Elite 8: The Best NBA Prospects Remaining In March Madness
- We have reached the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament, and while the number of teams has decreased, the pool is still ripe with NBA prospects.
As the Elite 8 tips off Saturday evening, NBA scouts will flock far and wide to evaluate the college ranks’ premier talent. Below, The Crossover presents a game-by-game guide for NBA fans to evaluate all of the tournament’s remaining prospects for this year’s draft and beyond.
Gonzaga vs. Xavier, 6:09 p.m.
Zach Collins | C | Freshman
The 7-foot Las Vegas native may posses the highest upside of any big man in this draft. Playing only 17 minutes per game, Collins’ numbers don’t immediately jump off the page. But through two tournament games, he’s averaged and insane 12 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks in just 21 minutes per night. The defensive potential is what NBA scouts are truly excited about. Collins can show out against a relentless, attacking Xavier offense.
Nigel Williams-Goss | PG | Senior
At 6’4 with a 6’6 wingspan, Williams-Goss fits the prototypical profile of a modern NBA point guard. The senior poses a more limited upside at 22—he redshirted last season after transferring from Washington—but can stroke from deep and is a master of the pick-and-roll. He produced 1.028 points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball handler this season. Xavier's fiesty guards will be a nice challenge to compete against.
Przemek Karnowski | C | Senior
At 23, the 7’1 giant harnesses even smaller upside than his classmate, but it’s hard to teach the touch and feel Karnowski displays with regularity—averaging 1.9 assists per game—for a man that large. He’s underwhelming on the glass and at the line, yet there’s only a semblance of an NBA player at his current 300-pound weight. Xavier's persistent attack will also be prove a tough task.
Josh Perkins | G | Sophomore
After a freak accident kick broke his jaw and prematurely ended his freshman season, Perkins has provided consistent scoring punch for the Zags the past two years, drilling 38.9% of his 280 three-point tries. A point guard by trade, Perkins will have an opportunity to showcase his creation abilities Xavier's defense.
Killian Tillie | F | Freshman
You won’t see much of 6’10 Frenchman on Thursday, but Tillie provided some valuable energy minutes for the Bulldogs against Northwestern. He can shoot it from deep, attack the glass and protect the rim. Tillie isn’t ready for this June, but could surge up draft boards next season with more playing time.
Trevon Bluiett | G | Junior
Bluiett took a step forward this season when an injury required someone to shoulder more of a scoring load. After a sizeable uptick in three-point conversion from his freshman to sophomore year, the 6’6 scorer proved his stroke is real this season, draining 37.7% from deep. He’s been unstoppable this tournament, averaging 25 points per game. If he can torch Gonzaga's endless supply of perimeter pests, Bluiett will continue rise from the back end of the second round.
Tyrique Jones | F | Freshman
The 6’9 leaper has played sparingly this season, but flashed his tantalizing potential in the second round against Florida State. He crashed the glass and finished with authority while starting and playing 17 minutes. Jones saw 14 minutes to combat Lauri Markkanen in the Sweet 16 and will likely again see a big role against Collins and Karnowski. A strong effort against a top-NBA prospect will spark talent evaluators’ attention for the 2018 draft.
Note: The injury we alluded to in Bluiett’s blurb was to none other than Edmond Sumner, Xavier’s standout sophomore point guard. The 6’6 seemed destined for the first round earlier this season. With strong interviews this spring, Sumner could find himself in the first round similar to a year ago.
Oregon vs Kansas, 8:49 p.m.
Jordan Bell | PF | Junior
Oregon’s entire defense revolves around Bell: he gobbles up rebounds, protects the rim, jumps in passing lanes and can switch onto any frontcourt opponent. He’ll have the opportunity to flash that defensive versatility against Kansas, where he’ll undoubtedly match up against both the burly Landen Lucas and the explosive Josh Jackson. Bell could sneak his way into the first round if he irons out his jumper during pre-draft training. That’s unlikely, but regardless, he’s an exciting, uber athletic prospect who already has a defined role.
Dillon Brooks | F | Junior
Brooks massively improved his jump shot this season, soaring from 34% over his first two years to a 40.9% clip as an upperclassmen. Facing Kansas’s three-point-happy offense, the Ducks will likely look to hoist from deep as well, presenting Brooks an opportunity to connect from deep, and parlay his jumper into dribble drives and the vicious attacks on the rim that he showcased this season. That diverse skillset has made NBA scouts more intrigued this campaign than in years past.
