This isn’t the type of NCAA Tournament that will give NBA fans an idea of what they can expect in the upcoming draft.
The likely first two picks in the draft – Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson – aren’t playing college basketball. That’s a major change from last year, when the first six picks in the draft all had played in the NCAA Tournament a few months earlier.
It’s also worth noting that Villanova freshman Cam Whitmore, generally regarded as one of the top NBA prospects in the college ranks, won’t be playing in this NCAA Tournament because his Wildcats failed to qualify.
But there are plenty of guys in this tournament who should have long NBA careers. A look at some of the top NBA prospects in this year’s field (listed alphabetically):
ANTHONY BLACK and NICK SMITH JR., ARKANSAS
These freshman teammates are regarded as potential lottery picks, though neither was an Associated Press All-Southeastern Conference selection. Black, who is 6-7, averages 12.8 points and 4.2 assists per game, though he also has 3.2 turnovers per game. He’s regarded as a very good defensive player. Smith, a 6-5 guard, hasn’t gotten much of a chance to showcase the skills that made him the nation’s No. 1 prospect in his high school class according to composite rankings of recruiting sites compiled by 247Sports. Smith has played in just 14 games due to a knee injury but scored at least 24 points in three of Arkansas’ last four regular-season contests.
First-round game: Thursday vs. Illinois.
GRADEY DICK, KANSAS
Dick is a 6-8 freshman with guard skills who earned second-team Associated Press All-Big 12 honors. He’s averaging 14.1 points and 4.9 rebounds, and shooting 39.9% (79 of 198) from 3-point range. He has shown he can play well against top opponents. Some of his games with at least 20 points came against North Carolina State, Indiana, Iowa State, Baylor and Texas.
First-round game: Thursday vs. Howard.
KEYONTE GEORGE, BAYLOR
This 6-4 guard arrived at Baylor as the nation’s No. 9 prospect in his class according to the 247Sports Composite. He’s had an impressive freshman season as a key part of Baylor’s outstanding backcourt. George has averaged 15.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists while earning second-team Associated Press All-Big 12 honors.
First-round game: Friday vs. UC Santa Barbara.
BRANDON MILLER, ALABAMA
Miller’s off-court situation has been well-documented: Police say he was asked to bring a teammate a gun that was used in a fatal shooting which has resulted in the capital murder case against former teammate Darius Miles and Michael Davis. Miller hasn’t been charged with anything, hasn’t missed any games and has become a star. The 6-foot-9 freshman is the SEC player of the year and has led Alabama to its first No. 1 seed. He averages 19.7 points and 8.3 rebounds and is shooting 39.9% (99 of 248) from 3-point range.
First-round game: Thursday vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
JARACE WALKER, HOUSTON
Although senior guard Marcus Sasser is Houston’s best player, Walker is the Cougars’ top pro prospect. The 6-8 freshman isn’t particularly polished yet, but he has shown flashes of his enormous potential. He scored at least 21 points four times in an eight-game midseason stretch. NBA teams love his versatility. He should develop into a guy who can defend multiple positions, block shots and shoot the 3-pointer.
First-round game: Thursday vs. Northern Kentucky.
CASON WALLACE, KENTUCKY
Rated as the nation’s No. 5 prospect in his high school class according to the 247Sports Composite, Wallace averages 11.6 points, 4.2 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game. The 6-4 guard has done that while dealing with some nagging injuries. Wallace has dealt with an ankle injury lately and has shot only 3 of 26 from 3-point range over his last seven games. First-round game: Friday vs. Providence.