The NCAA Tournament is a great way to get a gauge on prospects heading into the NBA Draft. Last season, we didn’t have March Madness and it clearly impacted where certain players fell in the 2020 draft. With the tourney back this year, the best prospects can showcase their ability on the big stage in Indiana. A lot of top prospects will help their stock and many will hurt their stock, plus plenty of players will emerge and jump up draft boards. Here we’ll take a look at players who helped themselves out and others who did the opposite after the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
Second Round Update
Johnny Juzang, UCLA
No one really expected UCLA (and a lot of other teams) to reach the Sweet 16 in this tournament. A big reason why the Bruins have made it this far is Juzang. Remember, UCLA had to play in the First Four, coming back to win in OT against Michigan State. Juzang had 23 points in that win and 27 points in the first round vs. BYU. Juzang added another 17 points to his total for the tournament in a 20-point win over Abilene Christian on Monday to advance. Juzang has great size for a two-guard and is a Kentucky transfer — so basically he’ll be amazing in the NBA if he gets drafted.
Drew Timme, Gonzaga
Pretty much everyone on Gonzaga is going to the NBA at some point. The highly-touted prospect is Jalen Suggs followed by Corey Kispert. The guy who isn’t getting as much hype is Timme, who had a hell of a second-round performance vs. Oklahoma. Timme had 30 points 13 rebounds and 4 assists in 35 minutes. The thing that stands out the most with Timme is his passing ability. He’s done a nice job passing through two games in the tourney and is finishing just about everything around the rim.
Evan Mobley, USC
The Trojans entered a tough 3-6 second-round matchup against Kansas out of the Big 12 on Monday. It looked more like a 1-16 matchup from the first round. That last sentence I almost used 2-15 matchup but then remembered that those aren’t a slam dunk anymore. Anyway, Mobley did a little bit of everything with 13 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks. Mobley, to me, feels like the most complete NBA prospect. He needs to work on his offensive game and shot, but is young and insanely long. Mobley reminds me of a Brandon Ingram, Kevin Durant type of player but less of a scorer and more of a do-it-all-er.
Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois
It wasn’t entirely Dosunmu’s fault. Trying to get past Sister Jean and Loyola-Chicago when God is working on their side isn’t easy. Ayo didn’t help himself out by going 4-of-10 from the floor with 9 points and 6 turnovers in 38 minutes. If you’re going to be on a basketball court for that long and have NBA aspirations in the tournament as a No. 1 seed, you’ve got to do more. Dosunmu just wasn’t aggressive enough early on and Illinois was playing catchup the entire game. The Big 10 was pretty fraudulent in the tourney, so it’s hard to verify whether or not Dosunmu’s season was legit now.
First Round Update
Luka Garza, Iowa
Garza may be the best player in college basketball and he really isn’t getting any type of NBA Draft hype. That ends now. Sure, it’s just the first round and Iowa took care of Grand Canyon pretty easily. DK Nation resident expert of all things college Collin Sherwin summed up Garza’s game nicely:
Pluses: Everything on offense you could ever ask of a 7-foot human
Minuses: Elementary school children continually box him out and post him up
Would this work in the NBA? Sure, nobody plays defense in the League anyway. Garza is a 7-footer who can score anywhere but is a liability on defense. He’ll have a place in the NBA. So maybe Garza won’t boost himself into the lottery. Continually putting up 20-plus points on an Iowa squad that could make a run to the Elite Eight should get you into the first round.
Colin Castleton, Florida
Moving along to another big, Castleton isn’t the same type of player in Garza. Castleton has some defensive chops, averaging 2.2 blocks per game during the regular season. In the first round against Va. Tech, Castleton has 19 points, 14 rebounds and 3 blocks in 43 minutes. While there isn’t much defense in the NBA (as was said above), there is certainly a place for it. The Michigan transfer can’t stretch the floor but he can do pretty much everything else you would want out of a true center. Another strong performance in Round 2, helping Florida get to the Sweet 16 could help Castleton get on the radar of NBA GMs.
McKinley Wright IV, Colorado
The senior out of Minnesota just barely made the big board on ESPN’s top 100 prospects for the 2021 draft. After what Colorado did to Georgetown in the first round, we may have to bump Wright up a bit. The only real knock on Wright is his size; he’s 6-foot, which doesn’t normally work out for an NBA guard. The thing is, if you’re a true PG and can distribute like Wright, you can carve out a niche at the next level. Wright had 12 points, 13 assists and 5 boards in 28 minutes in the first-round win. If Colorado can go deep and challenge Michigan in the Sweet 16, Wright could make a case for being a second-rounder this summer.
Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State
Cunningham has been the consensus No. 1 overall pick in most mock drafts throughout the season. OK State drew a 4-seed in the tourney and played down to their competition in 13-seed Liberty in the first round. The Sooners advanced with a 69-60 win but things could have been much different. Cunningham had an awful game, which is the main reason OK State let Liberty hang around. He went 3-of-14 from the floor and 2-of-8 from beyond the arc, with just one point before halftime. Cunningham seemed to be forcing it a bit in his March Madness debut. He’ll have a chance to redeem himself in the second round vs. Oregon State.
Keon Johnson/Jaden Springer, Tennessee
When you’re a program that has two top prospects for the NBA Draft and neither of them show up in the first round, there’s some cause for concern. Johnson and Springer are expected to be lottery picks. Both of them were sub-par in the Volunteers’ 14-point loss in the first round to Oregon State. Johnson was 6-of-16 from the floor and Springer only had 12 points. You could argue both had “one foot out the door,” so to speak. Both players didn’t get much help from their teammates, too. Still, if you’re expected to be drafted this high on a Power 5 program in a 5-12 matchup, you gotta show up.
Moses Moody, Arkansas
We’re sort of nitpicking with Moody. Arkansas went down early to Colgate and then stormed back and won easily. Moody is expected to be a high lottery pick, and while his defense was solid on a good offensive team in Colgate, he left a little to be deserved here. Moody was a modest 4-of-8 from the floor with 12 points. The Razorbacks relied more on F Justin Smith, who dominated with 29 points, 13 rebounds and 5 steals. We’ll need to see Moody get more aggressive. This is a player who scored 28 points in three of four games prior to the tournament.