How Much Impact Does March Madness Have on NBA Draft Stock?

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistMarch 3, 2020

Former Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo
Former Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzoPool/Getty Images

Sixty-eight teams will enter March Madness with a shot at winning the national championship. But as that collective accomplishment is the primary goal, the season-ending tournament is also a chance for individual players to draw attention.

Every player who steps on the court is a draft-eligible prospect, and they'll be playing on a major stage in front of NBA evaluators. Given that combination, March Madness is often believed to have the single greatest impact on a prospect's draft stock.

To what extent, though?

The difficulty in providing a clear answer is that "draft stock" is intensely subjective. What you think of a player is different than him or her, and their opinion is different than mine. Yet mock drafts are among the most visible points of evidence.

As a result, a definitive conclusion would be inherently flawed. We instead focused on finding patterns within pre-tournament, post-tournament and final mock drafts12 in totalfrom B/R's Jonathan Wasserman over the last four years while considering NBA draft results.

The biggest takeaway isn't surprising: March Madness has recently had only a small effect among the perceived elite group.

Overall, the top-10 lists have included 35 of the 40 eventual future first-round selections.

Comparing mock drafts specifically, eight top-10 picks remained in that range after the 2016 tourney. Jakob Poeltl (four to 11) and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (10 to 12) fell out as Marquese Chriss (unpicked to eight) and Henry Ellenson (12 to nine) jumped in.

Buddy Hield rose from seventh to fifth following his remarkable March run. While a nice climb, it's not an enormous one.

The next year, Wasserman's pre- and post-tourney editions included the same 10 players in the top 10. In 2018, nine top-10 players stayed within that territory, while Kevin Knox and Collin Sexton merely flipped their positions at Nos. 10 and 11.

In 2019, eight players remained in the top 10. Bol Bol (nine to 11) and Rui Hachimura (10 to 19) dropped, while Darius Garland and P.J. Washington moved up from top-16 draft slots.

Expanded to the lottery, only Chriss, Demetrius Jackson and Zach Collins surged from a non-first-round selection into the top 14 picks. Since Chriss didn't appear in the NCAA tournament, just Jackson and Collins apply here.

The NCAA tourney has more often benefited the perception of players who enter the Big Dance outside of the lottery.

In 2016, DeAndre' Bembry edged into the post-tourney top 30. Malachi Richardson later joined the final mock at No. 17 after Syracuse's surprise run to the Final Four. They'd be selected 21st and 22nd.

One year later, Collins ascended to No. 9, with D.J. Wilson climbing to 15th in the final mock. Jalen Brunson cracked the top 30 after Villanova won the 2018 title, ending up as a second-round pick. Donte DiVincenzo reached No. 20 in the final mock, largely thanks to a 31-point showing in the national championship.

And in 2019, Ty Jerome and Mfiondu Kabengele leaped into the first-round conversation after March. They'd eventually be picked 24th and 27th, respectively.

However, some of the players with the most recent noteworthy NCAA tournament runs are absent from the above group.

Sindarius Thornwell (2017, South Carolina), Mo Wagner (2018, Michigan) and Carsen Edwards (2019, Purdue) fell outside the top 30. Brice Johnson (2016, North Carolina) and Jordan Bell (2017, Oregon) dropped in the next mock.

Thornwell, Edwards and Bell eventually became second-round selections, while Wagner and Johnson were first-rounders. Given their pre-tournament rankings, only Wagner's performance led to a legitimate first-round rise; he'd be picked 25th.

That's not to diminish what any of these players accomplished in March; rising into or solidifying even a second-round selection is no small accomplishment.

Still, this sample suggests the NCAA tournament has a limited upside for prospects who aren't soundly on the radar anyway.

March is more likely to stabilize the perceived stock of respected playersHield, Domantas Sabonis and Jarrett Culver, for example. And while it can hurt playersJakob Poeltl or Denzel Valentine, among thema considerable drop isn't as typical.

The biggest gains tend to happen between the post-tournament mock and the final edition, a span that features the NBA draft combine. Notable names in this category are Bam Adebayo, Zhaire Smith, Jerome Robinson and Kevin Huerter, but March Madness didn't create a meteoric rise for any of them.

If you're hoping to see a remarkable top-10 rise for a prospect, the NCAA tournament can be a contributing factor. But it won't be the whole story.


Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.