Players to watch in the 2023 NCAA Tournament - by Bobby Gerould, March 16, 2023.

Each year HoopObsession meticulously researches NBA Draft prospects playing in the NCAA Tournament. We arrive at our compiled list of favored players after watching numerous full games and completing a thorough statistical "audit". Throughout our process, we are always looking for winning players. An important aspect of our method is remembering that basketball is only one-half offense.  Our evaluations always include analysis of a player's prowess on the defensive end.  Defense is vital. The highest jumpers and fastest runners do not necessarily make the best NBA prospects. 

If we are talking about “players to watch” that are exciting, I could end this piece right now by telling you to check out Andre Jackson of Connecticut (pictured below). His explosive leaping ability is made for all formats. However, the Hoop Obsession way is to go deeper. Our analysis is not connected with mass media or subjected to bias because of a particular affiliation due to television rights. If we really think a relatively unknown player from Iona is a star (and we do), we will let you know. 

Let’s start with the point guards. 

More often than not, on winning teams, the point guard has an assist-to-turnover ratio at or above two-to-one, and they shoot the three-ball at or better than 33.3%. For example, Jrue Holiday of the Milwaukee Bucks, the team with the best record in the NBA, owns a 2.5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, while hitting 37.6% of his three-point shots. The Boston Celtics have the second best record, and their trio of point guards all fit the formula too: 

  • Malcolm Brogdon 45.7% 3-pt fg. 2.32:1 ast/to
  • Derrick White 37.3% 3-pt. fg. 3.57:1 ast/to 
  • Marcus Smart 33.7% 3-pt. fg. 2.67:1 ast/to

So, who stands out in the NCAA Tournament?

Jalen Pickett – Penn St. 6’4”, 202. Pickett is as old-school a point guard as you will find. He dribbles a hole in the ground, backing down opponents until he can get to the shot he wants. He is the rare PG that shoots over 50% FG (currently at 51.6% FG this season). Pickett makes 38.3% of his three-point attempts, and he is a 77.3% FT shooter. To top off the package, his defensive rating differential is positive (1.7 points per 100 possessions better than the Penn St. TEAM DEFRTG). 

We think Pickett is a potential second round pick. He is 23 years-old, and certainly some NBA teams will want to take a “bigger swing” with a younger prospect. 

Tyler Kolek – Marquette. 6’3”, 182. Kolek, a left-handed junior for Marquette, is a pure point guard. He routinely makes the correct plays, seeing the floor like a seasoned veteran. He is making 39% of his three-balls, and he boasts a fantastic 3.22-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Kolek won the Big East Player of the Year award as well as the MVP trophy at the 2023 Big East Tournament. 

If Kolek goes pro this season, he has a chance to be a second-round pick. It appears likely however, that Kolek will return for his Senior season. 

Markquis Nowell – Kansas St. 5’7”, 155. Nowell is a fifth-year Senior that can really shoot it and make decisions at NBA speed. Usually, small guards are a liability on defense but Nowell has shown that he can be disruptive and smart. He made the Big 12 All-Defensive Team two seasons in a row. Offensively, Nowell is shifty and hard to guard. He makes 88.5% of his foul shots and he gets there often (almost six times per game). Nowell led the Big 12 in total assists this season. 

We do not believe Nowell (pictured below) will be drafted. 

Our other favorite point guard prospects: 

  • Steven Ashworth – Utah St. 6’1”, 170. jr. 
  • Payton Sandfort – Iowa. 6’7”, 215, soph. 
  • Max Abmas – Oral Roberts. 6’1”, 165. SR. 
  • Braden Smith – Purdue. 6’0”, 180. frosh. 
  • Kam Jones – Marquette. 6’4”, 185. soph. 
  • Malachi Smith – Gonzaga. 6’4”, 205. SR. 
  • Marcus Sasser – Houston. 6’1”, 190. SR. 
  • Cason Wallace – Kentucky. 6’4”, 185. frosh. 
  • Reece Beekman – Virginia. 6’3”, 174. jr. 
  • Tucker Richardson – Colgate. 6’5”, 205. SR. 

