Are you a hoops fan trying to get interested in the Men's NCAA Tournament, but so consumed by your love for the NBA that you need to view everything through the lens of professional basketball? Well you've come to the right place! If you're looking for the top pick in the draft, you're watching the wrong tournament. The smooth shooting and shot blocking 7-foot-2 or 7-foot-4 or who knows maybe 7-foot-5 French star Victor Wembanyama is not partaking in March Madness. Neither is Scoot Henderson, a 6-foot-2 powerhouse guard who skipped college in favor of the G-League and is expected to be a top 3 pick later this year. But still, many top NBA prospects are on display in the NCAA Tournament.
The NCAA Tournament does feature a handful of scorers, playmakers, and big men expected to be taken in the lottery. As you flip through the Madness this weekend, here are a few players to keep an eye on.
Brandon Miller, Alabama
Miller was involved in the murder of Jamea Jonae Harris outside a Tuscaloosa bar on January 14. While he is not legally implicated, he reportedly delivered the gun used in the incident to his former teammate Darius Miles, who faces capital murder charges.
The Alabama program has handled the entire situation with a decidedly callous hand, very clearly placing winning over anything else. Miller has not miss even a game while all of this has played out, and his coach Nate Oats said he was just at the "Wrong spot at the wrong time." Boys will be boys and help facilitate murders, oh well let's game plan for Georgia!
It's not Miller's fault that the Alabama program has bungled this thing so severely, and the whole situation is just really shitty. Candidly, I don't know what the right answer is.
And now, because this is a piece about basketball, we're going to do a hard pivot into what makes Miller such a special talent.
Leading off our list of NBA prospects, Brandon Miller is a 6-foot-9 wing with a smooth shooting stroke and playmaking ability. His game should transition wonderfully to the NBA. He brings up comparisons to Paul George, and you can even see some Jayson Tatum in the way he finishes with floaters in the lane. He's shown solid vision in his time at Bama, averaging 2.5 assists per game, but the real draw here is his jump shooting accuracy. Miller is averaging 40% from three-point range on 9 attempts per game, and 51% on twos. He's at 86% from the free throw line for the season.
That type of touch at 6-foot-9 should translate to almost immediate scoring in the pros. Though he still lacks strength and will get pushed around a bit early in his career, Miller should be a top 3 pick in the spring's draft.
He's the most NBA-ready talent in the college game, by far.
Jarace Walker, Houston
Houston's Marcus Sasser was named a first-team All-American this season, but freshman Jarace Walker is their lottery pick talent. The 6-foot-8, 240 pound forward has a professional build. He is a defensive menace, with the intensity and versatility to guard anyone on the court.
He forces steals, blocks shots, and generally wreaks havoc for the Cougars. While his offensive game is still a bit of a work in progress, Walker has good passing skills and instincts. You can see him ending up on like the Trail Blazers and being a steady contributor.
Gradey Dick, Kansas
The 6-foot-8 freshman is one of the biggest reasons Kansas is a threat to repeat as national title winners this year. Dick is one of the best shooters in college basketball, averaging 40% from three-point range this season, making him one of the top NBA prospects ahead of the upcoming NBA draft.
He sports a quick release with a balanced form, and can hit from anywhere on the court. Dick is an adept cutter, and finds himself at the rim very frequently during Kansas games. While his defense remains a bit of a question mark at the next level, his shotmaking and playmaking will make him an interesting choice for a late lottery team.
Regardless, he's fun as hell to watch right now.
Keyonte George, Baylor
At 6-foot-4, 185 lbs, Keyonte George is a ball of muscle and energy for Baylor. He's got a solid shooting touch and is unafraid to pull up from deep, but he also excels at getting to the rim. He uses his frame to absorb contact and his touch to put in soft floaters or tough layups.
Defensively, George is a strong competitor. Though limited by his height, he uses his speed and strength to stay in front of his opponents.
Anthony Black and Nick Smith Jr., Arkansas
— CBS Sports College Basketball ? (@CBSSportsCBB) March 16, 2023
In the five spot, you get a two-for-one any time you watch Arkansas. The Razorbacks have a glut of potential NBA talent, with Anthony Black and Nick Smith Jr. expected to be lottery picks, and Ricky Council IV as a potential second rounder.
Black is a 6-foot-7 point guard with excellent vision and playmaking abilities. He looks like the type of player who will excel operating the pick and roll and getting out in transition in the NBA. Defensively, he has a knack for forcing steals, and uses his height and length to get chase down blocks at the rim.
He will need to improve his shooting to be a consistent offensive threat in the NBA, but his skillset matched with his height makes him a really interesting prospect.
Black's backcourt mate, Nick Smith Jr., is more of a pure shooting guard. At 6-foot-5, 185 pounds, he certainly looks the part. Smith missed half the season for the Razorbacks, and his results have been decidedly mixed since coming back from injury. He's shooting at just a 38% clip in 15 games, and only 33% from three-point range.
Smith's challenge in the NBA will be to prove he's more than a volume scorer. Also, frankly, he needs to shoot the ball more consistently and effectively than he has in his lone season in Fayetteville.
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