Best Performances in Sunday’s 2nd Round NCAA Tournament Games

March 20, 2017

By Alan Lu

On Sunday, there were plenty of surprising upsets, as Michigan defeated Louisville early in the day, and South Carolina managed to beat Duke late in the evening.  But there were many top performances, and in my opinion, Josh Jackson, Sindarius Thornwell, and Moritz Wagner had played some of the very best basketball on this day.  There was one game I saw nearly in its entirety, as that one was played between Kansas and Michigan State.  Here are my thoughts on how various prospects fared on this day.

Kansas’ 6-8 freshman forward, Josh Jackson had a terrific showing in his team’s victory over Michigan State.  He showed off a strong set of all-around skills to get his team the win.  Jackson showed off a gifted ability to get scores off the dribble.  He has a great first step, and he can really accelerate to the basket to throw down thunderous dunks at the rim.  He has the strength and body control to take on the control, as he did so once to get an additional free throw after scoring on the play.  Also, Jackson showed a knack for making pull-up, mid-range jumpers, as he can use a step back move or a pump fake to create separation between him and his defender.

He also showed off a very good ability to shoot the basketball.  Jackson did a good job of knocking down threes, and he really showed a deft ability to knock down jumpers as the game wore on.  On one play, he used a jab step and a step back move to make a three as it swished in.  Also, he really excelled at scoring in the post.  Jackson managed to score once on a fadeaway jumper due to possessing solid footwork and shooting touch, and he also scored on a jump hook another time.

Plus, he also showed off adequate playmaking skills.  Jackson handles the ball very well, and he handled the ball once on the break to get a score off of a drive.  He also showed a good ability to find shooters off the dribble.  But he did end up committing one turnover, as he had the ball knocked away from on a fast break drive another time, as he can be careless on offense at times.  Jackson also displayed a willingness to crash the glass.  He would look to collect some defensive boards, and though he did not collect many of them in this game, he did manage to run one down to get one as he possessed a good motor and instincts to do that time.

He also showcased fairly good defensive skills.  Jackson showed quick hands, as he can find loose balls and pick off passes to get numerous steals, and he also excelled at blocking shots off of drives.  But sometimes, he would over play the shot, which would lead him to get beat to allow some scores, and other times, he would be late to contest shots.   Also, there were a few times where he would commit reach in fouls due to over-aggressiveness.

In general, Josh Jackson had a strong showing as he lead his team to a blowout win over Michigan State.  He has been building quite a strong case to be the top overall pick in this year’s draft, and as he played very well in a game in which his team so thoroughly dispatched and dismantled the opposition in the second half, Jackson has shown that not only would he likely be a solid pick at the top, but he may have the potential to end up being a great player in the NBA.

Michigan State’s freshman forward, Miles Bridges also played very well, as his team ended up losing to Kansas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.   He generally showed a solid set of all-around skills, and he may likely be a lock to be a lottery pick this year.  Bridges showed a solid ability to garner scores off the dribble.  He has a solid first step to the hoop as well as a good set of ball handling moves, and he also has the strength and body control to get numerous scores and free throws for his team.  But sometimes, he can miss wildly in traffic at times, as he can play too recklessly on occasion.

He also showed a fairly good ability to knock down spot-up threes to space the floor for his team.  In addition, Bridges managed to use a pump fake move to get an opponent to foul him, as he drew three free throws on that play.  But there were times where he would miss shots from beyond the arc as he had some cold spells on occasion.

Plus, he generally excelled as an inside scorer on other offensive possessions.  Bridges displayed a decent ability to score in the post, as he managed to score off of a jump hook.  He also showed off a good ability to score on hustle plays, as he managed to score on a strong put back once off of an offensive rebound.

Also, he displayed good playmaking skills.  He generally threw crisp, accurate passes, and Bridges showed off good patience and court vision to set up scores for his teammates.  Bridges also showed a very good ability to rebound the basketball.  He was especially active at crashing the defensive glass, and he managed to score off of a put back the one time he grabbed a defensive board.

However, he may have displayed average defensive skills at best.  For the positives, Bridges managed to get a steal, and he also contested a mid-range shot to force a miss.  However, Bridges also allowed some scores in the post, and there were times where he would commit fouls or allow scores.  In general, Miles Bridges had a very good showing, as he displayed a solid ability to score, pass, and rebound the basketball. With his skill set, he could likely end up being a very good player in the NBA.

Kansas’ senior point guard, Frank Mason also put forth a strong performance, as he managed to help lead his team to a lopsided victory over Michigan State.  He had a solid all-around game in a win for the Jayhawks.  Mason showed a solid ability to get scores off the dribble.  He has very good speed, ball handling moves, and strength, and he can score often when he elects to drive to the basket.  He also displayed adequate shooting skills, as he especially excelled at knocking down pull-up, mid-range jumpers, but he struggled to make threes in this game.

He also displayed solid playmaking skills.  Mason showed a knack for throwing accurate passes, as he made a wide assortment of passes to help set up scores for his teammates.  He showed the ability to throw outlet passes, lobs, as well as to hit shooters off the dribble.  Also, Mason showcased a very good ability to defend on the court.  He managed to poke a ball away to get a steal, and he also dove on the ground to almost get another.  He also managed to stay in front of his man to force a miss on a drive.  But on one play, he ended up committing a foul on a put back.

