Watching March Madness is just as much about scouting the draft as it is having fun watching the games. For all the talk about Cinderella teams like Dayton and Stanford, there is plenty of debate about the futures of Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. Even though the 2014 NBA draft will have loads of talent in the lottery, there are plenty of skilled prospects who deserve much more attention. Here are eight unheralded players to keep a close eye on during this week's matchups:
Frank Kaminsky, PF, Wisconsin
Both Draft Express and ESPN left Frank Kaminsky off of their Top 100 Big Boards and it's quite hard to understand why. Kaminsky is a 7-footer who can drain shots from outside, at 44.9 percent from mid-range and 36.6 percent from behind the arc. Having a big that can stretch the floor is a valued commodity in the NBA and Kaminsky fits that mold to perfection.
His quick, clean technique and outstanding range should translate smoothly, so it won't be surprising if Kaminsky's name pops up on draft boards with a productive Sweet 16. In the end, he might not be skilled enough to be a late first round pick, but he should be in the discussion considering the need for shooting big men.
Kyle Anderson, PG/F, UCLA
Hype is finally starting to build around Kyle Anderson as a lottery selection. He's a 6-foot-9 point guard who averages 14.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 6.5 assists per game, and he's nicknamed "Slow-Mo" because of his leisurely style of play. Despite the nickname, he's a cerebral player and makes exceptionally swift decisions. Thanks to his terrific court vision, Anderson completes accurate passes off the dribble, feeds the ball into the post quite well, and he generally gets passes delivered right into the shooter's pocket.
But due to his lack of speed, scouts wonder if he'll be able to play point guard at the next level. If that's the case, he still projects well as a point forward in more of a complimentary role. Anderson is a fantastic shooter from outside (49.1 percent from three) and he knows how to make space to score from mid-range. But Anderson has had trouble creating space against NBA-level athletes like Aaron Gordon, so it'll be important for him to execute at a high level this week.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona
When Brandon Ashley went down with an injury earlier this season, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was able to slide right in to prevent Arizona from skipping a beat. The 6-foot-7 freshman forward is a tremendously athletic defender, who doesn't take his natural abilities for granted. Hollis-Jefferson has one of the highest motors in college basketball and has reaped the benefits with two sensational performances so far in the NCAA tournament.
However, he has a very raw offensive game, as he relies primarily on transition opportunities and dunks to score. In the half court, he shoots only 28 percent on mid-range jumpers, and he has only attempted eight shots from three-point range. At this point, Hollis-Jefferson is a late first round pick, but he'd be a mid-first rounder if he had a more polished offensive game.
Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
After adding 16 pounds of muscle this past offseason, Nik Stauskas went from a scrawny three-point specialist to a built all-around playmaker. Stauskas shoots 45.1 percent from three-point range, but he isn't just a spot up shooter like many college players. He knows how to create space off the ball by hugging close to screens and by utilizing cuts and fakes. Stauskas also scores equally well handling the ball going to his right or left by displaying proper technique when elevating for a shot.
At the moment, Stauskas is only a borderline lottery pick due to existing questions about his defense and ability to score at the rim. Stauskas will have to put his athleticism to good use during the tournament in order to establish his draft positioning, especially when penetrating the paint in the half court.
Jordan Adams, G, UCLA
Draft projection models love Jordan Adams because he fills up the box score with efficient points, rebounds, steals, and assists, but he isn't as sensational as the numbers indicate. Adams lacks athleticism, so he struggles scoring at the rim in non-transition situations. Defensively, his subpar lateral quickness is hidden due to the zone UCLA plays.
But this is not to say that Adams isn't a quality player. At only 19-years-old, he is highly proficient and has impeccable feel for the game. He possesses a sweet stroke from outside and could be a potential role player in the NBA. But if he wants to show scouts that he can be more than that, this is the weekend to do it, with a Sweet 16 match against Florida and their vaunted defense.
Jarnell Stokes, PF/C, Tennessee
At only 20-years-old, Jarnell Stokes already has the strength to compete with some bigs in the NBA. He does an excellent of job of using his 6-foot-9 body to carve out space in the paint, which is why he ripped down 4.3 offensive rebounds per game this season. Stokes is able to make up for his lack of height with his brute power and 7-foot-1 wingspan.
Stokes won't be able to boost his stock into first round status, but he can confirm himself as a second round pick if he continues to show that he can score the basketball like he has lately. With limited range, Stokes gets most of his points in the paint, but his improvements from the free throw line continues to strongly suggest that he will someday develop a mid-range jumper.
Branden Dawson, G/F, Michigan State
One of the most overlooked players at the college level is the 6-foot-6 Branden Dawson. Even after recovering from a torn ACL, Dawson is able to defend multiple positions at a high level, which bodes well for his future as a role player in the pros. Dawson has the lateral quickness to defend all wings, but his strength can put him on some larger power forwards. Dawson also possesses the instincts to jump passing lanes, leading to fastbreak opportunities for his team.
But that's the extent to Dawson's offensive game; he's not very skilled in the half court, with a very basic post game and a poor jump shot. 72.4 percent of Dawson's shot attempts come at the rim, which raises questions about his ability to score in the NBA. However, if he performs like he did versus Harvard -- with 26 points on 12-for-15 shooting -- he could see his stock rise.
DeAndre Kane, SG, Iowa State
Statistically, DeAndre Kane should be hyped as a first round draft pick, but there's one big reason why he isn't: his age. Kane will be 25-years-old on draft day, which makes him older than NBA stars like James Harden, DeMar DeRozan, and Paul George. Kane is supposed to dominate puny 18 and 19-year-old players, and that's exactly what he's doing in the NCAA tournament.
Through two games, Kane is averaging 19 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 6.0 assists, which is slightly better than his season averages. But Kane isn't a consistent threat from the perimeter, which raises questions about his ability to perform consistently in the NBA. He finishes well at the rim, at 68.8 percent on the year, but he can sometimes play frantically when driving against top defenses. On Friday night, he'll get a chance to prove himself as a legitimate second rounder against UConn and their underrated defense.