Lakers Nation Roundtable: Watching Prospects In March Madness
Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports
Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

Every year, the month of March brings about one of the greatest sporting events in the world, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, also known as March Madness. The passion, intensity, energy and of course, upsets make it one of the most followed events.

For fans of the Los Angeles Lakers, March Madness brings the opportunity to check out some of the best players in all of college basketball at a time when the Lakers are likely to be armed with multiple draft picks. The summer will be important for the Lakers and the draft will play a major role in acquiring possible cornerstones for the future.

Players like Jahlil Okafor, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, Stanley Johnson and plenty of others will be on the biggest stage of their lives and Lakers fans can begin picturing their favorite prospects in purple and gold next year.

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So we asked our panel of experts which draft prospect they are most looking forward to watching during March Madness this year? This is what they had to say:

Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): A few draft prospects will be on my radar during the NCAA Tournament with D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns near the top of the list. But I’m curious to see how Jahlil Okafor does with all the pressure he’ll be dealing with as Duke’s best player.

At this point in time, the consensus seems to be Okafor being the top pick in the 2015 NBA draft. Many believe Okafor has all the tools to be a successful frontcourt player in the league and he’ll be put to the test on the biggest stage in college basketball.

Obviously, all eyes will be on the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats as John Calipari tries to get them back to the National Championship game. Towns might be the player with the most exposure during the tournament with most expecting the Wildcats to dominate the competition, but in terms of an individual performer, I’m looking forward to see if Okafor has what it takes to be a force to be reckoned with on the next level.

Russell Valenzuela (@RussVal4): Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns have received most of the attention all season. They’re both talented and deserving of the top picks they are projected to be. However, when it comes down to watching someone in the tournament,I’m most excited to watch Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell.

There’s something special about watching an individual carry his team the way Russell has done all year. Ohio State doesn’t have the same level of talent that Duke and Kentucky have, and Russell has done nothing but shine for the school. He is the clear focal point of the offense with defenses failing in their attempts to stop him.

He’s being touted as a combo guard with many believing he can play point. However, I see him as more of a shooting guard with good passing ability. The way he plays reminds me of Brandon Roy. Russell just gets things done on the offensive end, especially as an efficient scorer. His defense could use work, but then again so do many players coming out of college.

Hopefully he can show more during the tournament. Now that Ohio State got past VCU, he will get to play against Arizona in what could be his last college game.

Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH): While I am always excited to watch the top prospects like Okafor, Towns, and Russell, the tournament gives me a chance to watch those under-the-radar prospects who could be late-first or early-second round picks. Considering the Lakers will have two picks in the 25-35 range, these guys could be very important as well.

Two guys in particular really stand out as potential sleepers in that range. Shooting guard R.J. Hunter of Georgia State is one of the draft’s best shooters. He has already provided one of the best early moments of the tournament and will have another chance to boost his draft stock if he can take the Panthers to the Sweet 16. He has some Klay Thompson to his game and should get better with superior teammates.

Maryland small forward Jake Layman reminds me a lot of Chandler Parsons with his great all-around game, confidence, and toughness. He is the perfect role player and the Lakers have a massive hole at small forward. If Maryland is able to get to the Sweet 16 it would set up a match with Kentucky which would be the ultimate test for Layman’s ability to thrive at the NBA level.

Obviously the Lakers’ top-5 pick is of utmost importance, but as Jordan Clarkson has shown, talent can be found anywhere in the draft and getting a good look at the possibilities later in the draft really intrigues me.

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