Thoughts on the First Day of the 1st Round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament
March 17th, 2023
By Alan Lu
Yesterday was the first day of the first round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament, and there were a lot of games on tap for me to watch. I wasn’t able to catch all of the games, but after watching some of them and observing others, here are my notes on how some of the prospects fared on this day.
The Penn State-Texas A&M Game:
This was the last game I saw of the day, but I wanted to watch Jalen Pickett and Penn State play, and it was in a competitive, high stakes environment, as they were going to play Texas A&M in the first round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament. I felt Jalen Pickett and Penn State played well, but it was Penn State’s 6-5 senior guard, Andrew Funk that really impressed me, as he put his sharpshooting and shot making prowess on full display, and he made 8 threes and scored 27 points to help get his team a double-digit win over Texas A&M.
Andrew Funk put forth a tremendous performance in this game. He was excellent at making threes and shots all game long. He showed a knack for making spot-up threes, and he also would run quickly off ball screens to make catch-and-shoot threes. He showed off uncanny range to make long-range jumpers, and he would take advantage of getting any sliver space to knock down threes from beyond the arc.
He also was able to swing a ball to a corner shooter to notch an assist. Overall, Andrew Funk had a terrific game, and he is an intriguing prospect that could project to be a sharpshooter in the NBA, and he could be a similar player to Miami Heat guard, Max Strus in the league.
Jalen Pickett had a solid showing in his team’s win over Texas A&M. He is a strong, old-school throwback type of player. He’s a post-up guard in an era in which guards don’t seem to post up much anymore, and he’s also a high IQ basketball player that showed a penchant for making sound passes and decisions on offense.
He showed a decent touch to score out of the post, and he also would score on strong, patient drives to the hoop. He would often get deep position on the block, though sometimes he would not always finish plays around the basket. Pickett didn’t seem to be as comfortable in shooting from the outside, and he seemed to miss more when he would take outside shots, but he was able to make a calm, step-back three late in this game.
Pickett showed off good playmaking skills in this game. He is a good passer out of the post, and he would throw timely passes to rack up assists. He would throw crisp, accurate interior passes, and he excelled at making passes both off the dribble and from the block. Pickett also did a very good job of taking care of the basketball. Though he may not possess elite foot speed, he showed a good sense of when to pass the ball and make plays when pressured by defenders. Plus, he also rebounded the ball very well.
Overall, Jalen Pickett played well in his team’s win over Texas A&M. It may be a bit uncertain as to how he would fit the modern NBA, as guards may not post up as much as they used to, and he’s not as quick as some of the other guards at that level, but he’s a skilled playmaker that has a solid feel for the game, and has been very productive over the course of his career. I think he’d find a way to adjust to the speed of the game, and he could end up being a solid backup point guard in the NBA.
Penn State’s 6-6 senior swingman, Seth Lundy had a decent showing in his team’s win over Texas A&M. Though he was streaky in making shots, he was at his best when he would take and make corner threes to showcase his shooting skills. He also defended well, as he would challenge shots both out on the perimeter and in the paint to get stops for his team. Overall, he didn’t quite shoot as well as usual, but he showed off a fairly solid skill set, and he could project into a 3 and D type of role in the NBA.
Wade Taylor IV has been a very productive player for Texas A&M this season, but he didn’t play very well in this game. He struggled to consistently make shots, and he took a lot of quick, rushed shots that led to misses. He showed that he can score both from long-range and off the dribble, but he tended to miss on a lot of wild shots against Penn State. He did seem to play fairly solid defense, and he was able to poke a ball away to get a steal in this game. Overall, Taylor is an agile, energetic combo guard that can make a variety of plays on both ends of the floor, but he will need to play more under control and be more consistent in games moving forward.
Texas A&M’s Dexter Dennis played well in his team’s loss to Penn State. He played especially well in the second half, and he thrived at making spot-up threes from beyond the arc. He ran off of a ball screen to make a three, and he also made a quick corner three another time. He also was able to score on a tough put back while getting fouled, and he also managed to score on a turnaround, mid-range jumper off the dribble. Overall, Dennis is an athletic swingman that showed that he can shoot and score the basketball, and his ability to score on offense could enable him to land an NBA summer league roster spot in the future.
