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NBA Draft guide to March Madness: Notable prospects to watch

NBA Draft guide to March Madness: Notable prospects to watch

The first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament tips off today, meaning there will be a ton of games to watch in the coming days. Some NBA fans are already looking ahead to the 2022 NBA Draft, so a big reason they tune in is to see how notable prospects will perform on college basketball's biggest stage.

But who are the top prospects to keep an eye on this year?

We've put together this guide that features scouting breakdowns from our Sr. NBA Draft Analyst Matt Babcock, who's been tracking these players for years. This list only includes prospects who are expected to enter this year’s draft and who are currently included on BasketballNews.com's 2022 NBA Draft Big Board.

Jabari Smith, Auburn — No. 1 

At 6-foot-10, Jabari Smith has the size and shooting stroke to be an impactful stretch-4 at the NBA level. Added physical strength will certainly propel his development, but his athleticism, shooting and defensive abilities make him a high-level prospect. In addition, considering the value of floor spacing in today's game, Smith will likely generate significant interest from NBA teams. As a result, Smith is in the mix to be the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.

Jaden Ivey, Purdue — No. 2 

For the Boilermakers this season, Ivey is shooting career-highs across the board and has propelled himself into top-3 consideration. Ivey is a phenomenal athlete and a promising on-ball defender who has flashed great potential on the defensive end of the floor. His offense has taken a huge leap, as he's shown the ability to create space for himself, score on multiple levels and attack the rim at an elite level. Purdue is one of the best teams in America, and Ivey is a huge component of their success. He's one to keep an eye on near the top of the 2022 class.

Chet Holmgren, Gonzaga — No. 3 

At 7-foot tall with a 7-foot-6 wingspan, Chet Holmgren is a playmaker on both ends of the floor. He is comfortable with the ball in his hands, is a reliable shooter, and he can score on all levels. On the defensive end, Holmgren greatly affects the game as a rim protector. He will need to add weight to maximize his potential, as he is rail-thin, but he is one of the most unique prospects we've ever seen nonetheless. Holmgren is projected to be a top-5 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.

Paolo Banchero, Duke — No. 4 

At 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds, Paolo Banchero is incredibly versatile. He excels in the post, can create off the dribble and continues to improve as a face-up shooter from deep. He lacks elite athleticism on the defensive end but has flashed a great feel and discipline to counter that. Players with his build and skill set don't come around very often. Banchero is widely considered as a top-4 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.

Keegan Murray, Iowa — No. 5 

At 6-foot-8 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan, Keegan Murray has a high motor and does a lot of the “little things'' that contribute to winning. Also, he is a terrific defender. Despite shooting an inefficient 29.6% from deep last season, Murray has shot and scored the ball at a much higher rate this season. In addition, his ability to attack close-outs and score from multiple levels has allowed him to carry a greater offensive load. Murray is a candidate for National Player of the Year and has played himself into top-10 consideration in the 2022 NBA Draft.

AJ Griffin, Duke — No. 7

AJ Griffin is 6-foot-6 and possesses a 7-foot wingspan. He is a powerful and versatile wing with a tremendous physical profile and promising skill set. Griffin has also shown the ability to create for both himself and others. After missing the early part of this season due to injury, he has solidified himself as one of the best shooters in the country. AJ is the son of former NBA player and current Toronto Raptors assistant coach Adrian Griffin, and he has made a case for himself to become a top-10 pick.

Jalen Duren, Memphis — No. 8

After reclassifying to the high-school class of 2021, Jalen Duren will likely be one of the youngest players in the 2022 NBA Draft at just 18.6 years old on draft day. Although he is young, he's shown that he can dominate the interior at a high level by utilizing his strength and physicality. Standing at 6-foot-11, weighing in at a chiseled 250 pounds and possessing a 7-foot-5 wingspan, Duren impacts the game as both a play-finisher and rim protector. He is projected to be a lottery pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.

Bennedict Mathurin, Arizona — No. 9 

After a strong freshman campaign for the Arizona Wildcats, Bennedict Mathurin has made a jump in his second year in Tucson. Mathurin's size, athleticism, defense and shot-making ability make him an intriguing NBA prospect. Standing at 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds, he is an explosive athlete and is a capable slasher and finisher. Mathurin has solidified himself as one of the best wings in the 2022 NBA Draft and continues to make his case as a top-10 selection.

