10 NBA Draft prospects to watch in Sweet 16, Elite Eight of 2024 NCAA Tournament

Here are the NBA Draft prospects who demand your attention in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight.

Kam Jones, Marquette Golden Eagles
Kam Jones, Marquette Golden Eagles / Alex Martin/Journal and Courier / USA

The opening weekend of March Madness was quite eventful on the NBA Draft front. It's generally unwise to let a handful of games influence your opinion on a prospect too much, but this stage matters. There isn't a better showcase for prospects in the entire world, and one's ability to put up or shut up — when every game is an elimination game — shouldn't be overlooked.

We are already down to 16 teams left in the dance. Several blue-blood programs met an early demise last weekend, most notably No. 3 seed Kentucky. The Wildcats were sent packing by Oakland, which gave scouts a very short window through which to view potential top-5 picks Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham on the NCAA Tournament stage. We also saw Colorado bow out in the Round of 32, and with it two potential lottery picks in Cody Williams and Tristan da Silva.

On the flip side, we were treated to memorable, borderline historic performances from the likes of Zach Edey and Donovan Clingan. Every No. 1 seed has advanced to the Sweet 16, with each possessing at least one notable NBA prospect — or, in UConn's case, several. Only one double-digit seed remains, the ACC champs N.C. State, but we aren't done with upsets yet. You can rest assured.

As we gear up for another exciting weekend of college basketball, here are 10 NBA Draft prospects who demand your special attention.

10. Arizona's Pelle Larsson is on the rise

Of the teams remaining, No. 2 seed Arizona almost feels like the most slept on. That is a deep, talented group full of fringe NBA prospects. The best is probably Pelle Larsson, who is climbing up second-round projections due to his versatile skill set. The Swedish senior quietly stuffed the stat sheet in the Wildcats' second-round win over Dayton, registering 13 points, seven rebounds, and six assists.

At 6-foot-6, Larsson features an array of role-player traits NBA teams covet on the wing. He's not prolific as a self-creator, but he's an efficient spot-up shooter (44.1 percent on 3s), with excellent feel for cutting and passing in the flow of the offense. Larsson doesn't dance in isolation, but he'll burn errant closeouts with slippery drives and the occasional mid-range pull-up.

Factor in solid positional defense, and Larsson has a lot going for him. If he can continue to operate as invaluable glue in the Wildcats' rotation, NBA teams will catch on.

9. Kam Jones is on the upswing for Marquette

While Tyler Kolek has been the obvious standout of Marquette's run so far, Kam Jones deserves his flowers too. The talented senior has nine 3s through the Golden Eagles' first two games, with a masterful 28-point performance against Western Kentucky under his belt.

It's not difficult to see the potential NBA appeal with Jones, who is hitting 41.4 percent of his 3s for the season. At 6-foot-4, he has the burst to pressure the rim and score inside, combined with the ball-handling craft and shot-making juice to create looks on the perimeter.

With impressive finishing numbers around the rim, Jones has legitimate three-level equity as a scorer. He doesn't get to the line and he can fall into a habit of taking difficult, contested jumpers, but high-level shooters with Jones' self-creation ability don't come around too often. Especially not in the second round, where Jones is projected at this stage.

8. Jamal Shead could lead Houston to the promised land

Jamal Shead poured in 21 points and 10 assists in Houston's second-round victory over Texas A&M. He doesn't check all the boxes of a traditional NBA prospect, but Shead's production and winning impact are impossible to ignore. If the Cougars continue to push deep into March, more NBA scouts will take note of the senior's efforts.

Few resumés can stack up to what Shead has accomplished across four seasons at Houston. He's the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year, in addition to two All-AAC honors and a variety of defensive accolades. Even in the college game, it's rare for 6-foot-1 guards to win the conference's DPOY award. With Shead, it was hardly a shock. His ability to irritate ball-handlers and blow up passing lanes is unmatched.

Blending timely shooting and contagious defensive tenacity, Shead has a chance to make it work at the NBA level. He gets a showdown with Duke's loaded backcourt on Friday, with a chance to guard highly-touted prospects like Jared McCain, Tyrese Proctor, and Caleb Foster.

7. Baylor Scheierman is Creighton's most well-rounded player

Creighton is an excellent program with several NBA prospects on the roster, but none have shined brighter through two rounds of March Madness than fifth-year senior Baylor Scheierman. Listed precariously at 6-foot-6 and 180 pounds, Scheierman has developed into the Bluejays' ultimate Swiss Army Knife. The man does a little bit of everything, burying deep 3s, hammering the defensive glass, and spreading the wealth with gorgeous dimes.

Scheierman put up 15 points and 13 boards in Creighton's opening win, followed by 18-9-5 in the Bluejays' second-round thriller against Oregon. It was Scheierman who Creighton went to for momentum-swinging shots down the stretch in overtime, and the 23-year-old delivered.

He's on the older end of the spectrum as far as prospects are concerned, and defense won't be Scheierman's strength at the next level. Even so, teams are always on the lookout for skilled wings who can stretch the floor, operate as a secondary creator, and make the hustle plays. His positional rebounding is off the charts (9.1 per game).

6. UConn's Stephon Castle is the best remaining prospect... probably

Of those left in the NCAA Tournament, Stephon Castle is probably the only prospect with an outside chance at being the No. 1 overall pick. That is a product of a weak draft class more than Castle's own production, but he will be under the microscope regardless. That is the price of contributing at a high level for the best team in college basketball as a freshman.

Castle easily encourages the imagination of NBA talent evaluators. At 6-foot-6, he's built with tank-like strength that allows him to defend bigger players. He also has the lateral quickness and footwork to battle over screens and snuff out ball-handlers at the point of attack. In addition to excellent defense, Castle is a broad-shouldered driver who pulls out a few impressive finishes every game.

