When do the top college prospects for the 2015 NBA Draft take the floor on Saturday for the NCAA Tournament Final Four? What will NBA scouts be looking for when they do?
-NCAA Tournament Round of 64 NBA Draft Prospect TV Schedule: Thursday
-NCAA Tournament Round of 64 NBA Draft Prospect TV Schedule: Friday
-NCAA Tournament Round of 32 NBA Draft Prospect TV Schedule: Saturday
-NCAA Tournament Round of 32 NBA Draft Prospect TV Schedule: Sunday
-NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 NBA Draft Prospect Viewing Guide: Thursday
[url=-NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 NBA Draft Prospect Viewing Guide: Friday
-NCAA Tournament Elite Eight NBA Draft Prospect Viewing Guide: Saturday
-NCAA Tournament Elite Eight NBA Draft Prospect Viewing Guide: Sunday
-NBA Draft Prospect First Weekend Overview
-DraftExpress NCAA Tournament Schedule Grid
Note: The numbers listed next to players' names is their standing in the latest iteration of our Top-100 prospect rankings.All Times Listed are ESTData Courtesy of Synergy Sports Technology 6:09 PM (7) Michigan State vs (1) Duke TBS #7 Michigan State
#96 Branden Dawson
, Denzel Valentine
#2 Jahlil Okafor
, #5 Justise Winslow
, #28 Tyus Jones
, Quinn Cook
, Matt Jones
, Grayson Allen Jahlil Okafor
did not have a very good weekend for Duke in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, posting two of his worst performances of the season according to Game Score (1.2 against Utah and 6.6 against Gonzaga). His only comparable outing (3.1 GS) came in a 40+ point blowout over Wake Forest where he saw just 19 minutes of action, so it's fair to wonder what's going on there. Okafor looked somewhat tired and lethargic getting up and down the floor, even more than he usually does, as he was relied on more as a finisher for Duke than the normal back to the basket workhorse we've become accustomed to seeing. Part of that has to do with seeing more double-teams, and some of that is just the increased size he's having to deal with as the competition stiffens. He scored 23.5 points over 17 possessions per game in the first weekend of the Tournament, and 7.5 points over 11 possessions per game in the second weekend. His splits with his back to the basket are particularly telling, as he scored just four total points with his back to the basket (on nine possessions) in the second weekend after totaling 17 in the first weekend.
With that in mind, it will be very interesting to see how Duke looks to capitalize on their superior size and skill in the post against Michigan State. Okafor is hands down the best back to the basket scorer in college basketball, and an incredibly prolific one at that, seeing almost 12 possessions per game on average over the course of the regular season (good for 1.01 PPP). It seems like a given that Duke will try and go back to that after being able to rest Okafor for almost an entire week.
In spite of that, it should be mentioned that Okafor did not have outrageous success against Michigan State in their first matchup in mid-November, with most of his production coming off cuts and pick and roll finishes. He scored six points on six post-up possessions in that contest, being defended almost exclusively one on one.
Stepping into the void left by Okafor has been Justise Winslow
, who has to be considered one of the frontrunners for the NCAA Tournament's Most Outstanding Player award thus far. Winslow's perimeter shot has been falling with increasing accuracy as of latehe's 7/12 for 3 in the Tournament thus farwhile he's even making some free throws now (9/11 from the line) after hovering around 55% for much of the year. He's making 50% of his jumpers in the Tournament after hitting a middling 33% of them in the regular season. Winslow is shouldering a much heavier share of Duke's offense in the Tournament, as he's starting to create from isolation situations with increasing frequency (2.5 times per game, 1.1 in regular season), finding huge success in doing so.
Winslow will have a much bigger challenge this weekend in the form of long-armed athletic senior Branden Dawson
, an excellent defender, so it will be interesting to see how productive he is when he isn't matched up with the likes of slow-footed Kyle Wiltjer
and Jordan Loveridge.
Michigan State has been on a tear from beyond the arc, with their three key guards Travis Trice, Denzel Valentine
and Bryn Forbes combining to shoot 42% for 3 on 18 attempts per game in the NCAA Tournament. Duke's defense has been much better than advertised in the NCAA Tournament, but there are still question marks about their undersized backcourt of Tyus Jones
, Quinn Cook
and Matt Jones
on that end of the floor. 8:49 PM (1) Wisconsin vs (1) Kentucky TBS #1 Wisconsin
#10 Frank Kaminsky
, #16 Sam Dekker
, #26 Nigel Hayes
#1 Karl Towns
, #6 Willie Cauley-Stein
, #17 Devin Booker
, #19 Trey Lyles
, #41 Dakari Johnson
, #62 Andrew Harrison
, #90 Tyler Ulis
, Alex Poythress
, Marcus Lee
, Aaron Harrison
Which Kentucky team will we see in the Final Four? The one that annihilated every offense they went up against all season long? Or the one that gave up one basket after another inside the paint to Notre Dame? It's popular (and probably correct) to say that Wisconsin needs to make shots to beat Kentucky, but Notre Dame certainly didn't do that (they only hit four 3s) and still had a chance to win the game on the final possession. Similar to Notre Dame, Wisconsin can spread Kentucky out with the mere threat of the outside shot, as they play five guys who can hit 3s on virtually every possession (one more than the Irish). That should open things up for the likes of Kaminsky, Dekker and Hayes to drive to the rim and make plays, but what they don't have (unlike Notre Dame) is a quick, creative and prolific pick and roll guard to force switches and make the defense collapse.
Wisconsin is a better defensive team than Notre Dame, and it will be interesting to see what their game-plan is for stopping Kentucky inside the paint. Karl Towns
scored no less than 25 points on 11 possessions with his back to the basket in the Elite Eight. The Badgers simply can't afford to have Frank Kaminsky
(who has struggled badly guarding the post in the Tournament [giving up 23 points in 16 possessions]) in foul trouble, which could mean the 6-7 Nigel Hayes
(the designated power forward regardless) is the one who will have to deal with the brunt of Towns' post arsenal. Kaminsky and Hayes will likely need to take turns guarding the mostly non-scoring Willie Cauley-Stein
, and hope for the best. Wisconsin, like Notre Dame, almost never doubles the post according to Synergy's data, preferring to defend one on one, so it will be interesting to see if their philosophy changes in this very unique matchup.
Another extremely intriguing matchup will be at the small forward position, between Trey Lyles
and Sam Dekker
. Dekker is playing the best basketball of his college career in the NCAA Tournament so far, hitting 13 of his 27 attempts from beyond the arc in four games, after shooting just 30% from beyond the arc in 34 games prior (making one per game on average), while also hitting an outrageous 19 of his 26 2-point attempts. On almost any other team in college, Lyles would probably see heavy playing time at the center position, so his ability to keep Dekker in front of him defensively will be pivotal for Kentucky, especially with the way Wisconsin spreads the floor. The normally conservative Bo Ryan seems to have loosened the reins on his athletic small forward, giving him more leeway to attack his man off the dribble and fire away from the perimeter. It will be interesting to see how much of a focal point he makes this matchup as part of his game-plan. Andrew Harrison
hasn't shouldered a huge amount of offense for Kentucky in the Tournament (he's averaging just 9.5 possessions per game for Kentucky, third most on the team), but he's been drawing fouls at an outrageous clip, on 37% of his possessions, tops among all players. If it's a tight game late, Kentucky will likely look to him to make things happen in the clutch. Harrison is having a relatively forgettable season overall, making just 38% of his 2-point attempts (dead last among DX Top-100 prospects), so finishing on a strong note will be imperative if he intends on entering this year's draft as expected.