10 NBA Draft prospects rising and falling after first weekend of March Madness

Here are the NBA Draft prospects who improved or harmed their status in the first weekend of March Madness.

Cam Spencer, Donovan Clingan, Jaylin Stewart, UConn Huskies
Cam Spencer, Donovan Clingan, Jaylin Stewart, UConn Huskies / Elsa/GettyImages

We have reached the zenith of the college basketball season. Now more than ever, NBA scouts are glued to their TVs or present in areas to watch the action unfold. It's unwise to place too much stock into March Madness, a single elimination tournament defined by its unpredictability. But, with an especially weak NBA Draft class on the docket and teams eager to unearth hidden gems, we can expect special attention to be paid to those who shine on basketball's grandest stage.

The first weekend of March Madness was a doozy. Only one double-digit seed ended up cracking the Sweet 16 — NC State, the hottest team from the hottest conference — but even so, we have been treated to excellent hoops, memorable moments, and several potential NBA radar breakouts.

UConn looks like the team to beat, as expected, but Purdue — who would've been the No. 1 overall seed with a Big Ten Tournament win — has been surprisingly dominant. Last season's premature ending clearly left a sour taste in Zach Edey's mouth. He's looking to leave on the most resounding note possible, while potentially catapulting up NBA draft boards in the process.

So, that is where we'll start.

NBA Draft March Madness stock: Zach Edey, rising

There's not much to say that hasn't already been said. The Zach Edey narrative has spun wildly out of control through the first two rounds. He has been awesome all season, and last season before that. Now he's doing it in March, leading the charge for a Purdue team that is dangerously close to developing the "aura" those kids on Twitter talk about.

Has Edey done anything to materially alleviate the concerns scouts had about his NBA translation before the tournament started? No. He bullied Grambling and Utah State, pummeling ill-equipped defenders with his standard blend of brute-force layups and soft-touch hooks. He's blocking shots and inhaling rebounds, of course, but the NBA game is faster. Offenses are more spaced out. How Edey holds up at the next level is still an open-ended question. There just aren't any 7-foot-4, 300-pound post-up bruisers to compare him to.

But, at a certain point, NBA teams will appreciate Edey being the best player in the men's college basketball sphere for two years running. There is an inherent benefit to being that big with that much offensive skill. Edey can set screens, pass, and finish with finesse — he's not just dunking everything because he's tall.

At least situationally, one has to imagine Edey can stick at the next level. He's better than Boban Marjanovic, and hey, that's a playable NBA player. At least he was for a time. There normally aren't even 30 of those in a draft class, and this is a weak class. So... maybe, just maybe, Edey is the inevitable force Purdue advertises him as.

NBA Draft March Madness stock: Tristan da Silva, rising

Colorado's Tristan da Silva made a strong impression during the Buffs' three-game opening weekend slate. The Buffs were ultimately sent packing by Marquette, but da Silva has done enough to linger in the minds of smart NBA execs. He's 23 — a potential red flag in the first round, especially — but the archetype and skill level are undeniable.

All weekend, da Silva splashed 3s, scored effectively as a face-up threat, and defended at a high level. The NBA is all about versatility these days. At 6-foot-10, da Silva's blend of size, skill, and scalability on the wing is pretty much money in the bank. He should probably be thought of as a potential lotto pick just as frequently as Tennessee's Dalton Knecht, if we want to compare the best seniors in the draft.

NBA Draft March Madness stock: Reed Sheppard, falling

Should one game tank Reed Sheppard's stock? No, it should not. The man shot 52.1 percent from deep for an entire season. That is absurd. There are critics who will point to Sheppard's relative lack of 3-point dynamism compared to, say, Jared McCain. But that is something that can be developed over time. Sheppard's percentages will fall once his volume and difficulty are ratcheted up, but he has a nice cushion to work with.

Sheppard is an elite shooter, point blank. He took on more offensive responsibilities down the stretch for Kentucky. That didn't translate to the final game, as Sheppard scored three points on 1-of-5 shooting in an embarrassing loss to Oakland. But, he also came off the bench behind D.J. Wagner, so we can point to John Calipari's boneheaded mistakes, too.

The 6-foot-3 combo guard showed enough ball-handling chops and playmaking instincts to translate as more than a floor-spacing connector at the next level. Sheppard's struggles defending the ball were more pronounced down the stretch, but he's a menace in passing lanes and a truly impactful defensive playmaker despite his diminutive frame.

It's hard not to watch Sheppard and sense a winning player. He checks off the intangible boxes coaches will love and he's got at least one elite NBA skill to bank on. The Oakland game illuminated concerns about Sheppard's lack of involvement and certain defensive weak points, but in the end, he's still a clear upper-lottery pick.

NBA Draft March Madness stock: Tyler Kolek, rising

Tyler Kolek is back from injury and Marquette is still dancing. The Golden Eagles faced more than one scare over the weekend, but Kolek amassed back-to-back double-doubles, stabilizing the offense with his trademark playmaking wizardry and leading the way with his infectious energy.

As the NBA continues to unearth skillful guards who thrive despite limited burst or vertical athleticism, Kolek should continue to draw first-round eyeballs. He's too damn smart not to be in that conversation. There isn't a better pick-and-roll guard in college hoops. Kolek is constantly poking and prodding the defense, slipping through cracks and turning rim pressure into open 3s for teammates.

He can also splash 3s, with an affinity for catch-and-shoot triples that will allow him to thrive on or off the ball at the next level. So long as Marquette continues to dance, we should see quality basketball from Kolek. He is the tournament's premier dropper of dimes.

