The NCAA men’s tournament is here, and NBA scouts and front-office executives will travel all over the country to get eyes on the top draft prospects playing on the biggest stage in college basketball.
The three players at the top of the draft — Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith and Paolo Banchero — are all either a No. 1 or 2 seed, so the path is set to potentially see each prospect play a few times.
Keegan Murray led Iowa to a Big Ten tournament title and continues to be one of the best scorers in the country with two other Big Ten guards high on scouts’ draft boards.
Here’s a look at the 10 best NBA draft prospects in the NCAA tournament.
Chet Holmgren, Gonzaga
Draft range: 1-3
Freshman: 14.2 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 3.6 bpg
No player will be watched more closely than Holmgren during the men’s NCAA tournament. The 7-footer was exceptional this season during conference play but played only five games against Power Five teams. He averaged 9.6 points and eight rebounds in those games.
Gonzaga is the No. 1 overall team in the tournament and has a tough road to the Final Four. Holmgren could potentially go head-to-head with Memphis center Jalen Duren in the round of 32. Then there’s a chance of a rematch with Banchero and Duke in the Elite Eight, if both teams make it that far. In the first matchup in November, both Holmgren and Banchero played extremely well, with Duke winning 84-81. Holmgren posted 16 points and seven rebounds, and Banchero finished with 21 points and five rebounds.
There has never been a prospect like Holmgren. He has a slight frame at just 195 pounds, but has some of the best footwork for a 7-footer and can knock down 3-pointers with confidence. He’s the most dangerous in the open court and has a grab-and-go style that is difficult to defend. All eyes will be on Holmgren to see how he matches up with stronger, faster players on college basketball’s biggest stage.
Jabari Smith, Auburn
Draft range: 1-3
Freshman: 17.1 ppg, 7 rpg
Smith is a 6-foot-10 forward who led the SEC in 3-point field goal percentage, shooting 43% from deep. He knocked down seven 3-pointers in a win over Vanderbilt last month. If Smith gets hot, Auburn will make a deep run in the tournament this year.
Smith is the potential top pick in the 2022 NBA draft, and his game translates to the NBA with his athleticism and high basketball IQ. Auburn looks to get the ball to Smith at the end of the shot clock with Smith averaging 1.2 points per possession when there are four or fewer seconds on the shot clock, according to Synergy Sports. Smith’s versatility on offense is one of the reasons Auburn was the No. 1 team for four weeks this season. The high-low option with Smith and Walker Kessler is almost impossible to guard in the paint.
Auburn is the No. 2 seed in the Midwest region and will have to potentially go through Wisconsin, Iowa or Kansas to punch a ticket to the Final Four.
Paolo Banchero, Duke
Draft range: 1-5
Freshman: 17 ppg, 7.8 rpg
Banchero has an NBA-ready body with his 6-foot-10, 250-pound frame. Duke is struggling late in the season, losing to rival North Carolina in head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final game at Cameron Indoor Stadium and then the Blue Devils lost to Virginia Tech by almost 20 points in the ACC tournament. Banchero needs to find another gear if Duke wants to make a run to send Coach K off on a high note.
Banchero is leading Duke in points and rebounds this season and is a hybrid point-forward who is comfortable bringing the ball up and also banging down low in the post. Banchero has recorded 10 double-doubles this season and is the star player Duke was missing last year. He was named the ACC Freshman of the Year and was also named to the All-ACC first team. His lateral movement on defense has improved from high school, and he is getting more comfortable stepping into his 3-point shot either in the pick-and-pop or running the wing in transition.
Jaden Ivey, Purdue
Draft range: 2-6
Sophomore: 17.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.1 apg
Ivey burst onto NBA scouts’ radar last year where he put up the most points by any freshman in the Big Ten with 26 in the first round of the NCAA tournament. He’s one of the best shooting guards in the country and will let it fly from all over the court, sometimes as deep as the halfcourt logo. Ivey is averaging 37% from 3-point range and has posted 20-plus points 13 times this season. The 6-foot-4 guard worked out with Ja Morant last summer, and there are glimpses of similarities in the way Ivey finishes at the rim.
