Just about every sports fan is locked in on March Madness, and for good reason. While it’s a lot of fun to fill out brackets and try to pick who Cinderella will be, it is also a great time to get to know the next big NBA stars.
While some of the biggest names expected to head into the NBA draft didn’t make it to the NCAA Tournament, there is no shortage of NBA-ready players suiting up during the big dance to keep an eye on over the next three weeks.
Here is a look at the best potential first round draft picks playing in the NCAA Tournament.
Jakob Poeltl, sophomore, center, Utah
Poeltl had a monster season, carrying the Utes to a No. 3 seed while winning Pac-12 Player of the Year along the way. While he had a tough performance in the Utah loss to Oregon in the conference championship game, He did put up huge numbers in the semi-final overtime win over Cal. In the 82-78 victory, he totaled 29 points on 10 for 18 shooting from the floor and 9 for 12 from the foul line. He added 11 rebounds a steal and an assist in 43 big minutes.
On the season, he is averaging 17.6 points on 65.6 percent shooting with 9.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.6 blocks in 30.4 minutes a contest.
Brandon Ingram, freshman, swing man, Duke
After a splendid freshman campaign, Ingram walked away with the ACC Freshman of the Year and was a Second-Team All-ACC selection. One of his best recent showings came in a 92-89 win over North Carolina State when he had 22 points on 50 percent shooting from the floor, including 5 for 7 from beyond the arc. He added seven rebounds, four assists and a steal in 40 minutes
On the season, he is averaging 16.8 points on 44.1 percent shooting with 6.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.1 steals in 34.2 minutes.
Buddy Hield, senior, shooting guard, Oklahoma
Hield is the poster boy for returning to college instead of jumping to the NBA early. He put up huge numbers offensively thanks to a much more consistent outside shot and earned Big 12 Player of the Year. One of his best showings of late came in a 79-76 win over Iowa State when he had 39 points on 14 for 21 shooting from the floor and 9 for 9 from the free-throw line. He added nine rebounds and two blocks in 37 minutes.
On the season, he is averaging 25 points on 49.6 percent shooting to go long with 5.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals in 35 minutes.
Melo Trimble, sophomore, point guard, Maryland
While his shooting and scoring numbers have dropped off from his freshman year, Trimble is still a dynamic guard who managed to earn Second-Team All-Big Ten recognition after a solid sophomore season. One of his best games lately came in a 81-55 win over Illinois when he finished with 18 points on 50 percent shooting from the floor, including 2 for 4 from beyond the arc. He added eight rebounds, five assists and two steals in 32 minutes.
On the season, he is averaging 14.4 points on 41.4 percent shooting with 5.1 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 32.7 minutes.
Diamond Stone, freshman, center, Maryland
While he is still a little raw, Stone had a good enough year to earn Third-Team All-Big Ten honors along with being named to the All-Freshman Team. He has the size and strength to be a force on both ends of the floor. He has nice touch in the paint and does a solid job as a rim protector on the defensive end. He One of his best games recently came in a 97-86 win over Nebraska when he totaled 23 points on 11 for 15 shooting from the floor while adding eight rebounds and a block in 29 minutes.
On the season, he is averaging 12.9 points on 56.6 percent shooting to go along with 5.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 22.6 minutes a night.
A.J. Hammons, senior, center, Purdue
Hammons is a big reason why the Boilermakers had such an impressive season. He is a solid offensive weapon and an elite defender who earned First-Team All-Big Ten and the conference’s defensive player of the Year award. His best outing of late came in a 76-59 win over Michigan when he registered 27 points on 11 of 17 shooting from the field and 5 for 7 from the foul line. He added 11 rebounds and three blocks in 31 minutes.
On the season, he is averaging 14.9 points on 59.5 percent shooting to go along with 8.0 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 1.1 assists in 24.2 minutes.