Shooting Guards and Combo Guards: 

Colby Jones – Xavier. 6’5” 195. Jones is among our favorite prospects in the entire tournament. His well-rounded numbers: 15.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 4.3 apg. He is 100% about basketball. No bs. Jones has strong legs and considerable skill on offense, netting 38% of his deep shots, while shooting 51% FG overall. His 1.83-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio is high-end for a two-guard. He could be a better free throw shooter (only 67% this season) but we love his NBA-ready physical profile. 

Walter Clayton Jr. – Iona. 6’2” 195. Clayton was named the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Player of the Year. He scores 16.9 points per contest. He led the entire NCAA in free throw percentage at 95.5%. He only missed five of his 103 attempts from the charity stripe. He brings accuracy to his three-point shooting as well, making 42.9%. Best of all, Clayton is a physical athlete that was heavily recruited as a football player. Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Nebraska, Notre Dame, and Tennessee were among the schools that wanted him on the gridiron. Clayton works on defense and is among the rare scorers that also has a DEFRTG better than his team’s DEFRTG. 

We have heard virtually zero buzz on Clayton from main-stream NBA Draft media. We believe he is among the top two-guard prospects available. 

Wade Taylor IV – Texas A&M. 6’0” 186. Taylor is a sophomore that brings accurate shooting and aggressive play to his team. He averages 16.5 points per game. He likes to jack `em. On high-volume, Taylor is shooting 36.8% 3-pt. fg. At the line, he is at 87.5%, and he was second in the SEC in free throw attempts. Taylor’s DEFRTG is slightly better than the Aggies’ team DEFRTG. He finished third in SEC boxscore plus/minus. 

Our other favorite shooting guard, or combo-guard prospects: 

  • Kendric Davis – Memphis. 5’11”, 180. SR. 
  • D’Moi Hodge – Missouri. 6’4”, 180. SR. 
  • Baylor Scheierman – Creighton. 6’6”, 180. jr. 
  • Erik Stevenson – West Virginia. 6’3”, 198. SR. 
  • Nick Smith – Arkansas. 6’5”, 185. frosh. 
  • Keyonte George – Baylor. 6’4”, 185. frosh. 
  • Jalen Hood-Schifino – Indiana. 6’6”, 213. frosh. 
  • Jordan Hawkins – Connecticut. 6’4”, 170. soph. 
  • Terquavion Smith – NC State. 6’4”, 160. soph. 
  • Sir Jabari Rice – Texas. 6’4”, 180. SR. 

Small Forwards

Kris Murray – Iowa. 6’8” 215. Murray is the twin brother of Keegan Murray (Sacramento Kings rookie). Kris is averaging 20.4 points, and 7.9 rebounds per game as a junior. He was named First Team All Big-Ten. Kris shoots left-handed which is one of the differences in how he and Keegan play. Kris makes similar great cuts, but is not quite as accurate from deep as his twin. Kris is shooting 33.9% 3-pt. fg, and 73.7% FT. Overall, Kris Murray is an outstanding prospect. There isn’t much he can’t do. He drives it, he shares, and he can score in the post or from the perimeter. 

Murray will likely be selected in the middle of the first round of the 2023 NBA Draft. We think he should actually be taken in the middle-lottery. 

Kobe Brown – Missouri. 6’7” 240. Brown led the SEC in effective field goal percentage (.621). Brown averages 15.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game while hitting 44.7% of his three-point attempts. He is a plus-defender. Brown is 23 years old. We do not believe he will be drafted but we do think he will play in the NBA. 

Jalen Slawson – Furman. 6’7” 210. If Furman beats Virginia in their opening round NCAA Tournament game, it will likely be due to Jalen Slawson.  Last season, he was the Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year. This season, the fifth-year Senior, averaged 15.7 points, and 7.1 rebounds per game. He shoots 39.4% from three-point range. Slawson is also 23 years-old and he will probably not be drafted. 

