Many of the biggest names have already been eliminated, but that doesn’t mean the 2017 Final Four isn’t loaded with NBA Draft prospects.
This year’s Final Four of the NCAA Tournament is a little bit different than usual. The Sweet 16 and Elite 8 featured a number of thrilling games and upsets, meaning that instead of the normal combination of elite programs and players, this year’s foursome will showcase some unfamiliar faces. It will also feature unfamiliar players for those who follow the NBA Draft, as nearly all of the draft’s top prospects have reached the end of their seasons.
In the place of teams like Kentucky, UCLA, and Arizona, we will see three teams attempt to win their first title in the modern era. Oregon, with a team of upperclassmen who are seasoned from last year’s Elite Eight run, will try to capture their first NCAA title since they won the inaugural eight-team tournament in 1939. Gonzaga, on the other hand, is in their first Final Four, and should be the favorite, given their depth and size on the interior. They’re trying to prove that mid-major programs still can compete, and put an exclamation point on the incredible run Mark Few has generated. North Carolina is here, of course, as the Tar Heels will try for their third national title in 12 years after edging Kentucky. They are the outlier here in terms of prestige. On the other end of the spectrum is South Carolina, as the seventh-seeded Gamecocks have had a miracle run in their first tournament appearance in 13 years.
The stars of the 2017 NBA Draft class are mostly gone, with players such as Josh Jackson and Lonzo Ball bowing out over the weekend, and other top players like Markelle Fultz and Dennis Smith, Jr. missing the dance entirely. The best player left in the Final Four according to the Step Back’s pre-tournament Big Board is Gonzaga’s Zach Collins, at 15th — meaning no players we project to the lottery made the Final Four. But that doesn’t mean that the big stage of the Dance won’t feature any future NBA players. Each remaining team has one or two guys who may have a path to an NBA roster, and each of these players will have a chance to be impactful this weekend. If you’re an NBA fan looking for diamonds in the rough to key on as we head into NBA Draft evaluation season, here’s who to pay attention to in the three remaining games.