There are several interesting Round-of-64 matchups ranging from UCLA-Minnesota to Wisconsin-Ole Miss. But the game that seems to intrigue NBA scouts most is the one that will tip Thursday at 7:15 EDT in Auburn Hills, Mich.
By now you've at least heard of Wolters even if you've never actually seen him play. He's a small-school point guard who has developed into a legitimate NBA prospect. He's averaging 22.7 points, 5.8 assists and 5.6 rebounds. He shoots 49.3 percent from the field, 39.0 percent from 3-point range. But the fact that Wolters plays in the Summit League means he hasn't been tested by comparable talents too often, which is why this matchup with Burke, a projected lottery pick who plays the same position, will be watched closely by the men who will help NBA franchises make picks in June.
With that in mind, I called three NBA scouts and asked questions about Wolters.
I granted them anonymity.
They answered with great zeal.
The following reflects our conversations:
What's the most important thing you want to see from Wolters against Michigan?
If he can stay in front of Trey Burke. Nate's got a lot of attention over the past couple of years, and deservedly so. He's a really nice player. But the big question is can he defend elite athletes? That's something that's a big, big deal at our level, particularly at the point guard position, because if you can't at least slow your guy down it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the rest of the defense. So it's really important that he shows he can stay in front of Trey. That's what everybody wants to see. Can he guard Trey Burke?
And what about on the offensive end?
I want to see if he can, offensively, just play his game. Trey is going to play him hard. But Nate has a size advantage in that matchup. Can he use it to his advantage and show that everything he does night-in and night-out in the Summit League can be done against higher competition? He's done it at different times when they've played bigger teams. But this could be the last impression before the draft process. This will be the last look at him we get on the floor in a real game.
What makes Wolters so good offensively?
His passing ability is up there with anybody's. He does a great job in the pick-and-roll. He has such great vision. He handles the ball well. There are nights in the Summit League when he's just toying with the defense because he can get his teammates shots whenever he wants. He understands offensive basketball really well. Great size. Good strength. He has a lot of heart. He hits big shots. There are a lot of positives with him. He's a really good player. It's just about trying to figure out if his game is translatable to the NBA.
So how much could this affect Wolter's draft status? Twenty spots?
I think that's overstating it. Taking one game and making too much out of it, good or bad, is pretty dangerous in our business. You have to study his body of work. But this game is big, and this matchup is big. But it won't be the difference between him going in the lottery or falling out of the draft. At least it won't change things that drastically in my mind.
What should Wolters be trying to prove to NBA scouts in this game?
I would hope he's not even thinking about us, honestly. If any of these kids were worried about the NBA playing in these games, I would almost red-flag it. This is the NCAA tournament, man. They should be playing for their teams and playing to win. So I hope he just goes out and plays. All these kids. We just want to see them play hard, compete for their teams and play to win. They should all forget about the future for now.
And what about Burke?
Trey Burke is in good shape no matter what. He's just had such a great two years at Michigan. Nobody is worried about whether Trey can play in the NBA. He obviously can.