2022 NCAA Tournament Second Round Preview | The Morning Dunk
After a spectacular first two days of the 2022 NCAA Tournament, it's time to look ahead region by region at the prospect matchups worth paying attention to in the second round.
A Saturday edition of The Morning Dunk???
March Madness calls for extra attention, as it provides an excellent way for scouts and fans alike to get good looks at a number of NBA prospects ahead of the 2022 draft.
After a full slate of games over the last few days, the fun has just begun as we have some great opportunities for players to prove themselves even more in the second round.
From the top names to fringe prospects, breakouts are already happening, and we’re not even out of opening weekend.
Let’s buckle up and take a look region by region at the top matchups in store before the Sweet Sixteen, starting in the West Region.
1 Gonzaga vs. 9 Memphis
Skill against power. Two completely different ends of the center spectrum will clash on Saturday as Chet Holmgren and Jalen Duren highlight the prospect matchup here in this one. While there are other storylines to take a look at in terms of others who could swing a win for their team, the two bigs will dominate pre-game conversation for good reason. Holmgren’s draft stock has remained high because of his blend of high IQ, shooting ability, and dominant rim protection despite his lanky build at 7’0” tall. Duren is a different beast altogether, as his chiseled physique and top-shelf athleticism at his position give him a leg up virtually every time he takes the court. Scouts will lock on to this game for good reason. Should Holmgren put up numbers comparable to the ridiculous stat line he had in Gonzaga’s first game (19 points, 17 rebounds, seven blocks) against a post player in Duren who compares favorably to the types of players he’ll see in the NBA, his chances of going first overall in June could increase heavily.
3 Texas Tech vs. 11 Notre Dame
Blake Wesley came alive in the second half for Notre Dame as he helped lead his squad with 18 points and multiple steals. His athletic ability at the guard spot was on display against Alabama and even in the play-in match against Rutgers. While Wesley has struggled in terms of field goal percentage over the last month, he has a real shot at shutting up the doubters as the Fighting Irish get ready to face Texas Tech. The Red Raiders have plus size and/or length at every position on the floor besides center, as they play a switchable lineup focused on throwing different looks at the other team’s best players. Terrence Shannon Jr. shot the ball very well in the first round; should his offense carry over along with contributions from other potential NBA prospects, Tech should be able to advance.
2 Duke vs. 7 Michigan State
Paolo Banchero had a coming-out party in his tournament debut, notching 17 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists while nailing multiple triples and forcing turnovers on the defensive end. His superb play helped guarantee a first-round win, but the Blue Devils are deep with NBA talent, including AJ Griffin, Wendell Moore, Mark Williams, and Trevor Keels. Michigan State won’t go down quietly, though, as they have a talented freshman guard of their own in Max Christie along with seniors Gabe Brown and Marcus Bingham, who could find themselves getting cups of coffee in the league next year. If Banchero and Williams can defend as well as they did in the first game, then it’s Duke’s to lose. If the Spartans find ways to creatively put points on the board, however, they have the defensive talent in place to limit the effectiveness of the Blue Devils’ offense.
1 Arizona vs. 9 TCU
The dominant storyline in this one is an absolutely dynamic matchup in the backcourt. Mike Miles of TCU has a legitimate shot at being a Top 45 draft choice in June, while Dalen Terry has started to put himself in the conversation to go higher than that. Despite a more limited role for the majority of the season, the 6’7” sophomore guard Terry has made the most of his opportunity with Kerr Kriisa sidelined over the last few weeks. In Arizona’s first game of the tournament, Terry put up 16 points, seven rebounds, and four assists on 6-of-8 shooting from the field. He brings a lot to the table defensively as well as playing at a pace and operating to the benefit of his teammates. However, if this stretch of shooting is real, there’s little reason not to move him up draft boards. Bennedict Mathurin and Christian Koloko also had solid outings and will do their best to make sure a Miles miracle doesn’t take place in an upset.
3 Tennessee vs. 11 Michigan
There’s arguably been no hotter team over the last week than Tennessee. After winning the SEC Tournament, the Volunteers rolled to take care of business in the first round. Many thought the Michigan Wolverines and prospects Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate had favorable matchups against Colorado State. Still, the size and strength of Tennessee’s frontcourt will add a completely different dimension to this one. Add in that Kennedy Chandler has played like a first-round point guard through this recent stretch of games, and it only continues to make life difficult for the Wolverines heading in. Speaking of Chandler, the leadership he’s shown in helping his veteran group navigate through a gauntlet of a conference should be commended, and he’s on track to continue winning over fans in front offices ahead of June.