Our other favorite small forward prospects

  • Jerace Walker – Houston. 6’8”, 240. frosh.
  • Jalen Wilson – Kansas 6’6”, 225. SR. 
  • DeAndre Williams – Memphis. 6’9”, 190. SR. 
  • Tyrese Hughey – Furman. 6’6”, 210. soph. 
  • Terrence Shannon – Illinois. 6’6”, 210. SR. 
  • Bryce Hopkins – Providence. 6’6”, 220. soph. 
  • Gradey Dick – Kansas. 6’8”, 205. frosh. 
  • Tucker DeVries – Drake. 6’7”, 210. soph. 
  • Seth Lundy – Penn St. 6’6”, 219. SR. 
  • Jordan Miller – Miami. 6’6”, 202. SR. 

Power Forwards / Stretch Forwards:

Brandon Miller – Alabama. 6’8” 200. Miller is a freshman that will likely be among the first three players selected in the 2023 NBA Draft. He is a rare 6’8” wing that can handle the ball AND shoot with a high degree of accuracy. The 2023 SEC Tournament MVP led the SEC in points per game (19.6). He was third in the entire NCAA in boxscore plus/minus. If he has any weakness, it may be that he does not necessarily like to play as physically as some others must. Miller’s off-the-court activity has been widely publicized and can be easily Googled

Adama Sonogo – Connecticut. 6’9” 240. It may turn out that Sonogo is just a Center. We are giving him the benefit of the doubt that he will be able to transition to the FOUR spot in the NBA. He averages 17 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. This season, Sonogo added the three-ball to his arsenal, and he has converted 37% of his 3-pt. attempts. The 21 year-old shows touch at the foul line, hitting 77.9%. He is a First Team All Big-East selection the last two seasons, and he led the Big East in rebounds per game. He finished second in Big East boxscore plus/minus. He plays with force. 

Sonogo is “on the bubble” to be drafted. We think he is worth taking a shot at. 

Norchad Omier – Miami. 6’7” 230. Omier is a beefy forward that brings his hard hat to each end of the floor. He is shooting 59% FG on the season, while providing 13.6 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. He is in his first season at Miami after two years at Arkansas St., where he was the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year in 2021-22. Omier may not play in the opening-round game for Miami after he suffered a sprained ankle in the ACC Tournament. Omier is not likely to be selected in the June Draft. 

Our other favorite power or stretch forward prospects: 

  • Isaac Mushila – Texas A&M Corpus Christi. 6’5”, 208. soph.
  • Drew Pemper  - UNC Asheville. 6’10”, 190. SR.
  • Makhi Mitchell – Arkansas. 6’9”, 230. SR. 
  • Jack Nunge – Xavier. 6’11”, 245. SR.
  • Ben Gregg – Gonzaga. 6’10”, 225. Jr. 
  • Johnell Davis – Florida Atlantic. 6’4”, 185. Jr. 
  • Filip Rebraca – Iowa. 6’9”, 222. SR. 
  • Dariq Whitehead – Duke. 6’7”, 220. frosh. 
  • Julian Strawther – Gonzaga. 6’7”, 205. soph. 
  • Keyonte Johnson – Kansas St. 6’5”, 229. SR. 


Trayce Jackson-Davis – Indiana. 6’9” 245. “TJD” is under-sized by NBA standards but he is incredibly efficient. His ability to “out-quick” and “quick-jump” allows him to perform at a high rate in the paint. He murders opponents out of the mid-post with one dribble. He averages 20.8 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. He led the Big Ten in blocked shots (2.7 per game). Jackson-Davis doesn’t shoot the three-ball at all (three attempts in four seasons at IU). With high usage he maintains good control, offering a 1.59-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He made the Big Ten All-Defensive Team this season. 

Jackson-Davis is trending as an early second-round pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. 

