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.
With all that out of the way, we will go region-by-region to take a look at five players to keep an eye on and first up is the South Region.
Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
His dad may be in the news more than him recently, but Lonzo Ball is the real deal. Drawing comparisons to the likes of Jason Kidd, Ball is equally comfortable scoring and getting his teammates involved as he led the Pac-12 in assists (7.7). Ball is pretty much a lock to be a top-3 pick, but if he can lead UCLA to a deep tournament run he could very well be the top pick in the draft. No one will have more eyes on him than Ball.
Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky
Malik Monk is one of the most explosive scorers in college basketball. When he gets going he is extremely difficult to stop and there is very little doubt he will be able to get buckets at the pro level. In the paint, or be hind the three-point line Monk can flat-out score, but there are questions about the rest of his game as he doesn’t always provide much else aside from points. Regardless, this top-10 prospect will be watched closely, as will his backcourt-mate.
De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
One of the fastest players in the country, and Kentucky’s other top-10 guard prospect, De’Aaron Fox is the catalyst for this 2-seed Kentucky team. He is a great slasher, and finisher and can be an absolute nightmare on defense where he uses his speed and length to harass opposing point guards. Two big issues for Fox are his turnovers (2.4 per game) and his outside shot (24.2 percent from three). Fox is dynamic and a game-changer and fans everywhere are hoping for a rematch with Lonzo Ball and UCLA in the Sweet 16.
Justin Jackson, SF, North Carolina
Justin Jackson is an outstanding scorer and shooter with great size for the small forward position. He has gotten a lot better this year at using his height to just shoot over the opposition, but he lacks strength and athleticism. Jackson has some NBA skills, but at this point he still seems to be missing that consistent motor and killer instinct. If he can show that while leading the Tar Heels deep into the tournament he can rise on draft boards as well.
John Collins, PF, Wake Forest
The only big-time draft prospect who is a part of the ‘First Four’ games, Collins gets a stage all to himself on Tuesday night to show off his skills. The big man brings a lot to the table as he is a great scorer down low and has flashed a solid mid-range game. Additionally he crashes the glass and has shown himself to be a good rim protector as well. While he may not have the three-point range that most hope for in power forwards these days, Collins’ skills elsewhere make up for it.
Others to Watch: Bam Adebayo (Kentucky), TJ Leaf (UCLA), Ike Anigbogu (UCLA), Tony Bradley (North Carolina), Wesley Iwundu (Kansas State), Jacob Evans (Cincinnati)