#1 Gonzaga vs. Winner of #16 Prarie View A&M and #16 Farleigh Dickinson
Gonzaga comes into the tournament after losing to St. Mary’s in the WCC tournament championship game however, they were still able to snatch up a number one seed. All 3 of their stars have put up solid numbers this season, and they are expected by many to make a run at the final four. Hachimura has been dominant the entire year, after putting up 20 points and 7 rebounds in their early season win over Duke. The 6’8″ forward from with Japanese roots will be in the lottery discussion and some mock draft’s have him going inside the top ten. Brandon Clarke is a athletic freak, standing at 6’8″ with guard movement and elite athleticism. After transferring from San Jose State to Gonzaga he is averaging 16.5 points and 8.4 rebounds, proving that he is a legit NBA prospect. He is expected to go in the first round should he enter the draft this year. The sometimes forgotten Gonzaga prospect is Zach Norvell Jr., who is a knockdown shooter averaging 15 points per game, shooting the three at 37.7% on 7 attempts per game. If Norvell Jr. comes back to school for his junior season he would be considered a first round pick, if he chooses to leave after this season, that could still be the case if a team felt he could fill a need for a shooter.
#8 Syracuse vs. #9 Baylor
Syracuse announced that Tyus Battle will return from injury, which is good news for the orange as they need him healthy to be able to compete at the tournament level. Both Battle and Brissett have been disappointing this season after coming into the year with expectations of being players on the late first round radar. Battle is averaging 17 points per game and had some big games like his 32 point night against Duke, but he has not been very efficient in how he obtained those stats. Brissett on the other hand has regressed from his freshman season, and is down to 12 points per game from the almost 15 the previous year. He has good size at 6’8″ with wing skills, which will get the attention of scouts, so he is still seen as a player with potential if he gets his shot figured out.
#5 Marquette vs. #12 Murray State
In the best head to head match-up of the first round, point guards Ja Morant and Markus Howard will attempt to take their teams to the second round. Both players are dynamic scorers, although how they obtain those numbers are very different which should make for interesting dynamic. Morant has exploded in his sophomore season, averaging 24.6 points and 10 assists per game to with almost 2 steals. He is a nightmare to defend in transition, and can dunk on anyone in the country, with his weaknesses being his outside shot and turnovers although his shot is not terrible. As of now, Morant is projected to be a top five pick and he can go as high as #2 assuming Zion Williamson will be selected first. Howard is a deadly shooter averaging 25 points per game, shooting the three at 40% on over 8 attempts per game. He can create his own shot, and his range extends well beyond the three point line. If he enters the draft, there will be questions about his size at 5’11” but a team with a need at point guard could take him late in the first round. Hauser has good size at 6’8″ and can is an efficient outside shooter averaging 15 points per game. Not expected to enter the draft this season, he is on scouts radar as a possible stretch four at the next level.
#4 Florida State vs. #13 Vermont
Terance Mann does not get a lot of love from the national press as a senior averaging 11 points per game, but he is a solid player with potential as a possible three and d player at the next level. Kabengele is one of the more intriguing prospects in the country at 6’10” 250 lbs. with the ability to hit the outside shot. He is averaging 12.9 points and 5.7 rebounds in 21 minutes of play this season. The sophomore could be the type of player that sees his draft stock improve after the combine, or he could back to school next year and attempt to solidify himself as a first round pick. Anthony Lamb is a junior that has put up big numbers this year, averaging 21 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, but obviously not against the best competition that college has to offer. While he does not possess great athleticism, he can shoot and is a crafty scorer around the basket. It will be an interesting match-up with Florida State’s size against the more fundamentally based Vermont team.
#6 Buffalo vs. Winner of #11 Arizona State and #11 St. John’s
Massinburg and Buffalo have had a great year, which earned them at #6 seed who will get a shot against one of the two underachieving big name schools in the play in game. Averaging 18 points per game, with the ability to create his own shot, it will be an interesting match-up with Shamorie Ponds if St.John’s advances. Luguentz Dort is a bulldog at shooting guard who can use his strength to get to the basketball, but also has the ability to step out and shoot it although he is not the most efficient shooter at 30 percent from deep. The freshman is averaging 16 points per game, and is on the draft radar, but more than likely should return to school for his sophomore season. Cheatham is a long athletic power forward that rebounds well for a 6’8″ player at 8 rebounds per game. Always a candidate for a highlight dunk, the senior will be looking to play well and put himself into second round consideration. Ponds is a 6’1″ junior from Brooklyn averaging 19.5 points per game to get with just over 5 assists, who can create his own shot, and make plays in transition. He likes to pull up off the dribble, and drive to the basket getting to the line over 5 times each game. If his shot is on he could off against Arizona State and lead St. John’s to the victory, and Ponds will need a big tournament to help his case as a draft pick if he is thinking of entering the draft.
#3 Texas Tech vs. #14 Northern Kentucky
Culver took a big jump in sophomore season from 11 points per game as a freshman to 18 this season. While his three point efficiency is down this year, his shot looks like it will improve, and his athleticism is above average. With the ability to create his own shot, and get to the basket at 6’5″, Culver’s ceiling is high at the next level. He closed the season out strong with 31 points against Iowa State and 26 against West Virginia in first round loss at the Big 12 tournament. The Texas Tech shooting guard is projected to be a lottery pick this season, and he could go in the top ten.
#7 Nevada vs. #10 Florida
At 6’7″ 230 lbs., Jordan Caroline can play inside, but also can shoot the three at a good percentage. He had the altercation after the Utah State game which resulted in him punching a fire extinguisher case, and he missed their conference tournament game with an achilles injury. With that said, he is averaging over 17 points and 9 rebounds per game, and is a big part of Nevada’s success this season. The Martin twins received national attention as Nevada made their run at last years NCAA tournament, and with good reason. Both are 6’7″ guards that can shot, create their own shot and get to the rim. Caleb is much more aggressive on offense taking almost 6 shots more than his brother, with Caleb averaging 17 points per game and Cody averaging almost 12. Neither are great shooters efficiency wise, but they can hit big shots at big times, and they are both high level competitors. As far as they NBA futures, Caleb is higher on our big board, but depending on which site you look at, some have Cody higher. Both are more than likely looking at a 2nd round selection in this years draft, although it is not a guarantee that both get drafted.
#2 Michigan vs, #15 Montana
Ignas Brazdeikis started the season off well, earning national recognition as a freshman putting up good numbers, and after somewhat slumping during the mid point of the season he finished the season strong. He could end up going in the first round if he enters the draft, but he also would be running the risk of slipping into the second round. Brazdeikis is averaging 15 points and 5 rebounds per game, and at 6’7″ shooting 42% from 3 this season. Charles Matthews has dealt with poor shooting and injuries this year, after coming back to Michigan with the hopes of improving his draft stock. He is down in all categories from last season, and he needs a big tournament to help redeem what has not been a great season for him personally. Jordan Poole was the player with the biggest shot of the tournament last year, hitting the game winning three pushing Michigan past Houston. His athleticism is solid, and he has improved his shooting from last year, with his usage being much higher than last season. Poole has good size at 6’5″ for the shooting guard position, and he will be drafted if he enters the draft. On the other hand, if Poole came back to Michigan and takes his game to another level, there is no doubt he would be a first round pick in next years draft.