The NCAA Tournament, starting Thursday afternoon, will be a showcase of the players (mostly one-and-dones) who figure to turn pro following this season. In alphabetical order, 10 players worth setting your DVR to check out this week:
(All times Eastern)
• Deandre Ayton, Arizona, Fr., 7-1: First-round game against Buffalo, 9:40 p.m., Thursday. TV: CBS. At 250 pounds, Ayton is gigantic, even by the standards of NBA centers. He has strong low-post scoring skills and reliable hands. Scouts would like to see more of a face-the-basket scoring game, such as a 10-foot fadeaway in traffic. His defense is nothing special; fouls could be an issue his rookie season.
• Marvin Bagley, Duke, Fr., 6-11: First-round game against Iona, 2:45 p.m., Thursday. TV: CBS. Bagley’s offensive skills are dramatic and versatile (a big man shooting 37 percent from the college 3-point line). He will have some adjustment defensively at the NBA level. It would be a big plus if he was paired with another big man adept at guarding either a power forward or a center, so that Bagley can guard the lesser offensive player.
• Mohamed Bamba, Texas, Fr., 6-11: First-round game against Nevada, 4:30 p.m., Friday. TV: TBS. If a lottery team has an urgent need for rim protection, Bamba will definitely be on the radar. He averaged nearly four blocks in the Big 12. At 225 pounds, he will need some additional bulk and strength against filled-out NBA big men.
• Miles Bridges, Michigan State, Soph., 6-6: First-round game against Bucknell, 7:10 p.m., Friday. TV: CBS. Tons of potential as an NBA small forward who grades high on the athlete scale and can make 3-pointers, but he needs to grow in his feel for basketball nuances.
• Wendell Carter, Duke, Fr., 6-10: First-round game against Iona, 2:45 p.m., Thursday. TV: CBS. With such solid 3-point range (46 percent from the college line) Carter could be the definitive “stretch 4,” and perhaps play some small forward in the NBA. Unlike big men with perimeter skills, Carter is also an aggressive rebounder.
• Jaren Jackson, Michigan State, Fr., 6-11: First-round game against Bucknell, 7:10 p.m., Friday. TV: CBS. The NBA is becoming increasingly about versatility at both ends of the court — players with the length and quickness to switch defensively to defeat pick-and-rolls without heavy rotations, and skilled enough along the perimeter that even big men can stretch the defense with 3-point shooting. Jackson fits that template.
• Kevin Knox, Kentucky, Fr., 6-9: First-round game against Davidson, 7:10 p.m., Thursday. TV: CBS. Again, the NBA loves players with the athleticism and quickness to guard multiple positions, to facilitate switching. In the long run, he could play either forward spot in the pros, but he will be more of a project than some of these other prospects.
• Michael Porter Jr., Missouri, Fr., 6-10: First-round game against Florida State, 9:50 p.m., Friday. TV: TBS. There was so much curiosity about Porter going into this season, then he had a serious back injury that cost him nearly his entire season. With a total of 25 minutes so far this season, Porter will obviously draw great attention from scouts in this tournament game versus the Seminoles.
• Collin Sexton, Alabama, Fr., 6-3. First-round game against Virginia Tech, 9:20 p.m., Thursday. TV: TNT. A scoring point guard, he is coached by a former NBA point guard in Avery Johnson. Not a great distributor at this point, but he can sure get to the rim, as demonstrated by his 7 free throw attempts per game.
• Trae Young, Oklahoma, Fr., 6-2. First-round against Rhode Island, 12:15 p.m., Thursday. TV: CBS. What an explosive pick-and-roll point guard, averaging more than 27 points and nearly nine assists per game. He’s so good that opposing teams went to great extreme to send help defenders his way, and the Sooners didn’t react so well the second half of the season.
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