Archive for March 16, 2017

This year’s NCAA Tournament is loaded with top-shelf NBA talent, players with transcendent skill sets that will make them top picks in the upcoming NBA draft — should they declare. There are gifted scorers, elite shooters and masterful passers. There are also sweet-shooting big men and double-double machines that control the paint and protect the rim.

The first weekend of the Big Dance gives fans the opportunity to see future NBA stars firsthand to see if their games match the hype.

Here is a look at the top prospects playing in the NCAA Tournament.

Note: Projected top 10 picks Markelle Fultz, Dennis Smith and Robert Williams didn’t make the NCAA Tournament.

Lonzo Ball, freshman, guard, UCLA

While his dad gets much of the attention in the family for the things he says, Ball is the real deal. He is an excellent distributor with fantastic court vision who has been the perfect fit for the Bruins’ offense. He is also an efficient scorer who shoots it well from all over the floor, even though his shot is funky looking.

On the season, he led the NCAA with 7.7 assists a night while averaging 14.6 points on 54.4 percent shooting from the floor. He also chipped in with 6.1 rebounds and 1.9 steals in 34.9 minutes.

Jayson Tatum, freshman, forward, Duke

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Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated did an in-depth piece to look at how black Utah Jazz players have embraced Salt Lake City. Spears spoke to players, both past and present, to find out about their experiences while living in Utah, including food, religious aspects, black barbershops and entertainment off the court.

“For most of the team’s black newcomers, there was some worry upon arrival,” wrote Spears. He then quoted Derrick Favors about the transition from New Jersey to Utah, saying, “To get traded to Utah, that was a big culture change. A lot of people in Atlanta heard of Utah, but they don’t know nothing about Utah. It was a big culture change and a big change for me in general …

“I was like, Utah? I didn’t know anything about Utah. What was out there or what to do out there. I didn’t know about the culture or the people. I didn’t know anything about Utah.”

After getting a handle on things from a player’s perspective, Spears turned to the cultural aspects that Utah has to offer before focusing on what players had to say about their experience overall.

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The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is all about the Cinderella. It’s a chance for schools from smaller conferences to get the national spotlight and show off what they can do against the power programs from the best leagues. It is also an opportunity for players from those smaller schools to make a name for themselves while the college basketball world is watching.

Here is a look at some of those elite level players from outside of the big six conferences who have a chance to make a big splash in the Big Dance.

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