Five players who improved their NBA draft stock most during March Madness
The 2021 NCAA Tournament has come and gone, and the Baylor Bears have cut down the nets after a torrid run through the 68-team bracket. With the postseason having drawn to a close, we’ll now focus on the next stop for college basketball’s top players: The 2021 NBA Draft.
There’s still a lot of time between now and late-July, when we’ll know for sure where the NBA’s newest rookies will suit up in 2021-22. However, let’s take a look at five players whose draft stock is rising following the Big Dance.
Marcus Sasser (Houston)
Maybe this is more for the 2022 or 2023 draft, but Sasser had a terrific finish to his NCAA Tournament. He scored 20 of Houston’s 59 points against Baylor and played all but one minute of that contest.
Marcus Sasser has 17 of @UHCougarMBK's 20pts 😳@UHCougarMBK #FinalFour pic.twitter.com/WXRCkiczqN— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) April 3, 2021
He wasn’t the most accurate shooter from the floor this season, but he showed how dangerous he could be against the eventual tournament champs.
Justin Smith (Arkansas)
The Arkansas Razorbacks were one of many teams whose seasons came to an end at the hands of Baylor. Smith, however, ended his senior season with a string of sharp performances. He scored a combined 49 points in wins over Colgate and Texas Tech and recorded a double-double (12 points, 14 rebounds) in a 72-70 squeaker over Oral Roberts in the Sweet 16.
Johnny Juzang (UCLA)
March Madness was a coming-out party for Juzang, who led the UCLA Bruins from the First Four to the Final Four. He averaged nearly 23 points per game, had 28 of his team’s 51 points in their Elite Eight win over Michigan, and scored 29 in the heartbreaking loss to Gonzaga.
Shoutout to Johnny Juzang on a legendary tourney run with UCLA. From First Four to Final Four 😤 @JohnnyJuzang— B/R Hoops (@brhoops) April 4, 2021
▪️ 23 points vs Michigan State
▪️ 27 points vs BYU
▪️ 17 points vs Abilene Christian
▪️ 13 points vs Alabama
▪️ 27 points vs Michigan
▪️ 29 points vs Gonzaga pic.twitter.com/l5p1Vk4UlZ
Two of those points came on UCLA’s final basket, where he followed his own miss, got the rebound, and made the putback before Jalen Suggs ripped the Bruins’ hearts out (more on him later).
Jared Butler (Baylor)
Butler emerged as one of Baylor’s top all-around threats a season ago and played a pivotal role in leading the Bears to a national title. He was the squad’s leading scorer in Final Four wins over Houston and Gonzaga, and he also shined as a passer and defender as well. It’s no guarantee he’ll declare for the draft, but his stock is certainly shooting up.
Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga)
There’s no other place for us to end. Suggs did great things for Gonzaga all season long, but he shined in the NCAA Tournament while helping lead the Bulldogs to the national title game.
🚨 MARCH MADNESS 🚨— KSL Sports (@kslsports) April 4, 2021
Gonzaga stays perfect and reaches the national championship after Jalen Suggs sinks a three-pointer at the buzzer in overtime. #MarchMadness #NCAATournament
Most notably, of course, he hit a buzzer-beater that will live forever in NCAA Tournament lore as part of Gonzaga’s Final Four victory over the UCLA Bruins.