College basketball's regular season is over and the start of March Madness is almost here. So whether you're a fan of an NBA team just tuning in for the finish of the season or a diehard hoops junkie obsessed with tracking the premium talent in the sport, the NCAA Tournament this season figures be a fun forum to get your fix.
In our latest NBA mock draft ahead of the Big Dance, the top two picks are stars on teams that are No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. If you're expecting the tourney's stars to be headlined by future pros, odds this year are pretty darn high that you'll get an extended look at some of the likely lottery-bound players for the 2022 class.
As fate would have it, actually, the No. 1 overall seed, Gonzaga, is led by Chet Holmgren, who is the projected No. 1 pick in the latest refresh below. The 7-footer who weighs less than 200 pounds is dominating the sport with top-10 marks among all players in block rate and effective field goal percentage and has the rare combination of movement, scoring, creation and shot-blocking for his size to be considered as one of the most unique prospects in quite some time.
Holmgren is not a lock to go No. 1, though. A current four-man race to be the top pick is still ongoing and all four are 1-4 below on teams soon to be single digit tourney seeds. So as you prepare to fill your bracket out, use this mock draft as a cheat sheet to guide you through picks.
Our latest first round projections are below.
Round 1 - Pick 1
Gonzaga • 7'1" / 195 lbs
Weighing in at less than 200 pounds despite a 7-foot frame, there are legitimate questions about Chet Holmgren's long-term durability that add some murkiness to his long-term prospects. And it's a big reason why he's No. 2, not No. 1, on my Big Board. But Holmgren's ability to space the floor, create, and defend the rim at an elite level -- all on full display this season at Gonzaga -- may be too tantalizing to pass on here given his all-around impact on both ends. He's one of the most unique draft prospects of the last decade and he's playing at an All-American level as a freshman despite the rail-thin frame.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Jabari Smith PF
Auburn • Fr • 6'11" / 220 lbs
The son of a former NBA player, Jabari Smith has an impressive pedigree and five-star pre-college credentials. More than that, though, his stellar season with Auburn is what has thrust him squarely into the conversation at No. 1. He's hitting above 40% from 3-point range and among the top-10 SEC players in scoring, rebounding and blocks -- despite playing fewer than 30 minutes per game for the contending Tigers. His development over the season as a shooter and shot-creator should offer some real encouragement for teams betting on his upside.
Round 1- Pick 3
Duke • Fr • 6'10" / 250 lbs
Banchero is someone who appears capable of producing right away as a versatile scorer and rebounder, a rarity for someone as tall as he is and part of what makes him such an alluring talent. He's plenty polished enough to be a scorer early in his career and has a nice, safe floor, though questions about his defense and outside shot may knock him down a rung in the race for this year's No. 1 pick.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Jaden Ivey SG
Purdue • Fr • 6'4" / 195 lbs
Cliche as it may sound, Jaden Ivey's got a special "it" factor and exudes confidence and swagger. It meshes perfectly with his on-court game as arguably the most explosive athlete in this draft class. And he knows how to convert that athleticism into power by punishing defenders, attacking downhill to pressure the rim and getting to the cup at will. The No. 1 talent on my big board, he's a prime target for a team looking for a lead guard in this draft, though his decision-making and passing are still developing.
Round 1 - Pick 5
AJ Griffin SF
Duke • Fr • 6'6" / 220 lbs
We haven't really seen consistency from AJ Griffin this season after starting the year banged up, but we have seen some brilliant flashes -- and the flashes are pretty great. In a draft that lacks star potential around this range it's easy to see how he could climb anywhere from No. 4 to No. 10. The wing is a bulldog defender with a big frame who is hitting nearly half of his 3s as a freshman at Duke. His emergence late in the season has shown he's capable of creating and there's still a lot of untapped potential in his game, too.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Johnny Davis SF
Wisconsin • Fr • 6'5" / 195 lbs
Johnny Davis' sophomore breakout has been nothing short of spectacular for Wisconsin. He's averaging 20 points and eight boards per game for Wisconsin and shouldering the load as the primary scorer, doing so at a high level despite drawing most of the attention as the team's clear No. 1. His shot-making and creation is what has really catapulted him into the top-10 discussion. Would like to see his shooting numbers tick up a bit, especially from 3, but we've got to take into account his situation and the fact that he's No. 1 on opposing teams' scouting reports.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Kentucky • Fr • 6'3" / 195 lbs
While Georgia transfer Sahvir Wheeler is operating as the primary point guard for Kentucky this season, TyTy Washington, a lead guard prospect, has still found a way to thrive as a scorer and part-time facilitator, averaging 37% from deep and more than 13 points per game for the Wildcats. He's a dynamic offensive weapon that teams are really going to be digging in this range because of his abilities in an expanded role on the ball. His production and efficiency as a freshman playing off the ball offers real encouragement that he's far from a one-trick pony.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Memphis • Fr • 6'11" / 250 lbs
Memphis has played its way into the NCAA Tournament picture late in the season in no small part because of Jalen Duren's late-season dominance. The former No. 1 prospect (before reclassifying) is averaging nearly 14 points, eight rebounds and two blocks per game over his last 10 games while flashing some interesting playmaking potential and continuing to do what he does best as a board-crashing big who can finish above the rim and act as a constant lob threat.
