The NCAA Tournament is over. Some players have changed their fates, while others have raised questions. Nick Carannante breaks it all down.

The NCAA tournaments are officially over and before you read think pieces about the unprecedented dominance of the South Carolina and UConn teams and how they compare to teams throughout history, let’s talk in a tangible sense. Over the last month, kids across the country have had the opportunity to impress scouts and show they are ready to compete at the next level.

This is not going to be a black-and-white article that discusses the winners or losers of the tournament; such a framing is unfair and unrealistic. The scouting of an NBA prospect does not exist just in the month of March or the NCAA tournament. Even though there are plenty of people seeing these prospects for the first time, their whole stories are not told by those games alone.

With that being said, it is equally unrealistic to say that how a player has performed recently would not have an impact on the court of public opinion. Zaccharie Risacher is being critiqued for a recent shooting slump in France and Nikola Topic is being questioned for having not played since January. It is only fair for that same lens to be applied to our prospects here in the state.

All of your stock on a player should not be determined by their March Madness performance, but it can certainly answer some questions or create more. Players should not necessarily move up or down your big board just from a few but there are certainly players who were able to answer questions over their tournament run. Conversely: some players created more questions from a disappointing performance, whether it was in a short or extended run.

UConn Huskies

My plan for this was to talk about prospects I have not discussed since my tournament preview, that way I can highlight players that may not have been in the public eye as much. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss the clear-cut biggest risers in this year’s NBA draft. That is, of course, the Connecticut Huskies.

Other players outperformed expectations or showed one thing that answered questions about their game, but two players did much more than that and, in doing so, brought themselves into the top pick conversation: UConn’s defensive stalwarts Donovan Clingan and Stephon Castle.

Before the tournament started, I wrote that no prospect had more to gain than the Big East Freshman of the Year. When I wrote that, I already had him as my number two-ranked prospect going into the draft. While people in the draft community agreed with me and had him as a top-five prospect, others had him in the back half of the lottery or even the late teens. There were concerns about his jump shot and questions about his low usage role for the Huskies. After the dominant title run, Steph Castle had as good an argument as anyone for winning Final Four Most Outstanding Player, which went to teammate Tristen Newton.

Castle shot the bell confidently and at times well, hitting jumpers early against Alabama when they sagged off him in the Final Four matchup. Castle was aggressive and showed the ability to attack the hole and take defenders off the dribble. He unleashed an arsenal of offense along with the high effort and energy plays we have come to expect from him. He got offensive rebounds over Zach Edey and off of his own missed threes, he showed that he is the Swiss army knife in this draft.

The 6’6 freshman also showed he is the best defensive prospect in this class not named Ryan Dunn. Throughout UConn’s triumphant run, Castle guarded Boo Buie, Terrance Shannon Jr., Mark Sears, and Braden Smith, and contained every one of them. He showed his versatility guarding all of these talented players in different ways. He chased Boo Buie over every screen against Northwestern, he prevented Shannon from getting downhill, he guarded smaller guards like Mark Sears shooting from 25 feet away, and denied Braden Smith from getting the ball off of Zach Edey kick-outs.

Castle was a fairly unknown entity on offense that was known in the best way for defense. Now he is starting to show some of that offensive spark including a team-high 21 points in the Final Four. Castle stepped up to the moment as a freshman and the world took notice of his performance. He jumped his way up draft boards to the top of big boards and mock drafts alike. Do not be surprised if Castle is talked about in consideration for the number one draft pick come June.

I may have been wrong when I said nobody had more to gain than Stephon Castle, I was forgetting about his teammate. When I wrote about players to watch before the tournament, I included Clingan as a player to watch for the Knicks in the middle of the first draft.

Now Clingan might not be available for the Knicks if they had the fourth pick of the draft, let alone the 20th. The 7’2 behemoth anchored UConn’s powerhouse defense blocking nearly everything in his way. He had bad matchups like Grant Nelson and unstoppable matchups like Zach Edey, and no matter what he held his own. Zach Edey had 37 points in the title game but UConn’s defensive strategy was allowed by Cling Kong guarding him one-on-one and not giving up any space to Purdue’s dangerous shooters.

Edey was able to score plenty over Clingan, but Clingan made him work and contested shots without fouling. The role he played on this year’s team was a significant step up from his Freshman title run. He was able to show that he can play longer minutes and stay out of foul trouble. Those were the two biggest questions about him going into the tournament, and both questions he answered in a big way. He has now become a top-level prospect in this class and seemingly if a team in the top of the lottery needs a big man, he will be in consideration for the number one pick.

