Cameron Crocheron | Staff Writer
The month of March has always been an exciting time for college basketball fans with the NCAA Tournament, but it’s also the last time for NBA scouts to evaluate the top college prospects in the country.
March Madness is the perfect time for prospects to prove their worth as the tournament showcases some of the greatest upsets in NCAA history with 7.6 million viewers watching this year, according to the NCAA’s website. While some prospects are continuing to shine under the pressure, others have struggled unexpectedly.
Cade Cunningham | Oklahoma State University
As of right now, Cunningham is still the consensus No. 1 draft prospect in the country and is a finalist for the 2021 Naismith Trophy. Cunningham has been looked at as the best prospect in his class since he left Montverde Academy for Oklahoma State in which he played a vital role in putting the Cowboys back on the map in college basketball.
Ultimately, Cunningham and Oklahoma State had an underwhelming tournament run after getting knocked out of the tournament in the second round by Oregon State University. In the two games Cunningham played, he averaged 19.5 points and 4.5 rebounds. During those two games, Cunningham struggled to make shots, shooting just over 26 percent from the field and 31 percent from behind the 3-point line. Cunningham’s draft projection hasn’t changed, but his performance showed NBA scouts the flaws in his game.
Cameron Thomas | Louisiana State University
Thomas, arguably the best pure scorer in his class and a projected late first-round pick, averaged 28.5 points per game in LSU’s two tournament matchups. The 6-foot-4 freshman guard from Oak Hill Academy turned heads after scoring 30 points against No. 1 seed Michigan despite the loss in the round of 32.
Thomas certainly helped his draft stock after proving to be an NBA-ready scorer, but he still faces criticism for being one of the worst perimeter defenders in the upcoming draft class. Thomas hasn’t declared for the 2021 NBA Draft just yet as he still remains as one of the more volatile prospects. ESPN currently ranks Thomas at 14 on its top draft prospects list.
Jalen Suggs | Gonzaga
Since the start of Gonzaga’s season, Suggs has risen on every NBA draft big board. Suggs has led his team to be the overall No. 1 team in the country as the Zags remain the favorites to win it all. However, the freshman has struggled to find his shot in the tournament thus far. The freshman combo guard has shot 33 percent from the field and 11 percent from 3 through his first two tournament games but broke out in the Elite Eight with 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists against Southern Cal.
Evan Mobley | USC
Mobley and his brother, Isaiah, helped the USC Trojans reach the Elite Eight, including a rout of No. 3 seed Kansas 85-51 in the second round. The 7-foot big man averaged a double-double in points and rebounds through his first two tournament games and finished with 17 points and five rebounds in the Elite Eight loss to Gonzaga. Mobley is currently a projected top-5 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft after showing signs of being the modern-day NBA big man with the ability to shoot and handle around the perimeter. He still has an underdeveloped physical frame, but his ability to protect the rim certainly makes up for it as he’s averaging three blocks per game in the tournament.
Ayo Dosunmu | Illinois
Outside of Ohio State losing to Oral Roberts, the Fighting Illini’s loss to Loyola Chicago in the second round may have been the biggest shocker. Dosunmu turned the ball over six times in Illinois’ loss and scored only nine points. Despite the loss, the junior combo guard has been one of the better two-way players in the country and has played an integral role in turning Illinois into one of the best teams in college basketball. Like Thomas, Dosunmu’s draft projection is highly volatile and could depend upon the fit, situation and team.