Johnny Davis, Wisconsin
Draft range: 4-10
Sophomore: 19.7 ppg, 8.2 rpg
Davis’ game is reminiscent of another player who led his team to the championship game last season, Jalen Suggs. Both were quarterbacks in high school and are tough competitors. Davis was injured in the final game of the season in a loss to Nebraska when he drove the lane and Trey McGowens hit him in the face, causing him to fall awkwardly and roll his ankle. Davis was back on the court and put up a double-double (11 points and 11 rebounds) in a loss to Michigan State during the Big Ten tournament. Davis is shooting 39% from 3-point range this season, but has cooled recently shooting 3-for-18 in the last eight games.
Keegan Murray, Iowa
Draft range: 4-10
Sophomore: 23.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg
Murray was the leading scorer in the Big Ten and broke the record for total points scored in the Big Ten tournament with 105. Iowa defeated Purdue for the conference title. The Hawkeyes have a lot of momentum heading into the NCAA tournament. Murray is one of the best scorers in America and even as a high-volume shooter, he’s averaging 56% from the field and 41% from 3-point range. Three-and-D guards are always in high demand in the NBA draft, and Murray is the best wing in this draft class. Murray has scored 30-plus points in five games this season and ranks in the 96th percentile in transition, scoring 1.5 points per possession.
Jalen Duren, Memphis
Draft range: 4-10
Freshman: 12.2 ppg, 8 rpg, 2.2 bpg
Duren is one of the youngest players in this draft class after reclassifying a grade up last year to join Penny Hardaway’s team a year early. Outside of the three bigs at the top of the draft class (Holmgren, Smith and Banchero), Duren is the next best forward/center. At 6-foot-11 and 250 pounds, Duren moves fluidly off the ball and has excellent timing on blocked shots. The potential matchup with Holmgren in the second round is a game all scouts want to see. Duren is playing his best basketball of this season and had a great game in a win over Central Florida where he grabbed 20 rebounds and added 21 points in 27 minutes.
Ben Mathurin, Arizona
Draft range: 5-14
Sophomore: 17.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.6 apg
Arizona has a No. 1 seed in Tommy Lloyd’s first season as the head coach. Mathurin tested the NBA waters and elected to return for his sophomore season. At 6-foot-6, he has great size, can see over the defense and is a high-level passer in the open court. Mathurin was the best player on the court in the Pac-12 championship game where he netted 27 points and dished out seven assists. His draft stock could continue to rise as the tournament goes on with Arizona one of the favorites to make the Final Four.
TyTy Washington, Kentucky
Draft range: 5-14
Freshman: 12.8 ppg, 4 apg
Washington is back on the court after suffering an ankle injury last month. He is playing off the ball this season with Sahvir Wheeler as the primary ball handler for the Wildcats. NBA scouts love the upside to Washington’s game. He is a combo guard who can score at all three levels. Washington had one of his best games of the season in a win over Vanderbilt in the SEC tournament where he put up 25 points (4-for-5 from 3-point range) in 32 minutes.
Blake Wesley, Notre Dame
Draft range: 10-20
Freshman: 14.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.5 apg
Notre Dame is in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2017, and Wesley is a big reason for the Fighting Irish’s success. Wesley is an athletic guard who loves to get downhill and has great body control at the rim. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard isn’t afraid of the big moment, hitting game-winning shots twice this season. Wesley is a streaky outside shooter and when he’s on, he’s on. In a loss to Wake Forest, Wesley hit six 3-pointers and finished with 24 points. Because Notre Dame is in the play-in game, Wesley’s time in the tournament might be cut short. Depending on how he does during the pre-draft process, Wesley could elect to return for his sophomore season and improve his draft stock.