Yesterday, we covered all of Thursday’s opening-night games of the 2022 NCAA tournament. The games certainly did not disappoint even if some of the coaches (cough, John Calipari, cough) and players (cough, Keegan Murray, cough) did. Today we look at Friday’s full schedule of games and the prospects big and small that you should look out for. But, honestly, mostly small because those are more fun to talk about and this is likely the only chance to give them a shout out.
On to Friday!
(10) Loyola Chicago vs. (7) Ohio St.
Tipoff at 12:15 p.m. on TNT
EJ Liddell is big and good, and has probably played himself into the first round now that he can shoot. Malaki Branham may have also played himself into the first round as a young and athletic shooting guard who has shot really well.
Professional prognosticator and onetime Laz podcast guest PD Web was touting Loyola wing Saint Thomas as a draft prospect before the season began, but his emergence has not happened yet (168 total minutes played); as a lanky 6-7 dude with a high steal rate who makes his free throws and almost exclusively shoots treys, he might still be an interesting bet for the future.
(15) Jacksonville State vs. (2) Auburn
Tipoff at 12:40 p.m. on truTV
Another team with multiple pros who I will be checking back in on later; it is still the case that Auburn’s trio of wildly confident guards need to stop shooting so much and give the ball to extremely tall future NBA players Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler more. Statistically, Kessler is historically great as a rim protector (his block rate is NINETEEN), and he has even been attempting some treys lately!
(14) Montana State vs. (3) Texas Tech
Tipoff at 1:45 p.m. on TNT
Texas Tech plays really great defense; to the best of my knowledge TJ Shannon is still a phenomenal athlete who can’t shoot.
(14) Yale vs. (3) Purdue
Tipoff at 2:00 p.m. on TBS
Everyone keeps trying to talk me into Jaden Ivey, just in case he ends up playing for our Detroit Pistons. Trevion Williams is cool too, Zach Edey is 7-4, and Sasha Stefanovic can shoot.
(15) Delaware vs. (2) Villanova
Tipoff at 2:45 p.m. on CBS
Collin Gillespie, 10-year NBA veteran, calling it now. Brandon Slater also has some fans in draft circles, and to a lesser extent Justin Moore and Jermaine Samuels do, too. A team full of wings (other than Gillespie) is my kind of team.
(10) Miami vs. (7) USC
Tipoff at 3:10 p.m. on truTV
Evan Mobley’s brother against a bunch of really old transfers and sixth-year guys. Should be a good game, I think? None of the olds from Miami have popped up on the casual draft radar, but Kameron McGusty and Isaiah Wong are the best of the bunch, in addition to having cool names.
(11) Notre Dame vs. (6) Alabama
Tipoff at 4:15 p.m. on TNT
Notre Dame survived a double-overtime play-in game with a victory over Rutgers, in spite of a 4-of-17 shooting performance by their best NBA prospect, Blake Wesley, an interesting toolsy shooting guard (6-11 #wingspan + frequent paint touches) who can’t really shoot yet. Fortunately for them Nate Laszewski, a fave of friend of the program Steve AKA Duke, saved the day with 18 points on only 8 shots off the bench. He is very tall and awesome at shooting, and therefore possibly employable.
Alabama has four (4) guards who might make it in the NBA, although none of them are likely first-round picks. JD Davison is the point guard with the cool hair, and if any of them DO get picked in the first round it will be him. Keon Ellis is something like KCP in terms of role if he makes it: he’s very old, but is 6-6 and has put together an impressive statistical season, with an excellent steal rate of 3.4% and 43/36/89 shooting splits on a very modern “shot spectrum” profile, taking nearly two thirds of his field goal attempts coming from deep, and managing a decent free-throw rate in spite of that fact. Jahvon Quinerly and Jaden Shackleford are less interesting from a draft perspective, but very good college players as well.
(11) Virginia Tech vs. (6) Texas
Tipoff at 4:30 p.m. on TBS
VTech runs really good and precise half-court offense; I’ve watched Texas a few times but still am not sure what they do. Not really any pros here, I don’t think.
(13) Chattanooga vs. (4) Illinois
Tipoff at 6:50 p.m. on TNT
Kofi Cockburn is an enormous human being, which will probably be enough that he doesn’t have to “go pro in something other than sports.”
(15) Cal St. Fullerton vs. (2) Duke
Tipoff at 7:10 p.m. on CBS
I will wait for round two before paying close attention to Duke’s entire rotation of future pros. In addition to Paolo Banchero and AJ Griffin, Wendell Moore sometimes flashes some intriguing pointforwardiness, Trevor Keels is a strong and physical combo guard who had a rep as a SHOOTER shooter in high school which hasn’t yet borne itself out at this level, Mark Williams is an entirely draftable defensive center (just don’t let him try to score via post-ups), and even Jeremy Roach might be a third guard who can dribble and shoot well enough to not kill his team in limited minutes.
(11) Iowa St. vs. (6) LSU
Tipoff at 7:20 p.m. on TBS
LSU finally fired their entirely ridiculous cheater coach who got investigated by the FBI like three years ago but somehow managed to hold on to the gig until like three days ago; I’m not sure what that means for their prospects of making a deep run.
I have watched them a lot this year mostly because Tari Eason is awesome, but also because Alex Fudge has wild and super fun flashes of crazy defensive goodness. Fudge has no offensive role or position at this time, but in spite of that has somehow managed a very high free-throw rate of .435; he is pre-draft as all get-out.
I would not be all that surprised if Darius Days, yet another LSU forward, hangs around the NBA for a bit as a shooting forward off the bench.
Tyrese Hunter of Iowa State is perceived as a fringe NBA possibility, despite being bad at shooting (39/25/68 splits) and small. It ain’t my cup of meat.
(16) Wright State vs. (1) Arizona
Tipoff at 7:27 p.m. on truTV
Arizona is awesome, and my pick to win it all, which means they won’t. They will however win this one, though, so I will be checking in on them later in the week. Benn Mathurin is growing on me as a prospect, and I hope he is literally growing taller, too. Kerr Kriisa’s ankle injury is part of the storyline, but in his absence Dalen Terry (no relation to fellow Arizona alum Jason) has emerged as an interesting draft premise as a good athlete at 6-7 who actually displays some pointguardiness, and is one of my favorite “if he shoots” bets this year.
(12) UAB vs. (5) Houston
Tipoff at 9:20 p.m. on TNT
Houston is missing their best player, Marcus Sasser, and one of their other best players, Tramon Mark, due to injury. This is probably the most popular upset pick among the 5/12 games, which means that Houston will probably win anyway.
(10) Davidson vs. (7) Michigan State
Tipoff at 9:40 p.m. on CBS
Y’all probably already know everything you need to know about Sparty; people seem to think that Max Christie will be back next year. Hyunjung Lee of Davidson is tall and really great at shooting; he’s probably something like less-athletic Isaiah Livers, and probably a second-round pick this year.
(14) Colgate vs. (3) Wisconsin
Tipoff at 9:50 p.m. on TBS
Johnny Davis shoot more treys challenge.
(9) TCU vs. (8) Seton Hall
Tipoff at 9:57 p.m. on truTV
TCU point guard Mike Miles and Seton Hall shooting guard Kadary Richmond are fringe NBA prospects.