NBA teams love the idea of 'combo guards' and that label applies to Castle for (most of) the right reasons. He can create for teammates off of drives, but he's also comfortable operating in more of a connector role. What NBA teams really want to see, however, is a hot spell from 3-point range. The main holdup with Castle's draft stock, and the only reason he's not more widely broadcast as a top-pick candidate, is his lack of success from deep (27.9 percent).

5. Duke is waiting for Kyle Filipowski's March Madness moment

We are two rounds into Kyle Filipowski's second NCAA Tournament run, and he still hasn't put together a great game yet. That's not to say Flip has been terrible — he notched a respectable 14 points, five boards, and four assists on 6-of-8 shooting in Duke's shellacking of James Madison — but we are still waiting for his one shining moment. As such an accomplished prospect in a great program, Flip feels due for one proper explosion before his torch is snuffed and he bolts for the NBA.

He gets a chance to do it against the best defense in college basketball and a No. 1 seed on Friday. If Flip can pop off, as the kids say, it will go a long way toward stabilizing and cementing his status in NBA Draft circles. Most prognosticators plant Filipowski somewhere in the 10-20 range on mock drafts, but he could rise higher with a couple dominant performances — dominant performances he is very much capable of.

Flip is a well-rounded and extremely productive prospect in a notoriously weak draft class. Some scouts will balk at his short arms, but they would be dumb. Flip has been a wrecking crew on defense this season, in addition to his standard supply of made 3s, impressive dimes, and forceful finishes in the paint. The modern NBA is all about skill and size; Flip can dribble, pass, and shoot as a 7-footer. Now is his chance to really make a statement.

4. Iowa State's Milan Momcilovic should be on your radar

As the NBA Draft community continues to sleep on Iowa State freshman Milan Momcilovic, I am here to say "Wake up!" The dude has been contributing at a high level for a top-2 seed for several weeks now. In the Cyclones' first-round win over South Dakota State, he managed 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting. He added 10 more points, a block, and a steal in the subsequent win over Wazzu.

I'm not sure why Momcilovic isn't planted on more draft boards. Maybe there's a sense that he will return to school, but Momcilovic should be able to test the waters and receive glowing reviews from NBA scouts this offseason. He is 6-foot-9 with some of the nuttiest shooting touch you'll find, especially in a 19-year-old.

Beyond spacing the floor with spot-up 3s, Momcilovic has mastered a variety of nifty in-between shots. He can hit post-up fades, stick mid-range jumpers with a hand in his face, or lean on his floater. The 3-point dynamism is compelling, too. Momcilovic does not need to be on balance to hit shots. Even with defensive concerns, we should collectively be paying more attention to any prospect with Momcilovic's blend of size and shot-making prowess.

3. Terrence Shannon might single-handedly drag Illinois to the finish line

We cannot mention Terrence Shannon's NBA Draft stock without noting that he has been accused of rape, with a hearing scheduled for May 10. He was initially suspended before suing the school and being reinstated by the Fighting Illini basketball program.

The outcome of that hearing has everything to do with Shannon's draft stock, and it feels trivial to discuss his production on the court. He is, however, firmly on NBA radars and teams will be tuning in to watch Illinois battle Iowa State, which could be the best matchup of the Sweet 16. The Fighting Illini are offense-first; the Cyclones play lockdown defense. It will take a massive effort from Shannon to help Illinois reach its end goal.

Shannon has been off the charts lately, with a combined 56 points across the first weekend of March Madness. A vicious slasher with the strength and athleticism to finish among the trees, Shannon has real star upside tied to his advantage-creation and shot-making. Scouts will closely monitor his 3-point shooting; he's 5-of-14 so far in the tournament.

2. Zach Edey is looking to finish his Purdue career on top

We can no longer write off Zach Edey. He's soon to be the two-time Naismith Player of the Year, and every NBA scouting department will be locked on Purdue's Sweet 16 showdown with Gonzaga. This will be the Boilermakers' first real test after coasting through the opening weekend. Notably, however, Edey has a track record of success against Mark Few's squad.

Even with his outmoded play style and complete singularity in the modern basketball landscape, Edey has real momentum toward a first-round draft selection in June. There is a lot of time between now and the draft, but Edey obliterated Grambling and Utah State in the first two rounds. If he can sustain his historic output against real opponents, and push Purdue deep into the tournament, NBA scouts will be hard-pressed to ignore him.

The list of 7-foot-4, post-up bruisers in the NBA doesn't exit. Those players don't exist in today's game. But, Edey is so efficient around the basket, and so intimidating as a shot-blocker, that it might not matter. If he can convince teams of his utility as a screen-setting, lob-catching, rebound-hoarding, shot-blocking bench big, that is first-round material in a weak draft.

1. UConn's Donovan Clingan is on the ascent

Donovan Clingan netted 14 points, 14 rebounds, and eight blocks in Connecticut's win over Northwestern. The Huskies are the best, most diversely talented team in college basketball, but Clingan has emerged as the undeniable star of the show in recent weeks. So dominant has Clingan's last few weeks been that he is now projected No. 5 overall at ESPN.

While that feels a tad high, ESPN is generally a good barometer for the "consensus" opinion in NBA circles, as much as something like that may exist. Jonathan Givony is plugged in across the league and it's hard to deny how impactful Clingan has been for a team primed to go deep into March.

If Clingan continues at his current trajectory, we cannot rule out a rise into the top-10, maybe even the top-5. It's a weak draft class, which means teams will invest more willingly in surefire contributors. Clingan is only a sophomore and he has, at the perfect time, mastered the realm of college basketball. He's swatting everything on defense and devouring the paint on offense, supplying a blend of thunderous screens, soft-touch finishes, and forceful dunks that NBA front offices will appreciate.