A teams goal at the college level is at the very least, making the NCAA tournament, however this does not always come to fruition. For the teams who do not make the tournament field, many end up in the NIT, which allows seniors and players who will be entering the NBA draft to improve their draft stock or simply just get more games in. We broke down the top NBA draft prospects that will be playing in the NIT when it begins on Tuesday.
#1 UNC-Grenensboro vs. #8 Campbell (Tuesday at 7 pm on WatchESPN)
Standing at 5’9″ and 180 pounds, Clemons is definitely not your typical basketball star as far as that looks test goes. Entering the NIT, the senior is averaging 30 points per game, although as with many other volume shooters, he can at times go cold and it does not look good in the box score. Case in point, over the last 2 games he is a combined 6 of 27 on 3 pointers. On the flip side, when he gets hot he can go off for 40 on any given night, and not every team has a player capable of this type of scoring. His first round match-up is no easy task considering many people believe that UNC-Greensboro should of been in the NCAA Tournament field. His NBA future is uncertain due to his lack of size, and Clemons should definitely be looking back at players like Nate Robinson and Isaiah Thomas to see how he can potentially fit with a team in need of a scorer.
# 3 Georgetown vs. #6 Harvard (Wednesday at 7 pm on ESPN2)
Govan is a forgotten player at times, not getting much attention nationally due to the fact that Georgetown has not had much team success in his time on campus. Some consider this to be a red flag for an NBA future, but not all of it can be put on one player, especially a big men who does not control an offense. He is a 6’10” center who can play with his back to the basket but also has the ability to step out and hit the 3 at an effective rate. The senior has basically tripled his attempts from behind the arc this season when compared to last, going from 1.5 to 3.3 attempts per game. Obviously this would not matter unless he also shot those attempts at a high level, and Govan did just that shooting 43 of 105 (41%) on 3 point attempts, impressive for a big man who for the first time this season has been given more a green light on outside shots. Much like Dedric Lawson from Kansas there are questions with his mobility and athleticism, but he will be in the draft conversation when the second round begins.
#2 NC State vs. #7 Hofstra (Tuesday at 7 pm on ESPN2)
Hofstra came into the CAA championship final as the favorite to grab the leagues bid to the NCAA tournament, but that did not go as planned and Northeastern took down the Pride. The byproduct of that is now the majority of sports fans will not get a chance to watch Justin Wright-Foreman in the tournament, which is a shame. With that said, due to what many believe was a snub, ACC member NC State ended up in the NIT so Hofstra and their star point guard will have a shot to take down a big name school. Wright-Foreman can light it up from deep, and remains efficient despite taking 7.4 three pointers per game, he is shooting those at 42.9%. If Hofstra is going to be able to pull off the upset, they will need their senior leader to have a big game. He will be in draft consideration, and he can help his cause with a big game against the Wolfpack.
#1 Indiana vs. #8 St. Francis (Tuesday at 7 pm on ESPN)
Anytime you miss the NCAA tournament at Indiana, the season is going to be considered a disappointment. Langford is considered a possible top ten pick, but for Morgan it is unclear where he will land. The senior has struggled to find his shot shooting 29.8% from deep, although he did shoot 55.2% from the field in total. He possesses solid athleticism and mobility for his 6’8″ 232 frame, and he averaged 15 points per game in the Big Ten, which is nothing to overlook. As for Langford, he has shown the ability to create his own shot or get to the rim at will, but he not shot the ball well in his freshman season. Despite the inefficiency, he is averaging almost 17 points per game as a freshman in a major conference, that alone will get you first round consideration especially when you consider he is athletic and has the measurements you want from a guard at 6’6″. It is virtually a guarantee that Langford will leave after this season, and he could go in the top ten but will definitely be in the lottery discussion.
#4 Providence vs. #5 Arkansas (Tuesday at 9 pm ESPN)
Alpha Diallo is a underrated player, especially as an NBA prospect. He has great size for a guard at 6’7″, has shown the ability to hit the 3 and room to grown in that area, along with averaging 8 rebounds per game. His athleticism and agility for his size are a prototypical NBA wing, and should he enter the draft teams will be taking a hard look at Diallo. Daniel Gafford has already announced he will be entering the draft is not playing in the NIT. Gafford is a possible lottery pick if a team has to fill a need at center. Standing at 6’11” with elite athleticism, his game is almost entirely around the basket, in transition and put backs on the offensive end. On the defensive end he averaged 2 blocks per game to go with 8.7 rebounds which bodes well for his projection as future Deandre Jordan type of player in the league.
#3 Furman vs. #6 Wichita State (Wednesday at 7 pm on WatchESPN)
In a down year for Wichita State since Gregg Marshall took over for Mark Turgeon, Markis Mcduffie has been a bright spot for the Shockers. An athletic 6’8″ wing, Mcduffie is a player that hasn’t had much success before this year, and has greatly improved this season while averaging 18.3 points per game. Not a great rebounder, he did average 5 per game, and he could become a good defender at the next level. Due to basically being a one hit wonder, it is not certain that he will be drafted, but regardless of what happens Mcduffie will be playing professional basketball somewhere next season.
