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A Knicks fan’s guide to the Sweet Sixteen: East & West Regions

A quick primer for some more guys to keep your eyes on.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Duke vs Syracuse Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Hey, team! The tourney is marching on and the original 64 has been whittled down to just 16. Last week we took a look at some of the tippy top prospects what needs watching. You should check out all 1, 2, 3, 4 of those posts! In the East and West regions we pointed out some of the obvious ones like Zion Williamson and Jarrett Culver. Today we’ll wade a little further out to see if we can’t harvest some more beautiful oysters.

Of course it’s still really all about this guy...

...but I guess it won’t hurt just to peruse.

Iggy Brazdeikis, #13

(2) Michigan Wolverines, Freshman Cinder Block Small Forward

It seems unfair to overlook Zavier Simpson. He is the soul of the Wolverines, and his spirit animal is very likely an actual wolverine. He was described on the broadcast of one of their tournament games as “a walking clenched fist”. Which is exactly right. Simpson probably isn’t a popular pick in mock drafts (even as a second rounder) but betting against him seems like the dullard’s artifice.

Be that as it may, let’s talk about Big Ignas. He slots in on the other side of the mock map as Simpson. Largely considered a first round pick if he enters the draft, Iggy is the blunt object a clenched fist might strike you with. His top speed isn’t all that impressive, but his deliberate, assertive pressure pops open a defender’s overcorrection. Let’s watch Luke Maye get repeatedly clubbed in the knee only to do everything he can to deny and ultimately get thrown down in a ditch.

A deft cutter that can finish with either hand, Brazdeikis is not the over the top athlete that explodes off the screen. He is more a T-1000 that anticipates and can just turn into a stream of metal that punishes defenders with impeccable counter-timing.

Kerry Blackshear Jr., #24

(4) Virginia Tech, Junior Energetic Post Tactician

The first thing you’ll notice with Kerry Blackshear (and hopefully you can stop paying attention to it, unlike myself) is that his heels do not touch the floor. Ever. The guy is on his toes the entire game. For a 6’10, 250lb big man, that’s almost mind boggling. Blackshear has some potential to be a high IQ stretch big. He has nice touch on his jumper and has a nice array of post moves including a solid turn around fall away over the left shoulder.

The defense’s worry about his shooting helps him find ways to the rim when he is on the perimeter, and he’s not overly fast, but certainly quite agile.

His IQ extends to the defensive side as well, cutting off drivers adeptly and timing strips and blocks without getting caught in the cookie jar. Toss in his willingness as a passer with some some pretty sharp vision, this is definitely a guy to keep an eye on.

Cam Reddish, #2

(1) Duke Blue Devils, Freshman Hype Train Wing-Forward

More like Calm Blueish, am I right?

It’s a real shock that this kid is still considered a first round talent much less a lottery option. I’m almost upset that i feel obligated to bring him up. This is yet another small forward that I’m highlighting where it feels somewhat criminal to leave out his point guard. Tre Jones has been fantastic for Duke, setting the tone defensively and keeping everyone in lockstep on offense.

The thing that holds Tre back is the thing Reddish is supposedly known for: shooting from range. Cam is taking 7.5 triples a game but connecting on a meager .333%. It doesn’t get much better when he steps in, with his .399% from two. Now consider his nearly 2:3 assist to turnover rate, average free throw shooting, basic ball handling skills and... what is this kid even doing here?

I could just hand over the highlights and tell you he’s the next so and so, but at this point he simply isn’t. To start the year I really wanted him to be that guy and made plenty of excuses for his lackluster play. Now I have him 44th on my personal rankings and subject to drop when the season ends and I can dig into the international prospect scene and look back at some guys I didn’t get enough of a look at. As of this moment, if I had the 44th pick, though? I’d probably rather take Jay Huff, and I’m not kidding.

What Reddish does do well is turn his hips to stay in front on defense, then use his length to disrupt passing lanes. Am I missing anything?

An honorable mention before we go to sweet shooting junior, Skylar Mays from LSU. An acrobatic yet patient punisher that cannot be left alone or he’ll absolutely bury you from deep. Never in a rush, his slow churning drives to the hoop beget an unexpected high flyer-ism where he can finish over the top or use his sturdy frame to absorb and adjust. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him sprint, but I do love his flair for the dramatic.

That’s all for now, our good pal Al will take a look at a few more kiddos from the South and Midwest when we return.