Playoffs

NCAA tournament: 8 players who could see their NBA Draft stock rise during March Madness

NCAA tournament: 8 players who could see their NBA Draft stock rise during March Madness

Every season, there are a few players who boost their draft stock when leading their team to a deep run in the NCAA tournament. Last year it was UConn guard Jordan Hawkins who solidified himself as a lottery pick with his consistent outside shooting, and UCLA senior guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. led the Bruins to a Sweet 16 appearance after previously marching to the Final Four with his versatility and toughness.

The 2024 NBA Draft is considered to be vastly open and there is plenty of room on teams' draft boards for players to make jumps after a strong showing in games the next three weeks. Yahoo Sports takes a look at eight players who could help their draft stock during the NCAA tournament.

Caleb Love, Arizona

Love spent three years at North Carolina before transferring to Arizona his senior year. This has, by far, been his best season and he's shooting the ball more consistently, particularly from 3-point range. Love has been patient with his development after testing the NBA waters each year and receiving feedback from teams.

"I've grown a lot as a player over each year," Love told Yahoo Sports. "Obviously it was tough for me in my early college years. The experience, I've been patient with the process, especially my maturity off the court and in my game. Just learning to grow as a person, grow as a leader and be a better teammate. On the court it's just been learning to be a better playmaker and making better decisions and not rushing things."

Love was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year after averaging 18.1 points and 3.4 assists per game while shooting 35% from 3-point range. There is a notion of a player being over scouted as a four-year player, but Love can really use this stage of the NCAA tournament to show NBA scouts he can be that lead guard who can come in right away with a secondary unit, be productive as a shot creator and run the offense effectively within an NBA system. If Love can lead Arizona to a run in the next couple of weeks, he could sneak into the late first round or early second round.

UConn’s Cam Spencer could boost up draft boards with a strong showing in the NCAA tournament. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Cam Spencer, UConn

No player has been more impactful for the Huskies late in the season than Spencer. The 6-foot-4 senior guard is the X-factor for UConn. When Tristen Newton gets cold from behind the arc or Donovan Clingan can't get things going in the post, it's Spencer who has stepped up in big games. He is so tough defensively and has that plug-and-play, all-around game that NBA teams love. During the Big East tournament semifinals against St. John's, he was one assist away from a double-double, finishing with 20 points (4-for-5 from 3) and nine assists. He could be the Brandin Podziemski (the Santa Clara guard who went No. 19 to the Golden State Warriors last year) of this class and shoot up draft boards with a strong showing for the Huskies.

Justin Edwards, Kentucky

Edwards was a five-star, top-10 recruit coming into his freshman year and looked like a shell of himself for much of the season. But the 6-8 wing finally hit another gear and started to figure things out in late February. His best game of the year was in a win against Alabama where he went a perfect 10-for-10 from the field, finishing with 28 points and adding five rebounds and two assists in 29 minutes. Scouts might be forced to take another look at Edwards if he continues to contribute offensively to a Kentucky team that many believe can make a run in the tournament. Edwards has the length NBA teams covet at the wing position. He has been projected as a late second-round pick who could move up if he continues to play the way he's been playing late in the season.

Jamal Shead, Houston

Shead is one of the best playmakers in college basketball, averaging 6.2 assists per game and recording 10 or more assists five times this year. He is a true floor general who can control the pace of the game; Houston goes as Shead goes. Although Shead is considered a little undersized at 6-1, it's difficult for scouts to overlook his high IQ as a facilitator and his overall toughness. Shead's numbers have improved steadily over each year which means there's still room for growth at the NBA level or, at the very least, consistent guard play with limited turnovers.

North Carolina’s Harrison Ingram has thrived in Hubert Davis’ system. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)

Harrison Ingram, North Carolina

Ingram spent two seasons at Stanford before transferring to North Carolina his junior year. He has thrived in Hubert Davis' system and been a great addition alongside Armando Bacot in the front court. Ingram has the physicality to bang down low in the post and defend the block, and he also has the shot creation to step out on the wing in the pick-and-pop and pick-and-roll. His passing is what has improved the most, whether that's in high-low situations with Bacot or finding his teammate cross-court from the short corner. Ingram has been that glue-guy all season long for UNC and has matched RJ Davis' intensity on defense with how well he shoots the gap and wins 50-50 balls.

Oso Ighodaro, Marquette

Tyler Kolek is expected to return for Marquette, but if he doesn't or his minutes are limited, a lot of the Golden Eagles' success will land on Ighodaro's shoulders. The 6-11 senior forward was instrumental in Marquette's success in the Big East tournament with Kolek sidelined. He scored 20 points in the win over Providence to reach the finals but couldn't contain Clingan in the post for the Huskies. Early in the season, he proved he can battle with some of the best bigs in college basketball. During the Maui Invitational, he went up against 7-4 Zach Edey, 7-2 Hunter Dickinson and 6-10 Adem Bona in three consecutive days. He is most effective with his face-up game and can take players off the dribble, a skill that translates more to the NBA than a back-to-the-basket post-up.

Jalen Bridges, Baylor

A lot of Baylor's season has been focused on the guard play along the perimeter and the development of one of the best rim-running bigs in the Big 12, Yves Missi. But Bridges has been the difference maker in big games late in the season and has done a bit of everything, whether that's hitting big 3s or getting key blocks or rebounds when the game is on the line. The 6-9 forward has improved his motor from last year and has really made a jump offensively in how well he's reading the defense in pick-and-roll situations, and shooting 40% from 3-point range this season. If Baylor's guards are shut down in games, Bridges could be the difference maker in creating offense with how well he cuts off the ball and comes off screens. He might be undersized as a 4, but there's a lot in Bridges' game that translates to the NBA.

Johni Broome, Auburn

The last time Auburn won the SEC championship was in 2019, the same year it made a run to the Final Four. Broome brings the fire and energy for this Auburn team and has really set the tone for them in postseason play. The 6-11 lefty forward can stretch the floor and is so crafty with the ball in his hands. He isn't the most athletic player on the court but runs well in transition and is underrated as a passing big. Defensively, he has great timing and footwork as a shot-blocker, recording six blocks in the last two games, and fights for position on the block when the shot goes up. Auburn is in a tough region with Illinois and UConn, but Broome can turn it on in big games and might be the difference maker for an Auburn team looking to make a run to the Final Four.

Source

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button