Johnny Davis, Wisconsin — No. 10

At 6-foot-5, Johnny Davis has positional size and has become one of the most reliable scorers in the country. He can take his defender to the rim, is comfortable operating in the mid-range, and has shown consistency from deep. He isn’t flashy, but he is incredibly effective and decisive, which has resulted in a large jump in his free-throw rate. His combination of physicality and quick decision-making brings good versatility to his game. Davis has established himself as one of the best shooting guards in the country and is a candidate for National Player of the Year.

TyTy Washington, Kentucky — No. 11

Although he has played primarily off the ball this season, TyTy Washington still sets the tone for his team and provides value as both a facilitator and scorer. Even when pushing the pace, Washington plays under control and seldom makes poor decisions leading to turnovers. He is only 6-foot-3 and lacks elite athleticism, but he routinely gets his shot off from deep with smooth mechanics and a quick release. As a result, Washington will likely be the first point guard selected in the 2022 NBA Draft.

Kendall Brown, Baylor — No. 12

A big, strong and explosive wing with a high motor, Kendall Brown provided an impact right off the bat at Baylor this season. Brown can finish with both athleticism and finesse as a slasher, although he lacks elite self-creation. He is also a terrific defender, using his length and quickness to disrupt the opposition. Brown is a potential lottery pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.

Jeremy Sochan, Baylor — No. 13

Sochan is an energetic, athletic forward with positional size, standing at 6-foot-9. He has a tremendous motor and excels as a defender and rebounder due to his footwork and length. Although just 18 years old, Sochan has shown flashes of self-creation but is primarily scoring off of cuts at the rim and catch-and-shoot threes at the moment. He will only be 19.1 on draft day, but he is already showing why he has big-time potential at the NBA level. Sochan's combination of size, athleticism, instincts and skill is unique.

Ochai Agbaji, Kansas — No. 14

Ochai Agbaji is a versatile wing who has shown promise as a defender, slasher and shooter. Early in his career, he was known for his athleticism and defense. However, this season, he has emerged as one of the best shooters in America, making giant leaps as a scorer in both volume and efficiency. Agbaji has solidified himself as a viable 3-and-D option at the NBA level and is a candidate for National Player of the Year.

Tari Eason, LSU — No. 17 

After transferring from Cincinnati, Tari Eason has had a breakout season in Baton Rouge. He has positional size and length, and he plays with a great motor on both ends of the floor. While Eason is still improving as a shooter, he excels at putting the ball on the deck and attacking the rim. In addition, Eason is a switchable defender and all-around playmaker. If he keeps performing at a high level, he will have an excellent chance to be a first-round pick this summer.

Mark Williams, Duke — No. 18

Mark Williams is one of the best shot-blockers and inside scorers in the country. Utilizing his size, length and interior presence, Williams shows flashes of dominance on both ends. This season, he has been solid for Mike Krzyzewski and the Duke Blue Devils, which could lead to him being a first-round pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.

EJ Liddell, Ohio State — No. 22

Although he is a bit undersized for the position, the Buckeyes often use Liddell as a 4/5 in their lineups. He is physical and versatile on both ends of the floor, scoring both inside and out. He appears more comfortable in the mid-range and paint, which works well for his college system but raises questions in regards to how he'll translate to the NBA. Liddell continues to fill up the box score and play with great effort and toughness. He has certainly carved out a spot for himself in the 2022 NBA Draft.

Walker Kessler, Auburn — No. 23

After transferring from North Carolina, Kessler is arguably the best shot-blocker in the country, and he continues to develop as a short-roll passer and has shown shooting flashes during this season. He's still not a reliable floor-stretcher, but he is incredibly efficient around the rim on offense with a soft touch on the block. Kessler's length, mobility and rim protection give him a unique skill set and makes him a viable option in the 2022 NBA Draft.

