March Madness features several NBA prospects. But they likely won’t get drafted among 1st few picks

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Anyone watching the NCAA Tournament exclusively to get a closer look at the top prospects in the upcoming NBA draft is in for a disappointment.

Only one of the top five players in last year’s draft came directly from college, as the Charlotte Hornets took Alabama’s Brandon Miller with the second overall pick. There are similar forecasts for this year’s draft, with international players such as Zaccharie Risacher and Alex Sarr atop most projections.

Even so, there are some players in the 68-team field who should hear their names called on draft night, even if they aren’t necessarily among the first handful of picks. Here’s a rundown of some of the most notable pro prospects seeking to make their impact on March Madness.

There’s one notable name missing from this list: Purdue center Zach Edey.

In a previous era, Edey’s status as a 7-foot-4 center and likely two-time consensus national player of the year would make him a sure top-10 pick. But he’s a big man who stays right around the basket much more often than today’s NBA centers, as evidenced by the fact he has attempted just two 3-point shots in his entire college career.

Edey has gotten better each year at Purdue and has the type of glittering resume that will get him drafted at some point, but it’s likely the players on this list will get selected before him.

Castle struggled with a knee injury early in his freshman season but came on strong late in the regular season while showcasing the upside that made him a top-10 recruit.

Castle had 21 points against St. John’s and Seton Hall and had a 20-point performance against Providence. He aveages 10.8 points and has been named Big East freshman of the week a record 11 times. Castle’s 3-point shot needs work, but the 6-foot-6 guard has shown enough this season to merit a first-round selection if he opts to enter the draft. UConn has another potential first-round prospect in center Donovan Clingan. Although Clingan has been the more productive player this season, Castle has the greater pro upside.

Dillingham’s speed and ability to provide instant offense should translate to the next level. The 6-3 freshman averages 15.4 points and has made nearly 45% of his 3-point attempts. His 35-point performance in a loss to Tennessee serves notice to his long-term potential. He had 27 points and seven assists in Kentucky’s SEC Tournament loss to Texas A&M.

In Dillingham and Reed Sheppard, Kentucky has a pair of freshmen who should get taken in the first round if they choose to enter the draft.

Filipowski was regarded as a likely first-round pick if he had chosen to enter last year’s draft, but the 7-footer instead decided to return for a sophomore season in which he has collected 17.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. Filipowski has made himself a better prospect by improving his overall and 3-point shooting percentages over his freshman performance.

He has also evolved into more of a playmaker by improving his assist totals and reducing his turnovers. Jared McCain is another Duke player who could get drafted in the first round.

Knecht has made the greatest impact of any college basketball transfer this season. After beginning his career at Northeastern (Colorado) Junior College and playing two seasons at Northern Colorado, this 6-foot-6 guard has compiled 21.1 points per game as a fifth-year senior at Tennessee. He scored 40 against Kentucky, 39 each against Auburn and Florida and 37 against North Carolina.

There will be questions about whether Knecht can defend at the NBA level. He also will be 23 at the time of the draft, making him older than most prospects. But his pure scoring ability should get him taken somewhere in the first round.

This top-10 recruit is considered a quality NBA prospect because of his scoring ability. The 6-5 guard has backed that up in his freshman season by scoring 14.2 points per game. Although Walter is shooting below 40%, his profile suggests he can improve in that area.

If Walter enters the draft, he likely would become the second Baylor guard to get taken in the first round in as many years after the Utah Jazz selected Keyonte George with the 16th overall pick in 2023.

Williams, the younger brother of Oklahoma City Thunder forward Jalen Williams, was a top-10 recruit when he signed with Colorado. The 6-8 forward hasn’t put up overwhelming statistics his freshman year at Colorado, but he’s making over 55% of his shots and 40% of his 3-point attemts while playing exceptional defense. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Williams is the first college player drafted this year.

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