March Madness 2017: How NBA prospects factor into the NCAA Tournament

Sporting News
Wichita State and Kentucky in a big NCAA Tournament second-round matchup? Well, this sounds familiar.

NCAA Tournament 2017: Wichita State vs. Kentucky score, updates, highlights

Wichita State and Kentucky in a big NCAA Tournament second-round matchup? Well, this sounds familiar.

Some breaking news for you to consider when filling out your NCAA Tournament bracket: Guards are really important to March Madness success.

It’s a safe bet that either Josh Hart or Jalen Brunson from last year's Villanova team will reach the NBA and keep this trend going: in each of the 30 NCAA tournaments prior to last season, all but one national champion had a starting guard who went on to play in an NBA game.

The only team lacking one? Gerry McNamara’s 2003 Syracuse team, which starred future No. 3 NBA draft pick Carmelo Anthony. The previous school to win the title without a starting guard who got face time in the leaguewas No. 8 seed Villanova in their 1985 miracle run.

If you want to look even closer, only oneother champion from the 30 tournaments before last season did it without any point guard who played in the NBA. That would be UConn in 2004. Theydid,however, have combo guard Ben Gordonand future NBA-bust Marcus Williams, who missed the second half of the season because of academic reasons.

Sure, some of this may be the product of a player earning an NBA chance as a result ofthe title, rather than purely based on his talent. But there's enough history to make it a factor which should not be ignored in your bracket.

MORE: Key stats to use when picking your bracket

Let's get an idea of which schools in this year's field have pro-caliber talent at guard.

We can useNBA Draft Express’Top 100 Prospects list as a barometer, which shows us 15 NCAA Tournament teams this year (23 total players) that have a guard fittingthe NBA profile. This includes all of the top-2 seeds. You'll also notice four stacked teams with three such players.

Potential NBA guards in the NCAA Tournament

No. 1Villanova – Josh Hart

No. 1Kansas – Frank Mason (PG), Devonte Graham (PG/SG), Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk

No. 1Gonzaga – Nigel Williams-Goss (PG)

No. 1North Carolina – Joel Berry (PG)

No. 2Kentucky – De’Aaron Fox (PG), Malik Monk, Isaiah Briscoe (PG/SG)

No. 2Arizona – Allonzo Trier, Kobi Simmons (PG), Rawle Alkins

No. 2Duke – Luke Kennard, Grayson Allen, Frank Jackson (PG)

No. 2Louisville – Donovan Mitchell

No. 3UCLA – Lonzo Ball (PG)

No. 5Iowa State – Monte Morris (PG)

No. 6Maryland – Melo Trimble (PG)

No. 6SMU – Shake Milton (PG)

No. 7South Carolina – P.J. Dozier

No. 8Miami – Bruce Brown

No. 10Oklahoma State – Jawun Evans (PG)

There are 10 top-5 seeds thatdo not have a guardwithin NBA Draft Express’s Top 100 Prospects, including all of the No. 4 seeds. Those schools areBaylor, Florida State, Oregon, Purdue, Florida, West Virginia, Butler, Minnesota, Notre Dame and Virginia.

Four of those teams, West Virginia, Butler, Minnesota and Virginia, don't have anyplayers who make that top 100 list. This does not bode well for their title chances, becauseevery champion all the way back to John Havlicek's Buckeyes in 1960 had at least one player— of any position — graduate to the NBA. In fact, there's been a first-round pick on every title team going back to Danny Manning of the 1988 Jayhawks (hat-tip to Mike DeCourcy).

MORE: Sporting News' top NBA Draft prospects

Thinking a bit smaller-scale, each Final Four team from the last five years featured a key player who has played in the NBA this season.

Which brings us tothe other 33 players who are in both theNBA Draft Express Top 100 and the 2017 NCAA Tournament.Counting these forwards and centers makes 30 total teams in this year'sField of 68 with a player on that prospects list.

Potential NBA F/C in the NCAA Tournament

No. 1 Villanova – Mikal Bridges

No. 1 Gonzaga – Zach Collins

No. 1 Kansas – Josh Jackson

No. 1 UNC – Justin Jackson, Isaiah Hicks, Tony Bradley

No. 2 Duke – Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles, Marques Bolden

No. 2 Kentucky –Bam Adebayo

No. 2 Arizona – Lauri Markkanen

No. 3 Oregon – Dillon Brooks, Jordan Bell, Chris Boucher (out, ACL)

No. 3 Florida State – Jonathan Isaac, Dwayne Bacon

No. 3 UCLA – T.J. Leaf, Ike Anigbogu

No. 3 Baylor – Johnathan Motley

No. 4 Purdue –Caleb Swanigan, Vince Edwards

No. 4 Florida – Devin Robinson

No. 5 Notre Dame – V.J. Beachem

No. 6 Cincinnati – Jacob Evans

No. 6 Creighton – Justin Patton

No. 6 SMU – Semi Ojeleye

No. 8 Wisconsin – Ethan Happ, Nigel Hayes

No. 9 Michigan State – Miles Bridges

No. 9 Vanderbilt – Luke Kornet

No. 11 USC – Chimezie Metu

No. 11 Wake Forest – John Collins (already eliminated)

No. 11 Kansas State – Wesley Iwundu

No. 12 Nevada – Cameron Oliver

So if you need that extra push one way or anotheron apotential bracket-busting tournament matchup, give some considerationto professional potential.

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