In what has become an annual tradition, I typed up some brief notes on who to watch during the first day of our weekend-long basketball holiday also known as the 2022 NCAA Tournament. There are always reasons to pay close attention to the tourney — the upsets, the gambling, the fun. But for Detroit Pistons fans, it’s also a great chance to take a closer look at some of the 2022 NBA Draft’s top prospects — and potential future Pistons — as they face high pressure and tougher competition.
Think of this as your game-to-game guide to the players on every roster who are most intriguing from a future growth or NBA prospect perspective. That way when you stumble on San Francisco against Murray state after 10 p.m. you’ll know that Jamaree Bouyea is actually good and a player worth your attention.
(11) Michigan vs. (6) Colorado State
Tipoff at 12:15 p.m. on CBS
CSU star David Roddy is listed at 6-6 and 255, which are the sort of dimensions that always make me wonder “NBA, or next in line to transition to NFL tight end like Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez and Jimmy Graham?”
I’m sure there are many of you who know more about this Michigan team than I do; does anybody think Moussa Diabate is a real guy? I’m still in on Caleb Houstan as a Cam Johnson starter kit.
(13) South Dakota St. vs. (4) Providence
Tipoff at 12:40 p.m. on truTV
I got nothing here.
(9) Memphis vs. (8) Boise State
Tipoff at 1:45 p.m. on TNT
Minott time! Also Jalen Duren, but mostly Josh Minott. I’m pretty sure that his 3.2 STL% + 5.5 BLK% + .419 FTAr is what we’re looking for, right? Old for a freshman, and doesn’t shoot treys yet, but I’m a fan regardless. Fun to watch, seems like a good passer, makes his free throws, is very tall.
Meanwhile, Duren is a traditional center who might be basically exactly the same as Dwight Howard, but also might not.
(16) Norfolk State vs. (1) Baylor
Tipoff at 2 p.m. on TBS
Jeremy Sochan and Kendall Brown are the names to know for the future, but the Baylor guards (James Akinjo and Adam Flagler) are really good too, and very old. I will be checking in on them later, after they get this opening game out of the way.
(14) Longwood vs. (3) Tennessee
Tipoff at 2:45 p.m. on CBS
Kennedy Chandler is good, but very small. (I’m not considering him in the lottery, and he will almost certainly be gone before the Nets second-round pick owned by the Pistons, which is currently #46.) Josiah-Jordan James might be something like a James Ennis type who sticks around for a while. This Tennessee team is good, and while they rely on two freshman guards (Zakai Ziegler is the other), they also have an old guy, Santi Vescovi, in the backcourt, which seems like something of a prerequisite for tournament success.
(12) Richmond vs. (5) Iowa
Tipoff at 3:10 p.m. on truTV
(16) Georgia State vs. (1) Gonzaga
Tipoff at 4:15 p.m. on TNT
Chet! Once again, let’s get this first-round matchup out of the way so we can talk about Andrew Nembhard and Julian Strawther, in addition to Chet, and against better teams: Nembhard is like a long-lost brother of Tyus and Tre Jones, and Strawther is tall enough and good enough at shooting to possibly have an eventual pro career. Drew Timme is probably off somewhere waxing his Fu Manchu and practicing his bicep-flexing troll game as we speak.
Meanwhile, Anton Watson is a large young man and might have a future as a combo big, and bench guards Hunter Sallis and Nolan Hickman are both highly-regarded recruits who are generally perceived as more likely to enter the draft next year. (I don’t know how this is decided, really.) This Gonzaga team is loaded, as usual.
(9) Marquette vs. (8) North Carolina
Tipoff at 4:30 p.m. on TBS
Justin Lewis might be a really real prospect in a Jae Crowder sort of way, and not just because of the Marquette connection; he’s thicc, and averaged 17 and 8 this year as a sophomore.
For UNC, Caleb Love looks the part of athletic and pedigreed tallish combo guard, but still can’t seem to shoot, while RJ Davis was an awesome shooter in high school, but is tiny. Armando Bacot is a rather ordinary center prospect, but he really did have a good year and has had some TV people up in arms that he got robbed for ACC POY. Brady Manek has a cool beard.
