NBA Draft Prospects To Watch In The Midwest Region Of The NCAA Tournament

Breaking down the NBA draft prospects in the Midwest region of the NCAA tournament

#1 North Carolina vs. #16 Iona

Coby White (North Carolina)

Cameron Johnson (North Carolina)

Nassir Little (North Carolina)

Coby White has been moving up draft boards all season long, after impressing in his freshman season. With good size at 6’5″ for a point guard, he has shown that he also has the ability to shoot the ball as set up his teammates with good shots. We currently have in going in the top ten after being in the mid to late first round for most of the season. Nassir Little is a wing that NBA teams believe has a high ceiling, standing at 6’6″ with great length, his offensive game is raw but he has shown flashes of what he can do once he puts it all together. To be fair to Little, he has not received the minutes that most first round picks get, only playing in 18 minutes per game this season. His athleticism is off the charts, and his potential have him in lottery consideration. Coming into the season, Johnson was not considered to be a first round pick, and he has definitely changed that perception. One of the best shooters in the college basketball, the senior is averaging 16.9 points and almost 6 rebounds per game while shooting the 3 at 46.5% on over 5 attempts. The fact that he is 6’9″ makes this more impressive, and many compare his game to someone like Trevor Ariza, another big wing who can hit three pointers at an efficient rate. A potential rematch of the elite eight game in which Luke Maye hit the game winning shot against Kentucky is possible, and would make for a good story line given that fact the Maye is now a senior.  

#8 Utah State vs. #9 Washington

Neemias Queta (Utah State)

Sam Merrill (Utah State)

Matisse Thybulle (Washington)

Jaylen Nowell (Washington)

Playing in the Mountain West Conference and usually late into the night can cause teams like Utah State and Washington to become overlooked at times. Both teams can play, and have multiple players that could eventually play in the league. Freshman Neemias Queta is big and long, at 6’11” 225 with a 7’4″ wingspan, he possesses the body type that teams look for when scouting big men in college. Queta has had a solid freshman season averaging 11.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, as well as impressing on the defensive end averaging over 2 blocks per game. He should return to school with a chance to greatly improve his draft stock with another strong season and showing some improvement on the offensive end. Merrill is the shooter that every good team needs and being 6’5″ allows him to get shots off over smaller guards. He has had some monster games like scoring 38 against Colorado State and 37 against Montana State. Obviously not top competition but impressive nonetheless. 

There might not be a better defensive player, especially on the perimeter than Matisse Thybulle. As a 6’5″ guard the senior is averaging 3 steals and 2 blocks per contest. He will be looking to land in the NBA as a Tony Allen role, which fits him perfectly, however he needs to improve his outside shot. It is hard to imagine Thybulle going undrafted with his ability on the defensive end, but his limitations on offense could scare teams off. Nowell is scoring guard opposite of Thybulle, standing at 6’4″, the sophomore is averaging 16 points and 4 rebounds per game. While he only takes 3 attempts per game from behind the arc, he is shooting those shots at over 43% showing that he has the ability to shoot as he attempts would no doubt go up at the next level. His ability to create his own shot is one of the most impressive parts of his game which would have him in second round consideration this year, but he could play his way into the first round if he returns to school. 

#5 Auburn vs. #12 New Mexico State

Chuma Okeke (Auburn)

Okeke has all of the potential in the world and he has begun to put it together this season, improving to 11.7 points per game in his sophomore season. Much like Nassir Little, a lot of Okeke’s draft stock is based on the fact that NBA teams project that he will continue to improve as he matures because of the flashes they have shown. Okeke lead Auburn to a dominating win in the SEC tournament over Tennessee scoring 18 points and pulling down 13 rebounds to go with 3 steals. His shot looks good off his hand, and his length to go with his 6’8″ height makes him a prototypical NBA wing. All signs point to Okeke entering the draft this season, and he is viewed as a mid to late first round pick, although given he has not produced at a particularly high level he could slip somewhat. 