In this game, Frank Mason had another solid game, as he played very well to help lead his team to a second round victory over Michigan State.  With his skill set, he would likely be a very good pick for an NBA team in the late first to the second round of the upcoming draft.

Kansas’ junior guard, Devonte’ Graham also played very well to help lead his team to a double-digit win over Michigan State.  He had a strong all-around game in Kansas’ victory.  Graham showed off great shooting skills, as he really excelled at spacing the floor for his team.  He made a flurry of threes throughout this game, as he showed a knack for making them both off the catch and dribble, and on one play, he used a pump fake and a side step move to make a three from beyond the arc.

He also showed a solid ability to attack the basket to garner scores, as he has good speed, shooting touch, and body control to get scores off the dribble as well as in transition.  Also, Graham displayed solid playmaking skills.  He threw great interior passes, as he threw crisp, accurate lob passes, and he would also hit the cutter to set up scores for his teammates.

Graham also played very good defense.  He showed great hands and quickness, as he would reach in to poke balls away to obtain numerous steals.  Also, he would stay in front of his man to contest plenty of shots in order to force misses.  But there was one play where he was late on his rotation, which led him to allow a three-point basket once.

In general, Devonte’ Graham played very well, as he showed off a great ability to shoot the basketball, combined with having the poise and basketball smarts to play well consistently on both ends of the floor.  With his skill set, he would likely be a solid find for an NBA team in the late first to the second round range of the upcoming draft.

Other Notes, part I:

I didn’t catch most of the South Carolina-Duke, or the Michigan-Louisville games, but here are my brief observations from what I observed.

South Carolina’s senior guard, Sindarius Thornwell played really well to lead his team to a stunning second round victory over Duke.  He did a great job of shooting and scoring the basketball, as he excelled at knocking down jumpers, and he showed a terrific ability to score on quick, strong drives to the basket.  He played unselfishly, and he helped get numerous rebounds and stops defensively.   Thornwell had a terrific all-around game, and he would be a solid choice for an NBA team in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft.

Michigan’s sophomore big man, Moritz Wagner also put forth a tremendous showing to lead his team to a surprising win over Louisville.  He showed off terrific offensive skills and solid athletic gifts.  On offense, he excelled at making jumpers off the catch, showed very good footwork and shooting touch in the post, a solid first step to get scores off the dribble, and he also scored on hustle plays.  In general, Wagner is a very skilled basketball player that could be a very good pick for an NBA team in the late first round of the upcoming draft.

I also caught some of the USC-Baylor game in the first half, and here is what I saw from that one in Baylor’s narrow win over the Trojans.

USC’s sophomore big man, Bennie Boatwright played very well, as he showed off strong shooting skills by knocking down many spot-up threes from beyond the arc to space the floor for his team.  He also moves well off the ball, as he ran quickly off of a pindown to make a three off of a catch once.  In the first four win against Providence, Boatwright also showed a good ability to get scores off the dribble.  In all, he is a gifted shooter that has solid size and athleticism, and he could be a good candidate to be taken in the late first to the second round range of the upcoming draft.

Chimezie Metu played very well, as he excelled at scoring in the post, as well as off the dribble.  He possessed solid shooting touch and footwork, as well as a quick first step to score on drives to the hoop.  He also showed the ability to knock down mid-range jumpers.  He is a gifted athlete that may project to be a rim protector, and his skill set could potentially allow him to be a first round pick in 2017.

Johnathan Motley has played well all year long, and this game was no different.  He is an athletic, versatile scorer that can do so in many ways, and he especially appeared to excel as a scorer on rolls to the basket.  In a previous write-up, I detailed his strong performance in a narrow loss to Kansas, and he could be a likely first round pick in 2017.

Other Notes, part II:

For Duke’s freshman forward Jayson Tatum, he did not have his best game, though he did show a good ability to shoot and score the basketball.  However, he tended to try to force the issue early and often, as he would try to dribble the ball into traffic, and he would either lose the ball or get it poked away to commie turnovers.  Tatum also had a tendency to pick up quick fouls due to being too aggressive at times on defense. 

Sometimes, he can play poorly when he gets impatient, and it seemed that the contest against South Carolina was one of the times, as he received less shots than some of his other teammates.  Right now, Jayson Tatum will surely be a lock to be a top ten pick, but he may be on the bubble for the top five, as his less than stellar play in the 2017 NCAA Tournament could leave a somewhat bad taste amongst NBA teams and scouts this year.  But regardless, he could still likely end up being a very good player at the next level.

Overall, Sunday’s games were both fascinating and interesting to watch, and it provided some stunning outcomes.  Perhaps the most surprising of all was Duke’s shocking loss to South Carolina, although this may have been seen coming as South Carolina had thoroughly blown out Marquette, and Duke has been inconsistent all year, though they have had several really strong games in their wins this season.  But as more brackets have now been busted, only 16 teams are left in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, and only 1 ACC team out of the 9 invited teams from that conference still stands to play in the remaining set of games.