March Madness Prospect Watch: Final Four Weekend Impressions

Certainly was a Final Four to remember! Let’s get right into the impressions from the several prospects on display:


Villanova vs Kansas — Kansas wins 81-65. 

Nothing about this game changes how I feel about any of the Villanova players. My philosophy on their program has always been “their prospects are a safe bet, but never expect stardom”.

This year, that mostly applies with their crop in Colin Gillespie (17 points and 2 steals), Brandon Slater (16 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists), and Jermaine Samuels (3 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists). 

I’m happy if the team I’m a fan of gives a Summer League try to any of these guys. 

It was just never going to be enough without Justin Moore (ruptured achilles) to beat a longer, more athletic, and more talented Kansas team. 

As for that Jayhawks squad, you really just can’t say enough about Ochai Agbaji (21 points, started 6-6 from three) continuing to be so consistent with his jumpshot and defense. Whatever team that picks him — should be in the lottery — will immediately have an easier time winning games. 

Jalen Wilson (11 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 assists) and Christian Braun (10 points, 3 rebounds, and 5 assists) also impressed on their perimeter. 

Wilson’s defense and physicality while maintaining disciplined stances stood out to me. I also liked his secondary playmaking and motor with 50/50 balls. 

If Braun continues to be nails from three when he’s left open, he could prove to be one of the better role players in the league. He’s already able to attack closeouts and is very active away from the ball, so the shooting gravity can really unlock his full package. 

I have to give credit where it’s due that David McCormack (25 points on 10-12 shooting and 9 rebounds) had a strong game, but his stamina and foot speed are such that he likely won’t have much of an NBA career. 

Full game highlights:

https://youtu.be/yb-LlZlH9Jo


Duke vs North Carolina — North Carolina wins 81-77.

I am well aware that North Carolina won, and I’m happy about it; I’m a big Coach K detractor. But this is mostly going to be about Duke because Duke has many more very real prospects. 

Trevor Keels (19 points) impressed me most early with a range of awesome paint finishes. His ceiling may be higher than I initially thought, given his off-the-dribble craft and positional size. Still need the playmaking and outside shooting to each take a leap but I believe he’s a first round prospect. 

Wendell Moore Jr. (10 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals) has developed between the lines in ways I never would’ve imagined after his first season at Duke. The fight and intellect pairing on defense mixed with a well-balanced offensive games makes for a solid pick between 25-40. 

The first Tar Heel to catch my eye in this game was Caleb Love (28 points and 4 rebounds). His craft around the rim is really good for a player as small as him. 

AJ Griffin (6 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 blocks) was a little clumsier than usual, causing some unforced turnovers and missing shots that are normally cash for him. Overall though his process was sound, and he didn’t give me any reason to take him out of my top seven or so. 

Maybe it’s the Suns fan in me but I’ve gained a real appreciation for traditional bigs in the NBA and the situations they’re put in. Because of that, I really appreciate Mark Williams (8 points and 4 rebounds in 16 minutes), who I view as a definite top 20 guy, and Armando Bacot (11 points, 21 rebounds, and 2 stocks), who I view as a 45-UDFA type of prospect. 

Obviously I’m burying the lede here by waiting so long to talk about Paolo Banchero (20 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks), but he was overwhelmingly impressive, walking into threes, using his big body at 6-foot-10 250 to work inside, and passing out when needed. 

I truly think he’s in the club of “first pick worthy” in this class and it will truly come down to who gets that pick for which of Banchero, Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith Jr., and even Jaden Ivey goes first overall. 

Full game highlights:

 


Kansas vs North Carolina – Kansas wins 72-69 for 4th title in program history.

Potential lottery wing Ochai Agbaji (12 points and 2 stocks) continues to be so good with and without the ball when it comes to creating his own shots. His baseline passing ability is beyond where wings usually are, and won’t limit him in different types of lineups, giving him the ability to play anywhere from the 2 to the 4. He’s also more than capable of guarding each position, and is more than capable of forcing turnovers at any time on that end.

Andrew Bacot (15 points, 15 rebounds, and 2 stocks) – whether he sticks around in the NBA or not – needs to be celebrated for his play throughout this tournament and especially in this game, as he dealt with an ankle injury from late in the contest against Duke. He was still asserting himself in the post and fighting hard on the glass, making a massive impact inside for the Tar Heels. Even in the final minute when Bacot re-injured that same ankle, he still hobbled over on defense to keep Kansas from getting an easy opportunity.

As he had been doing all tournament, RJ Davis (15 points and 12 rebounds) was really impactful in the first half hitting pull-up jumper after pull-up jumper providing easy offense for Carolina. He also drew a foul on a three-point shot in transition during Carolina’s run to end the first half with a 15-point lead. Later when Kansas fought back, Davis was the one most often stopping the bleeding.

I wish Caleb Love (13 points) had a more consistent shot profile that honed in better on his strengths rather than floaters from outside the elbow; although he did follow that poor shot with a more reasonable floater a possession later. He had two misses down the stretch that could’ve set up overtime, but they were rough shots that he didn’t set up very well.

After a shaky first half from both secondary Kansas wings, Jalen Wilson (15 points) and Christian Braun (12 points and 12 rebounds), they both started the second half much better, each getting some buckets at the rim that they missed in the first. 

The two of Wilson and Braun, along with premiere wing Agbaji, were instrumental in Kansas clawing back from the double-digit deficit to take back a lead midway through the second half.

Remy Martin (14 points and 2 stocks) making clutch plays down the stretch to put the Jayhawks in a position to win a national title completely breaks my brain after everything I learned about Remy Martin, the Arizona State Sun Devil. Most impressive about it was that it didn’t come on these “dribble out the clock and heave” opportunities, it was a movement corner three, and busting his butt on the defensive end, and that should be applauded, even if it doesn’t make sense to me.

Full game highlights:



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