March Madness 2018: How Will The NBA's Top Draft Prospects Fare?

Brackets are done, hot takes have been served, the athletes still aren’t paid. Let the madness begin. The NCAA Tournament tips off on March 15th, and while it’ll boil down to a championship game on April 2nd, a handful of players will already have their sights set on June 21st. The 2018 NBA Draft, to be held as usual at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, will induct some of the nation’s most revered amateur athletes to one of the most elite sports leagues on the planet. Here are five potential lottery picks to study this March.

Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma

Oklahoma and Rhode Island are set to open the tournament, and it’ll be the most difficult test yet for Norman’s sweetheart Trae Young. Young, who’s led the nation in both scoring and assists this season, hit a snag in his play down the stretch after willing Oklahoma to a 12-1 start. Clean slate at the ready, Young told the media before the tournament, “I count the regular season as last season.” But can the Sooners, who depend on Young to play well in order to succeed as a unit, trust him? (Oklahoma @ Rhode Island: Thursday, 12:15 PM EST)

Marvin Bagley III, PF, Duke

He’s already collecting accolades. Blue Devil freshman Marvin Bagley III has been anointed ACC Rookie of the Year and ACC Player of the Year, leading Duke to a No. 2 seed in arguably the most difficult NCAA conference. Bagley’s scored at least 30 points and grabbed at least 15 rebounds four times this year, including during the ACC tournament, when he racked up 33 and 17. He’s proven he can handle the pressure. He’s confident. He believes he can be taken #1 overall in June. But can he lead Duke to a title first? (Iona @ Duke: Thursday, 12:45 PM EST)

Mikal Bridges, SG/SF, Villanova

The oldest player on our list at 21 entire years old is Mikal Bridges, a dynamic (and much improved) shooter who’d fit right into the NBA’s pursuit of positionless-ness. He’s a defensive nightmare, utilizing quickness, a 7’1″ wingspan, and plain ol’ defensive foresight: he can track, rim-protect, switch, and block threes. Villanova has built a reputation as a defensive team, and letting Bridges set the tone has opened everyone’s game up. We can’t wait to see who will fall victim to the Wildcats. (Radford @ Villanova: Thursday, 6:50 PM EST)

Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas

Harlem’s own Mohamed Bamba has taken the NCAA by storm. Already predicted to be the NBA’s next unicorn, Bamba could easily become a top-5 draft pick. Bamba is averaging a double-double and blocking nearly four shots a game, but his character is arguably more impressive: he’s bound by an incredible work ethic, humility, and a will to be coached. All of this, wrapped up in a 7-foot package, should be uniquely attractive to NBA GMs. There shouldn’t be any doubt Bamba can adjust to the NBA and improve a franchise. But first, he needs to survive the Wolf Pack. (Texas @ Nevada: Friday, 4:30 PM EST)

Deandre Ayton, PF/C, Arizona

Deandre Ayton is a sight to behold. He’s already Arizona’s all-time leading freshman scorer and rebounder, having recorded a school-record 23 double-doubles in his single season of play for the Wildcats. Ayton lit up the Pac-12 as a freshman, earning Pac-12 Freshman and Player of the Year honors. He’s a skilled scorer, a deft shot-blocker, an intelligent passer, and a 7-footer with a developed jump shot–a perfectly-formulated young star for the Memphis Grizzlies, who look like they’ll end up with the first choice of the 2018 Draft. Taking on 13-seed Buffalo should be no issue for Ayton and his Wildcats, who are looking to take it all this year. (Buffalo @ Arizona: Thursday, 9:40 PM EST)

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