March Madness 2021: Elite Prospects Who Will Improve Draft Stock

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistMarch 6, 2021

March Madness 2021: Elite Prospects Who Will Improve Draft Stock

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    There may be a movement for elite NBA draft prospects to play overseas or spend some time in the G League, but there's still nothing that compares to March Madness when it comes to exposure.

    College basketball has the best finale in all of sports, and it provides a great stage for future NBA stars to show off their skills.

    The top three players on Jonathan Wasserman's big board will likely be in the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Cade Cunningham has put Oklahoma State squarely in the tournament,  Jalen Suggs will lead a No. 1-seeded Gonzaga and USC's Evan Mobley will get the opportunity to dominate on the inside.

    Regardless of how their teams do in the tournament, they are likely to be the top three picks this summer. However, there are a few potential lottery picks who may be able to use the tournament to slide up boards and make themselves a little more money along the way.

    Each of these players should at least solidify his stock as he leads his team on a tourney run.

Moses Moody, SG, Arkansas

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    Michael Woods/Associated Press

    Arkansas is far from a powerhouse, but this year's Razorbacks squad has the making of a Sweet Sixteen team. Freshman Moses Moody has a lot to do with that.

    The guard is an offensive spark plug who leads the team in points per game (17.0) while shooting 82.8 percent from the free-throw line and 37.1 percent from three-point range. His supporting cast of JD Notae, Justin Smith and Jalen Tate give them the tools to make a run as they are second in the SEC.

    As a prospect, Moody has everything teams should be looking for in an off-ball guard. He's an active defender with good size (6'6", 205 pounds) and a great jump shot. He's developed as a ball-handler, and while he won't be confused with a playmaker, he also isn't a void.

    Moody has shown a knack for filling up the stat sheet in big spots this season. In one of Arkansas' biggest games of the year against Alabama, he had 24 points, five rebounds, four assists and three blocks. Even though, he only shot 3-of-12 from the floor he shot 19 free throws.

    Teams should love his willingness to get to the line and his three-point shot. Going against some of the best talent in the nation in a tournament setting should bring out his best qualities and make him a top-10 pick.

Scottie Barnes, PF, Florida State

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Last year, Patrick Williams was a surprising top-five pick out of Florida State. This year, the Seminoles have another mobile forward who could go surprisingly early in the draft in Scottie Barnes.

    The 6'9" 227-pound forward is listed as a guard on the school's official site and plays like one to back it up. He leads the team in assists (4.4 per game) but isn't ball-dominant. He's third on the team in field-goal attempts while averaging a little more than 10 points per game.

    Watching Barnes, it's clear to see the utility he would bring to a team. He can defend multiple positions, his agility is easy to see and his playmaking is rare for someone of his stature.

    Barnes' shooting is going to be his Achilles' heel, though. He is shooting just 26.5 percent from three, and his 55.6 percent shooting from the charity stripe doesn't bode well for his ability to develop a jump shot.

    But if teams are looking for a guy who can play either side of the pick-and-roll, switch on to anyone defensively and play with a high motor, Barnes is their guy.

    That defensive ability and energy will be apparent as the Seminoles advance through the tournament. If Barnes can show a little bit more on the offensive end, he could move up boards.

Franz Wagner, SF, Michigan

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Few prospects have done more for their draft stock this season than Franz Wagner. After a so-so freshman season at Michigan, he has shown demonstrable progression in just about every facet of the game as a sophomore.

    Wagner was nowhere to be found among Wasserman's top 50 prospects in December. Fast-forward to March, and he comes in at No. 15 in his rankings.

    The younger brother of fellow Michigan alumnus Moe Wagner, the younger Wagner has an NBA body and the versatile skill set to match. He has raised his three-point percentage from 31.1 percent as a freshman to 39.1 percent this season.

    At 6'10", his ability to offer long-distance shooting, secondary playmaking and perimeter defense makes him a tantalizing prospect. The men's NCAA tournament should offer him a chance to move up boards even further.

    Michigan is expected to be a No. 1 seed and should be a favorite to at least make it to the Final Four. With Wagner continuing to grow more comfortable as a scorer, we could see him put up some more incredible performances and get in the top-10 conversation by April.