March Madness. The best time of year if you’re a college basketball fan. It’s also a good time for potential NBA players. March can make or break a player’s draft stock. It isn’t the end all be all in determining where a player gets drafted, but it shows if a player can excel against the highest talent on the biggest stage. A lot of players could benefit from a good march but these guys in particular could use one.
Scouts are enamored with Karl Towns. He may not be the seemingly NBA ready phenom that Jahlil Okafor is but he has the potential to be one of the best two-way bigs in the league. Scouts know he’s athletic, and they know he can play defense, but they want to see him lead the team offensively in March. With the only potential matchups being AJ Hammons in the round of 32 and Myles Turner in the Elite Eight, Towns won’t face many teams that can match Kentucky’s size for the majority of the tournament. There is a very good possibility that Towns overtakes Okafor as the consensus best big in the draft, and March is his time to do it.
One of my favorite prospects this year, D’angelo Russell has been slumping of late. Okafor, Towns, and Emmanuel Mudiay are slowly creeping ahead, leaving Russell out of the conversation for the number 1 pick. He will have a tough matchup against VCU, one of the best teams in the country at forcing turnovers. A good performance against the Rams and against Arizona in a potential Round of 32 matchup could boost Russell back into the conversation for number 1.
The arguably under seeded Wichita State Shockers are out for blood. Leading the charge is Ron Baker. Fred van Vleet is heralded as the leader of the Shockers but Ron Baker is debatably the true force behind the punch. Against Kentucky last year Baker showed that he could score against NBA talent. This march it’s his time to show that he can take over as an alpha in college, contribute in the NBA, and potentially boost himself into the first round. Only a junior, there is a good chance Baker stays for another season, but after watching his stock drop all year, he could use a late season boost.
R.J. Hunter had a rough season. Although Georgia State made the NCAA tournament they did it as a 14 seed. Heralded as a knockdown shooter he only shot 30.4% from three this season. Their chances of winning against Baylor are slim, especially if starting PG Ryan Harrow is still hurt. However if hunter can take advantage of Baylor’s Zone and have good shooting performance he could solidify his spot in the 1st round and increase the chances he leaves for the NBA.