#4 Kansas vs. #13 Northeastern

Dedric Lawson (Kansas)

Quentin Grimes (Kansas)

Devon Dotson (Kansas)

Ochai Agbaji (Kansas)

One of the more interesting story lines of the season was the fact that Kansas lost Udoka Azubuike and Silvio De Sousa was not cleared to play, drastically limiting the amount of talent they were able to put on the floor. One silver lining in this is the fact that Dedric Lawson has been able to showcase a high level of skill around the basket and the ability to step out and hit the three, despite his lack of explosiveness and athleticism. The junior has been a double double machine this season, averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds per game. His aforementioned lack of explosiveness could cause him to go undrafted but he has proven he should be in the conversation if you need a big late in the second round. While Lawson has been the overachiever, Quentin Grimes has been an underachiever considering the hype that comes with being such a high rated recruit. It has not been all bad, such as games where Grimes scored 18 points against West Virginia and 17 points against Oklahoma State. You can understand when you watch him play why he was so high rated coming out of high school, but his shots just have simply not fallen in his freshman season. He should definitely come back for his sophomore season, but you never know what a highly rated freshman who underachieves will do once their freshman year is completed. Dotson has been a solid point guard in his freshman year, and he could see his stock improve with a strong tournament. He speed allows him to lead the charge in transition and he can finish around the basket or set up teammates. Another player that should return to school and try to improve his stock, but his freshman season has been solid enough to show he is a legit prospect. Unlike Grimes, Agabji did not receive the recruiting attention of a top ten player, and the plan was to redshirt his first year in Lawrence. This plan was blown up due to the loss of talent on the roster, and Agbaji has emerged as a serious NBA prospect. He has cooled off after a hot start to receiving real minutes, showing that he is most likely not ready right now, however his ceiling is high. We currently have Agbaji being drafted in the first round of our 2020 mock draft. 

#6 Iowa State vs. #11 Ohio State

Marial Shayok (Iowa State)

Lindell Wigginton (Iowa State)

Talen Horton-Tucker (Iowa State)

Kaleb Wesson (Ohio State)

After transferring from Virginia, Shayok has exploded and shown that he definitely was being undervalued in Charlottesville. Shayok is averaging 18.6 points and almost 5 rebounds per game, while shooting 38.9% from three on 5 attempts per game. At 6’6″ he has legitimate wing size in the NBA to go with his length, but his explosiveness leaves something to be desired by scouts. The senior will be in second round consideration in this years draft. Wigginton came back to school last season after the pre-draft process with the intention of improving his draft stock, but it is unclear if he has done that. Statistically he is down while his minutes have also gone day, however the addition of Shayok to the roster takes up a lot of shots. His 6’2″ size projects him as more of a point guard in the league, and with a loaded backcourt, he has not been able to fully test those waters. Given he was thinking of leaving after this season, it would not be surprising to see him leave Iowa State, but he may go undrafted if he does. Horton-Tucker is player that scouts love his potential at 6’4″ and 238 pounds, he has strength with good mobility, but his outside shot needs improvement. He can shoot it, the freshman just needs to be more consistent and efficient. Many draft boards have him in the top 40 available prospects, although we do not. He could leave after this season, and would most likely be in second round discussions but even that is not a guarantee. Kaleb Wesson was suspended earlier this season, but returned for the Big Ten Tournament. A big body at 6’9″ 270, he has drawn comparisons to Jared Sullinger from his time at Ohio State due to his ability to also step out and hit a three. Crafty around the basket, and a player that knows how to use his size, he could cause problems for Iowa State down low. It would not be a smart decision if Wesson leaves after this year. 