Kennedy Chandler, Tennessee — No. 24

Although undersized, Tennessee’s Kennedy Chandler has incredible speed. He might be the fastest player in the country with the ball in his hands this season. In addition, Chandler is a terrific game manager, skilled passer and developing outside shooter. Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes has had success with smaller, speedier guards in the past, as T.J. Ford won the Naismith Player of the Year in 2003 while the two were both at Texas. Chandler will likely be one of the first point guards selected in the 2022 NBA Draft.

Malaki Branham, Ohio State — No. 26

Branham was ranked No. 35 in the 2021 RSCI recruiting class and, after a slow start, burst onto the scene in conference play. At 6-foot-5, he plays with patience and is a smooth three-level scorer. He is comfortable operating in the pick-and-roll and scoring from the mid-range, and he has shown promise as a spot-up shooter. Branham is full of potential and is hitting his stride as a scoring threat, so he's certainly someone to watch.

JD Davison, Alabama — No. 27 

An uber-athletic and explosive leaper, Alabama’s JD Davison elevates seamlessly off one or two feet. He is also a tremendous playmaker and facilitator off the dribble, and he continues to improve as an outside shooter. Davison possesses a ton of upside and, although coming off the bench for the Tide, is turning heads ahead of the 2022 NBA Draft.

Blake Wesley, Notre Dame — No. 29

Wesley came to Notre Dame as the No. 100 RSCI high-school recruit, but has quickly cemented himself as one of the more productive freshmen in the country. He has positional size and excellent length with a knack for scoring at all three levels. He'll need to improve his overall efficiency before unlocking his full potential, but he has the tools and skillset to develop into a capable NBA player.

Wendell Moore Jr., Duke — No. 31

Moore is having a breakout season, finally coming into his own during his junior year. At 6-foot-5, he has good positional size, strength and athleticism at guard. While Moore remains streaky as a three-point shooter, he has proven to be a reliable three-level scorer this year for the Blue Devils. He will still be 20 years old on draft night with more room to develop, making him a solid option this June.

Trevor Keels, Duke — No. 33 

A physical and slashing guard capable of shooting the ball from outside, Trevor Keels came to Duke after being a consensus five-star high school recruit. His physicality and natural ability to score the ball should generate interest from NBA teams. Although he can be streaky as a shooter, he has a beautiful release and has proven to be a tough shot-maker. With positional size and a knack for scoring, Keels is one to follow.

Justin Lewis, Marquette — No. 34

At 6-foot-7, Lewis is a powerful player and solid athlete who is capable of scoring both inside and out. Although still inconsistent, he is improving as a shooter, giving promise to his potential as a stretch-4 at the NBA level. He excels as a rebounder and defender, using his physicality and footwork to switch and defend multiple positions. Lewis projects as a strong, small-ball 4 at the next level, and is continuing to develop the skills he'll need at the next level.

Christian Braun, Kansas — No. 35

At 6-foot-6, Braun has positional size and has shown the ability to score from anywhere on the floor. He has a smooth release from three and can pick his spots off the dribble. He is reliable on and off the ball on offense, while providing intelligent defense on the other end. Braun is a well-rounded player and makes a strong case for the 2022 NBA Draft.

Christian Koloko, Arizona — No. 36 

One of the best rim protectors in the country, Koloko can anchor a defense in the halfcourt. As much as his 7-foot-4 wingspan helps on defense, it also allows him to be effective on the other end. His hands, post moves and awareness continue to improve, and he is an efficient finisher in the dunker spot. While his role won't ever be to carry a large load on offense, he can still make a significant impact as a rebounder, shot blocker and rim runner.

Keon Ellis, Alabama — No. 37

After two seasons at Florida Southwestern State College, Keon Ellis transferred to Alabama as one of the most coveted JUCO prospects in the nation. He has displayed legitimate athleticism, playmaking and shot-making that will likely translate well to the next level. Ellis also can guard multiple positions thanks to his length, mobility and motor. He has been terrific for the Crimson Tide.

Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky — No. 38

After transferring from West Virginia, Oscar Tshiebwe has brought a significant physical presence and energy to Kentucky's roster. Standing at 6-foot-9 and 255 pounds, Tshiebwe's strength and motor are the two elements of his game that stand out the most. In addition, he is probably the best rebounder in the country. Although there are questions about how well his game translates to the modern-day NBA that values floor-spacing, he must be taken seriously as an NBA prospect.

