NCAA tournament field revealed, Lakers’ draft prospects on display
Normally the NCAA tournament is a curiosity for Lakers fans. The team rarely drafts in the first round, making it difficult to guess whom it might take with the 48th pick (Ryan Kelly in 2013) or the 60th (Robert Sacre in 2012).
But this year, with the Lakers at 22-44 and likely holding at least a top-10 (if not top-five) pick in June’s NBA draft, the tournament suddenly becomes a lot more interesting.
The NCAA unveiled its pool of teams Sunday, headlined by regional top seeds Florida, Arizona, Wichita State and Virginia.
Games to watch include second-seeded Kansas against 15th-seeded Eastern Kentucky. While Jayhawks center Joel Embiid isn’t expected to play because of a back injury, Kansas forward Andrew Wiggins could be the top pick in the draft.
UCLA, seeded fourth, may need to get past both the Gators and Jayhawks to win the South Region with NBA prospects Kyle Anderson, Zach LaVine and Jordan Adams.
Another player to watch is Tyler Ennis from Syracuse (a No. 3 seed) against Western Michigan (14th).
The West Regional features a number of potential lottery picks. Marcus Smart will try to lead ninth-seeded Oklahoma State past eighth-seeded Gonzaga.
Arizona will play Weber State (16th), giving forward Aaron Gordon a chance to prove his value as a high pick.
One player on the rise is high-scoring forward Doug McDermott of Creighton (third seeded), which has a first-round matchup against Louisiana (14th).
The Midwest Regional will feature eighth-seeded Kentucky’s Julius Randle, Willie Cauley-Stein and James Young in a first-round matchup against Kansas State. Third-seeded Duke, with Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood, will take on Mercer.
The East Regional may have a number of quality teams but not as many picks expected to go high in the draft. Gary Harris and fourth-seeded Michigan State will play Delaware.
Noah Vonleh of Indiana will have to showcase his skills in the NIT.
International prospects Dante Exum (Australia), Dario Saric (Croatia), Clint Capela (Switzerland) and Jusuf Nurkic (Bosnia) naturally won’t participate in either tournament.
With a high pick, the Lakers should be in range to grab a top prospect like Wiggins, Parker, Embiid, Exum, Randle, Smart, Vonleh, Gordon, Ennis or McDermott.
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