The NCAA Tournament is a showcase for all of the top college players around the country to show what they can do on the sport's biggest stage. It provides with a chance to dramatically boost their draft stock, but for NBA fans, it gives many of them their first look at some of the projected top picks in this summer's draft.
Unlike the past few years, all projected lottery picks will be playing in the Big Dance - there is no Ben Simmons or Markelle Fultz this season. As such, here are the 10 top prospects to watch in this year's tournament:
10) Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Fr., PG, Kentucky Wildcats
6'6", 180 lbs. - 13.4 ppg, 5.1 apg, 3.8 rpg
Yes, Kevin Knox is the better player and prospect on Kentucky, but Gilgeous-Alexander will be UK's most intriguing prospect in the tournament. He has been the most consistent player for Kentucky this season and has been the driving force behind their late-season surge. His size, vision, and smooth give him good upside as an NBA point guard. The Canadian didn't start the month as a lottery pick, but if he keeps up his high level of play, Kentucky will make a long run - and his stock will skyrocket because of it.
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9) Wendell Carter, Fr. PF/C, Duke Blue Devils
6'10", 259 lbs. - 13.8 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 2.2 bpg
If Wendell Carter didn't play alongside Marvin Bagley at Duke, we'd be talking about him as a potential top-five pick. He is big and strong enough to play center, yet is also athletic enough and has enough touch on his jumper to play power forward. Fundamentally sound, he can do everything he wants on the court. Carter serves as Duke's rim protector on defense and will make some NBA team very happy in the back half of the top 10.
8) Mikal Bridges, Jr., SF, Villanova Wildcats
6'6", 210 lbs. - 18.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.6 spg
Villanova's Jalen Brunson may win National Player of the Year and (deservedly) gets most of the spotlight for this Wildcats team, but Bridges is the more intriguing NBA prospect.
Though he plays a lot of power forward for the Wildcats, Bridges' NBA upside is as a defender. He's very quick for someone who is 6-foot-7, and with a wingspan over seven feet, he is an impact player on that end of the floor. Bridges is the ultimate 3-and-D prospect comparable to Trevor Ariza.
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7) Collin Sexton, Fr., PG, Alabama Crimson Tide
6'3", 190 lbs. - 19.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.5 apg
If you watched any of Alabama in the SEC Tournament, you know how dangerous Sexton can be. He's a dynamic athlete who is exciting to watch because of his quickness, vision, finishing ability, and defensive quality. He's also perhaps the most competitive player in this class. The Crimson Tide are a talented team yet Sexton is the clear alpha dog. They'll go as far as he takes them.
6) Trae Young, Fr., PG, Oklahoma Sooners
6'2", 180 lbs. - 27.4 ppg, 8.8 apg, 3.9 rpg, 1.7 spg
Has Trae Young struggled in conference play? Absolutely. But he still became the first Division I player ever to lead the country in points and assists thanks to his incredible quickness, vision, and ability to create shots for himself. As the season went on, Young looked fatigued carrying such a big burden for Oklahoma without much of a supporting cast, and it didn't help that defenses adjusted to him the second time around in conference.
Now that he'll be facing defenses that haven't seen him before, Young could go off again.
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5) Jaren Jackson, Fr. PF/C, Michigan State Spartans
6'11", 242 lbs. - 11.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.2 bpg
Jaren Jackson may be the most intriguing prospect in this class. He has a 7-foot-4 wingspan and is a great athlete, giving him a ton of defensive upside as a shot blocker who can defend every position on the court. He's competitive on the glass, runs the floor well and is a good finisher with a growing offensive skill set, though he needs to improve his shooting.
Essentially, Jackson has the perfect skill set for a big man in today's NBA. Don't be surprised if he enters the conversation for the No. 1 pick.
4) Mohamed Bamba, Fr., C, Texas Longhorns
6'11", 225 lbs. - 12.9 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 3.7 bpg
Mo Bamba isn't a gifted offensive talent (he does have plenty of upside), but he's a truly elite shot-blocker who may be the best defensive presence in college basketball since Anthony Davis (though he's not on that level). His athleticism also allows him to play the game at a fast pace. He'll end up being a top six pick in the draft.
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3) Michael Porter Jr., Fr., SF/PF, Missouri Tigers
6'10", 215 lbs. - 7.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg
Porter has more to gain from the NCAA Tournament than anyone. He was in the running for the No. 1 pick in the draft before he suffered a hip injury that required back surgery (he only played two minutes in the season opener) before returning for the SEC Tournament. When healthy, he's a good, fluid athlete who excels on the perimeter and around the basket with his smooth skill set.
There is some obvious rust he needs to shake off, but if he performs well on this stage, Porter should lock up his place in the top five.
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2) Marvin Bagley III, Fr., PF, Duke Blue Devils
6'11", 234 lbs. - 21.1 ppg, 11.5 rpg
At 6-11, Bagley is a silky smooth athlete who can bring the ball up the court and shoot from the outside, but he's lethal in the post and a terror on the glass thanks to his quick second and third jumps. There are some questions about his skinny frame and defense, physically and skill-wise, there isn't anything he can't do on the court - and his production is impossible to ignore.
1) Deandre Ayton, Fr., C, Arizona Wildcats
7'1", 250 lbs. - 20.3 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 1.9 bpg
Many believe that Ayton will be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft barring something unforeseen between now and June 21.
The best true center prospect we've seen in some time, Ayton is a highly skilled big man who still has plenty of upside. He's a physical beast that is dominant in the post and has range stretching out to the three-point line. Given Ayton's physical stature and athleticism, he may have the highest ceiling of anyone in this class. The comparisons to David Robinson are very much warranted.
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Related Topics: Marvin Bagley III, DeAndre Ayton, 2018 NCAA Tournament, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Mo Bamba, Mikal Bridges, Jaren Jackson, Collin Sexton, NCAA Basketball, 2018 NBA Draft, Trae Young, NBA News, Wendell Carter Jr., Michael Porter Jr.