NBA Draft March Madness stock: Elliot Cadeau, falling

Elliot Cadeau is going to be a great college point guard, but he's not ready for the NBA yet. The list of 6-foot-1 guards who can't shoot a lick is, well, not really a thing. Those guards don't stick at the NBA level. Cadeau is a majestic passer with the speed and ball-handling craft to penetrate the defense, but he's 0-of-4 from deep in the tournament and shooting 16.7 percent on the season.

The undersized frosh has been quiet during North Carolina's two wins. The Tar Heels are still dancing, so Cadeau can change his fortunes a bit, but he is essentially laying for foundation for a sophomore breakout. It's hard to imagine Cadeau entering the 2024 draft and convincing a team to pick him, especially not in the first round.

NBA Draft March Madness stock: Walter Clayton Jr., rising

Florida lost to Colorado in the opening round, so it was a brief but glorious tournament for Gators junior Walter Clayton. He dropped 33 points, going blow-for-blow with the explosive Buffs offense and very nearly winning the game, were it not for KJ Simpson's heroic buzzer-beater at the end of regulation.

Clayton gave scouts a very compelling case to consider him on draft night. It's easy to overlook small, score-first guards, but Clayton has the quickness to get wherever he wants on the floor and the pull-up shooting chops to take advantage. He's strong enough to take a bump and finish in the lane. He can bomb 3s, off the dribble or off the catch. He won't set the table or properly run the offense, but teams in search of a bench guard who can supply a jolt of electricity should look in Clayton's direction.

NBA Draft March Madness stock: Donovan Clingan, rising

Donovan Clingan has been the most dominant force in men's college basketball lately, with the obvious exception of Zach Edey. The 7-foot-2 sophomore took a sledgehammer to Northwestern on both ends in the second round, compiling 14 points, 14 rebounds, and eight blocks. UConn is the best team in the country and Clingan is its best player right now.

He faces a few of the same translational questions as Edey — limitations guarding in space, conditioning, lack of perimeter skill — although those questions are less pronounced with Clingan. He's definitely more nimble in space, at least comfortable guarding up on pick-and-rolls and quickly recovering to protect the rim. He's not going to switch screens and more up-tempo offenses will give him issues, but the rim protection instincts and prolific rebounding offer a high floor.

On offense, Clingan is finishing just about everything around the rim these days. He catches it high and is unafraid to toss his weight around to clear out space. He doesn't rely on advanced post moves like Edey, but he's great at setting screens and sealing off defenders in the paint. As far as standard pick-and-roll bigs go, Clingan should help an NBA offense plenty.

If he continues to dominate the March Madness stage like this, we can pretty much pencil him somewhere in the lottery.

NBA Draft March Madness stock: DaRon Holmes II, rising

Dayton met its end in the second round, but not before DaRon Holmes made a convincing case to NBA scouts. The Flyers' junior has been the crème de la crème for mid-major defenders since he arrived in Ohio. In Dayton's loss to Arizona, he netted 23 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks, and a block.

It has been a season of rapid improvement for Holmes, who has elevated his 3-point percentage (38.6) and volume (2.5 3PA) to supplement his athletic finishes and titanic defense. Holmes showcased the full extent of his skill set in March, working two-man actions on the perimeter, scoring off of drives, and dominating the glass.

It's time to talk about Holmes like a first round prospect, because he is.

NBA Draft March Madness stock: Rob Dillingham, falling

Not to pile on the Kentucky guards for one bad game, but Rob Dillingham went quiet at the worst possible time. The always-confident Dillingham fizzed out with 10 points on 2-of-9 shooting in the loss to Oakland. He struggled around the rim, missed his trademark contested jumpers, and didn't offer enough playmaking support (three assists in 28 minutes) to close the gap.

Odds are, Dillingham is still a top-10 pick when June rolls around. Maybe even top-5 or top-3. He's a special talent and one frigid night doesn't change that. But, Dillingham built his stock on timely shots and explosive performances in big moments, only to crumble on the March Madness stage.

There is a lot of natural trepidation tied to Dillingham's slender 6-foot-2 frame. If he's not shooting and creating at elite levels, his value plummets. He won't defend well; his value is rooted in on-ball production, but he's limited as a finisher against length. Those are facts that NBA front offices will mull over in the months to come.

NBA Draft March Madness stock: Jared McCain, rising

Jared McCain poured 30 points on James Madison as Duke beat the Dukes, handily. Yours truly, as well as every other college basketball pundit, hammered JMU as a potential Cinderella. The Blue Devils slammed the door shut on that possibility, largely driven by McCain's special shot-making and underrated playmaking.

The dude hit 8-of-11 from beyond the arc. We'd all love to see McCain working two-man actions with Cooper Flagg and Khaman Maluach next season, but at this rate, it's hard to imagine McCain passing up the chance to come off the board in the first round of a weak draft class. If he drills shots in pre-draft workouts (which he will) and wins over NBA front offices in the interview stage (which he will), we are talking about a potential lottery pick.

There isn't a more widely sought-after skill in NBA circles than elite perimeter shooting. McCain is one of the best shooters on the board, and he's a legitimately crafty ball-handler, facilitator, and in-between scorer to boot.

dark. 2024 NBA MOCK DRAFT. Zach Edey, Donovan Clingan rule first weekend of March Madness. Zach Edey, Donovan Clingan rule first weekend of March Madness