After a year off, the NCAA Tournament returned to action and gave us some crazy moments. After bank was called on Saturday night in Gonzaga-UCLA, we finally reached the end of the road. No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 1 Baylor was the matchup most of us anticipated throughout the entire 2020-21 college basketball season. Through all the ups and downs, it always seemed like these two teams were on a collision course of sorts. Now, after their previously scheduled matchup was canceled during the regular season, we finally get the rematch that never was. Let’s take a look at both teams and which NBA Draft prospects you should be keeping an eye on.
National Title Game Update
So to recap, the Baylor prospects clearly improved their stock a bit more than the Gonzaga bunch. Jared Butler led the Bears in scoring with 22 points and added 7 assists. That performance was enough for Butler to win Most Outstanding Player in the 2021 NCAA Tournament. Davion Mitchell had 15 points, 6 boards and 5 assists in the win. Butler definitely helped his stock and Mitchell should be a lottery pick in this draft. Matty Mayer didn’t do much off the bench, but that’s fine. His ceiling was never high and he can still carve out a niche as a shooter at the next level.
So now onto the Zags. Jalen Suggs led the Bulldogs in scoring with 22 points on 8-of-15 from the floor. The rest of the team did not show up. Drew Timme had 12 points and 5 boards with 5 turnovers and zero defense played. Corey Kispert had 12 points on 2-of-7 shooting from long range. Give credit to Baylor’s defense, but Gonzaga went undefeated all season up to this point. Making it this far just to lose by 16 in the National Title game doesn’t scream resolve from Gonzaga’s best players. Joel Ayayi only had 8 points and not much else.
Projected draft range: Top 5
Suggs was going to be a lottery pick even if he had missed this season. All he has done this entire regular season and tournament has improved his draft stock. Suggs gave the Zags the OT win against UCLA with arguably one of the best shots in basketball history. Suggs feels a lot like the complete NBA package. He’s a bit undersized for the 2-guard position, but other than that he brings everything you want: shooting, ability to score off the dribble and finish at the rim, passing, plus he’s a gamer.
Projected draft range: Lottery pick
Kispert has sort of been overshadowed in the tournament by Suggs and teammate Drew Timme. When it’s all said and done, a decade from now we may be talking about Kispert being the best player in the NBA from this Zags team. Kispert has a lot of Klay Thompson in him. Obviously not on the same level, but he’s a SG/SF with size and unlimited range. Kispert feels like a very safe pick for the NBA today. If nothing else, he’ll end up being an above-average 3-point shooter.
Honorable Mentions: Drew Timme, PF/C; Joel Ayayi, G
Projected draft range: Lottery pick, fringe top 10
Mitchell is expected to be the second PG off the board behind Cade Cunningham in the 2021 NBA Draft. The junior guard has improved his stock in this tournament and has shaken off the criticisms of being a bit undersized. An Auburn transfer, Mitchell put up pretty good numbers despite sharing the back court with the player we’ll get to next. He posted 14 points and 5.5 assists while shooting over 50 percent from the floor and 45 percent from beyond the arc. Mitchell can score in a lot of ways and has good floor vision. All Baylor did this season was run. In the NBA, he’ll have a place.
Projected draft range: Mid-to-Late first-round pick
Butler and Mitchell sort of syphoned value off each other from sharing a back court. Had you put one of them on his own team so to speak, you may be looking at the National Player of the Year. Butler’s stock has dropped a bit for some reason despite having a really strong performance against a tough Houston Team in the Final Four. Gonzaga will be the real test, though. Butler needs to make his shots and not be inconsistent, like he was against Villanova, allowing the Wildcats to stay in that game.
Honorable Mentions: Matthew Mayer, SF