The NCAA selection committee spoiled NBA draft fans by giving us a number of pro prospect match ups Sunday. Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Doug McDermott, Aaron Gordon, Isaiah Austin, Zach LaVine, Kyle Anderson, they all play in the Round of 32 today. Below is the optimal schedule for those NBA fans who want to keep an eye on tomorrow's stars.
EARLY SHIFT: 10. Stanford vs 2. Kansas (12:15 p.m. ET, CBS)
Kansas' Andrew Wiggins (no. 1 on DraftExpress' top 100) is a lock for a top three pick: He's a long and quick pogo stick who physically dominates defenders at the college level. There are certain plays that he makes on a basketball court that just leave you in awe and he makes those plays look so easy. Like reaching up for an alley-oop and putting his elbows above the rim.
Wiggins is unreal pic.twitter.com/T0KGFOrWWI— Tyler Lashbrook (@lashy) March 21, 2014
Or catching the ball eight feet from the rim and finishing with two hands.
Wiggins is also a better shooter (34.7 percent from three) at this stage in his development than most people anticipated and he's getting better and better at taking his man off the dribble and attacking the rim. He gets fouled a ton at this level (8.1 free throw attempts per 40 minutes) because defenders simply can't stay in front of him.
If your NBA team is currently flushing itself down the toilet, then you need to take every opportunity to watch Kansas' star. If not, you should still watch him because he's going to be a big deal one day in the pros.
EARLY AFTERNOON SHIFT: 8. Kentucky vs Wichita State (2:45 p.m. ET, CBS)
Kentucky's NBA packed roster didn't dominate the regular season the way one would have liked to see, but it is hitting a stride at just the right time. Its best prospect, Julius Randle (no. 4), dominated Kansas State in Kentucky's Round of 64 game. He finished with 19 points (7-of-12 shooting) and 15 rebounds and made the plays he was supposed to make. When he was double teamed, he calmly kicked the ball out to a teammate; when he found room for himself, he attacked the rim. His production was coupled by significant and steadfast improvements from Aaron Harrison (no. 60). The Shooting Guard Twin has become a more consistent scorer (18.7 points) over the last three games and has opened up opportunities for Randle. Harrison added 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting against Kansas State.
But Wichita State is a different animal from Kansas State. The undefeated (35-0) Shockers are crisp on both sides of the ball, but thrive on defense where they pack the paint and hold opponents to 58.9 points per game, seventh in the nation. On paper Randle and Kentucky's overall team size should have a clear advantage over WSU, but the Shockers hold opponents to just 50.3 percent at the rim, despite lacking elite size and length.
NIGHT SHIFT: 6. Baylor vs 3. Creighton (7:45 p.m. ET, TruTV)
Baylor is Creighton's toughest matchup on the bottom half of the West region bracket. Creighton struggles against elite size and athleticism and Baylor has exactly that. The two prospects to keep an eye on here are Doug McDermott (no. 10) from Creighton and Isaiah Austin (no. 47) from Baylor.
McDermott, one of college basketball's all time great scorers, had a field day in the Round of 64 against Louisiana-Lafayette (30 points, 12 rebounds), but did most of his work against defenders significantly smaller than himself. He won't have that luxury against Baylor. The Bears will throw a combination of Cory Jefferson (6'9, ~7' wingspan), Rico Gathers (6'7, 6'10 wingspan) and even Austin (7'1, 7'3 wingspan) to guard McDermott. That's the kind of team length that bothers the senior forward, but it's also the kind he'll likely face on a nightly basis in the NBA. That's something to keep an eye on.
LATE NIGHT SHIFT: 8. Gonzaga vs 1. Arizona (9:40 p.m. ET, TBS)
The 'Zags knocked off Oklahoma State in the Round of 64 and ended the dream prospect game of Marcus Smart versus Arizona. Still, there are some very good one-on-one match ups here to take note. Arizona's Aaron Gordon (no. 8) versus Sam Dower is a good one. Dower isn't a great pro prospect but he's a big dude (6'9, 255 lb) and will likely try to bully the thinner Gordon.
For Gordon, this tournament is the perfect opportunity to climb a few notches on draft boards. Playing out west, he doesn't get the type of attention that the prospects on the East Coast get simply because he's playing at a time when a lot of folks are heading to bed. But in the Big Dance, he'll have all eyes on him. At 6'9, he has such an odd set of skills: He's an explosive athlete and can defend nearly all five positions on the floor and he does so without fouling. On offense, he can't shoot, but he can dribble extremely well, he's a very good passer and he can run these odd and huge pick-and-rolls. But he's a terrible free throw shooter (43 percent, yuck) and sometimes when he drives he just flings the ball at the backboard. That said, he has all the physical tools to make a presence in the NBA, he just has to learn how to put them all together. And shoot free throws, he definitely needs to get better at that.