David Roddy, Colorado State — No. 39

Roddy was ranked No. 246 in his high-school class, but has far outplayed the expectations. With solid size and athleticism, he is a capable three-level scorer and high-level rebounder. Roddy also has tremendous vision, creativity and feel for the game, and is continuing to make a case for himself in the 2022 NBA Draft.

Trevion Williams, Purdue — No. 42

Williams may be the best low-post scorer in the country. He has incredible footwork and craftiness at the rim, and he is always thinking a step ahead with the ball in his hands. He is also an impressive athlete at 255 pounds, as he's quick off the ground and runs the floor well. Williams is old-school in the way he provides points, but he does the little things well. He has good vision out of the post, plays with a great motor and is the kind of player you want in your locker room. Williams has a great chance of earning a shot at the NBA level.

Johnny Juzang, UCLA — No. 47

After a stellar NCAA Tournament run last season, Johnny Juzang tested NBA Draft waters but ultimately returned to UCLA for his junior season. At 6-foot-7, Juzang is an exceptional outside shooter, especially off the dribble in the half-court. He has continued his efficient scoring as a shot creator and cutter this season. He projects as a wing shooter and capable facilitator at the next level and will be considered a solid option for teams picking in the 2022 NBA Draft.

Jaime Jaquez Jr., UCLA — No. 49 

Jaime Jaquez Jr. is intelligent and crafty, using defensive manipulation and footwork to create for himself and others. He excels in the post against smaller defenders and can stretch the floor as a reliable shooter from three-point range. In addition, Jaquez is a hard-nosed competitor, while also providing adequate defense and rebounding. He continues to build on the momentum he established last March during UCLA's impressive tournament run, and he's proving to be a consistent three-level scorer and a viable option in the 2022 Draft.

Matthew Mayer, Baylor — No. 51

At 6-foot-9, Matthew Mayer is a fluid ball-handler and scorer who has been an essential piece of Baylor's success the last two seasons. Although his role and usage have never been overly significant, his impact is often felt on both ends of the floor. He projects as a scoring wing at the NBA level who plays strong on- and off-ball defense, providing true versatility. In addition, Mayer has positional size and a knack for scoring. He's worth monitoring down the stretch as he makes a case for himself in 2022.

Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana — No. 52

In now his third season for the Hoosiers, Jackson-Davis led them to a Big Ten Tournament run that propelled them into the NCAA Tournament. At 6-foot-9, he is primarily a low-post scorer who excels on the block and in the dunker spot. He has yet to connect on a three-pointer in college, which raises some questions, but his performance and reliable output make him an interesting option this June.

Drew Timme, Gonzaga — No. 53

Drew Timme is arguably the best low-post scorer in the nation. With tremendous footwork, touch and an ability to manipulate defenders, Timme was dominant last season and has been highly effective again as a junior. He needs to improve his lateral quickness and pick-and-roll defense, as he can often get taken out of the play with ease on the perimeter. If he is able to address some of those concerns, he could solidify himself a solid draft pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.

Isaiah Mobley, USC — No. 55

An intelligent player, Isaiah Mobley is a strong rebounder at 6-foot-10 and he has shown the ability to score the ball effectively — both inside and out. He has tremendous touch at the rim, and he flashed the ability to stretch the floor last season and has continued to do so in '21-22. Mobley lacks elite athleticism and will be close to 23 years old on draft night, but his promise as a passer and floor-spacer make him an intriguing prospect nonetheless.

Collin Gillespie, Villanova — No. 58

Gillespie will enter the 2022 NBA Draft as one of the more accomplished college players in the class. He already has three Big East Championships and a National Championship on his resume, and he'll look to duplicate that success at the NBA level. At 6-foot-3, he is intelligent on and off the ball and is a reliable scorer at multiple levels. He's also disciplined and instinctual on defense, providing real value on both ends of the floor. Gillespie has the tools to be a backup point guard at the next level, so it will be interesting to track if an organiziation gives him that opportunity.

Be sure to check our 2022 NBA Draft Big Board and click each prospect's name for more info (including their highlights, measurements, projected role and more).

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