March Madness 2022: Elite Prospects Who Will Improve Draft Stock

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 5, 2022

March Madness 2022: Elite Prospects Who Will Improve Draft Stock

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    All eyes of the basketball world will soon be on the best in the college game.

    NBA scouts have, of course, been viewing them for quite some time, but even their attention will increase when March Madness tips and some of the sport's top prospects go at it on the biggest stage.

    While a handful of games (at most) won't dramatically change a scouting report, there's still something to be said for rising to the occasion.

    If the following three prospects show up and show out during March Madness, they could start climbing up draft boards shortly thereafter.

Jaden Ivey, SG, Purdue

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    Jaden Ivey almost doesn't qualify for this exercise for one reason: His draft stock is already soaring. Bleacher Report's resident draft guru Jonathan Wasserman recently mocked Ivey at No. 4 overall, so there aren't many rungs on the ladder left for him to climb.

    So, why spotlight Ivey here? Because if anyone can challenge the notion that this draft starts with the three-prospect tier of Gonzaga's Chet Holmgren, Auburn's Jabari Smith and Duke's Paolo Banchero, it's Ivey.

    "He has the pizazz of a top pick," CBS Sports' Kyle Boone wrote in January. "His play has shades of Marcus Smart and Ja Morant, and he's a player who affects the game in different ways."

    Ivey's athleticism jumps off the screen, but his insatiable motor and competitive fire might be just as fun to watch. If the Boilermakers go on a run, his fingerprints will be all over it. His nightly contributions are already impressive (17.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists), but if he hits an even higher gear during the tournament, his stock should follow suit.

Johnny Davis, SG, Wisconsin

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    This was supposed to be a rebuilding season for the Badgers. Johnny Davis had other ideas.

    His offensive output has erupted during his second go-around in Madison. He was a 7.0-points-per-game scorer just last season. Now, the sophomore is all the way up to 20.3 points per night, numbers sure to get him noticed by every player-of-the-year voter.

    His game must be seen to be fully appreciated, though. He doesn't rain down threes like a storm cloud or soar through the skies and on to the highlight reel. He just makes buckets, often by ditching defenders out of the pick-and-roll or keeping them off-balance with perfectly timed speed changes. Defensively, he is sturdy on the ball and disruptive away from it.

    If he can go on a big scoring run—like when he averaged 25.8 points over a six-game stretch from December into January—he should pull plenty of attention his way. If he manages to up his three-point volume (1.2 makes per game) and efficiency (32.7) in the process, he could jump from the back half of the top 10 into its upper half.

Jeremy Sochan, PF, Baylor

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    Baylor is one year removed from winning a national title and is potentially positioned to defend its throne despite losing its top three scorers from that team.

    There are a number of factors behind this success, but the impact of freshman Jeremy Sochan is a big one.

    Don't let the single-digit scoring average (8.5 points per game) fool you. He is what every modern coach hopes to have on the defensive end, an explosive, athletic 6'9", 230-pounder who looks just as comfortable protecting the paint as he does chasing speedy guards around the perimeter. If his offensive game pops on the big stage, he could make a big leap up the draft board.

    He is raw, but also 18 years old until late May, so that's to be expected. Even this unpolished version still flashes a drool-worthy upside, though. He is, potentially at least, a 6'9" forward who can create for himself and his teammates, make spot-up threes and defend virtually anywhere on the floor. If he shows enough promise with his jumper, decision-makers won't make him wait long to hear his name called on draft night.

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