clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

An NBA Prospect Guide to Conference Tourney Week

The Big Dance begins next week but March Madness begins with conference tournament week. Here is a guide to which NBA Draft prospects to watch this week.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

College conference tournaments are in full swing. Yale will return to the tournament for the first time in over five decades. Iona and sleeper NBA prospect A.J. English will also be continuing its season. The best play of the week goes to Zach Johnson as he came up with a massive block to seal Florida Gulf Coast returning to the tournament for the first time since their magical "Dunk City" run to the Sweet 16:

The major tournaments mostly begin on Wednesday night and with the start of these tournaments, the majority of college prospects from the Peachtree Hoops Draft Rankings will be on the hardwood. Below we review the six major tournaments with some brief notes on many of the most important NBA prospects in action. To learn more about each tournament, you can click on the tournament name to view game times and brackets.

ACC Tournament

Top Team to Watch: North Carolina is loaded with enigmatic prospects. Senior Brice Johnson has had an excellent senior season and continues to show improvement. Marcus Paige, Justin Jackson, and Kennedy Meeks are all prospects with vastly different values depending upon who is making the evaluation. The Tar Heels are deep with talent yet do not have a player guaranteed to be selected in the first round.

Last Chance: Florida State freshman guard Malik Beasley could be a one-and-done prospect who never experiences March Madness. Beasley would certainly benefit from an extra college season but as an athletic guard with a good outside shot, he might be better served by leaving early in a weak draft class that lacks talented guards.

Sleeper: Virginia senior forward Anthony Gill does not fill up the stat sheet but he is an efficient offensive player who defends and rebounds at a high level. He fits the profile of a rotation-level NBA player ready to excel on the defensive end.

Big Ten Tournament

Top Team to Watch: Maryland's entire starting line up could be on an NBA roster in the near future. Freshman center Diamond Stone is a lottery prospect and point guard Melo Trimble and forward Jake Layman are both likely to be drafted. Transfers Rasheed Sulaimon and Robert Carter, Jr. are very talented players just off of most draft radars. Carter should be considered one of the better seniors in the 2017 class.

Last Chance: With no strong prospects likely to miss the NCAA Tournament, it is notable that Ohio State goes into March for the first time in many years without a potential first-round prospect. Sophomore small forward Keita Bates-Diop is the Buckeyes' best prospect and it will take a monster week from him for Thad Matta's squad to win a tournament that is loaded at the top.

Sleeper: Purdue sophomore center Isaac Haas is the less heralded of the Boilermakers' twin towers but the 7'2, 297-pound backup continues to develop. Haas has a nice shooting stroke for a player of his size and has converted 72.4% of his free throws this season. As his playing time grows upon the departure of senior A.J. Hammons, Haas could be a fast riser for the 2017 NBA Draft.

Big 12 Tournament

Top Team to Watch: Kansas is likely to be the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and is loaded with NBA prospects. While freshman Cheick Diallo has had a disappointing season, he has been getting more minutes since the Jayhawks clinched the conference title. Diallo has lottery talent. Junior Wayne Selden has finally had the type of season fans hoped for when he came to Lawrence as a highly-touted prospect. Senior Perry Ellis has added some range to a sophisticated post game to give himself a shot at getting drafted. Freshman Devonte Graham could be rising quickly as a strong 2017 draft prospect.

Last Chance: With 7 of 10 teams from the conference likely to make the NCAA Tournament, no strong draft prospects are in danger of missing The Big Dance. Iowa State junior point guard Monte Morris needs a strong March to improve his draft stock and potential match-ups with Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Kansas could provide him an excellent chance to show improvement.

Sleeper: West Virginia junior forward Devin Williams is a relentless worker who enjoys doing the dirty work all over the floor for Bob Huggins' pressure defense. He has improved his game every season and gives an identity to a team that lacks the prospects of other Big 12 elites.

Big East Tournament

Top Team to Watch: Villanova spent three weeks at the top of the polls this season despite not having any prospects likely to be selected in the first round. Freshman point guard Jalen Brunson and junior shooting guard Josh Hart are two undervalued NBA prospects who are future second-round sleepers. Seniors Daniel Ochefu and Ryan Arcidiacono are likely candidates to be invited to summer league rosters. If the Wildcats make a run to the Final Four, expect to see Brunson or Hart to shine.

Last Chance: Marquette freshman Henry Ellenson is a likely lottery pick who will have to lead his team to the tournament championship in order to play in the NCAA Tournament. Ellenson play with the sophistication of an upperclassmen and his maturity and shooting ability should help him make a smoother transition to the NBA than most players his age.

Sleeper: Providence junior point guard Kris Dunn is far from a sleeper as he is likely to go in the top-5 of the 2016 NBA Draft. However, he remains a player few have seen. Dunn is a dynamic defender who continues to grow in distributing the basketball. He has the size and vision to be a triple-double machine at any level. An inconsistent shooting stroke is all that stands in the way of being a star at the next level.

PAC-12 Tournament

Top Team to Watch: The California Golden Bears have 4 players that have a strong chance to be on an NBA roster by 2018. Freshmen forwards Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb are likely lottery picks with Senior Tyrone Wallace a second-round selection. Junior Jabari Bird has begun to reach his potential and could be a rising prospect for the 2017 NBA Draft.

Last Chance: Oregon State's Gary Payton II needs to lead the Beavers on a strong tournament run to secure an NCAA bid. A loss to woeful Arizona State in the opening round would likely leave the younger "Glove" relegated to the NIT.

Sleeper: Washington point guard Andrew Andrews is way off of draft radars but the 6'2 senior scored 25.2 points per game while shooting 41% from deep and 85% from the charity stripe. Expect Andrews to find himself on an NBA Summer League roster and try to earn a spot the hard way.

SEC Tournament

Top Team to Watch: Big Blue Nation. The Kentucky Wildcats are not as strong up front as recent seasons but Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray are the best backcourt in college basketball. Murray will be a top 10 choice in this draft and Ulis is an underrated prospect due to his size limitations. Skal Labissierre has disappointed as a highly-touted freshman but should still be a lottery pick. Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee, and Isaiah Briscoe are all legitimate prospects whose scouting reports widely vary.

Last Chance: The only choice easier than picking Kentucky as the team to watch is the oddity that freshman phenom Ben Simmons could be playing his last meaningful college games during the SEC Tournament. The consensus top pick has had an outstanding season yet his team has been one of the deeper disappointments in college basketball.

Sleeper: Vanderbilt has two first-round prospects in center Damian Jones and guard Wade Baldwin but an intriguing player to watch is 7'1 center Luke Kornet. Flashing some of the potential Frank Kaminsky showed in his junior season, Vanderbilt is a dangerous team when Kornet imposes physicality without getting in foul trouble. Averaging 3 blocks per game, Kornet could be a third weapon in the Commodore arsenal as they look to make a March run.