The NCAA Tournament brings out the best in the best players, some you know throughout the whole season, while others splash onto the scene in March.
While players such as Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, and Coby White have taken the NCAA by storm in their first season of college basketball – all projected first-round picks – people tend to forget or neglect the names that don’t get all of the hype in the media.
Whether they be underclassmen, or play for non-power five schools, there are a lot of overlooked and underrated players with pro potential that could make a name for themselves in the NCAA Tournament this weekend.
Let’s take a look at five players who most of college basketball fans haven’t heard of yet, but could very well become household names by the end of the NCAA Tournament, and their careers.
1. Miye Oni
Height/Weight: 6-6, 215 lbs
One of the prized possessions of the Ivy League – not known for their NBA potential – Miye Oni is a name that has NBA scouts extremely intrigued.
The 6-foot-6 wing is not just one of the most athletic players in the conference, but the entire country. His combination of quickness, agility, and length combined with his size, makes him an ideal pro.
With guard like skills in a forward’s body, Oni can take smaller defenders to the block or drive by slower and bigger defenders on the perimeter.
A career scoring average of 15.2 points per game in his three seasons, Oni shoots 49.4 percent from two, and 36.1 percent from deep. Albeit a bit of a slower release, his size allows for that, as he rarely gets his shot blocked.
In transition is where Oni is one of a kind, with his ability to grab a defensive rebound and lead the break. With a career average of 3.3 assists per game as well, his passing and playmaking ability causes headaches for defenses at all three stages of the defensive end.
Still relying on his athleticism to get him by on the offensive end, he will need to develop more of an ability to create separation from defenders to find his own shot – as most open looks now are catch and shoot opportunities.
Defensively, Oni is terrific. Averaging over one block and one steal per game for his career, his skillset allows him to be effective at guarding multiple positions.
It’s unclear if Oni will decide to forgo his final year of eligibility, but regardless look for him to test the waters in this year’s draft.
NBA Comparison: Kawhi Leonard
2. Anthony Lamb
Height/Weight: 6-6, 215 lbs
Undersized for his position, if Anthony Lamb was a couple of inches taller, he would be talked about more in the NBA eyes.
A small-ball power forward, Lamb is highly skilled who can score in a multitude of ways.
Averaging 21.4 points and 7.8 rebounds a game this season, he is also shooting 52.1 percent from the field, on almost 15 attempts per game.
Lamb is one of the most physical players in the country. With terrific footwork, Lamb uses an array of post moves to get him open on the block. Often times establishing position deep on the block before the defense even knows what happened, it has proved crucial in making north of 60 percent of his shots at the rim.
A mismatch problem for almost anyone who guards him, he abuses smaller – and times even bigger – defenders in the paint just by using his high motor and physical play.
What makes Lamb’s NBA potential even greater is his ability to knock down outside shots.
A career 37 percent three-point shooter, Lamb can hit from catch and shoot or pull-up opportunities.
Above average athleticism, but nothing eye-popping, his agility is something that will allow him to play either the small-ball four or out on the wing as a three.
His biggest issue at the next level is on the defensive end as he isn’t quick enough to keep up with the wings of today’s game, but also not big enough to contest shots in the paint.
NBA Comparison: Jared Dudley
3. Quinton Rose
Height/Weight: 6-8, 190 lbs
Part of the two-headed attack for Temple, Quinton Rose is a major reason for the Owls’ success in recent years.
The junior guard tested the NBA waters last season working out for five teams before deciding to withdraw his name and return to school.
The career 13 point per game scorer is averaging just shy of 17 points this season, though his shooting percentages have dipped from a year ago.
With a knack for getting in the lane, he has a great ability to finish through contact and size. Rose’s size – at 6-foot-8 – for a guard is something you can’t look past.
Though he isn’t known for his three-point shooting, just a career 31 percent shooter, he did shoot 35 percent from deep his sophomore year.
Though he is never going to be a guy to light a team up from deep, he will make a living in the mid-range.
With over two steals per game, Rose is a terrific off ball defender shooting the passing lane leading to easy buckets in transition.
He has all the skill in the world to be a terrific defender and if he can find a somewhat consistent three-point shot, Rose is someone who will be nice rotational piece for an NBA team in the future.
NBA comparison: Corey Brewer
4. Hasahn French
School: Saint Louis
Height/Weight: 6-7, 235 lbs
A defensive power, with a knack for always finding the ball, Hasahn French has tremendous upside.
Still very raw on the offensive end, he continues to develop more of a post-up game, whereas before he made a living on rebound putbacks.
With an effective field goal percentage of 50.8, French spends all of his time in the paint, attempting only one three in his two seasons at Saint Louis.
Though his offense is still a work in progress, his defense is not.
One of the best shot blockers in the entire country, ranked 55th in the country in blocks per game (1.8) and 13th amongst players in the NCAA Tournament, he set the freshman school record for blocks in a season last year.
In 21 out of his 67 career appearances he has three or more blocks, with only 10 games not recording a single one.
Only 6-foot-7, French has a great ability to time his jump at the right time, including his second jump ability. With 14 double-digit rebounding games this season, he is someone who will make you earn every rebound you get.
Part of French’s game that he needs to greatly improve on is his free throw shooting as he has a career average of just 35 percent from the line. With someone who gets to the line at the sixth best rate in the conference, at four times a game, he needs to increase his percentage to a somewhat respectable rate.
Averaging 9.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per game through his first two years, French is a very intriguing prospect who should be on NBA scout’s radars over the next couple of years.
NBA Comparison: Kenyon Martin
5. Vasa Pusica
Height/Weight: 6-5, 210 lbs
One of the best point guards in the country that nobody is talking about, Vasa Pusica is a lead guard with great size and handle, with either hand. What makes him so dangerous and a perfect fit for the NBA game is his ability to play off of the pick and roll.
Always making the right reads, Northeastern’s offense revolves heavily around ball screen action involving Pusica. His size gives him the ability to pass over defenders, while his shooting ability keeps the hedge defender honest.
With a versatile skillset, Pusica uses his size to his advantage, taking smaller guards down to the post.
The San Diego transfer has averaged nearly 18 points per game in each of his last two seasons, shooting over 40 percent from deep in both.
Not very athletic or quick, Pusica’s high IQ makes up for it, using a lot of change of direction and speed on the offensive end to get his shot off.
Defensively, he isn’t anything special but does average 1.5 steals per game this season.
He will never be a star in the NBA, or even a starter, but Pusica’s skillset translates to the NBA perfectly and don’t be shocked if you hear his name as a backup point guard in the future.
NBA Comparison: Greivis Vasquez
Written by: Alec Lasley