Evaluating Prospects in Day 1 of the 1st Round in the NCAA Tournament

March 17, 2017

By Alan Lu

Here are my thoughts on various prospects that played on Day 1 of the first round in the 2017 NCAA Tournament.  I mostly watched the Iowa State-Nevada game, but I also tuned in to some of the other games on this day.

Recently, Iowa State squared off against Nevada in the first round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament.  This matchup featured several prospects that could be eligible for the upcoming draft, most notably Monte Morris and Cameron Oliver.  Here are how various prospects fared on this day, as well as how they rate as prospects for the NBA.

Iowa State’s senior point guard, Monte Morris had a very good showing, as he had a solid all-around game in leading his team to a double-digit victory over Nevada.  He showed a very good ability to shoot the basketball.  Morris showed the ability to make threes both off the catch and dribble, and one time he ran off of a pin down to knock one down in the corner.  He also managed to draw three free throws on a pull-up three due to possessing the smarts to do so.  Also, he did a great job of knocking down pull-up, mid-range jumpers on the floor.  But sometimes, he would struggle to get scores off the dribble, especially when he would attempt shots in traffic.

Also, Morris showed off solid playmaking skills.  He is a patient player that will probe the defenses, and he possesses very good court vision, as he will routinely make solid reads on the floor.  He generally threw crisp, accurate passes, and he would make timely passes to his teammates to set up a wealth of scores for his teammates.  However, he did commit a couple of turnovers, as one was a low bounce pass to a roll man, and another was a hastily thrown pass as he did so off of a drive in mid-air.

Plus, he showed a very good ability to rebound the basketball.  Morris especially excelled at hauling in defensive boards when he was on the floor.  He also showcased adequate defensive skills.  He managed to find a loose ball to collect a steal early in the game.  However, there was another play when he was late to rotate, and ended up giving up a three-point basket to the opposition.

In general, Monte Morris put forth a solid performance, as he managed to lead his team to a win over Nevada.  He played a smart brand of basketball, as he helped Iowa State in a variety of ways, and he could be a solid pick for a team in the first round of the upcoming draft.

Nevada’s sophomore forward, Cameron Oliver also played very well in his team’s loss to Iowa State.  He showed off versatile scoring skills, really good shot blocking skills, and tremendous athleticism, as this game may have really helped his case to be a first round pick in 2017.  Oliver showed a gifted ability to knock down jumpers, as he really excelled at making threes in this game.  He generally showed a solid ability to knock down long-range shots off the catch, and he also made one off of a pick and pop play.  Also, he also managed to make a pull-up three, but mostly he did a great job of making spot-up threes from beyond the arc.

He also showed a very good ability to score on hustle plays.  Oliver has tremendous athleticism and he moves well off the ball, and he threw down two ferocious dunks against Iowa State, one off of a back door cut, and another after running the floor to get the ball on the break.  Plus, he also was able to score off of a strong put back another time.

Oliver also showed a fairly average ability to create his own shot to garner scores.  On one play, after struggling to get to the basket after starting his move out on the perimeter, he managed to draw a non-shooting foul off of a high-post drive.  But he did miss on a turnaround, fadeaway jumper when he looked to score in the post.

Also, he displayed adequate playmaking skills.  He showed a good ability to make passes from the post, as he would find shooters and cutters to set up scoring chances.  In addition, he managed to kick it out to a shooter off the dribble to display good court vision on one particular play.  He also showed off a willingness to crash the glass, as he especially helped out to get defensive boards.  He ran down one ball to get one to show off a solid motor.  Moreover, Oliver showcased strong defensive skills.  He did a terrific job of blocking shots off of drives to the hoop, and he also managed to jar a ball loose from an opposing ball handler, and tied him up, before the ball went back to the other team due to the possession arrow.

In summary, Cameron Oliver put forth a strong showing in a loss to Iowa State.  He played very well in virtually all facets of the game, and he is making a strong case as a prospect, as he could be a solid pick for an NBA team in the first round of the upcoming draft.

Iowa State’s senior guard, Deonte Burton had a fairly good game in his team’s win over Nevada.  He showed off a strong ability to score on drives to the basket, and on one play, he got the ball off of a pick and pop, and he exploded to the hoop to throw down an electrifying jam for his team.  He also showed a good ability to score off of a cut to the basket.  He struggled to make jumpers, but generally Burton showed a good ability to get buckets around the basket.

He displayed fairly average playmaking skills.  He generally threw solid interior passes, but sometimes he would throw them too hard.  Another time, he lost the ball off of a drive, and he also was called for a moving screen on offense.  Though Burton generally made good passes, he also was fairly turnover prone in this game.

Plus, he showed a very good ability to collect rebounds.  He especially would haul in many defensive boards, as he would leap up to get them.  Also, he showed off fairly good defensive skills.  Burton is a gifted athlete, and he managed to make a terrific shot block off of a drive on one particular play.  He also did a decent job of contesting shots to force misses.  But sometimes, he would be late to rotate, which would cause him to allow scores.  On a separate possession, he was called for committing a foul off of a drive.