Tyler Dorsey | SG | Sophomore
The 6’5 sharpshooter has consistently rained over 40% of his threes on nearly 400 attempts during his first two seasons at Oregon. But at 23, boasting only a 6’3 wingspan on a skinny frame, there’s not much else to get excited about. He can thrive against Kansas for the same reasons as Brooks. The stage can present a platform to showcase some playmaking abilities scouts have not seen much of. Dorsey could rise up boards in 2018 once Bell and Brooks depart this spring.
Payton Pritchard | PG | Freshman
Another longer-term prospect, Pritchard hasn’t posted gaudy numbers this season, but has looked the part of a pro-style point guard. He’s converted 36% of his outside tries, can finish amongst the trees at the rim and has created for teammates. Pritchard manipulates defenses like a veteran. Squaring off with a cat-quick senior in Frank Mason will be a nice barometer.
Note: Senior forward Chris Boucher tore his ACL during the Pac-12 tournament. He’s 24 years old, but at 6’10 with a 7’4 wingspan, possess enormous defensive potential. The injury hasn’t knocked him off team’s big boards.
Josh Jackson | F | Kansas
If you don’t know what Jackson does well right now, you haven’t been paying much attention to the Jayhawks. In the Elite 8, it will be fascinating to watch if Jackson can recreate the surprising scoring rampage he used to knock out Michigan State. The freshman scored 15 points and grabbed 12 rebounds against Purdue. It won’t be easy for Jackson to knife through Oregon's stingy defense, and pour in off-the-bounce jumpers like he did against the Spartans. Success in that area will be something to monitor.
Devonte’ Graham | PG | Junior
At 22, Graham is old for a junior, but he had a tremendous season back at Kansas. The Jayhawks’ two-headed point guard attack has spearheaded their offense all season, and it’s worked largely due to the fact Graham is an absolute sniper shooting off the ball. Oregon’s defense starts at the top of the key. How will Graham respond to the pressure?
Frank Mason III | PG | Senior
The diminutive point guard is the straw that stirs the drink for Kansas, and he’s torched opposing defenses all the season: shooting, finishing at the rim, creating for others. His size will continue to limit his NBA prospects, but success against Oregon’s long guards will only bolster his stock.
Svi Mykhailiuk | SG | Junior
The 6’8 Ukrainian is still just 19 years old amidst his third season of college ball. That’s both a blessing and a curse. NBA teams still see a pretty blank canvas, with plenty of room to grow. But three years in, Mykhailiuk has yet to truly blossom beyond an off-ball shooter. He created more for others this season, and that would be huge for his 2018 draft stock as well as build momentum into next season when the ball will certainly be in his hands a lot more as Graham and Mason depart.
LaGerald Vick | SG | Sophomore
After a low-usage freshman campaign, Vick has emerged as a key reserve contributor for the Jayhawks. He’s another 2018 prospect to keep an eye on, who can gain from this Elite 8 experience in a similar fashion as Mykhailiuk. Vick, however, boasts a far more intriguing shooting profile.
South Carolina vs Florida, 2:20 p.m.
Sindarius Thornwell | G | Senior
Thornwell is the SEC’s Player of the Year and has been one of the players of the tournament to date, with two stat-stuffing performances under his belt already. He’s big, strong and dynamic on both ends of the floor and his toughness has set the tone for the rest of the team. His advanced age for a prospect is a factor here, as a lot of his game relies on his physical dominance and perhaps caps his upside. But Thornwell’s had an exceptional senior year and can keep the buzz going if the Gamecocks pull another upset.
PJ Dozier | G | Sophomore
Dozier’s not a finished product, but his height, length and athletic ability make him a clear NBA prospect. He’s smooth and natural in transition and was productive, though not efficient as a scorer. He’s not a good jump shooter and could use another year to hone his craft, but Dozier was great against Marquette, solid versus Duke and Baylor and will have plenty of eyes on him Sunday afternoon.
Devin Robinson | SF | Junior
A pair of big tournament games has Robinson buzzing at the moment, and he’s been a major part of Florida’s success all year. Considered a fringe prospect coming into the season, he’s an NBA athlete with a developing two-way game and may earn a combine invite off the strength of his March. He can guard several positions and was extremely effective against Virginia, sticking all over the floor as Florida slugged their way to a big win. He’s still polishing up the rough edges of his game, but as a wing who can shoot and defend, he’s clearly on the radar.
Kasey Hill | PG | Senior
Hill was a McDonald’s All-American coming in under Billy Donovan, and though he’s never quite delivered, he‘s a defensive energizer and playmaker for this team. He struggles shooting the basketball, but his athletic ability and upside guarding the ball should get him workouts. He’ll have a tough cover in Dozier on Sunday.
North Carolina vs Kentucky, 5:05 p.m.
