The NCAA Tournament is here, so let’s focus on the prospects that we’ll have our eyes on over the next month as teams fight for the national championship. The West Region is one of the weaker ones in terms of NBA prospects, but Duke and Oklahoma each have potential top 10 picks on the roster.
Baylor and Oregon State each have potential first-rounders, while Oregon and St. Joseph’s each have prospects who’d benefit from a deep run this month. Which prospects should you keep your eye on in the West Region?
1 Oregon vs. 16 Holy Cross
Oregon: SF/PF Chris Boucher, SG/SF Dillon Brooks, PG/SG Tyler Dorsey
Holy Cross: None
Oregon is a deep and talented team capable of big things in this bracket. Their top NBA prospect might be junior college transfer and senior combo forward Chris Boucher. Boucher is a long and athletic forward with elite shot-blocking ability (3.1 per game) and a decent three-point shot (36.0 percent). He’s a potential second-round pick partially due to his age (23). Brooks is the Ducks’ slashing swingman who stands 6-6, and he’ll need to improve his three-point shot to make it to the Association (33.1 percent). Dorsey is an athletic and talented 6-4 freshman combo guard who’s a name to watch in the future:
8 St. Joseph’s vs. 9 Cincinnati
St. Joseph’s: SF DeAndre Bembry, SF Isaiah Miles
St. Joe’s has a pair of upperclassmen swingmen in DeAndre Bembry and Isaiah Miles with NBA aspirations. Bembry, a versatile junior, is the more touted of the two. He’s averaged 17.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.5 steals per game, but has shot just 25.8 from three-point range. He’s firmly on the radar for 2017 and could come out this year as well, but really needs to improve that jump shot. Miles is the lesser NBA prospect as a senior, but could have a successful career overseas.
5 Baylor vs. 12 Yale
Baylor: SF Taurean Prince, PF Johnathan Motley, PF Rico Gathers
Baylor is one of the more talented teams in this region, having a number of long and athletic prospects to throw at opposing teams. Taurean Prince, the Bears’ senior small forward, is a potential 3-and-D type at the next level. Motley, Baylor’s sophomore power forward, is someone to watch in the future with his soft touch, athleticism and productivity. Gathers is a beast in the paint who might have more of a future in pro football than pro basketball with his combination of size, athleticism and hands.
4 Duke vs. 13 UNC-Wilmington
Duke: SG/SF Brandon Ingram, SG Grayson Allen
Duke is far less talented than it was a year ago after losing three first-round picks and its senior point guard — but there’s enough here to beat UNC-Wilmington. Ingram, the Blue Devils’ freshman phenom, is an athletic and sharpshooting swingman in contention with Ben Simmons for the top selection in 2016. Grayson Allen is a sophomore combo guard who can score and pass efficiently for Duke, and a possible first-round pick in June:
6 Texas vs. 11 Northern Iowa
Texas: PG Isaiah Taylor, C Cameron Ridley, PF/C Prince Ibeh
Northern Iowa: None
Texas is one of the underrated teams in this bracket with the talent and coach to make a run. Taylor, the Longhorns’ junior point guard, is a quick playmaker capable of taking over the game. He’s on the radar as a potential second-round pick in 2016. Ridley and Ibeh, Texas’ two senior big men, both have an abundance of talent but likely will find themselves playing overseas or in the D-League down the line.
3 Texas A&M vs. 14 UW-Green Bay
Texas A&M: SG/SF Danuel House, PF/C Tyler Davis, PG/SG Alex Caruso
UW-Green Bay: None
Texas A&M has a good chance to make it to the Final Four out of this bracket thanks to its combination of talent and experience. House, a senior swingman, looks like an NBA player, but lacks consistency and fell off as a shooter this season. Davis, the Aggies’ freshman big man, is an intriguing frontcourt prospect to keep an eye on in the future. Caruso is a 6-5 senior combo guard who does a little of everything and should have a nice career overseas.
7 Oregon State vs. 10 VCU
Oregon State: PG/SG Gary Payton II
VCU: SG Melvin Johnson
Oregon State is led by senior combo guard Gary Payton II. At 6-3 with a 6-7 wingspan, Payton has the size to be a difference-maker at the defensive end immediately at the NBA level, although he still has a ways to go offensively to reach his potential. Payton is projected in the late first or early second-round range right now:
VCU shooting guard Melvin Johnson is a lethal sharpshooter with NBA aspirations. If Johnson performs well on this stage, his big senior season should help him gain the attention he needs to play professionally either overseas or in the D-League.
2 Oklahoma vs. 15 CSU Bakersfield
Oklahoma: SG Buddy Hield, PG/SG Isaiah Cousins
CSU Bakersfield: None
Oklahoma is led by an exceptional backcourt in Hield and Cousins. Hield wowed the nation throughout the season and is arguably the best player in the country. His lethal shooting ability aids his draft stock, and he should be a top 10 pick in June. Cousins is being projected as a second-round pick and has the versatility to play either backcourt spot. If Cousins doesn’t make it in the Association, he’ll likely have a successful career overseas.