Who to Watch in the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament
Last week I asked if anyone else’s brackets were busted. This week, it goes without saying. If you had UCONN, Miami, San Diego State and Florida Atlantic in the final four, please, do me a favor and go buy yourself a lottery ticket. Consider donating me a couple of bucks when you win the Power Ball.
That’s not to discredit this Final Four, because they’ve all earned it. Miami has had to overcome test after test to make it to this point, Florida Atlantic looks more like a 1 seed than a 9 seed, UCONN has dominated and San Diego State is showing what a mid-major powerhouse is capable of. This has been a historic NCAA Tournament, and a fun one at that.
So far this series has covered 15 NBA prospects for Spurs fans to keep their eyes on. With the field whittling down, you can still see Jordan Hawkins and Isaiah Wong, who have already been featured. While no high-lottery talent is still playing, there are intriguing players who could find themselves playing some kind of role at the next level. These prospects are specialists, older college players, and probable 2024 picks.
For Spurs fans who will likely be obsessing over the draft for the next few months, the Final Four will be the last glimpse at prospects in high stakes scenarios, before your social media timelines are flooded with workout footage and rumors about these guys. Here are three prospects to watch this weekend.
Andre Jackson Jr., 6-6 Forward, UCONN
UCONN is the betting favorite to win the championship out of these four teams. They’ve been dominant in the tournament, as they showed in their near 30-point victory over Gonzaga in the Elite 8. Jordan Hawkins and Adama Sanogo have gotten most of the attention, but Jackson Jr. is a key part of what makes this team so scary.
Jackson Jr. is an above average athlete with great size on the wing. You’ll see him jump the passing lanes and get out in transition for thunderous dunks. He averaged a steal a game in his junior season. Those skill make him the perfect role player to surround the star scorers for the Huskies. He’s also one of the team’s better playmakers, averaging just under 5 assists per game this season.
His defensive ability and motor are what make him an intriguing NBA prospect. He is going to compete on that end, and will likely be a difference maker defensively at the next level. But his role on offense is a major question mark. He’s not a consistent 3-point shooter at this stage, shooting just 28% from beyond the arc this season. Outside of lobs and transition finishes, he’s not a creative shot creator in the half court. If he can’t space the floor or create off of the bounce, what does he bring to an NBA offense?
We’ve seen limited offensive players with huge defensive upside like Herb Jones and Matisse Thybulle succeed in the NBA. The Spurs perimeter players struggle to keep opposing players in front of them. Would taking a chance on developing Jackson Jr.’s offensive game make sense to give their defense an immediate boost in the second round? With his motor, it seems Jackson Jr. would benefit from a great player development system who can refine the other parts of his game.
Jordan Miller, 6-7 Guard/Forward, Miami
Nobody in the NCAA Tournament has helped their draft stock more than Jordan Miller. Miami has been one of the more fun success stories, with potential second rounders Isaiah Wong and Miller playing at the top of their game and boosting their draft stock.
Much like Jackson Jr. Miller is a big wing who is a great role player for his team. While Jackson Jr. has the elite skill on the defensive end, Miller is more of a well-rounded prospect who has stepped into a bigger offensive role when needed in March. He’s good poise on the offensive end, going 100% from the field in Miami’s tight game against Texas in the Elite 8.
He’s an efficient wing scorer who averaged 15.4 ppg, 6.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists shooting 55% from the field and 36% from deep in his last season of collegiate eligibility. The southpaw showed improved deep range shooting this season, after hovering closer to the low-30s in his first 4 years of college ball. He’s adept at getting to the paint, particularly on the left side of the court, and is a strong finisher around the cup.
That left hand dominance is a blessing and a curse. It’s made him dangerous on one side of the court, but if you watch enough tape, you’ll notice that even when he goes to his right side, he still wants to finish with his left. It’s not rare for lefties to do this at the collegiate level, Julius Randle had a similar issue at Kentucky, but has become an efficient go-to scorer in the NBA. The big difference with Miller is that he is already 23-years-old. This is his fifth college season. How much upside is there for him?
He already has an NBA body, and the ability to defend and score at the next level. 3-D wings with a little bit of extra skill are hot commodities in the NBA, and the Spurs could always use more. If they are looking to go with upside in the second round, I doubt Miller will be the pick. But if they prefer a solid role guy who can contribute in his rookie year, Miller may be a prime candidate.
Johnell Davis, 6-4 Guard, Florida Atlantic
Anytime you score nearly 30 points in the NCAA Tournament, you are going to garner some attention. Davis has been a go-to contributor for the Owls as they’ve stormed their way through the high seeds on the way to the final-4.
The 3rd-year guard from Gary, Indiana is a physical player who does his work with strong finishes at the basket. He’s particularly lethal in transition, where his above-average athleticism and craftiness around the hoop help him finish the break. For an undersized combo guard, he’s really efficient too, scoring 14 ppg on 49/37/85 shooting splits. He’s an underrated rebounder as well, averaging 5.5 boards a game this season.
While the scoring is nice, Davis isn’t dominant enough to overcome his weakness as a playmaker for others. He had a negative assist to turnover ratio this year, and averaged just over one assist per game. The ball doesn’t exactly stick in his hands, but when he gets it, he is looking to attack and score, rather than set up a teammate. One of his stronger skills on defense is his ability to create turnovers, averaging just under 2 steals a game. But that aggressiveness can lead to overplaying passing lanes, and getting beat when he doesn’t come up with the steal. He needs to become more disciplined if he wants to defend in the NBA.
Davis still has two years of eligibility at FAU. With the majority of that roster not appearing on many teams NBA draft boards, and plenty of skills to work on, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him run it back with the Owls and try his luck again next year. This may be a prospect the Spurs take a look at next year. However if he does come out he may be worth a look as a higher upside scoring guard.