It’s March. And of course, that means we are treated to some of the best, most dramatic basketball we will ever witness in the NCAA Tournament. Case and point, this weekend’s first round.
We saw America fall in love with Loyola Chicago’s loveable team grandma Sister Jean. Michigan knocked out Houston on one of the most incredible game-winning shots in the history of the event. We even saw Cinderella UMBC make history by being the first 16 seed to defeat a 1 seed in Virginia.
But for a lot of fans, this is the time to acquaint themselves with some of the names that will be called this during this June’s NBA Draft. Especially Maverick fans, considering how spectacularly awful they are this season. So let’s take stock on some could-be Mavs.
1. Unfortunate early exits
Depending on how you view March Madness, this might not be a bad thing. But for fans of awful NBA teams, seeing the tourney’s top talents bow out early is frustrating. Especially when one of those guys has only played 2 full games, that being Michael Porter Jr.
Porter’s Missouri Tigers were bounced in their first-round game against FSU on Friday night, and again he looked very rusty. Just getting up and down the court in general just looks hard on him, all his misses are well short, and he has very little lift.
Its obvious he isn’t 100% yet. And those lower back injuries can be chronic sometimes, which should only add to the intrigue surrounding him come draft time.
DeAndre Ayton and Mo Bamba’s college careers also came to a close, as their squads suffered tough defeats. It wasn’t either of their strongest outings, but unlike Porter, they have an entire seasons worth of dominance to go off of. Fans still would liked to have seen more of them though.
2. The disappearance of Jaren Jackson Jr.
Jaren Jackson is a guy who has developed quite a following amongst the draft community. He’s an athletic, mobile big man with monster defensive upside. And he shoots above 40 percent from behind the line. His tools scream “modern NBA big.”
But for undisclosed reasons, he has had a relatively small role for Tom Izzo’s Spartans. Jackson plays only 22 minutes per contest, which is unheard of for a 5-star prospect and potential lottery pick.
So that is something keep in mind when you see him put up only 8 points and 10 rebounds through two tournaments games.
If he has a small role AND plays poorly, it can create the illusion of disappearance. But the thing about Jackson is that he will almost always offset quiet offensive nights on the other end.
He struggled, yes. But let’s not write him off just yet.
3. Mikal Bridges steals the show
Saturday’s slate treated us to a juicy matchup between two potential lottery picks.
Colin Sexton’s red-hot Alabama team was looking to pull off a stunner against Mikal Bridges and 1 seeded Villanova.
And in the first half, it looked like they might be able to do it. They got Nova in foul trouble, Sexton was doing his thing, and Bridges had his worst half of the season. He was 0-5 from the floor, with only one point.
But as the cliche goes, it was a tale of two halves. Bridges would open his second half by scoring 22 points in only twelve minutes. His scoring explosion would turn what was a close game, into a Nova blowout victory.
His extremely efficient play has continued to propel him up draft boards. Being labeled as a ‘three and D’ guy early in the draft process held him back in some people’s mind, but the versatile scoring attack he’s flashed has made it clear he’s more than just a standstill jump shooter.
4. Duke twin towers dominate
In their first two tournament matchups, Duke had a borderline unfair size advantage. And as you would expect, they paid that off. Marvin Bagley and Wendell Carter would combine for 66 points and 30 rebounds over two games in relatively limited minutes.
It isn’t just that they were just bigger than everyone either. It’s the flashes of impressive skill and dexterity at their size. Both were showing remarkable face-up scoring ability, shooting touch, and footwork.
This isn’t exactly news though. They have been doing this all year. Bagley is essentially a top five lock, and Carter has been projected to go top ten all season.
But given the struggles of some of the other top guys in this tournament, these guys did themselves a favor by showing the way they did.
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