From Los Angeles Lakers
Round 1 - Pick 9
Arizona • Fr • 6'5" / 210 lbs
Bennedict Mathurin, like Johnny Davis, is also in the midst of a sophomore star turn -- he's averaging more than 17 points per game for soon-to-be No. 1 seed Arizona and hitting above 37% from 3-point range on good volume. Some NBA team in the lottery will happily scoop him up as a high-end shooter with good size and defensive upside.
Round 1 - Pick 10
Kansas • Fr • 6'5" / 215 lbs
Agbaji is one of the older prospects in our first round projections -- he'll be 22 by the draft -- but that shouldn't keep him from slipping outside the lottery. He's made a substantial leap this season as a junior into the No. 1 role for Kansas this season and done so while still maintaining efficiency. His 41.1% hit rate from 3-point range should translate into him being a knockdown shooter in the NBA.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Iowa • Fr • 6'8" / 225 lbs
Keegan Murray is averaging a Big Ten-leading 22.3 points per game and hitting 34% from beyond the arc this season as a sophomore. He's one of the most dynamic offensive weapons in the draft for his size, and there should be a robust market for him in this range given his shooting and scoring ability at his height.
Round 1 - Pick 12
The numbers aren't totally overwhelming for Daniels in the G League -- he's averaging just a tick over 11 points and not shooting it particularly efficiently -- but the 6--6 18-year-old has the skill set of a big guard with good passing skills and the versatility to guard up and down the lineup. Should the shot start falling he has 3-and-D upside as an NBA role player with the potential to add more on offense as a creator and slasher.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Baylor • Fr • 6'7" / 205 lbs
With a 6-8 frame, long wingspan and incredible defensive tools, Kendall Brown this season has emerged as a potential top-10 talent for Baylor. Does a little of everything for the Bears on both ends of the court and happily fills his spot as a role-player. Should be a really coveted prospect once teams dive into him and see his two-way potential. NBA teams can't get enough of long wings like Brown who can add shooting the way he can.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Duke • Fr • 7'1" / 240 lbs
A dominant stretch to end last season has carried over for Mark Williams this season at Duke and then some. He has a whopping 12.1% block rate (top 15 among all college players) and has been incredibly effective and efficient as a scorer, too. A big like him who can provide rim protection and finish around the rim should pretty valuable in a draft that's relatively thin at center and there's almost always a role waiting for 7-footers with his type of skill set.
From Los Angeles Clippers
Round 1 - Pick 15
Baylor • Fr • 6'9" / 230 lbs
Injuries have thrust Jeremy Sochan into a bigger role with Baylor in the second half of the season and he's validated first-round buzz because of his long frame, relentless energy, and switchable defense. Most of all, his playmaking at his height really sticks out, as does his ability to defend multiple positions and the potential of him operating as a small-ball big at the next level.
From Brooklyn Nets
Round 1 - Pick 16
The oldest of the G League Ignite blue-chip talents, Beauchamp this season at 20 years old is riding a strong season into first-round consideration. He's got great size, very athletic, just needs to improve the shot. It's encouraging his prowess as a scorer has at least been proven at a high level after averaging more than 30 points per game a year ago for Yakima Valley College, but the NBA is a different animal entirely. The size and defensive foundation to his game could help him enough to get selected on the hope that the shot develops in time.
From Toronto Raptors
Round 1 - Pick 17
Jean Montero is probably the best prospect involved with the Overtime Elite league this season. The lead guard plays with pizazz and his playmaking pops as both a creator and shooter. He loves attacking downhill and has the know-how to pull up on a dime.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Tari Eason PF
LSU • Fr • 6'8" / 215 lbs
While the shot isn't quite there and may never be a strength, Tari Eason this season has proven his NBA potential as a do-it-all defender and rebounder, and he's got fans in the league who think he has lottery potential. He's probably a developmental play at this stage because of the shot but you could do worse here hoping that it develops alongside his elite defensive tools.
