There are countless reasons to love the NCAA Basketball Tournament, which just may be the best postseason in all of the American sports. Of those many elements to love, among the most exciting is the fact that we get to witness NBA hopefuls put it all on the line for their respective schools before embarking on their professional careers. When it comes to Thursday’s (Mar. 23) West Region Sweet 16 matchup between 8-seeded Arkansas (22-13) and 4-seeded UConn (27-8), there are certainly several players with very real, very near NBA aspirations. Let’s have a look:
At DraftKings Sportsbook, UConn’s a 3.5-point favorite against Arkansas in the Sweet 16. The combined total is set at 139.5.
NBA Draft prospects to watch
No. 8 Arkansas Razorbacks
G Ricky Council - Junior
Originally from Durham, North Carolina, Ricky Council IV has the potential to be a prototypical 2-guard at the NBA level. After two seasons at Wichita State, Council made the move to Arkansas for the 2022-23 season where he lead all Razorbacks in scoring (averaging 16.1ppg). Although not the most accurate outside shooter (NCAA career 30.2 percent from three-point land), at 6’6, Council has the size and athleticism to be a valuable asset on any basketball team. In their recent Second Round upset of reigning champion Kansas, Council poured in 21 points with six rebounds and four assists; That’s certainly a performance NBA scouts will notice.
G Anthony Black - Sophomore
With a similar skill set to Council, fellow Razorback guard Anthony Black adds a bit more length and board ability. Standing at 6’7, Black was Arkansas’ second-leading rebounder (5.1 rpg) in 2022-23 while also pacing the team in assists (4.0apg). His athleticism combined with his court vision makes him a dynamic offensive weapon, while still holding respectable defensive abilities. Black & Council have been the bread & butter for the Razorbacks this season, and both men can improve their future draft stocks with a win over the Huskies on Thursday night.
NBA Draft prospects to watch
No. 4 Connecticut Huskies
F Adama Sanogo - Junior
As one of the most solidly built players at the Big Dance, 6’9, 240 pound-Adama Sanogo showcases incredible abilities on both ends of the floor. Currently in his third season at UConn, Sanogo is enjoying career highs in scoring (17.5 ppg) field goal percentage (61.3) while still grabbing 7.4 boards per game (down from 8.8 RPG last year). Utilizing his relentless motor, Sanogo can defend the perimeter as well as the rim; He averaged two blocks per game last year and is still swatting away shots as the Razorbacks hope to continue dancing into 2023.
G Jordan Hawkins - Sophomore
Possessing both high-end guards skills and favorable height (standing at 6’5), Jordan Hawkins came to the Huskies as a heavily recruited hooper out of DeMatha Catholic High School (MD). As a freshman at Connecticut, Hawkins was their most utilized player off the bench, contributing 6ppg while playing solid defense. Now in his sophomore year, Hawkins has become the Huskies' second-leading scorer in 2022-23, chipping in with 15.7 points per game. Still, he’s been relatively quiet (for his standards) in two games at the Big Dance; Hawkins, who has scored 20 or more points in 12 games this year (but not since Feb. 25 at St. John’s), could be due for an explosion against Arkansas.