The 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is approaching. This means some of the best players in college will have a national stage to display their abilities. Some of these players will move on to the NBA. Here at TSFJ, we'll highlight a few of these prospects based on some basic categories. Of course, the science of drafting is far from exact, so I'm sure these posts will be mostly wrong. But these players deserve mention. We start with the East Region.
Best Prospect: Collin Sexton, Alabama. Oklahoma's Trae Young has been the best point guard this year, if not the best player. However the floor general for coach Avery Johnson's Crimson Tide might be viewed as a better NBA prospect. As recent as a week ago, it wasn't sure that Alabama would make the NCAA Tournament. Conventional wisdom suggested that the Tide needed a win against Texas A&M to secure an at-large bid. With Alabama down one in the final seconds, Sexton drove the length of the court and hit a wrong-footed floater to beat the Aggies. That must have been enough as the Tide find themselves dancing in March. Sexton is a strong guard with a toughness that is tangible on both ends of floor. He's another quality talent at the point, and will add to the tremendous depth at that position in the Association.
The Unknown That Shall Be Known: Keenan Evans, Texas Tech. Texas Tech has flown under the radar for most of the college season. Most only know them as the team Trae Young spurned for Oklahoma, despite his father being a pretty good player for the Red Raiders. Texas Tech has been a surprise in the Big 12 Conference, finishing second behind Kansas with a 24-9 record overall. Keenan Evans is the one orchestrating the offense, leading the team in scoring and assists. He also has a 38-point outburst with a game-winner against Texas. Evans might not be a household name yet, but his game is certainly worth mentioning.
The Player You'll Wish Your Team Selected: Mikal Bridges, Villanova. Since Jay Wright has been the head coach at Villanova, he's had a collection of players who seem to optimize who they are as basketball players. From Randy Foye to Josh Hart, these players come into Villanova not as highly touted as others around the country, then become phenomenal as they grow under Wright's tutelage. Junior forward Mikal Bridges is the latest in that group of players to play for the Wildcats. In three years, he's developed into an almost-sure lottery pick in an NBA draft where recent trends suggest only freshmen and international players are selected in the top half. Bridges is savvy and athletic, seemingly always placing himself in the proper position to score or make a play. In a league where versatility is paramount for its perimeter players, there will be a handful of teams who wish they had picked Bridges.
Player Who'll Play A Dozen Years: Javon Carter, West Virginia. One of the worst-used adjectives in sports is gritty. If a player is gritty, it seems that said player is somehow more competitive than others, and to me, that undermines the idea that talented players don't play hard. However, I can't think of a more appropriate word to describe West Virginia's tenacious senior guard, Javon Carter. Carter is the spearhead of Bob Huggins' 'Press Virginia' defense, positioned at the top of the full court press and hounding whomever he's assigned to defend. Because of this pride in stopping his opponent, and his ability for timely shots and plays, Carter will have a long NBA career. He may not make any All-Star teams, but he'll be an invaluable part of a team's rotation and solidify its backcourt.
Honorable Mention: Kelan Martin, Butler; Daniel Gafford, Arkansas; Jalen Brunson, Villanova
Poemer. 8-time Hug Champion. Pick&Roll Enthusiast. Guardian of Logic and Tact. Apocalypse's good Brother. Collector of muted souls for Mt. Filtermanjaro.