Draft Scouting: NCAA Games to Watch This Week (Week 12: 1/29 – 2/4)
Xavier – St John’s 8:30 CBSSN
As St John’s has slid down the Big East standings, Shamorie Ponds and Justin Simon have free fallen on my big board as well. Contrary to my mid-season prediction, Ponds has not snapped out of his shooting slump and it’s starting to look unlikely that either player enters the 2018 draft. I would focus on watching Simon in this game, since you should be familiar with Ponds by now. Simon is the only player in the country with at least 50 steals, 15 blocks and 70 defensive rebounds and he actually has 130 defensive rebounds, so I’m not just setting arbitrary limits on those numbers. His stocks are partly inflated by his role in the aggressive St John’s defensive scheme but they are still really impressive and despite his lack of shooting touch, Simon probably deserves more hype from the draft community. Meanwhile, Xavier has been one of the hottest teams in the country with Karem Kenter doing a great impression of his older brother and putting up 37.6 points and 20.0 rebounds per 100 possessions so far in conference play. Trevon Bluiett is still the best prospect on the team and it’ll be interesting to see if Simon gets assigned to defend Bluiett.
Prospects to watch: Trevon Bluiett, Shamorie Ponds, Justin Simon
Arkansas – Texas A&M 9:00 ESPNU
Daniel Gafford has had some struggles in conference play after looking like a possible lottery pick early in the year. It is worth asking how Gafford could be considered among the elite defensive prospects in this class when Arkansas is rated just 110th in the nation in adjusted defensive rating. Matched up against another athletic shot blocker, Aggies’ big man Robert Williams, this will be an opportunity for Gafford to get back on track.
Prospects to watch: Daniel Gafford, Robert Williams
Louisville – Virginia 7:00 ESPN2
Virginia has won their first nine ACC games and have lost just once the entire season. Yet, despite being arguably the best team in the country, they don’t have any one player that’s considered a sure fire NBA prospect, at least according to mainstream media big boards. Kyle Guy and De’Andre Hunter probably have the most long term potential on this team. Mamadi Diakite has plenty of physical talent also but hasn’t shown the type of development I’d hoped to see from him as a sophomore. However, the player that interests me for the 2018 draft is senior Devon Hall. Hall was mostly a defensive role player in his first three years with the Cavs but this season his shooting percentages are up tremendously across the board. He is shooting 93% from the free throw line, 47% on threes and has a true shooting percentage of 62.4, which is up from just 50% during his sophomore and junior years combined. Late career shooting bumps at the college level are notorious for being misleading but this drastic of an increase probably signifies at least some real development. Hall isn’t a particularly flashy player and Virginia’s slow paced system makes his per game numbers look relatively diminutive but he is sixth in the nation in box plus minus among players who have made at least 25 three pointers. I added the three pointers to control for big men always making up the majority of the college BPM leaderboard population. Statistically Hall has to be one of the better players in the nation and I’ll be watching him closely in this one to see if the eye test matches the analytics.
Prospects to watch: De’Andre Hunter, Devon Hall, Ray Spalding, Anas Mahmoud
Duke – St John’s 12:00 FOX
I’m way behind on the games already so I decided to slow down this week, especially since none of the match ups especially stood out on Thursday and Friday. However, this Saturday is once again full of great games. I know that I just talked about how disappointing St John’s is but here I am suggesting both of their games this week. I’m not planning on putting too many more of their games on this list for the rest of the year and it’s worth watching Ponds and Simon one more time before they go into “tank mode” and give up on the season.
Prospects to watch: Shamorie Ponds, Trevon Duval, Gary Trent, Justin Simon, Grayson Allen, Marvin Bagley, Wendell Carter
Kentucky – Missouri 2:00 CBS
This game being scheduled on national TV is a depressing reminder of Michael Porter’s injury status. There’s been some speculation he’ll return this season but for the time being this should still give us some good film for scouting all the other NBA prospects between the two rosters. Kevin Knox is coming off his season best performance against West Virginia, while Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is going through and up and down stretch of games after a hot late December/early January. Jarred Vanderbilt is getting back in the groove of things and we’ll see if he can get on track after a couple of disappointing performances in his first few games.
Prospects to watch: Jontay Porter, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kevin Knox, PJ Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt, Hamidou Diallo
USC – UCLA 6:00 ESPN2
The classic Los Angeles rivalry is always highly anticipated. The two squads haven’t lived up to their lofty pre-season expectations but they are still two of the most talented teams in the Pac 12 and offer a good opportunity to analyze several NBA prospects.
Prospects to watch: Chimezie Metu, Jaylen Hands, Kris Wilkes, Aaron Holiday
Oklahoma – Texas 6:15 ESPN
Two lottery picks that plenty has been written about. Check out the latest podcast episode on the site with Sean and Cole to get the scouting report on Mo Bamba. This should be a fun match up, Trae Young’s offense against Mo Bamba’s defense.
Prospects to watch: Trae Young, Mo Bamba
BYU – Gonzaga 10:00 ESPN2
Since Gonzaga plays in the WCC and there aren’t any realistic NBA prospects on the other teams in the conference it’s always tough to find Gonzaga games to add to this column during conference play. BYU has been the perennial third best team in the conference and this year is no different. Their power wing Elijah Bryant is a somewhat underrated prospect, who probably doesn’t have a realistic shot to make an NBA team but should be a good international player.
Prospects to watch: Zach Norvell, Rui Hachimura, Killian Tillie