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The Knicks fan’s guide to the NCAA Tournament Midwest region

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I Trae’d to not do too Bagley.

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament-Oklahoma vs Oklahoma State Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back! I hope you’ve enjoyed the first two days of our NCAA Tournament preview (from the perspective of a couple Knicks fans who desperately need something basketball-related to look forward to in March for once).

I’ve got some great prospects on deck for you all today (no, really, the Midwest is STACKED with potential lottery picks). But first, as a reminder, join the P&T bracket challenge on ESPN! Password is “unicorn.” Winner gets a physical copy of every post ever made on Posting and Toasting signed by Seth Rosenthal!

Alright, all warmed up? Here’s some prospects!


Trae Young, #11

Freshman PG, (10) Oklahoma

Here I am, reporting live from the North pole. Or is it the South pole? I guess it depends on your perspective.

At the North pole, there’s a player named Trae Young. He’s a candidate to win National Player of the Year that averaged a fairly absurd 27.4 points, 8.7 assists (both of which led the nation) and 1.7 steals this season for an Oklahoma team where, at times, he seemed like the only player worth a Division I scholarship. Young also led the nation in offensive box plus-minus at 11.1 (a measure that more or less estimates how many points a player adds to his team on offense).

But down here at the South pole? There’s a player that’s also named Trae Young. He’s relatively undersized, his wingspan is not at all impressive, and he really looks like he’s going to have a hard time in the NBA on defense. He also started shooting in the 30 percents across the board around the halfway mark of the season, when opposing teams basically decided to make him their only focus on defense. Also, looks aren’t everything, but he has really, really bad hair.

This is all a metaphor to say that he’s polarizing.


Marvin Bagley III, #35

Freshman F, (2) Duke

Bagley was one of my favorite prospects heading into the season, and this dude is still definitely one of the best players probable to enter the draft this year, averaging 21.1 points and 11.5 rebounds per game en route to winning the ACC Player of the Year as a freshman. I actually think there’s a chance that he could be a perfect complement to Porzingis on both ends.

He’s a strong rebounder, which Porzingis is not. He doesn’t profile as a rim protector in the league, which KP most definitely is. He has a strong inside game and the framework of a good outside shot, which would allow the Unicorn to play inside or out.

This draft is really weird, so Bagley could really go anywhere from the top pick through about six or seven, depending on what teams are looking for. If the Knicks are in a position to draft him (and Doncic is off the board), there’s really nobody else I’d take over him.

(Yeah, that includes Ayton.)


Jaren Jackson Jr., #2

Freshman F, (3) Michigan St.

Jackson is basically a physical freak that seems like he could have the potential to grow up into Anthony Davis, sans unibrow. Which is obviously amazing.

Just like Bagley, I think this kid could be a perfect Porzingis complement down low, except unlike Bagley, he’s also an incredible shot blocker. His per-game numbers are sort of modest (11.8 points, 5.8 boards, 3.2 blocks?!), but he only plays about 22 minutes per game on a deep Michigan State team. If you go with his per-40 numbers (which are sort of misleading in their own right, nobody really plays 40 minutes per game), you’re blown away with averages of 20.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 5.7 blocks. Five point motherfucking seven blocks. That’s a lotta blocks.

The only thing that could maybe hold this kid back as he grows up is fouling — he averages over three per game in those 22 minutes per game. Even so, he has special written all over him. After Doncic and Bagley, JJJ might be my next favorite guy in this draft.

We could get a rematch of Duke and Michigan State’s November matchup (Duke won, 88-81) in the Sweet 16, pitting Bagley against JJJ and these next two guys against each other as well...


Wendell Carter Jr., #34

Freshman F, (2) Duke

Ok, I honestly feel bad because I think I might be selling Carter short here... but let’s say you consider JJJ’s defensive presence a 10 out of 10, and Bagley gets a 10 on inside scoring and rebounding. Smash those two together, but turn all the sliders down to about a 7, and I think that’s Wendell Carter Jr.

Rangy big guy, averaging 13.8 points, 9.3 boards and 2.2 blocks in 27 minutes per game, and shooting a really impressive .564 FG%/.463 3P%/.733 FT% slash line (only taking 1.2 threes per game, however). Honestly, he’s probably going to be pretty good. But just how good? Where I look at Bagley and JJJ and see “superstar,” I look at Carter and think “really, really good starter who always falls 10 votes shy of making the All-Star team.” And there’s nothing wrong with that.


Miles Bridges, #22

Sophomore F, (3) Michigan St.

This Bridges is probably not as good as the other Bridges that I talked about the other day. Bridges are sturdy, though. Reliable. You always get what you want from them, nothing more, nothing less. And in that respect, Miles Bridges is a lot like a real life bridge.

If this were last year, people would probably be salivating over Miles Bridges. And they were! He was a projected top-10 pick last year before he decided to return to Michigan State for a second season. Fast forward to now, and... well, he still seems like more or less the same player:

In what has turned out to be a much deeper draft class than expected this year, Bridges has now played himself into late lottery territory. Chances are the Knicks wouldn’t necessarily take him unless they traded down, or he took a big tumble into the second round (which isn’t unprecedented for Michigan State big men). He’s kind of a tweener, and didn’t show much in the way of improvement this year. Still, though, he could be a good role player at the next level.


Desi Rodriguez, #20

Senior F, (8) Seton Hall

I was going to stop at five players, but quick honorable mention for this guy from Seton Hall. Rodriguez (a BX native from Abraham Lincoln High), along with local products Angel Delgado (Patrick School), Myles Powell (Trenton Catholic) and now-Brooklyn Net Isaiah Whitehead (Abraham Lincoln), among others, have helped revitalize the Seton Hall program and keep some of the prodigious local hoopers from New York and New Jersey playing in the area, which is awesome.

Rodriguez is maybe a tad undersized for the small forward position in the NBA at 6-foot-6, but he’s got some crafty moves in the paint and he has a fairly consistent outside shot (38 percent this year). He’s also shown improvement all four years of college, peaking this year at 17.8 points per game with a career-high 27.2 percent usage. He’s a definite target in the second round, or maybe even as an undrafted free agent.

(Also, shoutout to Angel Delgado. I think he could be a real KOQ type — a little short for a center, but built like a brick shithouse and tenacious on both ends. Led the NCAA in rebounds last year and was fifth this year.)


That’s all for today. Tune in tomorrow for the thrilling conclusion!