Do not be surprised if those pair of Huskies end up both going in the top five or even top three. However, those were not the only players to help their draft stock from Storrs. Tristen Newton, Alex Karaban, and Cam Spencer may all find themselves hearing Adam Silver call their names on day one of the NBA draft.

Newton rightfully won the Final Four MOP after masterfully running the offense against Purdue. Manipulating the Boilermaker defense and tormenting Zach Edey in the pick and roll before throwing picture-perfect lobs for alley-oops to Samson Johnson. The ECU transfer led the team with 20 points in the national title and added another 7 assists as well. He is starting to get buzz as a backup guard with good size at 6’5 who can defend at a high level.

Cam Spencer and Alex Karaban are a pair of shooters who have shown versatility in their usage within Dan Hurley’s highly complex offensive schemes. Both players work hard with seemingly nonstop motors, especially Cam Spencer, a relentless offensive rebounder who competes nonstop. He is only 6’4 but shot 44% over the year and 45% throughout the tournament. He and Karaban both showed how to perfectly play a role with high effort and energy, and those are the kind of players NBA teams love to bet on. When you can get a winner who works hard, plays defense, and shoots the ball, you can find a place in the right franchise. Do not be surprised at all five Huskies get drafted in June.

Questions Answered

Jaxson Robinson- BYU

When thinking about the biggest winners from the tournament, the player on a 6 seed that was upset in the first round may not be top of mind. The Cougar sixth man came off the bench to score 25 points in the first-round loss shooting 5-of-11 from beyond the arc. Robinson showed some on ball juice and self-creation which was a big question about him throughout the year. Nobody has questioned Robinson’s ability to shoot the rock, but his tournament game was his best showing of the year of his shooting versatility.

Robinson will have the chance to continue to impress scouts in the combine and scrimmages with his hot shooting, he showed how dangerous he can be at getting shots off out of nowhere. That showing of creativity and tough shot making whether it was off the catch or off a dribble move is sure to get attention. Hitting contested threes at 45% clip with that sort of volume is something every NBA team would be lining up to take.

Dalton Knecht- Tennessee

Dalton Knecht has been answering questions all year after transferring from Northern Colorado to Tennessee. He showed that he could do it against a higher level of competition, he showed he could do it with that level of usage, and he showed he could do it with ruthless efficiency. People were quick to question a Rick Barnes-coached team in March but the heliocentric nature of their Knecht-reliant offense was a reason many experts picked against the Volunteers.

In Tennessee’s Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games against 3-seed Creighton and 1-seed Purdue, Knecht scored a combined 63 points and shot 9/19 from 3 for an impressive 47% from deep. What made his performances even more impressive: defenses were game-planning for him knowing he was the cog that made everything run, and they still couldn’t stop him.

The SEC Player of the Year put on one of the most impressive scoring performances in recent tournament history with his 37-point outburst against the Boiler Makers. Even if he wasn’t the highest scorer in the game, he gave a first half of insanely difficult shot-making and put on an absolute spectacle. Throughout the game, Knecht scored at all three levels and showed the world how smooth he is at putting the ball through the hoop. Knecht is unquestionably an NBA-level scorer and his draft stock reflects that with him moving on consensus from the back end of the lottery toward the top 10 and gaining steam.

Tristan Da Silva- Colorado

I have been writing about Tristan Da Silva since the beginning of the year and he hasn’t given me any reason to stop. Colorado showed they can win in multiple ways beating Boise State in a muck of a play-in game before going on to beat Florida in one of the highest-scoring tournament games of all time. Da Silva was at the heart of everything they did including bringing two seed Marquette to the brink in the second round.

Sometimes the numbers do not tell the whole story of what a player can bring to the table, and sometimes they do. Colorado had three games in the NCAA tournament and over those three games, Da Silva averaged 18 points, five rebounds, and three assists. He also shot a truly absurd 56% from 3 on just over 5 attempts per game. Regardless of the pace of the game or the style of play, he showed that he is reliable, consistent, and solid on both sides of the floor.

Tristan Da Silva wasn’t on a ton of radars going into the tournament as most people had him at the end of the first or more commonly the second round. After the three biggest games of his career: do not be surprised to see Da Silva in the mid-teens as you peruse the mock drafts. It is hard to say anybody in college basketball deserves that success more than the Colorado senior who has consistently gotten better in his four years in Boulder.

Jared McCain- Duke

The TikTok sensation was somebody I wrote about going into the tournament as a potential draft riser. He was playing his best basketball of the season towards the end of the year and that didn’t change in the tournament. Twice in Duke’s four-game tournament run did McCain score 30 points or more. He did that with a high volume of threes attempting 11 in each of his two explosive scoring performances. In those two games against James Madison and NC State respectively McCain connected on 13 of those 22 shots.

