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The Knicks fan’s guide to the NCAA Tournament: Midwest Region

Kansas City, here I come!

NCAA Basketball: Duke at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Hey the NCAA tournament is here. Descend into the madness, it’s awesome baby! Today Alex Wolfe and I will preview two regions and we’ll do the same bit again tomorrow. This year is kinda all about the first pick but only one team will get that slot. Therefore this draft has a ton of potential to get very shaken up by trades. Got the fifth pick [looks directly into the Knicks’ soul]? Maybe you’ll trade back for 10 and 16, or something like that. I don’t know!

In any case, there are a lot of folks, you’ll want to get eyes on. So, let’s get this show on the road and take a look at some of the more intriguing prospects in the Midwest Region.

Coby White, #2

(1) North Carolina Tar Heels, Freshman Point Guard

As one of the fastest players with the ball in the country, and with one of the biggest mops in the nation on his head, Coby White is instantly eye catching. Much was made of Nassir Little coming into the season, but Little has largely looked lost. Conversely, White hit the ground running and gave North Carolina a dimension that helped unlock seniors Cameron Johnson (5th year intriguer) and Luke Maye (Tyler Hansborough but shorter, wider, slower and not as totally wired).

White applies constant pressure dashing fiercely into the paint to check the defense. Definitely a north-south dribbler who can jitter his way to the open space. At 6’5” he sees passing angles that often catch his teammates by surprise. He also has a nice quick one-motion jumper and cannot be left open. Although, he can always find a way to be open.

North Carolina’s first opponent, Iona, scores a lot, but they allow nearly the same as they put up. That should feed into Coby’s exploits. This year’s point guard prospects are looking rather suspect, so White should be a high riser. If you asked me to boil him down to one player as a comparison, I’d say he is what everyone tried to tell you Collin Sexton was, minus the holier than thou attitude. He also happens to be bigger and better in every facet of the game.

The Tar Heels have a really good shot to make it to the Final Four and how far they get has almost everything to do with Coby White.

Talen Horton-Tucker, #11

(6) Iowa State Cyclones, Freshman All Purpose Wing

At the nexus of Boris Diaw and Eric Bledsoe, one of the youngest players in college basketball is this deft cannonball from Chicago. With a huge wingspan and enormous hands, Horton-Tucker is exactly the right mix of trickery and brutishness.

Always rumbling downhill, and quite literally becoming a cyclone when he gets to the hoop, Horton-Tucker just carries defenders like barnacles as he moves ever forward. Pair that with some snappy passing and every once in a while you’ll catch one of these...

The Cyclones tend to push young Talen down the rotation when the game is on the line in favor of gun slinging senior, Nick Weiler-Babb. They also have senior scoring leader Maryal Shayok hoisting his jagged jumpers and the very intriguing Lindell Wiggington pooping from the corners. Nevertheless Horton-Tucker is their second-leading scorer and is a very switchable defender. He can play nearly anywhere on the floor on either side of the ball. It’s not everyday you find a guy who can play with any other four players and give you whatever your squad is missing.

I’m really hoping we get at least two THT sightings, because an Iowa State vs Houston game in the second round would be a torrent of heat seeking missiles. Let me cherish something, basketball gods!

Chuma Okeke, #5

(5) Auburn Tigers, Sophomore 3&D Forward

The Tigers are coming into the Madness firing on all cylinders, after a thrilling SEC title win. Their wild rampaging attack is sure to delight if they can keep it rolling. They are certainly not afraid to skip a transition lay up to bait a defender and kick out for open threes. With two high scoring guards, Bryce Brown and Jared Harper, Auburn is happy to flatten things out and live or die with what they generate. Sometimes that can lead to an open middle and guys like Chuma Okeke can come through and just...

Here we see Okeke’s three ball forces one of the more intriguing big man defenders in college ball, Nicolas Claxton, to close all the way out and Chuma just buries his ass. Connecting on .378% of his 3.6 attempts he is a legitimate threat. His comfort playing without the ball will help him fit with any ball dominant star type player. The thing that will make him a force in the league is his 1.7 steals and 1.2 blocks. Quick off the floor and with a real nose for sniffing out the open space that will crack the defense, Okeke could easily prove to be one of the best role players to come out of this role player studded 2019 draft class.

D’Marcus Simonds, #15

(14) Georgia State Panthers, Junior Guard

Here we have a super shifty big guard that turns defenders with the best of them. D’Marcus Simonds made waves last year when he put fear in a highly ranked Cincinnati Bearcats team. This year he’s moved off the ball more to allow for a bevy of attackers and shooters. The Panthers definitely let it fly and Simonds can shoot it or attack off the catch with the best of them.

Here he is chopping apart UT Arlington’s triple team in the Sun Belt Championship game.

While he is probably undersized for the two guard in the NBA, there are visions of Deron Williams in there from time to time. He’s exactly the type of depth add that will be a Spurs fan favorite in two years. Or he could be your favorite Knick any old time.

Tyler Herro, #5

(2) Kentucky Wildcats, Freshman Shooting Guard

This quick triggered sniper is another in a long line of Kentucky recruits that are looking to make their mark in an expedited fashion. Coach John Calipari’s MO is to gather as much blue chip talent as possible, throw them on the court together, and challenge everyone to do something that elevates the team first. Sometimes that philosophy will mute a talent but sometimes it requires someone to find a higher level.

This year, sophomore PJ Washington has emerged as the team’s spirit animal, but it’s freshman Tyler Herro that can take them to the promised land. Herro (not a sandwich) somehow manages to have a huge shooting pocket that can corral funky passes and launch with no wasted motion and his shot never changes even under duress. A 37% 3-pt shooter, he’s not the guy you can leave alone. Unfortunately for defenders he is a 94% FT shooter, so you can’t overplay him either. He also has a knack for makign the smart read and hitting teammates with some colorful and zippy passes.

As if keeping tabs on him wasn’t hard enough already, Herro’s frenetic energy keeps him on the go at all times whether in the half court or getting out in transition.

That’s all for now, Alex will have something for you in a little while. Let us know what you think of these fools. Or are you a Neemias Queta fan? Have I disrespected your favorite good-college-player from Kansas? Let’s goooOOO!!