NCAA basketball! March! Madness! Sixers!
What does all of this have in common? With the Sixers on pace to set the NBA record for consecutive wins, fans have nothing better to do than tune into the NCAA tournament to scout prospects that could be wearing Sixers white, red and blue next season. The round of 64 games will tip off on Thursday — make sure your brackets are ready! There are so many players that fans should be watching in the round of 64, so were just highlighting a few of the players you should be watching. Obviously, there are more that you will want to keep your eyes on.
Without further adieu, here are some players to watch for in the round of 64:
Thursday 4:40, TNT, Spokane: (4) Michigan State vs. (13) Delaware
Players to watch: Gary Harris, Adreian Payne, Keith Appling
- Sixers fans will want to keep their eyes peeled on Gary Harris and Adreian Payne when the Spartans tip off against No. 13 seeded Delaware. Both players are rumored to go anywhere from the 15-25 range in the first-round. Gary Harris is the leading scorer for MSU, putting up 17.1 points on 42 percent shooting. Payne is a force inside, averaging 15.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Payne is shooting 42 percent from deep — showing his versatility as a power forward. Gary Harris can fill an empty spot on the Sixers roster as a two guard. He hasn’t been the most efficient player this season, but he has filled up the scoring sheet when needed.
- Don’t forget about the senior, Keith Appling, either. Appling is a point guard and draftexpress.com has the Sixers selecting him with the 21st pick in the second-round currently. Appling is averaging 12.3 points on 46 percent shooting. He has the ability to be a nice backup guard in this league, providing some breathing room for Michael Carter-Williams. Getting a player of Appling’s ability late in the second-round justifies the depth of this draft.
Thursday 7:10, CBS, Milwaukee: (2) Michigan vs. (15) Wofford
Players to watch: Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III
- Nik Stauskas has emerged as the leading scorer for a Michigan squad that is determined to make a run in the NCAA tournament. The sizzling hot shooting from Stauskas will be the key to any success Michigan has in the tournament. Stauskas is averaging 17.5 points this season, hitting 48 percent of his shots from the field and 45 percent from downtown. He’s the ideal two guard for the Sixers — he has the ability to space the floor and is a way better three-point shooter than Jodie Meeks or James Anderson will ever be. Stauskas is projected to go in the mid first-round, think of selecting him with the New Orleans Pelicans pick. Stauskas would be a nice addition to the new core of the Sixers.
- Glenn Robinson III made the decision to stay in school this season. That probably wasn’t the best decision, as GR3 is slated to go early in the second-round right now — he probably would have been a first-round pick in last years draft. But, let’s not hate on someone that received another year of education. Robinson is scoring 13.0 points this season on 49 percent shooting. He hasn’t been standing out on the boards (4.3 RPG) or with his passing (1.2 APG). However, GR3 is a talented player that can be a nice role player on the right team. If the Sixers can grab Robinson with a second-round pick, that’s might good quality for a player who would have been a first-round selection last season.
Friday 12:15, CBS, Raleigh: (3) Duke vs. (14) Mercer
Players to watch: Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood
- This one is obvious. If the Sixers grab the first or second overall picks in the 2014 NBA Draft, then it will be either Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins that will be playing in Philadelphia next season. Jabari Parker has had an exceptional season, averaging 19.3 points and 8.8 rebounds. He’s shooting 48 percent from the field and 37 percent from deep. At times, he looks like the best player in the country. Sixers fans should be watching Parker all tournament.
- Rodney Hood is another two guard that’s slated to go in the mid first-round, around 15. Hood has a really nice game, which is highlighted by his 42 percent shooting from deep. He actually averages more minutes (32.8) than Jabari Parker (30.7). Hood is the second leading scorer on the Blue Devils, filling up the scoring tab for 16.4 points per game. Rodney Hood can get buckets. Imagine if the Sixers ended up with Jabari Parker AND Rodney Hood in the 2014 NBA Draft. That would be a duo for the ages.
Friday 2:10, TNT, San Diego: (1) Arizona vs. (16) Weber State
Players to watch: Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson
- Sixers fans should watch Aaron Gordon and pray that the Pelicans pick falls within the six-to-eight region, where Gordon will be available. Gordon is extremely raw offensively, but plays lock down defense and is an explosive athlete. Gordon is averaging 12.1 points and 7.8 rebounds for the No. 1 seeded Wildcats. At this point, Gordon is a project, but his upside is ridiculously high, which explains his early lottery selection.
- On the other hand, Nick Johnson can score and is the leading scorer for Arizona at 16.2 points per game. Johnson is also a lock down defender, which explains why Arizona has one of the countries best defenses. Johnson is a two guard who is looking to be drafted in the late first-round to early second-round. He’s only hitting 36 percent of his shots from deep — typically you want better from a two guard. However, Johnson has an exceptional scoring ability, one that will be welcomed graciously to the City of Brotherly Love.
Friday 9:40, CBS, St. Louis: (8) Kentucky vs. (9) Kansas State
Players to watch: James Young and Willie Cauley-Stein
- I’m avoiding Julius Randle here. I don’t think he’s an option for the Sixers, especially if they secure a top two or three pick. I would be highly upset if the Sixers came out of the draft with Julius Randle — too much up and down this season. However, James Young and Willie Cauley-Stein are two players the Sixers should be targeting. James Young possesses a pretty shooting stroke, which has led him to average 14.5 points and 4.1 rebounds this season. His shooting hasn’t been pretty at times this season, but when he’s on fires — he’s on fire. He’s another player that is projected to go at the two guard position in the mid-to-late first-round. At 6-6, Young possess ideal size as a shooting guard, something the Sixers have coveted this season.
- Willie Cauley-Stein was one of the Wildcats that was a freshman during the disappointing season in Lexington last year — however, Cauley-Stein decided to stay with Coach Calipari at Kentucky for another season. He hasn’t disappointed, averaging 7.2 points and 6.3 rebounds in a mere 24.3 minutes per game. Per 40 minutes, Cauley-Stein is producing a nightly double-double. Cauley-Stein stands at 7-0 and is a force in the paint — he’s averaging 3.0 blocks per game. Imagine him playing next to Nerlens Noel next season, two former Wildcats, that would be beautiful. Cauley-Stein would be targeted with the New Orleans Pelicans pick.
There are five games to watch as the NCAA Tournament tips off on Thursday. There are plenty more to watch, but we just wanted to highlight some of the more important ones. With the round of 64, virtually everyone is playing, so understand why some players don’t appear on this list. Don’t forget to watch Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden, Montrezl Harrell, Noah Vonleh and the rest of the interesting prospects in the NCAA Tournament. It’s March and it’s starting to get mad!