Kris Dunn, junior, point guard, Providence
While his numbers won’t blow you away, Dunn is one of the best two-way guards in the country. He is a lockdown defender who can handle the ball and get to the free-throw line who has won back-to-back Big East Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Awards. On of his best recent showings came in a 90-76 win over St. John when he totaled 13 points on 5 for 7 shooting from the floor to go along with 11 assists and four rebounds.
On the season, he is averaging 16 points on 44.2 percent shooting with 6.4 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals in 33.4 minutes.
Jaylen Brown, freshman, small forward, California
Brown is an explosive wing player who helped to carry the Cal Bears to the Big Dance while being named First-Team All-Pac-12 and the conference’s Freshman of the Year. He is at his best when putting the ball on the floor and attacking the rim. One of his best recent outings came in an 87-65 win over USC when he totaled 18 points on 50 percent shooting from the floor, including 3 for 7 from 3-point land. He added eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 32 minutes.
On the season, he is averaging 15 points on 43.5 percent shooting with 5.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 27.9 minutes.
Ivan Rabb, freshman, power forward, California
All-Pac-12 Second-Team, all-freshman team
Rabb teamed up with Brown to form one of the best freshman tandems in the country. He is an excellent finisher in the paint and a solid rebounder on both ends of the floor. His best recent game came in a 76-68 win over Oregon State in the Pac-12 Tournament when he recorded 21 points on 9 for 11 shooting from the floor to go along with 15 rebounds, four blocks and an assist in 35 minutes.
On the season, he is averaging 12.5 points on 62.2 percent shooting with 8.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 28.4 minutes.
Jamal Murray, freshman, guard, Kentucky
Murray is one of the best scoring guards that the Wildcats have had recently. He has great outside touch, but can also get to the paint and finish at the rim or get to the free-throw line. He earned First-Team All-SEC honors as a freshman after leading Kentucky in scoring. One of his best outings of late came in a 93-80 win over Georgia when he finished with 26 points on 8 for 12 shooting from the floor, including 3 for 7 from beyond the arc and 7 for 8 from the charity stripe. He added six rebounds and two assists in 39 minutes.
On the season, he averaged 20.1 points on 45.6 percent shooting with 5.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.0 steals in 35.2 minutes.
Skal Labissiere, freshman, center, Kentucky
His minutes and numbers have dwindled lately, but Labissiere has as a ton of potential to be a special player. Where he is most impressive is on the defensive end where he is a terrific shot blocker. His best recent outing came in a 94-77 win over LSU when he had 18 points on 8 for 10 shooting from the floor. He added nine rebounds, six blocks and two assists in 25 minutes.
On the season, he is averaging 6.5 points on 51.6 percent shooting with 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 15.6 minutes a contest.
Isaiah Briscoe, freshman, guard, Kentucky
Briscoe is the third member of arguably the best guard line in the country. He isn’t a great 3-point shooter, but has a quick first step and a knack for getting to the rim. His best showing recently came in the 82-77 overtime win over Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament championship when he finished with 10 points on 5 for 8 shooting from the floor to go along with six assists, five rebounds and two steals in 41 minutes.
On the season, he is averaging 9.6 points on 43.1 percent shooting with 5.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.0 steals in 32.3 minutes.
Demetrius Jackson, junior, point guard, Notre Dame
Jackson has struggled with his shots lately, but is still one of the elite guards out of the Atlantic Coast Conference. He earned Second-Team All-ACC after leading the Fighting Irish in scoring and assists. One of his best recent showings came in a 71-66 win over Louisville when he finished with 27 points on 7 for 15 shooting from the floor, including 6 for 12 from beyond the arc and 7 for 7 from the free-throw line. He added five assists and two rebounds while playing all 40 minutes.
On the season, he is averaging 15.5 points on 44.2 percent shooting from the floor to go along with 4.8 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 35.6 minutes.
Denzel Valentine, senior, shooting guard, Michigan State
Like Hield, Valentine took a huge step forward during his senior season. The do-everything guard earned Big Ten Player of the Year thanks to his ability to knock down the outside shot, finish in the paint and create for his teammates. One of his best recent outings came in a 66-62 win over Purdue when he finished with 15 points on 50 percent shooting from 3-point land. He added 10 rebounds, nine assists and a steal in 35 minutes.