While McCain did show inconsistency finishing with seven points against Houston in between his two breakout games, what was more important was the way that he was able to score. McCain is arguably the best shooter in the class as well as the most diverse shooter. McCain’s shot versatility was on full display throughout Duke’s tournament run as he was shooting off of movement as well as off the dribble and hitting tough shots at that.

Even with Duke’s disappointing loss to rival NC State for the second time in the month of March, McCain did enough to help his draft stock. The questions about the freshman internet star were always about what he can do besides just catch and shoot, he showed that in a big way in his two tournament performances. McCain was somebody frequently mocked to the Knicks in the early 20s for much of the season, but may have played his way into the lottery with his hot shooting performances.

Harrison Ingram- North Carolina

Harrison Ingram has had an interesting journey since starting at Stanford as a potential one-and-done prospect in 2021. Ingram had a fantastic year after transferring to Chapel Hill for his junior where he averaged 12 points and 9 rebounds for the Tarheels. More importantly; he shot 39% from three after shooting 31% each of his two seasons at Stanford.

Over the three NCAA tournament games for North Carolina, Ingram shot over 50% from 3 including hitting 5 threes in the comeback victory against Michigan State in the second round. Ingram is an incredibly complete player who does a lot of good on a basketball court. He showed all of that in his biggest games to date, as he always rebounds the ball and defends at a high level. He showed good passing and creativity in the offense but killed teams for sagging off of him.

That level of shooting is what will make or break Ingram at the next level. It remains to be seen if he will enter the draft, but he is steadily climbing up boards from the back of the second round into the early second or even late first round. He is the kind of player any team would love to have, and if he is hitting threes at this rate, he has shown how much he can help an offense.

Questions Asked

Reed Sheppard- Kentucky

The questions asked about Kentucky after the disappointing Oakland loss outlast the words I can put in this article. The performance in what we now know was John Calipari’s last game as the coach of Kentucky left a lot to be desired from the Wildcats. Calipari was unable or unwilling to adjust to the junk defense and zone that Greg Kampe threw at them. That disrupted lottery prospects Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham most of all.

Dillingham struggled to create for himself in that zone and forced shots late in the game. He finished with 10 points compared to Reed Sheppard’s three points. That is not why I chose Sheppard over Dillingham for this section, nor is the fact that Reed was 1-5 in the game.

The big question that I took away from this game is about Reed Sheppard’s defense. Now, this does not impact my overall views of Sheppard as a prospect or as a potential NBA defender, but it is a genuine question. One of the things that make Sheppard such an intriguing prospect is his insane defensive instincts. He put up historic steal numbers for portions throughout the year and has the chops to be an elite team and off-ball defender at the next level. I do wonder if he is going to hold up as a Point Of Attack defender in the NBA.

Reed Sheppard’s failed face-guarding and ball denial of Jack Gohlke on his way to hitting 10 threes is in no way indicative of his value as a prospect. Gohlke got hot and the magic of March is that a guy like Jack Gohlke can be a star in the face of top 5 picks. However, it did get me wondering if Sheppard can be a defensive stopper. That feels relevant to a player being drafted for defensive prowess and being compared to players like Derrick White and Jrue Holiday.

Scoring three points and not taking a shot until 10 minutes into a tournament game is a bad look for any top prospect. There will be questions, valid or not about his ability to perform in big games. While that is mostly just a meaningless media narrative, it does come with real comments about creation and defense. Reed’s draft range has not and should not have changed from this game, and we will see if he is truly in consideration for the number one pick as some experts project.

Cody Williams- Colorado

Giving context to Cody Williams’ journey as a prospect is important: as he was coming back from injury in the middle of the season. That stagnated a lot of growth he was making and stunted his shot creation and confidence pretty clearly. Many people were hoping that Cody Williams would be able to show why he is considered the highest-ceiling wing prospect by many.

Cody Williams did show flashes of his finishing ability and explosivity in the second-round loss to Marquette where he finished with 12 points on 5/10 shooting while adding 0 assists and 0 rebounds to the box score. It was not a complete game and still left a little more to be desired but showed significantly more of things you want to see from Cody in regards to aggressiveness in his ability to attack the basket. He also knocked down his first three since Valentine’s Day in that game against Marquette which was nice to see.

The two games prior to Marquette however, against Boise State in the play-in and Florida in the first round were very disappointing.  In those two games over the course of 36 minutes: Cody Williams scored 9 points on 2 of 7 shooting while adding 3 rebounds and 3 assists. In the gritty play-in game against Boise State, Cody Williams only played 11 minutes and was not on the court in the second half of a tight game.