The Alabama-Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Game:
This was not expected to be a close game, and Alabama was able to get an early lead and managed to get a blowout win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Noah Clowney did a great job of making shots early, especially on catch-and-shoot threes, and he excelled as a rebounder in this game. He is a tall, athletic forward that shot the ball very well, and he is a versatile player that is making a strong case to be a first round pick for the 2023 draft.
Charles Bediako also played well throughout this game. He excelled as a finisher around the basket, especially out of the post and on hustle plays, and he did a very good job of blocking shots to help his team defensively. He did run into some foul trouble due to over-aggressiveness, but he gave Alabama a strong interior presence on both ends of the floor.
Noah Gurley is an athletic, combo forward that made a pair of three-pointers, and he also blocked a shot hard in the paint. He didn’t shoot the ball nearly as often as his teammates, but he made a solid case to be considered as a 3 and D prospect for the NBA.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s 6-5 senior swingman, Isaac Mushila arguably had his team’s best game, as he scored 16 points and had 15 rebounds in his team’s loss to Alabama. He is a strong, high-motor player that would consistently outwork his opponents in the paint for points and rebounds, and he would snare down tough offensive boards, and was able to score on some tough put backs.
He was able to score out of the post, off the dribble, and on hustle plays, and he rebounded the ball incredibly well, especially for a player his size. He didn’t shoot the ball nearly as well from the outside, and he sometimes struggled to finish plays in traffic against the longer, more athletic Alabama team, but Mushila showed a great motor and held his own in this game. He has above average athletic gifts, and he is a tough, competitive player that may have played well enough to at least earn an NBA summer league roster spot in the future.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s 6-8 redshirt freshman swingman, Owen Dease did a good job of shooting and scoring the basketball, as he was able to make catch-and-shoot threes, and he also scored on smooth drives to the hoop. He didn’t put up great numbers during the season prior to this game, but he played well against Alabama, and this game could help him have a breakout season for next year. He is a prospect that may have considerable upside, and he could project to be a versatile role player in the NBA.
Trevian Tennyson had an up and down game in his team’s loss to Alabama. He struggled to make shots in the first half, but he did a good job of making them in the second half. He was inconsistent as a shooter and scorer overall, but he was able to help provide his team with some offense late in this game.
In this game, Alabama’s 6-9 junior big man, Nick Pringle dominated off the bench, and he scored 19 points and had 15 rebounds in his team’s win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. He is a very athletic, energetic player that excelled as a finisher around the basket, especially out of the post and on hustle plays, and he would frequently throw down thunderous dunks to help his team on offense. He had a terrific game to help his team get the victory, and he could be a prospect to watch in the future.
The most surprising thing was that Alabama’s sensational, but controversial freshman forward, Brandon Miller was held scoreless for the entire game. He made a good interior pass early on to get an assist, and he blocked a shot hard to showcase his defensive skills. However, he was passive for most of the time on offense, and he either wouldn’t take many shots or would often miss from beyond the arc.
He didn’t show his trademark shooting touch from the outside, and he had trouble creating off the dribble or bounce on offense. Miller tried to drive up the court in transition once, but ended up getting tied up and committing a turnover. On his best days, he looks like he could be a future NBA superstar similar to Los Angeles Clippers’ forward, Paul George. On his worst days, Miller looks like he could be like how Jabari Smith Jr. played this season as a rookie for the Houston Rockets. Brandon Miller’s play has cooled down considerably since his tremendous, 41-point game in his team’s OT win over South Carolina recently, but that hasn’t stopped his team from reeling off wins in the meantime.
The Duke-Oral Roberts Game:
This game got off to a slow start, as neither team scored in the first two minutes, but then Duke reeled off 11 straight points to get off to an 11-0 lead, and they never looked back. Oral Roberts struggled against Duke’s length, athleticism, and overall talent level, and Duke was able to make plays and put it on cruise control to get a fairly easy first round win in this tournament.
Dereck Lively II had a very good game in his team’s blowout win over Oral Roberts. He dominated as a interior defender and shot blocker, and his length, athleticism, and timing made it difficult for opponents to score around the basket. He also was able to contest a three to force an air-ball. While he wasn’t as great on offense, he was able to score on a couple of strong dunks on offense. Overall, Lively impressed with his strong interior play, especially on defense, and he is like a Mark Williams-clone, as he could be a solid pick for an NBA team in the mid to late first round range for the 2023 draft.