(12) New Mexico State vs. (5) UConn
Tipoff at 6:50 p.m. on TNT
Andre Jackson will win a dunk contest if he makes the NBA. Adama Sanogo is a bit undersized for a center at the next level, and his persistent effort level seems to pay more dividends on offense than on defense; it would not surprise me if he is able to carve out a Trez Harrell type role in the future.
(15) Saint Peter’s vs. (2) Kentucky
Tipoff at 7:10 p.m. on CBS
TyTy is actually good, despite being both old for a freshman and relatively small; good floater game, but not a superstar athlete, and it seems like he has a tough time getting all the way to the rim, but that might just be….The Cal Clamps!
Oscar Tshiebwe just got another rebound, and is quite possibly The Ultimate Weaver Guy in this class. Jacob Toppin is the better Toppin now. Keion Brooks is back on the radar, too! He had a good enough season that friend of the program Chaz Malibu just googled his #wingspan again.
(12) Indiana vs. (5) Saint Mary’s
Tipoff at 7:20 p.m. on TBS
Indiana survived the play-in game and moved on to the actual bracket; I’m not really a Trayce Jackson-Davis believer, so I will just point out here that Chet’s conference does not actually suck, and St. Mary’s is a good team. (They will probably lose now that I typed that.)
(9) Creighton vs. (8) San Diego State
Tipoff at 7:27 p.m. on truTV
Nothing too noteworthy in this one: Duke transfer Alex O’Connell still exists, Ryan Nembhard is Andrew’s little brother, and Ryan Kalkbrenner is 7-1. I really don’t know much about a lot of these teams; there is only so much time in the day. I do know that, contrary to popular belief, Malik Pope is NOT back for a seventh year at San Diego State.
(13) Vermont vs. (4) Arkansas
Tipoff at 9:20 p.m. on TNT
Jaylin Williams is really good. Like, “Al Horford reincarnated” good. Like, “has taken more charges this season than Shane Battier got famous for at Duke” good as a help defender. Very tall, long arms, good passer, smart, knows where to go and what to do. Good hands, good traffic rebounder. Makes midrange jumpers, and his solid FT% suggests that he might eventually be able to extend out to shooting treys. (Better FT% than college Horford, FWIW.) I’m a huge fan, despite my generalized aversion to spending draft picks on centers. Fun player to watch, and seems to do lots of things that help his team win. Absolutely a Weaver Zone target.
JD Notae is one of those annoyingly shot-happy small guards who always populate college basketball (don’t get me started on Alonzo Verge and Remy Martin), but he has had a nice year; he also turns 24 around opening night next season.
Au’Diese Toney and Stanley Umude and Davonte “Devo” Davis are all wing athletes who are pretty good; the SEC is by far the best conference this year, in part because there are just lots of those guys scattered around on various teams.
(10) San Francisco vs. (7) Murray State
Tipoff at 9:40 p.m. on CBS
To reiterate: the WCC is not bad! Jamaree Bouyea is another guard who is old and small, but gets buckets and is pretty good.
I can’t tell you the first thing about Murray State: they have two juniors (tallish guard Tevin Brown and big man KJ Williams) who score a lot, but I haven’t seen either one pop up on my casual draft radar.
(13) Akron vs. (4) UCLA
Tipoff at 9:50 p.m. on TBS
UCLA is very old and seemingly everyone’s upset/dark-horse final-four pick. Johnny Juzang is still a pedestrian athlete and subsequent second-round pick, while Toolsy Flashes All-Star and overt pre-drafting target Peyton Watson has showed signs of life lately. (He still averages 3/3/1 with a mortifying TS% of .379, but he is also still an intriguing wing-defense athlete with a pretty jumper that just doesn’t go in enough.) Their guards are very old; that’s why everyone is picking them to make the final weekend!
(16) Texas Southern vs. (1) Kansas
Tipoff at 9:57 p.m. on truTV
Texas Southern won their play-in game last night over some other small school from Texas, earning the right to get their heads kicked in by Kansas. Kansas is good, and has at least two pros in Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun, and Jalen Wilson, comboforwardiness incarnate, still has some fans too.
Friday notes to follow. Enjoy the games, everybody, and thank you for reading.