NBA prospects to watch in Thursday's Sweet 16 games

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sport

Aaron Gordon, Kyle Anderson, Sam Dekker and Isaiah Austin are the top NBA prospects in action in Thursday's NCAA Tournament action. How will they fare? What should NBA fans be watching?

SB Nation 2014 NCAA March Madness Coverage

Don't care for college hoops, but want to keep up with potential NBA talents during the Sweet 16? We've got a schedule for you. For the late games, you'll need to switch back and forth, as both are packed with pro prospects.

With all due respect to Dayton and Stanford, this is what you need to watch:

6. Baylor vs 2. Wisconsin (7:47 p.m. ET, TBS)

Baylor slammed Creighton on Sunday and sophomore big man Isaiah Austin (No. 47 in Draft Express' Top 100) was a big reason why. The 7'1 beanpole was by far the tallest player on the floor. He scored 17 points, swatted two shots and challenged many more, as the Bluejays had no one big enough to go against him.

But Austin won't have that luxury against Wisconsin, as he'll be lined up against seven-foot center Frank Kaminsky. The junior blocks almost two shots a game and has the ability to step out beyond the arc and knock down shots. Austin has struggled in two years at Baylor against big guys that can push him around. Kaminsky isn't blessed with NBA athleticism, but his size alone will test Austin.

Wisconsin's Sam Dekker (No. 27) is another guy to watch. The 6'7 sophomore didn't make a significant leap this season after a promising freshman campaign. His three-point percentage dropped from 39.1 to 32.2 percent. and he didn't break out as a playmaker as expected. He's a good, but not great athlete, though he's a solid rebounder for his size (6.2 per game). Baylor has NBA size on the wing and frontcourt, so this is a tough matchup for Dekker.

Other prospects in this game: Cory Jefferson, Baylor (No. 70).


Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

4. UCLA vs 1. Florida (9:45 p.m. ET, CBS)

UCLA steamrolled through No. 13-seeded Tulsa and No. 12-seeded Stephen F. Austin en route to the Sweet 16. Sophomore forward Kyle Anderson (No. 19) is the guy to keep an eye on here. At 6'9, and with a 7'2.5 wingspan, Anderson handles and passes the rock like a point guard. The concern was that he couldn't shoot, but this season, he's nailed 28-of-57 behind the arc (49.1 percent). Sophomore guard Jordan Adams (no. 32) and freshman guard Zach LaVine (no. 34) are also potential first-rounders. Adams is a high volume scorer (23.1 per 40 minutes) and LaVine is a supreme athlete with deep shooting range (38.4 percent from three).

That trio will face a very good Florida defense. The Gators force a ton of turnovers (13.8 per game) and hold opponents to 42.9 percent shooting on two-pointers. They will trap in the backcourt and they'll double big men on post entry passes. Senior center Patric Young (No. 48) usually sags off unthreatening big men, but Bruin big men Travis and David Wear are good enough shooters to keep him honest.

Still, Florida will apply pressure on the wings and it's important to see how Anderson, Adams and LaVine respond.

Other prospects in this game: Chris Walker, Florida (No. 41); Michael Frazier, Florida; Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida

4. San Diego State vs 1. Arizona (10:17 p.m. ET, TBS)

Sweet 16 Power Rankings

When Arizona beat San Diego State, 69-60, in the second game of the regular season, it was freshman forward Aaron Gordon (No. 8) that led the way. He finished with 16 points, eight rebounds, three steals and two blocks in that game. At 6'9, Gordon jumps as high as anyone in college basketball. He can defend either forward spot, he can handle the ball like a wing and he's a skilled passer for his size.

Wildcats freshman swingman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (no. 28) is the second best prospect here. He's got the perfect size (6'6.5, 7'1 wingspan) for an NBA wing and he is great around the rim (74.5 percent, per But he's not a threat beyond the arc (20 percent), and that limits his pro prospects.

San Diego State features a scoring guard, Xavier Thames, and four 6'7-6'10 forwards in its starting lineup. The Aztecs struggle to score, but they give up just 87.1 points per 100 possessions, per Basketball-Reference, which is tops in the nation. They are long, physical and will attack the boards.

Gordon has struggled this season to block out and score against big, physical opponents. He looked good in the first meeting, but the Aztecs know what to expect this time around.

Other prospects in this game: Nick Johnson, Arizona (no. 38); Kaleb Tarczewski, Arizona (no. 60).

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