Justin Jackson | SF | Junior
Jackson returned to school and left quite the impression this season, displaying a much-improved three-point shot to go with his strong scoring instincts and long 6’8” frame. He’s likely played his way into the first round of this year‘s draft. He’s totaled 60 points in three tourney games and shot 8–14 from three but converted only 2–8 attempts in the Sweet 16, and will be relied on to anchor the Tar Heels’ attack against Kentucky, and beyond.
Tony Bradley | C | Freshman
A super-efficient interior scorer who’s been terrific all season playing limited minutes in UNC’s deep frontcourt rotation, Bradley’s shown enough to put himself in the first round conversation. His touch and rebounding ability give him a solid floor as a prospect. He’ll be critical as the Heels look to battle against Kentucky's thicker front line, and the deeper they go in the tournament, the better Bradley’s case for leaving this season might be.
Joel Berry II | PG | Junior
Berry has been the force that makes Carolina tick, pacing the offense with his playmaking, three-point shooting and a nose for important baskets. He‘s undersized for the NBA and will have more to prove as a senior. A long, athletic batch of Kentucky guards could make life tricky for him in this one.
Isaiah Hicks | F | Senior
Hicks has always been an interesting physical specimen and averaged a career-best 12.4 points and 5.7 rebounds this season, finally gifted with a prominent role. He has little perimeter game and likely won’t be drafted, but should receive summer league looks as an energy big with some defensive versatility and skill around the basket. His efforts are key to Carolina’s title hopes.
Kennedy Meeks | C | Senior
Meeks has continued to improve his conditioning and has thrived as a senior accordingly, averaging 12.7 points and 9.1 rebounds. He’s got the height and length to play center in the NBA, but will have to prove he can compete athletically at the next level. He’s limited as a scorer, doing most of his damage on post-ups and offensive rebounds, and will have to find ways to score around length. He’ll face a tough matchup in Kentucky’s Bam Adebayo.
Theo Pinson | SF | Junior
After missing the first half of the season recovering from a broken left foot, Pinson has returned to log important minutes for the Tar Heels. He was a touted recruit and has a nice pro frame for a wing, but has struggled as a scorer, doesn’t take a high volume of shots and has a checkered injury history (he missed much of his freshman year with a another break in the same foot). Producing next season will be crucial to his NBA chances.
Seventh Woods | G | Freshman
Woods garnered fame for a high school mixtape that showcased his incredible athletic ability, and though he’s done next to nothing production-wise as a freshman, improved skill level could make him an NBA player. He’s a name to follow for the next couple seasons.
De’Aaron Fox | PG | Freshman
Fox has been playing outstanding ball the past few weeks and is a surefire lottery pick at this point. When you pour in 39 points in the Sweet 16, NBA scouts are going to take note. And Fox's performance came against fellow top-five-pick candidate Lonzo Ball, no less. He checked every box you want in a point guard except for jump shooting. His form doesn’t look broken but he’s struggled to make threes all season, which stands as his the biggest obstacle to stardom. He’ll get another marquee matchup with Joel Berry on Sunday, and the deeper Kentucky goes, the harder teams will have to think here.
Malik Monk | SG | Freshman
It’s been almost a month since Monk had one of his massive shooting nights. He’s the draft’s top perimeter scoring prospect and has won games for Kentucky basically by himself this season. He’s entrenched in the lottery along with Fox for his scoring gifts, but isn’t a great defender and lacks ideal size as a two. Monk showed a bit more of his all-around game against Wichita State and still scored 21 points while being a prime focus for UCLA’s defense in the Sweet 16.
Bam Adebayo | F/C | Freshman
Adebayo anchors the middle for Kentucky and has put together a strong second half of the season. He’s a projected first-rounder with a relatively wide range, offering a decent floor but lacking starry upside as an athletic, two-way big. UNC’s potent offensively and far more physical up front than UCLA, giving Adebayo an opportunity for a prime show-and-prove game.
Isaiah Briscoe | PG | Sophomore
Briscoe’s on the draft fringes, lacking elite NBA athleticism or a calling-card skill other than his competitive streak. He still plays a big role in Kentucky’s rotation, and will get looks from teams late in the draft and at summer league. He’ll be leaned on for defensive contributions as Kentucky tries to curtail the Tar Heels’s high-scoring offense.
Derek Willis | PF | Senior
As a rare four-year Kentucky player, Willis has shown he can stretch the floor at 6’9” with good length and athleticism. That and the UK pedigree will get him workouts after the season, though his upside is likely limited to filling out a roster at best. His role is limited, but an unexpected, timely big shooting night from Willis could be a difference-maker against UNC.