That brings quite a few questions to a potential top-10 pick. The upside is still there from the little brother of Jalen Williams and he has shown flashes throughout the year. If those flashes come to fruition, you may end up getting a high-level two-way wing, but what he showed in the tournament was that there is still a lot to put together. Will he be able to accomplish that with the high expectations following him through the lottery?

Yves Missi- Baylor

Yves Missi is a “toolsy” prospect who has all the physical gifts you could ever ask for from a big-man prospect. He is big, he is long, he is athletic, and if he puts it together he can be an absolute monster at the next level. However, with those sorts of natural tools, you would expect dominant performances against teams like Colgate, and even Clemson, right? At least on the glass, if not as a lob threat and rim finisher, right?

That was not the case for Yves Missi in the disappointing two-game tournament run for the Baylor Bears. Missi finished with only 11 points and 7 rebounds in those two games, with only two of those points coming in the loss against Clemson in the second round.

There is nothing surprising about this from a prospect perspective, Missi was always considered more of a project. The question that it brings however is how much is that risk worth? There are known quantities in a fairly loaded big man class including players like Donovan Clingan and Zach Edey. Even guys like Kyle Filipowski and Da’Ron Holmes II were super productive over the course of the season. Yves Missi averaged 10 and 5 without ever taking a three, he is young, he is raw, and he is athletic. What level can he get to in the NBA?

Kwame Evans Jr- Oregon

Oregon was one of the most fun teams to watch this tournament crescendoing with one of the best games of the tournament with their overtime battle with Creighton.  Stars were made in that game for Oregon as Jermaine Couisnard scored 32 points while hitting tough shot after tough shot and N’Faly Dante was an absolute beast finishing with 20 and 13 while dominating physically. Who you did not notice for any positive reason in that game however was Kwame Evans.

Kwame Evans Jr finished with 0 points in that game on 0/3 shooting including a major gaffe late in the game. Evans is another prospect whose story is about potential and not production, so nobody should put too much stock into that performance. He also did show some playmaking flashes in the first-round upset of South Carolina. It remains to be seen if Evans will enter the draft, but if he does, teams will be questioning if that level of quietness will be something to worry about at the next level.

Kyle Filipowski- Duke

Kyle Filipowski’s collegiate career and corresponding quest to end court-storming came to a fiery end at the hands of DJ Burns. Over the four games for Duke this tournament, Filipowski averaged just 11 points and only made threes in one of those four games.

This tournament was designed for big men to be able to prove themselves, Zach Edey may have played himself into the lottery while Donovan Clingan may have played himself in the top 5. Both players were looked at comparably to Filipowski throughout the majority of the season. Now, while those other players are rising up the draft boards, Filipowski is giving more questions for GMs to ask about his potential in the NBA.

What does Kyle Filipowski look like at the next level if he is not hitting threes, and will he be able to hit threes? Those are the two biggest questions for the Duke big man on offense. His game is designed around hitting jump shots and scoring, but there are legitimate questions about what that looks like if the shot is not there. This was the case in the tournament and it was not pretty for the Duke big man.

Defensively, there have always been questions about Kyle Filipowski. In the tournament, those questions just were in the name of DJ Burns. The NC State big man had a great run and it seemed like nobody would be able to stop him until he ran into Zach Edey. Filipowski believers were hoping he would be able to defend Burns or at least outscore him given the mismatch that Duke fans expected it to be. Instead, it was the other way around and Burns was too big and strong for Filipowski who struggled to contain him in the post. The question that comes from this is simple: is Filipowski strong enough to play the 5 or if he a power forward at the next level?

While you shouldn’t be basing all of your opinions of a prospect off a few games in March, it is okay to look at what these players did in the biggest games of their careers. Players have bombed atomically in the tournament and had remarkable NBA careers. There is little to no correlation between those two areas of success and you can find data points to fulfill your philosophies and hypotheses no matter what they are. Some busts in the draft were great in the tournament, Derrick Williams comes to mind, while others had disappointing tournament performances.

This is a weird draft class, and there is a very marginal difference between draft ranges at this point. The most minute of details can differentiate a player from being the 4th or 14th pick of the draft this year. There are no clear-cut tiers of prospects and no players far ahead of the curve like we had last year. So March Madness gave guys a chance to prove themselves and earn their spot in those conversations.

Related Content

»Read: Ranking First-Round Matchups for the Knicks 

»Read: Draft Prospects Left In The Final Four

»Read: Miles McBride: Master Screen Navigator