In all, Deonte Burton had an adequate showing, as he looked to play better than what the box score may have indicated.  He showed off much more athleticism than previously thought, and he managed to make some solid plays to help his team get the win.  With his skill set, he could be a decent pick for a team in the second round range of the upcoming draft.

Iowa State’s senior guard, Matt Thomas also had a solid game in his team’s first round win of this year’s NCAA Tournament.  He especially excelled on offense, as he showed a great ability to knock down threes.  He used a quick step back move to make a contested pull-up three.  Another time, he ran off of a pin down to make a three in the corner, and then he made a long-range shot off the catch later on.

Plus, he also showed a good ability to score off the dribble.  He is a patient player that can maneuver his way into the paint to do so, although he had one that was blocked so hard by an opponent that it ended up in the other end of the court to the opposing player’s teammate, who then scored off of a fast break.

Also, Thomas showed off adequate playmaking skills.  He showed a good ability to find the open man, as he would get the ball to shooters to set up scoring chances for them.  But he did get a ball knocked out of his hands once when trying to take a mid-range shot that was almost a turnover. On a separate play, he also stepped out of bounds another time after using a pump fake, which did lead to a turnover.

In general, Matt Thomas had a good game, as he showed off very good shooting and passing skills in Iowa State’s win over Nevada.  Right now, he may be a borderline second round prospect, as he may only possess average at best athletic gifts and defensive skills, but he may have the smarts and skills to be an effective role player in the NBA.

Nevada’s 6-7 sophomore forward, Jordan Caroline had a strong showing in the loss to Iowa State.  He especially excelled as an inside scorer, but also showed off a good ability to pass and rebound the basketball.  Caroline showed a good ability to get scores off the dribble.  He has a good first step to the hoop, and he is a powerful player that can score in traffic and take on the contact, as he also managed to draw plenty of free throws.  But sometimes, he would get his shot rejected around the basket.

He showed a good ability to score on hustle plays.  Caroline especially excelled at scoring on put backs, as he possesses solid strength, quickness, and motor to do so.  Also, he managed to score on a fast break drive, but he missed off of a cut another time.  He showed off decent low post scoring skills.  On one play, he backed his man down to get a score on the block, and he drew an extra free throw that time.  However, he missed two other times, as he may not always possess great shooting touch in the paint, but he struggled to consistently make jumpers.  Early on, he used a jab step to make a three from beyond the arc.  But after that, he tended to miss threes whenever he would take them, and he also missed a mid-range shot.

Caroline also showed off solid playmaking skills.  He excelled at kicking the ball out to shooters off the dribble to set up scoring chances, and he also hit a cutter to get one assist.  Also, he managed to set a good screen, as he set one off the ball to free up shooter on a separate possession.  He also displayed a solid ability to rebound the basketball.  He collected numerous boards on both ends of the floor, as he possesses very good athleticism, motor, and instincts to do so.  However, he struggled defensively.  But on one good play, he managed to knock a ball out of his opponent’s hands to almost get a steal, but he stepped out that time.  On the other hand, Caroline tended to give up too much space, which led to allowing scores on jumpers.  He also struggled to defend quicker players, which would lead him to allow scores or commit fouls as a result.

In this game, Jordan Caroline put forth a solid showing, as he could be an intriguing prospect to keep an eye on in the future.  He is a skilled basketball player that has been flying under the radar, and he could be a good player to watch in 2018.

Other Notes:

The Middle Tennessee-Minnesota game appeared to be one-sided early on in favor of the Blue Raiders, but then the Golden Gophers started to climb back in the contest after Giddy Potts had picked up two quick fouls consecutively, one being his fourth personal foul with approximately 8 ½ minutes left in the contest.  But Middle Tennessee’s senior forward, Reggie Upshaw took the mantle to lead his team after Minnesota found a way to make it close, and Upshaw showed off strong scoring skills to help his team win the game.

Middle Tennessee’s 6-8 senior forward, Reggie Upshaw played very well in his team’s win over Minnesota.  He did a great job of scoring in the post, as one included a one-legged fadeaway jumper.  Plus, he also did a good job of making jumpers, and he also excelled at scoring off of cuts and rolls to the basket.

Upshaw also helped out on the boards, as he helped get a key offensive board late in the game.  Right now, he may be an unheralded prospect, but as he has been instrumental in his team’s success in the NCAA Tournament this year and last year, he could be a solid addition to an NBA team’s summer league roster this year.

Overall, the NCAA Tournament games played on Thursday were interesting, if not spectacular.  There were few upsets, but the prospects that played in the Iowa State-Nevada game played well, and there were some feel good stories, such as Northwestern and Middle Tennessee advancing to the second round.   There were also plenty of highlight reel worthy plays abound throughout this set of games.  Hopefully, Friday’s games will be just as entertaining, and maybe perhaps more so, as there may be more to write about this week.

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