The NCAA tournament has reached the Final Four, with two NBA players in the top 30 of the draft prediction list — Buddy Hield and Bryce Johnson — still fighting for ultimate honors, and 12 more reaching the Sweet 16 and Elite 8.
Let’s take a look at the tournament’s top players: Is Brandon Ingram qualified to beat Ben Simmons to get the title? Can Buddy Hield finish in the top 5?
Freshman year at Duke University
An important question comes to everyone’s mind: Will England’s performances in the first three rounds of the tournament help him win the title? The answer is complicated.
Ingram had a very good time in the tournament, finishing with 24 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals and 1 block in the final loss to Oregon. He showed all his weapons in that game: three-pointers, dribbling away, clever passing.
But Ingram also exposed some weaknesses: he didn’t score a goal in the final 11 minutes and 50 seconds, limited by blocking players Jordan Bale and Chris Bonche. Against tough defenders with long arms, Ingram also struggled to get under the basket. Despite his skill, he must get stronger to be effective against NBA-level defense.
Ingram performed better in the tournament than Simmons’ regular-season performance: more aggressive, more offensive and all-around defense. And also a year younger than Simmons.
But Simmons is stronger, more athletic, and has unique technology. After surveying the general manager of the lottery area, I think Ingram’s draft position will still be behind Simmons.
But Ingram is closing the gap, and every team with a top pick will consider him, but most teams will pick Simmons anyway.
Senior year at the University of Oklahoma
Hield goes on to prove why he’s the best college basketball player in America, and there’s no doubt about that.
But does he deserve the top 5 pick? This is the most discussed issue among scouts after seeing his miraculous performance in Oregon.
Against Texas Farm Workers with just 17 points and 10 rebounds, Hield exploded against Oregon, scoring 37 points on 8-of-13 three-point shooting. His super range, ability to get rid of defenders and bravery all caught the eye of scouts.
It’s hard to limit when Buddy is in good shape. But his age, easy mistakes, weak defense, and short height in the same position will deter some scouts. Is he Jimmer Fredett or Stephen Curry?
Most scouts believe that neither is the right template. The one I heard the most was C.J.-McRum, they were the same body type and had highlights. Hield has a longer reach and better athleticism, but lacks McRum’s ball handling and passing ability.
The lack of rookies with superstar potential this year will help Hield get into the top 5? There are a lot of mysteries after Simmons and Ingram (and possibly Dragan Bender and Jamal Murray), and recently we ranked Hield in 5th place.
The Pelicans and Kings (who may currently be No. 6 or 7 picks) are unlikely to let Hield go, but there is no guarantee that the 4th and 5th Celtics and Timberwolves will be interested. That’s at least four picks, and it’s up to Hield to perform in the final four.
Sophomore at Gonzaga University
Sabonis put in another horrific performance when he lost to Syracuse University in the Sweet Quarters of 16: 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting, 17 rebounds and five blocks. While Sabonis wasn’t the sexiest rookie, his strength, fundamentals, rebounding and low post effectiveness convinced scouts to get him into the lottery zone.
Sabonis has been the biggest beneficiary in the last two weeks, moving from the 20s to the lotto zone and possibly even into the top 10.
Junior year at the University of Notre Dame
Jackson had a bit of a slump late in the season, but he exploded in tournaments, especially against Wisconsin, and scored 26 points and four assists in the elite round of eight in North Carolina.
Jackson is strong, agile, solid defensively, reliable on the ball, and his three-point range is inconsistent but acceptable. Scouts favored him early in the season for the lottery and could now be 18th to 25th overall pick if drafted.
Senior year at the University of North Carolina
Johnson went on to respond to scouts who questioned his qualities for the NBA, scoring double-doubles in three straight games, including 20 points and 10 rebounds against Indiana University and 25 points and 12 rebounds against Notre Dame. He has been very efficient in the mid-range this season, shooting 45 percent from the field.
Johnson’s biggest challenge comes on the defensive end: Can he be strong and fit for a low-post defense? But there should be no suspense in entering the first round, the question is how far it can go up.
Syracuse heavy snow freshman
Layton is a backup at Syracuse University, but don’t be fooled, he has all the skills that a power forward should have: 2.06 meters tall, good athleticism, 40% three-point shooting, and efficient blocking.