#2 Clemson vs. #7 Wright State (Tuesday at 7 pm on ESPNU)
Reed has been mainly overlooked in a loaded ACC conference, but the senior is a solid player. Averaging 19 points per game while playing against some of the best players in the country on a nightly basis is a impressive feat, even more so when teams are focusing on Reed as Clemson’s main offensive threat. He shot the three at a decent percentage (37%), and he can get to the rim. The knock on his game would be he needs to be more a play maker setting up his teammates to stick at the professional level but effective scoring guards will always get the attention of scouts and executives.
#4 Colorado vs. #5 Dayton (Tuesday at 11 pm on ESPN2)
The sophomore from Colorado has had some big games this year like 27 points and 13 rebounds against UCLA, but also has some disappointing nights every few games. He did close the season out on a strong note in the last month of the season, however he did not show that his game has extended beyond the three point line which is what NBA teams wanted to see this season from the 6’7″ wing. Bey is a prime candidate to return to school next season after really working on his outside shot, showing that he is an NBA level small forward. If he chooses to enter the draft, he would most likely go in the second round at this point. Toppin had a solid freshman season averaging 14 points per game to go with almost 6 rebounds. He has shown the ability to shoot the three in a small sample size going 9 for 18 this year, and providing he returns to school next year, Toppin will be a player that will be attempting to play his way into first round pick consideration.
#2 Texas vs. #7 South Dakota State (Tuesday at 9 pm on ESPN)
This is an interesting match-up between an under performing team in Texas and a team that was expected to make the NCAA tournament in South Dakota State. Roach II came back from his suspension, the third of his career at Texas, and scored 8 points in 20 minutes as Texas lost to Kansas. The Texas point guard will be in draft conversations once the second round rolls around. Hayes is a player that has seen his stock skyrocket this year from going mostly unknown as far as draft prospects go, to some mock draft sites having him going as high as the top ten this year. He has shown the ability to be a Clint Capela type of big in the NBA, averaging 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game in a little over 20 minutes of action per night. Mike Daum is one of those players who seems like he has been in college for 8 seasons, and he has been putting up big numbers since he arrived on campus. A true stretch four, he can hit the three, although his percentages from deep are down this year, Daum is a star averaging 25 points and 11.7 rebounds per game in his senior season. Daum could go in the second round, or undrafted this year, either way he has made the most of his time at South Dakota State.
#1 TCU vs. #8 Sam Houston State (Wednesday at 9 pm on ESPNU)
Both Bane and Noi are big time time players that have not gotten much attention this season outside of the Big 12. Bane is 6’5″ shooting guard who shoots the three at over 40% and can create is own shot at will. The junior could return to school next year and solidify himself as one of the best players in college basketball, but if he chooses to enter the draft once the pre-draft process is completed he could see NBA teams intrigued by his game. Kouat Noi is a 6’7″ small forward that has your typical all around game that teams look for on the wing at the next level. The sophomore has shown that he has the potential to be a good 3 point shooter, and has good athleticism and agility. Much like his teammate, Noi should probably return to school next year, but if he is to declare there could be some NBA teams that like what they see.
#4 Nebraska vs. #5 Butler (Wednesday at 9 pm on ESPN2)
Nebraska underachieved this season, and it has coach Tim Miles on the hot seat as a result. Isaiah Roby has all of the potential in the world, but never seems to fully put it together. At 6’8″ his movement is like a guard, and his shot looks good off his hand, but he only shot 32.9% from deep and 43.9% from the field this season. If he goes to the draft this season, he will most likely get selected in the last first round, but players like Roby can see their draft stock improve drastically once at the combine. Palmer Jr. is a scorer, and his senior year was just that with the shooting guard averaging 19.6 points per game. The weaknesses in his game is his lack of explosiveness and athleticism and his efficiency needs to improve from his 37.2% from the field this year. He may be in second round consideration in this years draft, and he can just as easily go undrafted.
#3 Memphis vs. #6 San Diego (Tuesday at 8 pm on WatchESPN)
The Memphis point guard had a solid senior season averaging 19.6 points to go with 4.2 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. He can do a better job setting up his teammates, but was somewhat limited due to the talent on the Memphis roster in Penny Hardaway’s first season as coach. He struggled shooting the ball to close the season, however his season as a whole was productive, and will put him in second round conversations.
#2 Creighton vs. #7 Loyola Chicago (Tuesday at 9 pm on ESPNU)
Alexander is an interesting prospect at 6’4″ 195 pounds, and averaging 16.9 points per game as a sophomore. He shoots the three at 38.1% on almost 8 attempts per game, and he can create his own shot when necessary. When Alexander is on, he is a deadly shooter from the outside, but at his size NBA teams will most likely want him to come back and try and play more a point guard role next season. There are a lot of scorers in the 6’2″ to 6’4″ range that play the shooting guard position in college that never make it to the league, but if Alexander wants to get into first round consideration next season his point guard and lead guard skills need to be his main focus. If he chooses to come out this year he would no doubt be drafted, but it would most likely fall in the second.