The first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament are over. The Sweet 16 begins Thursday. The Elite 8 begins Saturday. Legends are born in March, and NBA futures are jump-started. Our last mock draft was in February; another is coming when the NBA regular season ends.
Caleb Swanigan, Purdue
A double-double machine and a lock to be a 1st team All-American, I had Swanigan in the late 1st round in the last mock draft, but he’s playing like he’s got lottery potential. He helped Purdue hold off Vermont (16 points, 14 rebounds) and then was clutch late against Iowa State (20 points, 12 rebounds). But where he’s really impressed – passing out of the inevitable double teams (11 assists in two games), and he’s hit 4-of-9 three-pointers. At 6-foot-9, 250 pounds, it’s tough to find an NBA peg. Zach Randolph is too high; Kyle O’ Quinn seems too low. I’m very curious to see how he does against Kansas, where Landen Lucas is a competent, smart defender. Michigan potentially looms in the Elite 8; Purdue is 0-2 against them this year, and Swanigan averaged 15.5 ppg and 9 rpg, but shot just 1-of-6 on three-pointers. He had just one block in two games, and five assists.
Bennie Boatwright, USC:
Had him late in the 1st round of my last mock draft, but apparently that was too low. After a clunker in the Pac-12 tournament vs UCLA, the 6-foot-10 Boatwright was tremendous in three straight games in March. First he lit up Providence for 24 in leading a comeback, then he had 14 in the win over SMU, and even though the Trojans lost to Baylor, Boatwright had 16 and displayed terrific ball handling, perimeter shooting (9-for-24 on three-pointers) and defense. There’s late-lottery buzz about Boatwright. He’ll transition to Stretch 4 easily. In five years, could his ceiling be Marcus Morris or Channing Frye?
Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina:
The SEC Player of the Year was a revelation in Columbia, torching Marquette for 29 points and 11 rebounds in the first round before giving it to Duke in Round 2: 24 points, and unstoppable driving to the rim. He didn’t quite have a Buddy Hield-type transformation last year, but he did improve his shooting, especially from deep (39 percent). There’s some Will Barton aggressiveness to his game, and if his 3-point shot improves, a ceiling of Nic Batum or Wesley Matthews?
Zach Collins, Gonzaga:
I thought the 7-foot freshman would certainly return to Gonzaga next year to start at center, but if Collins continues to his NCAA Tournament run (12 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.5 bpg playing just 21 minutes per game), I can see him making the leap. He had very quiet moments during the regular season – single digits vs Florida and Iowa State, but a solid showing against Arizona – and in an up-tempo game against West Virginia in the Sweet 16, he may not pop. But that potential Elite 8 showdown with Lauri Markkanen and Arizona? Yes, please.
Moritz Wagner, Michigan:
Freshman year? Non-factor. Sophomore year? Up-and-down. Remember the Purdue game? He had 24 points, and hit four three-pointers. The 6-foot-11 German who turns 20 next month had plenty of quiet games, including the tourney opener with Oklahoma State (14 minutes, six points). But in Sunday’s 1st 2nd round game – with no other games on – Wagner lit up every defender Louisville threw at him: 26 points on 11-of-14 from the field, and looking like a 1st round pick. Next up: It’ll be interesting to see how John Beilein adjusts to Oregon’s small, quick attack. Will DJ Wilson be the guy who matches up with Jordan Bell? Then what of Wagner? Or does Wilson try to defend Dillon Brooks?