While there is so much excitement around the games and tradition, NBA teams will be watching closely trying to find their next draft pick.
Here is a look at a few games and top prospects in each region to keep an eye on.
Looking at this region it’s clear that several teams could be cutting down the nets in Atlanta. With overall 1-seed Louisville looking tournament-ready a potential second round matchup with the Rams of Colorado State is intriguing as the Rams are a great offensive team and if the Cardinals don’t come out ready to play it could be a long game. But the Cardinals have so much talent and experience that Rick Pitino’s crew is the heavy favorites to win this region.
A potential Sweet 16 matchup between Michigan State and Duke has many great storylines including a pair of very talented freshmen that could play themselves into the NBA Draft in Gary Harris and Rasheed Sulaimon.
For fans with an eye towards June’s NBA Draft keep an eye on this region as there are many blue chippers like Russ Smith, Mason Plumlee, and Phil Pressey to name a few but with so many non-BCS teams in the region there will be a few names that come out of nowhere to become household names.
#8 Colorado State vs. #9 Missouri
This is my favorite second-round match of the region. For those who have not seen the Rams watch out, they are legit. Missouri has so much sizzle and will be looking to make amends from last year’s embarrassing departure.
#5 Oklahoma State vs. #12 Oregon
The more I look at this matchup the more I believe the Ducks have a legitimate shot to knock off the Cowboys. After winning the Pac-12 tournament the Ducks seemed to be seeded too low, I’d argue they could be an 8-seed. While Oklahoma State has two future NBA players in LeBryan Nash and Marcus Smart, who could be the first pick in the draft, the Ducks with Dominic Artis back are a legit threat to pull off the upset here.
Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton, 6’8″
If you have read any of my rankings or mock drafts than you know I consider Doug McDermott one of the best players in the country, and look for the junior to use this regional as a springboard to the NBA Draft. A Sweet 16 appearance should all but ensure McDermott is a first-rounder.
Ryan Kelly, SF, Duke, 6’10”
Duke will go the way Kelly goes in the Big Dance. When Kelly is on, he gives the Blue Devils a dimension they lack. While Kelly is a borderline draft pick right now a strong run by Duke could change that.
Prediction – Louisville Cardinals
We can’t overlook how deep this region is with the 1-seed Jayhawks, Georgetown, Florida, and Michigan all with realistic shots to get to Atlanta. According to Ken Pomeroy’s rankings the aforementioned teams are all in the top-12. It’s hard to envision a true cinderella emerging in this region, especially since VCU is a 5-seed. A potential matchup with Michigan looms large as Shaka Smart’s crew is tremendous at pressing and could limit Trey Burke’s effectiveness.
There are questions abound in the South: will Trey Burke put the Wolverines on his back, will Ben McLemore emerge as the top prospect in the draft, will Otto Porter’s magical season continue, or will Billy Donovan win title number three? From a draft standpoint, keep an eye on Trevor Mbakwe of Minnesota and Jamaal Franklin of San Diego State both of whom are some of the top athletes and extremely productive.
#5 VCU vs. #12 Akron
A clash of mentor and protege and Keith Dambrot faces one time assistant Shaka Smart. The X-factor here is Zeke Marshall, who is a legit NBA shot blocker and could frustrate VCU. It’s a shame these two sentimental choices square off against one another.
#6 UCLA vs. #11 Minnesota
UCLA is loaded with youth and potential but the Golden Gophers are battle tested and very athletic. Take one look at Trevor Mbakwe’s performance against Indiana and you will feel sorry for the Bruins who are missing Jordan Adams, who broke his foot in the Pac-12 tournament.
Zeke Marshall, C, Akron, 7’0″
Marshall is a likely second-round pick right now and has progressed in all aspects of his game over a decorated four-year career. A potential matchup with Michigan later in the bracket would be exciting to watch as two contrasting style tangle up.
Perry Ellis, PF, Kansas, 6’8″
During his breakout in the Big 12 tournament Ellis showcased why he was such a highly touted recruit. Athletic and a smooth-scorer Ellis gives the Jayhawks an added dimension in their pursuit of another Final Four appearance.
Prediction – Florida Gators
I am more bearish about the Hoosiers’ chances in this region as potential match ups against North Carolina State, Syracuse, and Miami present matchup problems for the Hoosiers as well as all three of these teams can keep pace with Indiana offensively.
This region present a lot of potential Cinderella teams with Bucknell, Davidson, and even Butler. Jim Larranaga has so many pieces on this Hurricane team that it should show why they are the strongest 2-seed in the entire tournament.
With lottery prospects such as Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller of Indiana, Michael Carter-Williams of Syracuse, and Anthony Bennett of UNLV there will be many NBA teams represented.
#5 UNLV vs. #12 California
I am impressed with Anthony Bennett and think the Runnin’ Rebels could be a great team in another region but facing the Golden Bears in San Jose seems like a de facto road game. Allen Crabbe made headlines earlier in the year but I expect him to show why he will be playing in the NBA this time next year.