If you’re an NBA fan who wanted to use the NCAA tournament to scout potential draft prospects, the tournament hasn’t exactly panned out the way you’d want it to. Two of the top prospects bit the dust on Friday, with Jabari Parker’s Duke team getting upset by Mercer, and Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State bowing out to Gonzaga. Neither of these are that shocking, mind you, but it’s a shame we don’t get to see either player facing a few more quality opponents. In addition to that, one of the top guys didn’t even make the tournament (Noah Vonleh and Indiana), and another is out with an injury (Joel Embiid). The pickings are quite slim if you want to watch a top NBA prospect continue to dance in the tournament. However, the good news for Cavs fans is that a lot of the guys who will be around in the pick range the Cavs are likely to land in are still around, and ready to make some noise this weekend. Outside of T.J. Warren, whose N.C. State Wolfpack lost to Saint Louis, and Rodney Hood of Duke, most of the Cavs’ potential targets will be on display again today and tomorrow. Here’s where you can catch them.
2 Michigan vs. 7 Texas: Saturday, March 22nd 5:15PM
Player to Watch: Nick Stauskas, Michigan
Stauskas quietly led the Wolverines in scoring with 15 points on Thursday against Wofford. He’s a nice combo guard who can handle the ball really well and shoots the lights out, hitting just under 50 percent from three-point land this season. He’s incredibly efficient on the offensive end, and would fit nicely on the Cavs as a bench shooter and accessory ball-handler. Stauskas should have more of a central role in tonight’s game against a guard-heavy Texas team, so this should be a good spotlight for him. In particular, this will be a good test of Stauskas’s defensive abilities, as he’s got to corral the quick and dangerous Demarcus Holland in order for Michigan to move on.
3 Syracuse vs. 11 Dayton: Saturday, March 22nd 7:10PM
Player to Watch: Jerami Grant
While Tyler Ennis is also a Syracuse draft prospect worth watching if you just want to see NBA talent, the last thing the Cavs need is another point guard. Focus your attention more on Grant, the Orange small forward who had 16 points on 6-9 shooting and 5 rebounds Thursday in a win over Western Michigan. Grant really doesn’t have an outside shot worth noting, but he can score in a variety of other ways, and is a solid rebounder. Grant’s also probably the best defensive prospect to come out of Syracuse in the last decade, thanks to his freakish 7’3” wingspan on a 6’7” frame. He is incredibly agile, and can defend shooting guards through power forwards. If the Cavs took Grant, pairing him and Anthony Bennett might be fun. He and Syracuse will be battling Dayton, who ended our national nightmare that is the “Aaron Craft: NBA Prospect” narrative for the tournament.
4 Michigan State vs. 12 Harvard: Saturday, March 22nd 8:40PM
Player to Watch: Gary Harris
Harris had a quiet game against Delaware while his teammate Adreian Payne balled out with 41 points. However, Harris, who had 10 points and 4 rebounds, is the better NBA prospect. Harris is a two-way guard who can be inconsistent at times, but when he’s on, he is dangerous because he’s a great athlete. Harris can shoot it a bit, but his real strength is in attacking the basket, and he’s a decent defensive prospect as well. If the Cavs took him to develop behind Dion Waiters, he could fit in well with the Cavs’ system. Tonight, he’ll battle the upset-happy Harvard Crimson.
1 Wichita State vs. 8 Kentucky: Sunday, March 23rd 2:45PM
Players to Watch: James Young, Willie Cauley-Stein
Kentucky’s been VERY hit-or-miss this year, and these two players are great reasons why. Young and Cauley-Stein have both been incredibly inconsistent this year, but are still good potential NBA prospects. Against Kansas State, WCS made a huge impact on the defensive end, with 4 steals and 4 blocks to make up for his two points on the offensive end. He’s a pretty limited offensive player, but he’s the closest thing to a rim protector in the draft, and the Cavs need that. Meanwhile, Young was atrocious in scoring 7 points on 13 shots on Friday, and that’s a pretty good encapsulation of his season. He’s got very little conscience for shooting, and isn’t really a good shooter. He has some potential as a defensive prospect and can play shooting guard and small forward, which is why he’s here, but his stock is dropping quickly. We’ll see if both guys can put up a solid performance against undefeated Wichita State.
4 UCLA vs. 12 Stephen F. Austin: Sunday, March 23rd 7:10PM
Player to Watch: Kyle Anderson
Anderson is this year’s box score-stuffing small forward, as evidenced by his performance in the win over Tulsa last night: 8 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals, 2 blocks. He’s got a little Nicolas Batum to him, with long arms, great passing ability, and excellent defensive potential. The Cavs would love to have a guy like him at small forward, even if he can’t shoot very well. Anderson will have the ball in his hands a good amount against Stephen F. Austin, and he’s going to be vital to the Bruins stopping the high-octane Lumberjack offense.
3 Creighton vs. 6 Baylor: Sunday, March 23rd 7:45PM
Player to Watch: Doug McDermott
Mr. McBuckets will get a nice test from Baylor after he went off against UL-Lafayette. McDermott slapped up 30 points and 12 rebounds on Friday, and that’s about everything he does. He is basically a complete offensive player, can play the three or the four, and is an excellent rebounder. The Cavs probably won’t go after McDermott unless they’re committed to him playing small forward, but he’s a treat to watch either way. Against Baylor and 7’1” Isaiah Austin, he’s going to need to have a strong game from the perimeter again to get Creighton past the 2nd round for the first time in his career.