Jeremy Roach did a very good job of scoring on strong, speedy drives to the hoop, and he also was able to knock down a three, as well as score on a one-legged fadeaway jumper. He was a bit streaky with his jumper, but he was able to show an improved outside shot. He also made a nice drive and dish to show his passing skills. He also played pesky defense, as he would apply heavy ball pressure to get steals and stops.
Dariq Whitehead shot the ball well, especially on outside shots. He showed a knack for making them off the catch and dribble, and he also caught a lob to score off of an inbounds play. He struggled more when handling the ball, which led to some ball-handling turnovers, but generally he is an athletic shooter that could project well into a 3 and D role in the NBA, and he could be a solid pick for an NBA team in the mid to late first round range on draft day.
Kyle Filipowski is an agile, energetic big man that showed off solid passing and ball handling skills, and he would get his hands on passes and poke balls away to get steals defensively. He struggled to score consistently out of the post or from the outside, and he sometimes would struggle to defend quicker players, but his ability to facilitate and get free throws out of the post helped his team in this game, and he could be an option for NBA teams to consider in the late first to the second round range of the 2023 draft.
Max Abmas didn’t play nearly as well in this game, and he generally struggled to handle Duke’s length or their swarming defense. He took some questionable shots and didn’t shoot well, but he was able to make a pair of pull-up threes, and showed that he can score on speedy drives and cuts.
He played better when he would play patiently, and he can find open teammates on the move to notch assists. However, he also showed a tendency to over-dribble, which would lead to ball-handling turnovers. Overall, he didn’t have a great game, but he is an agile, skilled combo guard that has the talent to develop into a backup point guard in the NBA someday.
Tyrese Proctor had his ups and downs in his team’s win over Oral Roberts. He was at best when he would play patiently. He didn’t shoot well overall, but he did show the potential to excel as an outside shooter. He utilized a pump fake to make a smooth open mid-range jumper off the dribble. Proctor managed to score on a fadeaway jumper out of the high post. He also made a patient, open stepback three another time. Wiile he didn’t seem to make amazing passes, he’s an unselfish player that will look to find the open man to get his teammates the basketball.
On the downside, he tended to take a lot of tough, contested, and sometimes off-balanced shots, especially from the mid-range that led to misses. With his tendency to settle for low percentage shots, it seemed to hurt his shooting percentages. Overall, Proctor has the size to be an asset as a playmaker on offense, but his at times shoddy shot selection combined with lacking elite athletic gifts have made it difficult to be a consistent performer on offense. He’ll need more time to work on and hone his game, but his potential to develop as a big, ball-handling guard could make him an intriguing option for NBA teams to consider in the mid to late second round range of the 2023 draft.
The Auburn-Iowa Game:
I didn’t see much of this game, but Auburn’s Johni Broome thrived at scoring in the paint, and he excelled as a low post scorer and finisher around the basket. He is a strong, energetic big man that would pull down tough boards, and he was consistent in blocking lots of shots to provide a strong interior defense for his team. He’s a talented, underrated prospect that has flown under the radar all year long, and he would likely be a solid pick for an NBA team if he’s available for them to select in the second round of the 2023 draft.
Kris Murray didn’t shoot the ball well, but he is an athletic forward that was able to make energetic, hustle plays defensively.
Furman was able to get a surprising 68-67 win over 4th seeded Virginia in the first round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament. 6-7 senior swingman, Jalen Slawson had 19 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block to help his team get the win, and 6-1 sophomore point guard JP Pegues made the game-winning, three-point shot to put his team over the top to get the victory. Furman will face off against San Diego State in the second round.
The 15th seeded Princeton Tigers managed to snag a surprising, 59-55 upset win over 2nd seeded Arizona. 6-8 senior forward, Tosan Evbuomwan has been playing very well for them all year long, and he scored 15 points, and had 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block to help them get the win. Princeton will play Missouri in the second round.
All in all, those are my thoughts on how the first round games fared yesterday. Thank you for reading.