On the season, he is averaging 19.4 points on 46.4 percent shooting to go along with 7.6 rebounds, 7.6 assists and 1.0 steals in 32.8 minutes.
Domantas Sabonis, sophomore, forward, Gonzaga
Sabonis is a rebounding force who terrorized opposing frontcourts all season long. He was a First-team All-WCC selection after leading the league in rebounding. Far from a one-trick pony, he is also a very efficient scorer. One of his most impressive outings recently came in an 88-84 win over the BYU Cougars in the West Coast Conference Tournament semifinals when he totaled 18 points on 6 for 6 shooting from the floor and 6 for 9 from the foul line. He added 14 rebounds, three assists and a block in 39 minutes.
On the season, he is averaging 17.4 points on 61.7 percent shooting with 11.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 31.4 minutes.
Taurean Prince, senior, forward, Baylor
Prince is another player who improved his draft stock by returning for his senior year. He was a First-Team All-Big 12 selection after leading the Bears in scoring> one of his best games lately came in a 75-61 win over Texas in the Big 12 Tournament when he finished with 24 points on 7 for 16 shooting from the floor, including 50 percent from beyond the arc and 8 for 8 from the free-throw line. He added 13 rebounds, four assists and a pair of steals in 37 minutes.
On the season, he is averaging 15.5 points on 42.8 percent shooting with 6.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.3 steals in 30.5 minutes.
Tyler Ulis, sophomore, guard, Kentucky
Ulis is the heart and soul of the young but talented Kentucky backcourt. He is a pass-first lead guard who can get it done on both ends of the floor. He had a terrific sophomore year that culminated with him winning the SEC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year awards. One of his best games lately came in a 82-77 overtime win over Texas A&M when he had 30 points on 10 for 17 shooting from the floor, including 3 for 5 from distance and 7 for 8 from the free-throw line. He added five assists, three rebounds and three steals in 45 minutes.
For the season, he is averaging 17.2 points on 43.2 percent shooting with 7.2 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 36.9 minutes.
Grayson Allen, sophomore, guard, Duke
While Allen has received plenty of publicity recently for tripping players, he is also on the national radar because of ability to score the ball. He earned First-Team All-ACC honors after leading the Blue Devils in scoring. One of his best outings lately came in 79-71 win over Wake Forest when he went off for 30 points on 7 for 16 shooting from the floor, including 2 for 5 from beyond the arc and 14 for 19 from the free-throw line. He added five rebounds and five steals in 37 minutes.
On the season, he is averaging 21.6 points on 46.7 percent shooting from the floor with 4.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.4 steals in 36.3 minutes.
Brice Johnson, senior, forward, North Carolina
Johnson has had an impressive senior year, leading the Tar Heels in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots and field goal percentage on his way to earning First-Team All-ACC honors. Even on nights where he isn’t putting up big offensive numbers, he can still affect the outcome with his work on the glass. One of his best recent outings came in a 76-72 win over Duke when he finished with 18 points on 6 for 15 shooting from the floor and 6 for 6 from the line. He added 21 rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block in 35 minutes.
On the season, he is averaging 16.6 points on 61.4 percent shooting with 10.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.1 steals in 27.3 minutes.
Malcolm Brogdon, senior, guard, Virginia
Brogdon carried the Cavaliers to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and is one of the handful of players throughout the country to win both his conference’s Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year awards. He is a go-to player on the offensive end of the floor who can stretch the floor with great outside touch. He is also a gifted athlete who can shut down even the most gifted scorers. One of his best outings recently came in a 72-52 win over Georgia Tech when he totaled 26 points on 10 for 15 shooting from the floor, including 3 for 6 from beyond the arc and 3 for 3 from the foul line. He added three rebounds, two assists and a block in 33 minutes.
On the season, he is averaging 18.7 points on 46.8 percent shooting with 4.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 34 minutes.