This is one of the most exciting times in all of sports as the NCAA Tournament aka March Madness is set to begin. The passion and excitement of this event is unlike any other in sports.
Of course, the tournament also gives basketball fans the opportunity to watch many of the top prospects in college basketball on a big, high-pressured stage and this year’s draft is expected to be one of the deepest in a long time.
At the very least, the Los Angeles Lakers will own two draft picks: the Houston Rockets’ first-round pick that they acquired in the Lou Williams trade, as well as their own second-round pick. It’s well known by now that they will only retain their own first-round selection if it lands in the top-3.
So now we are going region by region to give you players to keep an eye on during the tournament. Next up is the Midwest region.
Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas
One of my personal favorite players in college basketball, there is very little that Josh Jackson can’t do on the court. He is the classic all-around player who can score (16.4 PPG), rebound (7.1 RPG), pass (3.1 APG), and defend (1.6 SPG, 1.1 BPG). Additionally he plays hard every night and is a high IQ player. The one major question is his jump shot as it is far from reliable. He was also suspended for Kansas’ Big 12 tournament loss to TCU so he will have to answer some questions about that. He has the potential to really show he should be the top overall pick in this year’s draft.
Miles Bridges, SF/PF, Michigan State
Miles Bridges is the classic tweener forward. He is a strong, physical player and an outstanding athlete who finishes with authority in the paint and crashes the glass very well. He is also a solid passer and has shown a good face-up game. The question for him is what position will he play at the next level. He isn’t the best shooter and may not have the lateral quickness to keep up with small forwards, but he is on the small side for a power forward. Regardless, his play has been outstanding this year and Michigan St. is always capable of a big run. A matchup with Josh Jackson in the second-round would have scouts drooling.
Justin Patton, C, Creighton
Justin Patton is a very raw, but very talented big man who has the chance to make a big leap with a strong performance in the tournament. Patton shot nearly 70 percent from the field which shows his efficiency on offense and he has even shown some range on his jumper. He also runs the floor pretty well for a seven-footer. He still needs to add some strength as he can be pushed around at times which shows up in his mediocre rebounding and block numbers. But as they say, you can’t teach size, and if he shows some flashes of being a dominant center Patton will definitely rise up draft boards.
Dillon Brooks, SF, Oregon
The Pac-12 Player of the Year should be familiar to those who saw him lead Oregon to the Elite 8 just one season ago. Brooks is a great scorer who just seems to step up whenever the lights are brightest. He is capable of creating for others as well and is aggressive, but not to the point where he gets reckless. There are some questions about his jump shot and he also isn’t the best athlete, but that can be overstated at times. Brooks is likely viewed as a second-round prospect right now, but a second straight strong performance in the tournament could push him into the first.
Donovan Mitchell, SG, Louisville
A little undersized as a shooting guard, Donovan Mitchell makes up for it with outstanding athleticism. Mitchell is more of a slasher and scorer than a great shooter. He gets buckets, but his outside shot can be pretty streaky. Where Mitchell really shines is on the defensive end as Rick Pitino always stresses that end of the floor. He has all of the tools to be an absolute lockdown defender and he averaged over two steals per game this year. Showing a more consistent shot while locking down the opposition during a deep Louisville run would do wonders for Mitchell’s stock.
Others to Watch: Caleb Swanigan (Purdue), Bruce Brown (Miami), Monte Morris (Iowa St.), Jordan Bell (Oregon), D.J. Edwards (Michigan), Jawun Evans (Oklahoma St.)