While the NBA is still a month away from the postseason, the greatest expo on earth for the best of the non-NBA players is beginning this very month: March Madness. Yes, the NCAA’s National Championship Tournament begins this upcoming week with selection Sunday, and what better time than to introduce you to the top ten prospects we’ll see in the field, as they are basically the top ten on the NBA’s draft boards for right now. In no particular order, here are who to watch and get to know:
1. Josh Jackson, SF Kansas
The National Player of the Year, Jackson has been near the top of the draft class since Rivals named him the top incoming freshman in the country last year. He’s been great in his one year at Kansas, and he shoots way better as a forward than was expected. His strength, however, is defense, and he leads the top team in the country heading into the tournament.
2. Lonzo Ball, PG UCLA
Ball is interesting to say the least, and he’s probably the most well-known player in the incoming draft class. Ball’s family are extremely outspoken, and his run and gun play has been scary for a lot of teams. Namely, the dude pulls up from Steph Curry distances. He’s projected to go in the top-three, but the tournament will be a great place to calm some fears over his defending ability.
3. Jayson Tatum, SF Duke
The do-everything forward for the Blue Devils is a slight late-riser, and has been solid in his one season in Cameron. The forward is solid defensively, but scouts are worried about his shooting. He’s been shooting much more in the last month, and hopefully that’s a sign of things to come in the tournament coming up.
4. Jonathan Isaac, SF Florida State
This kid is 6’11, skinny as heck, but boy can he defend. He’s a taller, slightly more offensively talented Michael Kidd-Gilchrist from a few years ago. That’s scary for some scouts, and he’ll need to be better in scoring to help out the Seminoles. Still, his intensity is great to watch, and if you love hard Kawhi-style defense, this is the guy to watch.
5. Lauri Markkanen, PF Arizona
Okay, I’m going to sell you on this guy in just a few sentences. He’s 7’ tall. He’s 19 years old. He shoots almost 50% from three. That’s right, this big fella can bang for boards, but he loves to shoot, and that type of stretch forward is exactly what the NBA is salivating over. He’s been terrific in his freshmen campaign at Arizona, and this is a guy to watch when he’s hot.
6. De’Aaron Fox, PG Kentucky
The first of Kentucky’s super freshmen, Fox is the do-everything point. He reminds of a young Rajon Rondo, minus the mental stuff. He rebounds a lot for a guard, loves the pass, and always looks for a drive-and-kick. He’s missing anything close to resembling a jump shot, however, and that’s his main knock. If he can get it going, this guy is the best guard in the draft.
7. Malik Monk, SG Kentucky
Stop absolutely EVERYTHING you’re doing and go look up Malik Monk highlights on YouTube. You know that I’ll post some below here too, but seriously I LOVE Malik Monk. He can’t do much of anything outside of shoot the ball, but man can he shoot the rock. He’s Steph Curry without the handles, and what he can do when he’s scorching is magic, and he’s a must watch in the tourney.
8. Justin Jackson, SF North Carolina
Jackson is another one of these forwards. But he’s the antithesis to Tatum and the other Jackson. Namely, Justin has a shot. His offensive game is nice and consistent, and he’s been a stern leader for the number two team in the country. He’s been iffy on defense, but that’s been slightly explained by the zone-trap that North Carolina runs.
9. Josh Hart, SG Villanova
The do-everything guard for the Wildcats is the returning stud from the defending national champions. Hart was magical in his run a year ago, but mock drafts haven’t been kind to him. He does a lot of exciting things, and for pure entertainment, he’s not someone you should miss watching as the Wildcats try to repeat.
Now, you’ve got your list. Go watch the future studs of the NBA in action, and maybe find some gems on your own. Long live March Madness!