NCAA Tournament: 4 Players Who Significantly Boosted Their NBA Draft Stock

The 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has provided all the thrills and twists fans have come to expect from March Madness. But while players across the country hoped to lead their schools to everlasting glory, numerous individuals also had excellent opportunities to improve their stock ahead of this summer’s NBA draft.

The NCAA Tournament offers draft prospects the best chance to make a statement and bolster their standings on a national stage. Quite a few standouts have a chance of being selected higher this June after strong performances.

Here are four players who significantly bolstered their NBA draft stock during March Madness.

G Caleb Love, North Carolina Tar Heels

Love has become a household name after leading the Tar Heels over the Duke Blue Devils in a back-and-forth Final Four thriller. But he did far more than just score 28 points on Saturday night.

The sophomore guard displayed exceptional explosiveness and stayed in attack mode when running pick-and-roll. He consistently got into the lane and, on a few different occasions, showed excellent body control with crafty finishes past Duke big man and ACC Defensive Player of the Year Mark Williams.

Love also showed unmitigated confidence. He pulled up off the dribble at will and showed zero hesitance firing a dagger three-pointer over Williams’ outstretched arm with under 30 seconds to play. Failure has never been much of a consideration for the Tar Heels guard during the NCAA Tournament. He’s fearless.

The blend of size, skill, length, and shooting ability make Love a special prospect. He struggled in terms of scoring efficiency during his time at Chapel Hill. However, he made over 37% of his three-pointers this season and shot over 86% from the charity stripe. Those numbers, paired with his slashing and athleticism, give him real potential as a three-level scorer.

Love’s 30-point explosion against UCLA and his destruction of Duke contained glimpses of the flashy combo guard he can be in the NBA.

C Mark Williams, Duke Blue Devils

Although Williams spent most of Duke’s Final Four matchup dealing with foul trouble and missed a pair of crucial free throws down the stretch, it shouldn’t detract from an otherwise stellar NCAA Tournament.

Williams consistently impacted games on both ends. His size and athleticism made him a rim-rolling threat on the offensive end, and he could finish around the rim when he caught passes on short rolls and deep duck-ins.

The 7-foot-1 center really shines as a defensive anchor. Before the Blue Devils’ loss to UNC, he averaged four blocks in the first four games of the NCAA Tournament. But he’s far more than just a defensive playmaker.

Williams can play either drop coverage or hedging to cover guards while still having the agility and athleticism to recover and get back to his primary assignment. He’s someone teams can trust in their pick-and-roll defense while constantly challenging everything at the rim.

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski previously hailed Williams as a legitimate difference-maker, and those who watched the Blue Devils understand why. He was already going to go sometime in the first round of the 2022 NBA Draft, but Williams might now go just outside the lottery if not just inside the lottery.

G Kameron McGusty, Miami Hurricanes

McGusty made the Big 12 All-Freshman team as a member of the Oklahoma Sooners, but a strange turn of events ultimately saw the Texan transfer to Miami. He has since emerged as a draft prospect with the Hurricanes, especially during the 2021-22 season.

McGusty averaged a career-high 17.8 points on 47.6% shooting from the field for the season. He can score at all three levels, gets to the foul line, and has become a tremendous on-ball defender who uses his length to stick and get his hands into the dribbling pocket and passing lanes.

The Miami combo guard gets to his spots with a quick first step and terrific shiftiness. It also sets up a smooth dribble pull-up game that he deployed multiple times in an Elite Eight loss to Kansas. McGusty scored 14 of his 18 points in the first half of that game, forcing Jayhawks head coach Bill Self to sell out and make someone else on the Hurricanes beat his team.

All of the above attributes figure to negate any possible fears regarding McGusty’s age (24). Plus, experienced collegiate players like Phoenix Suns wing Cameron Johnson and Indiana Pacers guard Chris Duarte have had success as more seasoned college players transitioning to the pros.

McGusty is a proven scorer — nearly 20 ppg during the NCAA Tournament — and defender. He could be a 3-and-D-plus type of player in the NBA. Given the perimeter-oriented nature of the league, that kind of prospect is intriguing.

F Jeremy Sochan, Baylor Bears

OK, so Sochan played just two NCAA Tournament games. Still, the Big 12’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year is a name to keep an eye on heading into the 2022 NBA Draft.

Sochan is a 6-foot-9, 230-pound forward who plays a lot bigger than his size. He battled back and forth with North Carolina center Armando Bacot during a second-round loss to the Tar Heels, finishing with 11 total rebounds and four boards on the offensive glass. He even got tangled up and had a couple of dust-ups with Bacot, showing a willingness to bang underneath.

That physicality stands out as far as Sochan is concerned. He can bully his way to the rim and score at the bucket or act as a playmaker on drive-and-kick action. His vision significantly improved throughout the season, and he’s the kind of switchable forward who immediately impacts team defense with his length and athleticism.

The one question mark is the shooting ability. Sochan shot below 30% from beyond the arc and just 58.9% from the free-throw line. He’s not a hesitant shooter, exactly, but it’s hard to project his upside operating on the perimeter.

Still, Sochan scored 15 points to go with seven rebounds and three dimes in Baylor’s first-round win and, despite his poor shooting performance, consistently seemed like the most impactful player for the Bears in the loss to North Carolina.

It’s entirely possible that Sochan could move into the top 10 of the 2022 NBA Draft.

Stats courtesy of CBB Reference.

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