominant as expected.  Adebayo could see his stock rise if he racks up a couple double-doubles in the tourney.

    Lauri Markkenen (PF, Arizona) – Freshman

    Markkenen plays for a very talented team, yet still manages to stand out as the most talented big on the team.  At 7’0″ tall, he has received draft comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki and Ryan Anderson due to the fact that he is able to stretch the floor out.  He does lack defensive abilities, but is ultra efficient offensively.  This season, he has shot 43% from outside on 4.6 attempts per game.  If he is able to find minutes next season, he could serve a specialist role in fantasy with good FG%, FT% and 3s from a big man.

    Miles Bridges (SF, Michigan St.) – Freshman

    Bridges is an interesting players to keep an eye on.  He is projected in various spots in mock drafts and his team is only coming in as a 9 seed, with a potential matchup against Josh Jackson’s Jayhawks as their second game.  However, he looks physically ready and was a team leader in scoring, rebounding and blocks this season.  He is only 6’6″, but shows great hustle and efficiency.  He comes up short from the free throw line but will be relied on heavily in this tournament.

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