#3 Houston vs. #14 Georgia State

Corey Davis Jr. (Houston)

D’Marcus Simonds (Georgia State)

The Houston guard is a 6’1″ scoring guard, who can handle the ball and set up teammates at times as well. Davis Jr. is averaging almost 17 points per game in his senior season, while Houston has had great team success. If he gets his shot going in the tournament, he is a player that will turn some heads with his ability to rack up points in a quick time period. His size and athleticism will most likely lead to him being passed on in the second round, but he has a professional future. Before the season began, many were projecting D’Marcus Simonds to have the kind of draft stock that Ja Morant has ultimately earned this season. At one point, a certain draft site had Simonds going inside the lottery in the preseason, and while he has put up numbers this season that will not be the case in the actual draft. His outside shot has not improved, which has been his main weakness, and he is shooting three pointers at less than 30% for his junior season. At 6’3″ 195 with athleticism and speed, the potential is still there but he needs to get his shot together. If he is just simply ready to begin his pro career he could leave, but at this point he could go undrafted unless a team wanted to take a flyer in the second round. 

#7 Wofford vs. #10 Seton Hall

Flecther Magee (Wofford)

Myles Powell (Seton Hall)

Powell was apart of the crazy Big East Championship last Saturday, scoring 25 points in a loss to Villanova. His ability to create his own shot is at an elite level, and at some points his stepbacks remind you of James Harden. His size at 6’2″ is not great, but he overcomes it with the ability to keep defenders guessing with what is coming next. The Junior is averaging 22.9 points and 4 rebounds per game, but only 2.9 assists which is something that he will need to improve to stick at the next level. Powell is the type of player who can put a team on their back like Kemba Walker did and lead a team on an unexpected run through the tournament. As far as his draft stock, he would fall anywhere in the late first to mid second round discussions. Fletcher Magee will have you doing a double take with J.J. Reddick in the way that he comes off screens and seems ready to let it fly at any point he touches the ball. His efficiency has been great in his senior season shooting the long ball at almost 43% while taking over ten attempts per game. The guard has been the Southern Conference Player of the Year back to back seasons and will be looking to lead Wofford on a run. Despite averaging over 20 points per game this season, Magee is no lock to be drafted, but it would not be a complete shock if a team took him late in the draft given his ability to shoot the basketball. 

#2 Kentucky vs. #15 Abilene Christian

Ashton Hagans (Kentucky)

Keldon Johnson (Kentucky)

PJ Washington (Kentucky)

Tyler Herro (Kentucky)

The third blue blood of the bracket, Kentucky is loaded with talent, which is no different than the previous years under John Calipari. Ashton Hagans played so well early in the season it forced Calipari to hand off the starting position taking it away from Immanuel Quickly. Since doing this the Wildcats have taken off and become one of the best teams in college basketball. So while his stats are not too impressive, averaging 7.7 points and 4.4 assists per game, it should be taken into account that as soon as Hagans got his footing as the starter, Kentucky became a different and better team. His defensive ability averaging almost 2 steals per game has been solid, and teams like his potential. He will be in first round consideration if he leaves after his freshman year. Keldon Johnson came into the season as having more hype than any of the freshman in Kentucky’s class, and for the most part he has lived up to it. He is averaging under 10 shots attempted per game, so his usage is much lower than it will be in the NBA, but on the shots he has been efficient when he does take his chances. The shooting guard is averaging 46% from the field and almost 40% on 3 point shots. He is a lock to go in the lottery this year, and we have had in the top ten of our mock drafts all season long. Arguably the most improved player in the country, PJ Washington returned to school after a solid freshman season with the idea being that he would extend his game beyond the three point line. This has most certainly worked, and Washington has been the teams best three point shooter after struggling in his first year at Kentucky with his stroke. Always having the size at 6’8″ 225, the fact he is now an outside threat to go with his inside scoring abilities now make him an intriguing prospect as a stretch four in the league. He has played his way into lottery consideration, and a strong run in the tournament will solidify that draft stock. The last of Kentucky’s big four is Tyler Herro, the smooth shooting guard who struggled from outside early in the season but has since righted the ship. The freshman is averaging 14 points per game while shooting the three at 37% on 4.5 attempts per game. He is more than just a shooter and can create a shot when needed, and has more than adequate athleticism leading many sites to have him going first round this year. We currently have Herro returning to school and being drafted in the first round in 2020, but if he does come out this year, he could go in the late first. 

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