Five Under-The-Radar NBA Prospects To Watch During The NCAA Tournament

Two years ago, I provided a list of players to watch during the tournament. Last year, I gave reasons why the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is not as good as you may believe. This year, I would like to provide a list of players you may not know are quality NBA prospects. These players are likely to declare for the NBA Draft whenever their season ends. So this serves as a bit of a primer and to provide another reason to watch some of the games.

Mike Daum, South Dakota State

He is the least-known name on this list. But Mike Daum is the nation's second-leading scorer at 25.3 points per game. Also, chipping in 8.2 rebounds for the Jackrabbits, Daum is a 6'9" forward who does most of his damage on the perimeter. Unfortunately for him and his team, their Round of 64 opponent is the No. 1-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs, so it is highly unlikely that Daum will be around longer than one game. However, he is a redshirt sophomore, so he may not declare this year. If he does, he may be selected near the back end of the first round.

Lauri Markkanen, Arizona

Okay, so maybe the freshman forward they call "Baby Unicorn" isn't so under the radar, as he plays for a historic program in Tucson and is being compared to Knicks young star and glimmer of hope Kristaps Porzingis. However, the college season started with the keys to a successful season for the Wildcats revolving around Kadeem Allen and the return of suspended guard Allonzo Trier. But Markkanen has been a driving force as Arizona won a very stacked Pac-12. If he were on a team like the aforementioned Daum, he'd probably post similar numbers. Arizona expects to be in this tourney well past the first weekend, so there will be ample opportunity to watch the potential lottery pick showcase his skills.

Jonathan Isaac, Florida State

There is a theme. Tall, agile, versatile forwards are trending upward in the latest iteration of the NBA, which pushes towards position-less talent with size. Jonathan Issac has nearly as much potential as Duke's Jayson Tatum without as much incoming fanfare. The Seminoles, which have a few future pros on the squad, have allowed for the 6'10" Isaac to freely be the player he wants to develop into without much traditional rigidity that coaching can enforce. While he does lack some discipline to his game, as most freshmen do, Isaac is more than a project player. Depending on where he's drafted, he may be able to contribute right away for a middling team.

De'Aaron Fox, Kentucky

Again, playing for a distinguished school like Kentucky will eliminate any idea of putting a player like Fox sneaking up draft boards. However, this year's talent pool is loaded with guards. Even though there are more attractive backcourt players, including his teammate Malik Monk, Fox will still be drafted highly. Think if Mike Conley were bigger and more explosive. That's a good comparison as you watch Fox and Big Blue go for the national title in a tough South Region.

Caleb Swanigan, Purdue

Last year, it was plausible to conclude that Caleb Swanigan was a bit of a disappointment as a freshman. A consensus "one-and-done" coming out of high school, Swanigan didn't seem to be the player he was slated to be. But after a year of dieting and getting in shape, he became a double-double machine for the Boilermakers. Posting season averages of 18 points and a nation-best 12 rebounds per game, Swanigan looks to be rounding into the kind of prospect that may earn those lottery millions. (And if there's a great individual player story to appreciate, this is it.)

So those are five of the prospects that are sprinkled throughout the field of sixty-four. If you prefer the pro game to college, maybe you can be entertained by scouting some of these players for the next level.

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