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March Madness 2015: NBA Prospect Watch, Final Four

With the NCAA Tournament entering its final games, we take a look at how the top remaining prospects fared and look ahead to their Saturday matchups.

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This past weekend produced one of the most enjoyable round of contests in recent tournament memory, with a slate of solid Sweet Sixteen bouts turning into four outstanding Elite Eight games. NBA Draft watchers can celebrate as the Final Four will feature six players who could end up in the lottery, and arguably the No. 1 and No. 2 selections still battling. Let's take a look at Friday's Final Four matchups.

Click on the hyperlink on a player to open their DraftExpress profile, which has all their basic information; stats all come from sports-reference.com.

C Jahlil Okafor, Duke
Next Contest:
vs. 7 seed Michigan State, Today, 3:09 PT

Okafor had a quiet weekend by his standards, as he was held to six points and eight rebounds on 3-6 shooting against Utah, and nine points and eight rebounds on 4-10 shooting against Gonzaga. To be fair to Okafor, the Blue Devils were playing two teams with decent matchups against him—Utah has 7'0 freshman Jakob Poeltl, and Gonzaga throws out two excellent bigs in 7'1 Przemek Karnowski and 6'10 Domantas Sabonis. The Blue Devils had enough success at the guards that two lower scoring games from the big man were more than enough to secure two wins.

Michigan State doesn't have the size that the Utes or the Bulldogs possess, so bet on Okafor to assume a much bigger role this weekend. Nothing against Tom Izzo or his stunning Spartans, but I've got my fingers crossed for a Duke/Kentucky matchup so we can see Okafor matched up against the next player on this list.

PF/C Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky
Next Contest:
vs. 1 seed Wisconsin, Today, 5:49 PT

While Okafor has a quiet weekend, Towns was dynamite. Sure, he only had one point and two rebounds against West Virginia as he struggled with foul trouble, (and Coach Calipari rightfully called him out)  but Kentucky won by 41 points regardless. Against Notre Dame, it was a different story—he showed why he's in contention with Okafor for the top spot in the draft.

Towns had 25 points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block on 10-13 shooting, which included 17 points in the second half and nine in the final 11 minutes. His defense wasn't his seasonal best, as Zach Auguste had 20 points and nine rebounds against him, but it seemed every time Auguste scored, Towns had a stronger response; Towns was the best player on the floor and the Wildcats would have been decimated without him. Furthermore, on the final play of the game, he kept up with Irish point guard Jerian Grant in footspeed from one side of the court to another. Big men aren't supposed to move like that.

Notre Dame almost beat Kentucky by playing fast, playing smart, and by battling the normally un-battleable Wildcats on the glass. Wisconsin has the ability to follow that blueprint—if Kentucky is going to win, they're going to need a repeat performance from Towns.

C Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
Next Contest:
vs. 1 seed Wisconsin, Today, 5:49 PT

There's not much more to say on Cauley-Stein than I have already; he wasn't a focal point in Kentucky's offense this weekend, but he played within the system, (6-10 shooting in the two games), and played excellent defense. His biggest test will be this afternoon when he guards Frank Kaminsky, who boosts his rare combination of low-post moves and perimeter scoring ability.

SF Justice Winslow, Duke
Next Contest:
vs. 7 seed Michigan State, Today, 3:09 PT

Winslow was the Blue Devil's best player against Utah, getting to the basket with ease and knocking down three threes in a 21 point, 10 rebound performance. Against Gonzaga, he struggled early; his shots weren't falling, and his usual excellent defense wasn't having any effect on Bulldogs scorer Kyle Wiltjer. By the end of the game, Winslow regained his footing; he scored seven straight points for Duke in the closing minutes and locked up Wiltjer late. He's had a stellar tournament, and is rocketing up my draft board. His next test will be the Spartan's Branden Dawson and Denzel Valentine, both of whom are crafty, capable scorers.

PF/C Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
Next Contest:
vs. 1 seed Kentucky, Today, 5:49 PT

After a solid 19 point, eight rebound outing against North Carolina, Kaminsky faced off against the best defensive squad in the country in Arizona and blew the Wildcats out of the tournament. His 29 point, six rebound effort (9-20 shooting, 10-12 from the FT line) included offensive success against everyone Arizona could put against him; from forward Brandon Ashley (Arizona's best bet, but hampered by foul trouble) to lottery shot Stanley Johnson to center Kaleb Tarczewski, no one could contain Kaminsky for long.

While I'll give the nudge to Sam Dekker as the Badger's key to Saturday's contest (a much better matchup against Kentucky's Trey Lyles), Kaminsky is going to need to produce, regardless of the fact that he'll be facing Towns and Cauley-Stein.

PF Trey Lyles, Kentucky
Next Contest:
vs. 1 seed Wisconsin, Today, 5:49 PT

Lyles had two solid games over the weekend, with 14 points and seven boards on 4-7 shooting in the blowout against West Virginia, and nine points with five boards (and five turnovers) against Notre Dame. Again, his stats will never amaze while he's playing with this deep Kentucky squad, but his versatility and jumpshot keep him in the fringe lottery in my opinion. While Lyles has been doing a solid job at guarding the three this season, the contest against Wisconsin—which will pit him against Sam Dekker—is a big mismatch that the Badgers should attack often.

SG Devin Booker, Kentucky
Next Contest:
vs. 1 seed Wisconsin, Today, 5:49 PT

Booker busted out of his lengthy shooting slump for a combined 22 points on 9-14 shooting and 4-8 from three in the two matchups against West Virginia and Gonzaga. His value as a spot shooter/solid defender is obvious, and if he ends this tournament with two more sharp-shooting games, he can enter the draft with much more confidence than he had over the past month.

SF Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
Next Contest:
vs. 1 seed Kentucky, Today, 5:49 PT

Dekker has turned a solid season into an exceptional tournament run—he's averaging 21.7 points and 5.5 rebounds on 60.3% shooting and 48% from three in Wisconsin's four games in the tournament. Dekker has excellent range on his jumpshot, plays with swagger, and has a good combination of NBA size, athleticism and court awareness. He's added on weight over the past year and no longer can be pushed around as easily, but he'll still need to bulk up to handle NBA small forwards. He was near the end of the 1st Round on my big board before the tournament, but the toughness and swagger he's show in these four games make him look more like late teens/early 20s pick to me.

PG Tyus Jones, Duke
Next Contest:
vs. 7 seed Michigan State, Today, 3:09 PT

A calm and collected point guard with a great basketball IQ, Jones is a late 1st Round selection in my opinion. He's had a solid tournament, and his performance against Gonzaga (15 points, six assists, zero turnovers) was a perfect encapsulation of his talents; he doesn't have the speed or size to excel at the NBA level, and he lacks the consistency on his jumpshot to compensate for that, but some NBA squad will love him as a backup who can run the half-court offense well.