The 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament truly begins today. 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 them 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 looked at the South and East already, and continue with the West Region.
Best player: Michael Porter Jr., Missouri. He's as highly touted a freshman as Duke's Marvin Bagley III and others. Michael Porter Jr. suffered a back injury in the first few minutes of the season that kept him sidelined until the SEC Tournament. Naturally, he looked rusty, but his movements were fluid and his missed time is not going to affect his draft stock too much. With a little more confidence in his health, Porter should display that immense versatile ability that NBA scouts still fawn over.
The Matchup To Watch: Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State and Mike Daum, South Dakota State. Conventional tournament wisdom suggests that at least one 12-seed will upset a 5-seed in the Round of 64. Most people feel Ohio State's opponent, South Dakota State, will continue that trend. It won't happen if Keita Bates-Diop plays as well as he has for the Buckeyes this year. Averaging 19.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, Bates-Diop is a potential conference player of the year candidate, if not a candidate for the national award. His game is very polished for a college player, possessing a very deep offensive repertoire.
The same can be said for Mike Daum, who's averaging over 20 points and 10 rebounds a game for the second straight season. Bursting onto the scene last year, Daum and the Jackrabbits hope to advance further into the tournament and won't be happy with just making it into "The Big Dance." This is definitely a game to keep on your radar.
Player We Hope Will Live Kendall Marshall's Dreams: Joel Berry II, North Carolina. I'm not sure if Joel Berry will stick in the Association. I do know that he should not suffer the same fate his UNC predecessor, Kendall Marshall suffered. Marshall never recovered from a wrist injury, and now he fluctuates between the NBA and the G-League. Berry will likely be selected in the second round, if at all, but he has a definite NBA skill: leadership. Berry is a good shooter and quality decision-maker, but he seems to be able to steady the Tar Heels during pressured times. Every NBA team needs that.
The Obligatory Gonzaga Prospect: Jonathan Williams, Gonzaga. After finally fully shedding that "mid-major" label and reaching the NCAA Championship Game last year, the Bulldogs lost a lot of potent talent from that squad. One holdover is forward Jonathan Williams, whose athleticism and ever-improving shooting touch will earn him the right to be selected in June. His stock, like most upperclassmen, has dipped the longer he's stayed in school. But he is still a quality prospect as a graduate senior. He needs to continue to expand his range if he wants to have a long pro career.
Lottery Project That Will Make A GM Look Smart Or Foolish: Robert Williams, Texas A&M. This may seem mean on its surface, but it isn't. There is no way anyone can project a player's career with absolute certainty. That is the danger of potential. Each player is a lump of coal that can either become a gem, crumble into soot or something in between. Robert Williams has shown flashes of NBA-caliber ability, especially since he's only a sophomore. But he also shows the inconsistency to dominate in far too many stretches for someone as good as he is. Strong, nimble and blessed with touch in the post, Williams could make a team look very intelligent for taking him, or get that team's front office ridiculed for misplaced faith.
Poemer. 8-time Hug Champion. Pick&Roll Enthusiast. Guardian of Logic and Tact. Apocalypse's good Brother. Collector of muted souls for Mt. Filtermanjaro.