2 Villanova vs. 7 Ohio State
While maybe not the sexiest game in the field, scouts still have good reason to pay attention to this one. Malaki Branham had a steady first half for Ohio State on Friday, and EJ Liddell made multiple big shots and had some key defensive plays down the stretch to seal the win for the Buckeyes. Villanova doesn’t have any surefire prospects in terms of draft stock; however, any of Collin Gillespie, Jermaine Samuels, Brandon Slater, and Justin Moore could have NBA opportunities waiting for them in their futures. Seeing Branham and Liddell score and defend against a rugged Wildcats team would bode well for their pro outlook after this season.
1 Kansas vs. 9 Creighton
Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun had their say in Kansas’ first-round win, especially Braun, who was 4-of-5 from three-point range. Remy Martin was a nice surprise off the bench as he got back to more of his ways before he stepped foot in Lawrence. Creighton will be an interesting test for the Jayhawks, with future prospects in Arthur Kaluma and his teammates probably looking to make names for themselves against one of the “blue blood” programs in the nation. Two NBA-caliber wings are hard to stop in March, and when you factor in the size up front and guard play supporting them, it’s hard to see an upset here. But it is March, after all.
3 Wisconsin vs. 11 Iowa State
It wasn’t a guaranteed win for Wisconsin over Colgate on Friday, but star guard Johnny Davis got the job done in the second half and finished off one of the best performances of round one. Davis ended the game with 25 points and eight rebounds while shooting 4-of-10 from deep and 8-of-20 overall despite a rough start to the game from a scoring perspective. Once again, Davis played to his strengths defensively and found ways to get downhill off a screen up top or drill spot-up jumpers when the moment called for it. But he wasn’t the only guard who had a night on Friday. Iowa State’s Tyrese Hunter dropped 23 points, including 7-of-11 threes in an upset over LSU. I’ve long considered Hunter as a 2023 prospect, potentially a lottery pick, but we know how things go in March. IF Hunter could knock off Davis and the rest of his crew in a second consecutive upset while also stuffing the stat sheet, that conversation could turn to 2022 conversation really quickly.
2 Auburn vs. 10 Miami
It was to be expected that Jabari Smith Jr. and Walker Kessler would give Auburn a significant chance to make the Final Four because of their size, length, and balanced blend of offensive and defensive value. Kessler did his thing in blocking seven shots in the first round, while Smith bombed shots from three and even threw down a thunderous dunk off an offensive rebound and dribble-drive move. As the Tigers get deeper into the tournament, Smith’s ability to knock down tough shots off the bounce will continue to be monitored, but for now, he’s a safe bet to fight the good fight against a Miami team hungry to keep racking up wins. Isaiah Wong is the most well-known prospect on the Hurricanes, but the shifty shot-making guard isn’t the only player I find fascinating on his squad. Kameron McGusty made his presence felt in a tough ACC Tournament game against Duke and could be a difference-maker in this one.
1 Baylor vs. 8 North Carolina
The Baylor Bears will have their hands full against a red-hot North Carolina squad led by sophomore shot maker Caleb Love in arguably one of the best second-round matchups overall. While Love is one of the streakiest combo guards in the country, he’s continued to show up and hit shots when they matter. His balanced backcourt mate RJ Davis along with Armando Bacot and Brady Manek up front give the Tar Heels a blend of interior and perimeter scoring necessary to win games in March. Kendall Brown and Jeremy Sochan are still the main NBA prospects to watch here, but Matthew Mayer needs to have a great day shooting the basketball for the Bears to walk away with a win that’s more than a narrow escape.
4 UCLA vs. 5 Saint Mary’s
Our own Tyler Rucker just wrote a brilliant piece on why it’s beginning to look like an NBA team should really consider rolling the dice on Peyton Watson come June. The 6’8” wing has been putting together flashes of outside shooting, timely defense, and transition effectiveness in a limited role off the bench. UCLA shouldn’t be afraid to go to the talented freshman if the situation demands it, as this team is built to win now. Johnny Juzang and Jaime Jaquez are the other names to watch, and both will likely need to score in bunches to avoid the upset to a legitimate Saint Mary’s squad. The Gaels are a lethal perimeter threat and have been well tested in the WCC. Whichever team can limit turnovers while canning three after three should survive and advance here.
3 Purdue vs. 6 Texas
Jaden Ivey did exactly what he’s done all year in Purdue’s first tournament game: dominate with speed and athleticism. The 6’4” guard hung 22 points on Yale and even got to show off his improving three-point stroke, along with being consistent from the charity stripe. Ivey’s downhill pressure at the rim, budding playmaking, and no-nonsense attitude on the court form one hell of a guard prospect, but the shooting is a major step forward for Ivey this year—especially if those looks are coming off the bounce. Zach Edey and Trevion Williams help to give the Boilermakers too much size up front for Texas to contend with in this one. If the Longhorns’ perimeter studs aren’t pouring in triples from start to finish, this game could get ugly on the glass and, in turn, on the scoreboard in favor of Purdue.
Sadly, Chet isn’t that good.
Great piece Nathan, you’ve nailed the excellent to be watched list, Thanks!!