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NCAA Tournament features top pro prospects, including DeAndre Ayton

Four of the most-likely lottery picks in the upcoming NBA draft will be in action Thursday and Friday.

DeAndre Ayton is considered the most likely candidate

DeAndre Ayton is considered the most likely candidate to go No. 1 overall in the 2018 NBA Draft. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Ethan Miller

Once again, the New York Knicks are bound for the draft lottery. At least fans can turn to the NCAA Tournament for a preview of the top amateur talent.

Four of the five most-likely candidates to go at the top of the draft made it to the Big Dance — the other, Slovenian teen Luka Doncic, plays overseas. Here’s a look at the most-anticipated 2018 prospects — all freshmen at or around 7-feet tall — and when to watch them in the first round.

DeAndre Ayton

Arizona’s 7-foot standout is the presumptive top pick in June’s draft. With averages of 20.3 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.9 blocks, Ayton is in the running for the top individual awards. The Bahamian isn’t much of an outside shooter yet, but he’s shown the will to try and make a 3 roughly every other game.

The No. 4 seed Wildcats open against No. 13 Buffalo late Thursday night in Boise, Idaho.

Marvin Bagley III

The 6-11 Duke forward typically draws comparisons to 11-time All-Star Chris Bosh. They’re built similarly, possess similar skills and traits, and they’re both lefthanded. He’s one of the top first-year players in the nation, averaging 21.1 points and 11.5 rebounds for Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski.

The second-seeded Blue Devils draw No. 15 Iona for a Friday afternoon tipoff in Pittsburgh.

Mohamed Bamba

The Harlem native ranks second in the nation in blocks per game (3.7) for Texas. He’s averaging 12.9 points and 10.4 rebounds this season but has made just 14 of 50 (28 percent) of his 3-pointers. At 6-11 and 225 pounds, he has room to add to his frame in the hopes of becoming an defensive centerpiece.

The Longhorns, a No. 10 seed, will face No. 7 Nevada on Friday afternoon in Nashville.

Jaren Jackson Jr.

The son of 12-year NBA veteran Jaren Sr., the Michigan State frosh’s game shares some in common with that of Kristaps Porzingis. He’s an elite shot blocker who makes nearly 40 percent of his 3-point tries. Listed at 6-11 and 242 pounds, he’s a prototypical modern NBA big man with major upside.

Jackson and the No. 3 Spartans will be in action Friday night against No. 14 Bucknell in neighboring Detroit.


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