From Cleveland Cavaliers
Round 1 - Pick 19
We may have over-shot expectations with Jaden Hardy -- entering the season he was top-five for me -- but there's still a lot to like here. Yes, he's been pretty inefficient, and yes, his decision-making as a playmaker probably needs fine-tuning, but he's been very productive for G League Ignite and remains a very gifted scorer and creator with room to develop. He won't turn 20 until later this summer.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Milwaukee • Fr • 6'9" / 220 lbs
It was something of a lost season for Patrick Baldwin Jr., the former No. 1 overall prospect in his recruiting class. He played in only 11 games and missed most of the last month of the season because of a bout with COVID and an injury. Additionally, he didn't overwhelm in the Horizon League, where he shot 26.6% from 3 and 41.8% from the floor. The selling point with him has always been his outside shooting ability as a jumbo-sized wing but the lack of tape as a freshman combined with the struggles when healthy have dinged his stock outside the lottery for now if he winds up declaring.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Blake Wesley SG
Notre Dame • Fr • 6'5" / 185 lbs
Wesley's primary appeal out of Notre Dame is his scoring ability from the guard spot and his mature frame. He's adept at getting to his spots, creating with the ball in his hands and getting to the line by pressuring the rim. His efficiency has taken a hit of late on the whole and he's still plenty raw as a prospect but there's a lot to like here for someone who is still 18.
Round 1 - Pick 22
Trevor Keels SG
Duke • Fr • 6'5" / 221 lbs
Trevor Keels has not lived up to the top-10 potential he flashed in his season-opener against Kentucky where he poured in 25 points. He's been inconsistent as one of Duke's young studs, and has really been overtaken by A.J. Griffin as the No. 3 in the team's pecking order. But at 6-foot-4 with a mature frame and an engaged defensive mindset there's plenty to like about the foundation of his game and the potential that he develops into something of a 3-and-D player at the next level.
From Boston Celtics
Round 1 - Pick 23
Michigan • Fr • 6'8" / 205 lbs
A somewhat inconsistent freshman season for Caleb Houstan has not necessarily been rid entirely from his repertoire. He sometimes shows up in big games and has had some promising shooting performances, but is still prone to a stinker, like his showing against Ohio State where he did not score in 33 minutes of action. The frame and outside shooting touch could and should keep him in first round consideration, though. Very good length and tools to be a big wing in the NBA.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Stanford • Soph • 6'7" / 230 lbs
A long wing with raw potential, Harrison Ingram could play his way into going one-and-done thanks to what was a strong freshman season at Stanford. He flashed some real potential as a big wing who could space the floor, defend and even create, though he struggled down the stretch as a shooter and wasn't a huge outside threat.
From Philadelphia 76ers
Round 1 - Pick 25
Tennessee • Fr • 5'11" / 170 lbs
Kennedy Chandler is a former five-star recruit with a strong pedigree who has had a pretty good freshman season on the whole. He's leading the Vols in scoring and assists and producing at a pretty respectable level with respect to his shooting numbers. Additionally, his downhill driving ability and quick burst has really opened up Tennessee's offense. I'm not convinced he's got the juice to be a starting caliber lead guard in the NBA because of some decision-making questions and his smaller frame but he's a fiery competitor on both ends and has held up well in a system under Rick Barnes that hasn't necessarily been kind to other freshmen in recent years.
From Utah Jazz
Round 1 - Pick 26
E.J. Liddell PF
Ohio State • 6'7" / 240 lbs
E.J. Liddell doesn't fit into a traditional bucket as a prospect -- he's a tad undersized for a big -- but it's hard to ignore his production. He's a gifted scorer who finds ways to produce and he ranks among the top five of all Big Ten players in blocks and scoring. His improved outside shot should help him stick in the league.
Round 1 - Pick 27
JD Davison PG
Alabama • Fr • 6'1" / 195 lbs
While the flashes of athleticism and bounce for Davison this season have genuinely been awesome, they've also been few and far between. He's sometimes struggled to find his role within Alabama's system and underwhelmed given his five-star expectations as someone who had lottery potential. The shot and the overall scoring just hasn't quite been there, but in a crowded, old backcourt, teams may see the context of his situation and be willing to bet on his potential given his strong pedigree, speed and burst.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Ohio State • Fr • 6'5" / 180 lbs
Late-rising freshman who is charging into the first round mix if he decides to declare. Malaki Branham has been incredible for OSU as a scorer and creator, averaging 21.3 points in his last seven including a 31 point explosion vs. then-No. 15 Illinois in an 86-83 win. Great size and scoring tools.
Round 1 - Pick 29
Auburn • Fr • 7'1" / 245 lbs
I've been a skeptic of Walker Kessler's NBA potential too long and am ready to think of him as a first-rounder at this point. The production is simply too good to ignore. He's second among all college players in blocked shots per game, first in block rate and genuinely a nightmare defender for opponents in and around the paint. He's also been very efficient as a scorer, ranking top-20 nationally in effective field goal percentage.
From Phoenix Suns
Round 1 - Pick 30
Jovic remains one of this draft's most unique prospects because of the blend of his size, shooting and creating. He's a really good passer and Mega has used him at times as its primary initiator, something you rarely see from a player that tall, which speaks to his vision on the whole. The point forward potential is probably not realistic at the NBA level but, like Josh Giddey in last year's draft, vision and creation ability regardless of level have a tendency to translate up.