MARCH is upon us and conference tournament play is underway as college basketball sink their teeth into the busiest time of the season. The third month of the year always brings excitement at the collegiate level with a lot of the big schools kicking off their respective conference tourney’s in the coming days before the field is set for the NCAA tournament. A lot of hoop enthusiasts will increase the amount of college ball they watch in an effort to identify the next influx of NBA hopefuls – with some eager to boost their stock and fly up mock drafts with a good showing over the next month plus.
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Anthony Edwards, Georgia
WE all know that Anthony Edwards is among the consensus top handful of players in the upcoming draft, but his exact landing spot varies depending on who you ask. The Georgia guard has had plenty of bright moments so far, highlighted by his huge effort in OT against South Carolina a few weeks ago – posting 36 points, seven rebounds, four assists and four steals. For every promising showing, Edwards tends to come crashing back to Earth with a dud, with his latest 17 point game (1-12 shooting from three-point land) against LSU a great example. I still have high hopes for Edwards and he could turn some heads with an explosive outing in March – in turn, cementing his spot atop the draft order.
Obi Toppin, Dayton
CURRENTLY ranked 3rd in the nation, the Dayton Flyers haven’t experienced a season like this ever in school history – and Obi Toppin’s exceptional play is a huge reason why. The 22-year old forward is one of the lead candidates to challenge for the National Player of the Year award, helping steer the Flyers to the best record in the A-10 (29-2, 18-0 in-conference) with his 20.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG and countless athletic highlights. The jury is still out on Toppin as a legitimate NBA talent, with the scoring forward offering a potentially high floor and a safe pick for a GM inside the lottery. A big showing in the A-10 conference and then the National tourney could even see Toppin become a top-5 pick in this year’s muddling draft class.
Cole Anthony, North Carolina
COLE Anthony is one of the toughest draft hopefuls to peg down, with some expecting him to challenge for the top overall pick and others even predicting a slide outside the top-10. That’s the type of uncertainty we are dealing with a few months out of the draft and Anthony could catapult his profile with an epic few games. The UNC floor general did miss nearly two months in the middle of the year and he’s doing his best to keep a lacklustre Tar Heels team afloat averaging 20.0 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 4.5 APG in nine games since returning. North Carolina doesn’t have long left in their season, so the clock is ticking for Anthony to show off his full array of skills that have seen him compared to Jason Kidd and Austin Rivers – once again headlining the huge swing in his best and worst-case scenario. Watch this space.
Onyeka Okongwu, USC
NO player is surging up big boards faster than Onyeka Okongwu, who’s play for the Trojans has him poised to be an early selection if he does opt to leave school. Per game numbers of 16.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks are impressive with Okongwu cut from a very similar cloth as NBA All-Star Bam Adebayo as a small-ball 5, capable of altering shots and contributing where necessary on defense. In college the now Miami Heat gun averaged 13.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks, so USC’s star big man has already got a leg up on Bam and a savvy NBA team might opt to pounce on him early if they’re a fan of what he could become.
Isaac Okoro, Auburn
OKORO won’t be giving you 20+ every night in the pro’s, but the Auburn wing is boosting his draft odds with some stellar play on the defensive side of the ball. The 6′ 6″ wing is close to averaging a steal and a block each time out, with his high basketball IQ and defensive versatility allowing him to defend ball-handlers, forwards and bigs alike. His offensive game leaves a lot to be desired, but Okoro’s defensive chops could see him become a lottery pick with the chance he’s taken even earlier. An impressive game or two locking down some stellar SEC foes might be the boost that Auburn’s swingman needs.
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Jahmi’us Ramsey, Texas Tech
YOU could be forgiven for not knowing a lot about Jahmi’us Ramsey, who has certainly had his moments this year in the unforgiving Big 12 conference. Going up against great teams more often than not is ideal preparation for Ramsey should he choose to leave the Red Raiders next year and declare for the draft. There’s no certainty that happens this year, with Ramsey currently slated to be a late first-round pick – perhaps even slipping into the second round. However, Ramsey is a serious competitor who has taken big strides this season, emerging as a decent spot-up shooting threat (42.6 3P%) while improving his proficiency as a passer/playmaker. With a lot to like about his potential NBA ceiling, it’s worth keeping an eye on the athletic guard in March.
Tyrese Maxey, Kentucky
WE’VE seen players like Tyrese Maxey excel at Kentucky before, with smooth-stroking pros Devin Booker and Tyler Herro just a few like-minded players who have previously played under Coach Cal. Maxey started his Kentucky career with 26 points against Michigan State and his output has fluctuated since then with some impressive shooting nights and some lacklustre box scores all squashed together in his freshman season. Shooting under 30% on the season from deep will turn off some scouts, but all it takes is one big moment in the tourney to swing the naysayers and alter his draft odds in the process.
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