Zach Edey – Purdue. 7’4” 285. Edey is a man mountain. He has improved his conditioning and toned up his body which unlocked a whole different level of success this season. He dominated many games, scoring 22.3 points per contest (6th in NCAA) while inhaling 12.8 rebounds per game (3rd in the NCAA). He was named Big Ten Player of the Year, and Sporting News awarded him National Player of the Year. He is the Big Ten career leader in field goal percentage (61.9% FG). 

Even with all his college accomplishments, a consensus of NBA Draft media has him just outside of the top 60. We think too many folks are overlooking the changes he’s made physically. He is always going to be slow by NBA standards but equally true is that he is hard to move, he gobbles defensive rebounds at a high rate, and he sets amazing screens. 

Donovan Clingan – Connecticut. 7’2” 265. Clingan is a freshman x-factor for U-Conn. He comes off the bench and changes the game with his size and activity level. He averages 7.3 points, and 5.8 rebounds in just 13.2 minutes per game. His FG% is 64.9%. He blocks shots at a high rate (53 blocks in 423 minutes). His one glaring weakness is free throw shooting (52.5% FT). 

Our other favorite Center prospects

  • Azouolas Tubelis – Arizona. 6’10”, 243. jr. 
  • Oscar Tshwibwe – Kentucky. 6’9”, 258. SR. 
  • Oumer Ballo – Arizona. 7’0”, 260. jr. 
  • Johni Broome – Auburn. 6’10”, 235. jr. 
  • Keegan Records – Colgate. 6’10”, 245. SR. 
  • Kyle Filipowski – Duke. 7’0”, 215. frosh. 
  • Dereck Lively – Duke. 7’1”, 230. frosh. 
  • Ryan Kalkbrenner – Creighton. 7’0”, 235. jr. 
  • Adem Bona – UCLA. 6’10”, 225. frosh.
  • Dusan Mahorcic – NC State. 6’10”, 230. SR. 

Low percentage three-point shooters that can play: (We strongly believe good NBA teams can be allowed only ONE low-percentage three-point shooter among their five on the court at any time. That low percentage shooter better be special.)

Drew Timme – Gonzaga. 6’10” 235. Timme is a Senior that has exquisite footwork near the basket. He was the West Coast Conference Player of the Year the last two seasons. He scores 20.9 points per game to go with 7.3 rebounds, and 3.2 assists. He is second in the NCAA in effective field goal percentage (.663). 

Noah Clowney – Alabama. 6’10” 210. Clowney is one of those players with an outrageously high ceiling. He has an NBA body and good athleticism. He is still a work in progress but he tantalizes with the flashes of greatness he shows. Clowney, a freshman, will be taken in the first round of the Draft if he declares. 

Terence Lewis – Louisiana. 6’7” 208. Lewis, a Senior, finished second in the Sun Belt Conference in boxscore plus/minus. He averages 11 points and 7.5 rebounds while shooting 61.8% FG, and 85% FT. He only attempted five, three-point shots this season (missed them all), but his touch on his shot is evident, leading us to think there may be hope for him if he puts in the work. 

Our other favorite low-percentage three-point shooter prospects

  • Jakobe Coles – TCU. 6’7” 225. jr.
  • Jalen Graham – Arkansas. 6’9” 220. SR. 
  • Jaime Jaquez Jr. – UCLA. 6’6” 220. SR. 
  • Chris Payton – Kent St. 6’7” 210. SR. 
  • Ante Brzovic – College of Charleston. 6’10” 229. Born in 2000. 
  • Tosan Evbuomwan – Princeton. 6’7” 209. jr. 
  • KJ Adams – Kansas. 6’7” 225. soph. 
  • Julian Phillips – Tennessee. 6’8” 198. frosh. 
  • Anthony Black – Arkansas. 6’7” 185. frosh. 
  • Shy Odom – Howard. 6’6” 229. frosh. 

We hope you enjoyed this primer on some of the prospects in the NCAA Tournament. The real madness starts Thursday morning. Make sure to get your brackets filled out and turned in!