Layton had ups and downs in the tournament, but hit three key three-pointers against Virginia and impressed scouts with five blocks.
Layton is a classic power forward that the modern NBA is looking for, and if he runs, he has a chance to fall into the lottery zone until the end of the first round. The final four eventually gave him the opportunity to improve his position.
V.J. – Beechm
Tournament three-pointers shot 12 of 22, greatly boosting Bicham’s draft prospects. Three points is his survival capital, but sometimes it also shows the determination to break through. Several scouts mentioned that he could reach the end of the first round, but most still thought he was only worth two rounds.
Freshman year at Syracuse University
Scouts have been watching Richardson all season, but all on the sidelines. He has height, long arms, athleticism and an all-round offensive approach — he can shoot three-pointers and break through, but has been inconsistent throughout the season.
Richardson’s inconsistency brought to the tournament, with a stunning opening game, followed by a combined 4-of-21 shooting in the last two games against Mid-Tennessee and Gonzaga, followed by an explosion in the quarterfinals against Virginia.
After opening the game on 0-of-7 shooting, Richardson scored 21 points in the second half, including three three-pointers and a couple of steals in key moments, to lead Syracuse University to the Final Four. Now that he’s on the top stage of college basketball in the United States, he has a chance to change his destiny.
If Richardson can lead Syracuse University to a knockout of North Carolina on Sunday, he has a chance to reach the first round. This rookie lacks an elite No. 2 spot, and there will be teams looking at Richardson.
Sophomore in Oregon
Position: Power forward
Scouts have been talking about Bale’s tournament performance. He is a tall, talented blocker with no shortage of hardness and motivation to change the game defensively.
The problem is on the offensive end, he doesn’t have a formed offensive approach, and it’s better to stay in Oregon and play for another year. However, Bale’s performances against Duke and Oklahoma gave him the opportunity to be selected late in the first and early second rounds.
The market is bearish
Malcolm Blow Gordon
Brogordon and his contemporaries, like Dunzel Valantin, have been climbing the draft prediction charts. Blow Gordon won the ACC Player of the Year and is slowly gaining traction as well, possibly heading into the final part of the first round. But he reversed in the tournament.
Against Iowa State University and Syracuse, Blow Gordon shot 8 of 27 and 1 of 8 from three-point range. He did show versatility, churning out 12 assists in two games. But it also exposed his lack of top-level athletic talent, especially against Syracuse.
Blow Gordon could still make it to the first round, but it was crowded.
Before the start of the season, many thought Hayes would be selected in the middle and late part of the first round, and some scouts wondered if he could have better prospects than former Wisconsin players Frank Kaminsky and Sam Decker.
Hayes has shot poorly this year, and the tournament hasn’t improved: 9-of-39 shooting and 2-of-15 three-point shooting.
Shooting from 50 percent from 50 percent last season to 37 percent and three-point percentage from 40 percent to 29 percent. The departure of Kaminsky and Decker allowed defenders to concentrate on Hayes, seriously affecting his efficiency. If he runs, I’m not sure he’ll be chosen.
The market is unknown
Allen had a good time in the tournament, but lost 4-of-13 against Oregon. Allen’s dominant performances against Yale and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington were not enough to offset the slump against a taller, more athletic-talented team.
Allen is the most controversial player, and scouts are assessing his value: from the edge of the lottery to the second round.
Senior year in Kansas
Ellis had an impressive first three rounds, scoring 27 points on 10-of-17 shooting against Maryland’s blazing frontcourt. But Ellis’s Kansas career ended bitterly: 1-of-5 shooting against Villanova University, with only four points and four turnovers.
Ellis’ fundamentals and consistency will make him valued in the second round, but his poor performance against Villanova will give scouts a bad impression.
When Thirden plays aggressively, he really has the strength of an NBA player, especially after finding a three-point touch. Sheldon was aggressive against Villanova, but didn’t shoot well, shooting 0-of-6, including two open three-pointers in the final minute — all of which were chances to overcome.
I’ve heard he’s seriously considering a run, and Shelden’s junior year is solid enough to warrant a selection. But I don’t believe he can make the lottery.
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Junior year at the University of Notre Dame