2022 NBA Draft: Top NBA prospects playing in the Sweet 16

Detroit Bad Boys

Everyone’s bracket is busted, some of the best players have already bowed out, the world is rooting for Saint Peter’s and Purdue and Michigan are all that remains of the Big 10 contingent. The 2022 NCAA Tournament is in full swing, and the madness will surely continue. However, for our purposes the most important component is who might still be playing that also has an NBA future.

Some of the names are obvious — Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero, AJ Griffin and Jaden Ivey are all in conversations for picks 1 through 5. Some, though, are less obvious.

Would Banchero teammate Trevor Keels make sense in the second round? I’m legitimately asking … And with news that the Detroit Pistons might or might not be planning a Jerami Grant swap to land back into the first round, it is incumbent on fans to pay attention to players throughout the draft.

So here are the players still remaining in the NCAA tournament who have also happened to find a spot on the Tankathon Big Board. I’ll leave it to more shrewd talent evaluators to chime in on the diamonds in the rough, the fools gold and who is being omitted entirely. But who doesn’t love a good list?

Thursday, March 24

Gonzaga vs. Arkansas

7:09 p.m. ET on CBS

I am not the foremost draft expert among the Detroit Bad Boys staff, but Chet Holmgren (center, 1st on Tankathon Big Board) falls first on my personal Big Board. His combination of offense, versatility, elite defense and the potential synergy playing alongside Cade Cunningham. It’d be a dream for the Pistons to land him. He plays alongside Andrew Nembhard (point guard, 57th) and Drew Timme (power forward/center, 65th) who is pretty much the Luka Garza of this draft. The biggest draft prospect coming out of Arkansas is big man Jaylin Williams (60th) who is more of a face-up and stretch-5 project.

Michigan vs. Villanova

7:29 p.m. ET on TBS

Caleb Houstan (39th) is the biggest name worth paying attention to for the University of Michigan, but I’m not clear if he is officially declaring for the NBA Draft or if he’ll come back for his sophomore season and try to boost his draft stock. He hasn’t quite lived up to the lofty projections placed on him in preseason, but he’s got all the elements you’re looking for in size, frame, clean enough shooter and could turn into a two-way player at the NBA level.

Texas Tech vs. Duke

9:39 p.m. ET on CBS

Are we positive Banchero (3rd) is the best prospect on Duke this season? I hate to be that guy, but “I’m just asking questions.” Seriously, though, I have a Paolo blindspot because he just doesn’t excite me as a difference-maker. Seems like a versatile enough B-level scorer but not much else. I know some people are super high on him, so please don’t take my slander as anything approaching the truth. AJ Griffin (5th), though, does seriously intrigue as a quality Cade complement. He can defend multiple positions, he can slash, he can shoot, he is young. He’s not ever going to be someone who commands huge attention but he’s a great sidekick. Duke also has defensive big man Mark Williams (14th), offensive-minded wing Wendell Moore (22nd), and the aforementioned Trevor Keels (35th). Texas Tech’s best prospect is shooting guard Terrence Shannon Jr. who does not excite me (63rd).

Houston vs. Arizona

9:59 p.m. ET on TBS

Feels like the Bennedict Mathurin (10th) hype train is really gaining steam lately. So much so that if the Pistons wanted to grab him, they might not be able to do it even if they received an additional lottery pick from the Blazers in a potential Jerami Grant swap. Mathurin is good, but is he top-5 pick good? The Wildcats also feature very large man Christian Koloko (28th) who won’t be available when the Pistons pick in the second but if they traded back into the first round, he could be a defensive center off the bench and plug and play for limited minutes.

Friday, March 25

Saint Peter’s vs. Purdue

7:09 p.m. ET on CBS

Jaden Ivey (4th) is here to try and enter the conversation as a No. 1 overall pick and slay Cinderella — the 15th-ranked Saint Peter’s Peacocks. Not that Ivey’s elite athleticism overpowering Saint Peter’s would say a whole lot, but these are how narratives are built. Consider me an Ivey skeptic, so the longer he stays in the tournament the closer I can get a look at him and either be convinced he’s the perfect running mate with Cade or an absolutely atrocious fit. Can’t wait! Zach Edey (53rd) is a 7-foot-4 center with some offensive touch and Trevion Williams (54th) the bruising power forward type for the Boilermakers.

Providence vs. Kansas

7:29 p.m. ET on TBS

The Jayhawks feature a pair of fringe first-round prospects on the wing in Christian Braun (26th) and Ochai Agbaji (27th). In the limited time I’ve gotten to watch Kansas play, Agbaji really jumps off the screen as a smart, hustle player who uses his superior athleticism to do good things all over the floor. Sometimes athletes use their powers to dunk and dunk only, and sometimes, like Ochai, they do it to launch themselves toward contested rebounds, to switch and recover all over the floor, and create passing and driving lanes for teammates to take advantage of. That being said, sometimes those elite athletes without tons of skills don’t really translate to the pros.

North Carolina vs. UCLA

9:39 p.m. ET on CBS

Two vaunted programs are still alive, but they aren’t exactly being led by blue-chip freshmen prospects. Jaime Jaquez Jr. (40th) is a junior wing who survives as one of those upper-classmen pests who are relentless and always in your jersey. Johnny Juzang (68th) has more projectable NBA skills but he’s never really been able to put it all together at UCLA. The Tar Heels will trot out point guard Caleb Love (70th) who might be the kind of guy who wows in the G League but can never really make a dent in the NBA.

Iowa State vs. Miami

9:59 p.m. ET on TBS

This game features zero players on the Tankathon big board. That doesn’t mean it won’t be a great game, but it might also mean it’s a great time for me to go to sleep. I’ll leave it to wiser college basketball fans to clue you in on why this game might matter.

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