Not everyone is dancing this year in the NCAA men’s tournament, and there are a few NBA draft prospects we won’t see on the biggest stage in college basketball.
Of course there are the top prospects that elected other routes other than college basketball — Victor Wembanyama (France), Scoot Henderson (G League Ignite), Amen and Ausar Thompson (Overtime Elite) – but this college season there are quite a few draft prospects that won’t be making an appearance in the field of 68.
Michigan failed to make the tournament for the first time under head coach Juwan Howard and it was a rebuild year for Villanova in the Big East in their first season without Hall of Fame head coach Jay Wright. Both teams had potential lottery picks leading their teams this season but couldn’t translate the talent on the court to more wins.
Below are eight college-level NBA prospects we won’t see in the NCAA men’s tournament.
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Cam Whitmore, Villanova
Draft stock: 7-14
Freshman: 12.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg
Whitmore had a disappointing season that started off with a thumb injury on his shooting hand that left him sidelined until December. He struggled to find any kind of rhythm under new head coach Kyle Neptune, and NBA scouts didn’t get a chance to see him play consistently throughout the season. Whitmore does possess traits to be successful at the NBA level. He’s a big guard at 6-foot-7, 232 pounds who has a polished handle and is explosive in the lane. Whitmore averaged under one assist per game but it’s not a great indication of who he is as a facilitator. Even with his struggles on a 17-16 Villanova team, Whitmore was named the Big East Freshman of the Year and could continue to see his draft stock rise during pre-draft workouts with NBA teams.
Jett Howard, Michigan
Draft stock: 10-16
Freshman: 14.2 ppg, 2.1 apg
Howard ended the season with an ankle injury and couldn’t get back to 100% healthy in order to help Michigan make a late run in the Big Ten tournament. Howard uses his size at 6-foot-8 to his advantage when creating separation off a shot and he has the ability to really get hot from behind the arc, recording six or more 3-pointers twice this season and shooting 37% from deep. His lateral quickness on defense remains an area of development and his shot selection at times needs improvement, but Howard has done enough this season for NBA teams to take him as a top-20 pick in the draft.
Taylor Hendricks, UCF
Draft stock: 10-18
Freshman: 15.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg
Hendricks never really hit his freshman slump all season long and showcased his versatility as a swing-four in his shot creation off the block. The 6-foot-9 freshman shot 40% from 3-point range on five attempts per game and in a three-game stretch at the end of the season, Hendricks averaged 22 points, 8.3 rebounds and two blocks. Defensively, Hendricks can step out and guard the perimeter on the switch and alters shots with his long frame. The 19-year-old has untapped potential as a pro and would benefit learning and growing his game under a NBA system, putting him in the lottery discussion.
G.G. Jackson, South Carolina
Draft stock: 13-20
Freshman: 15.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg
Jackson was one of the youngest players in college basketball this season after he reclassified a grade up to join South Carolina this season. The freshman was originally committed to North Carolina and later flipped to the Gamecocks. Jackson hit his stride midseason after adjusting to the pace and physicality of the college game. He’s very productive off the block but needs to improve his movement off the ball, particularly on cutting and getting to his spots after screens. The 6-foot-9 forward is explosive in the lane and one of the most entertaining players in transition when he gets out and runs the floor.
Brice Sensabaugh, Ohio State
Draft stock: 14-25
Freshman: 16.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg
Sensabaugh plays bigger than his 6-foot-6, 235-pound frame. He can win the block against bigger players in the post and brings toughness to his shot creation that a lot of wings don’t have. Sensabaugh had his best game of the year in a win over Iowa where he posted 27 points (4-for-5 from 3-point range) and added five rebounds. He doesn’t excel as a playmaker off the wing like other players in his position, but for teams looking for a gritty bucket-getter, Sensabaugh can add that right away to any NBA team.
Kobe Bufkin, Michigan
Draft stock: 15-30
Sophomore: 13.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.8 apg
Bufkin is the biggest draft riser late in the season and is getting attention from NBA scouts thanks to his three-level scoring, playmaking and defensive versatility, guarding on and off the ball. His quickness and body control around the rim stands out above other guards and he can finish on both the left and right side of the basket. When teammate Howard was sidelined with an ankle injury, Bufkin had two games back-to-back where he was one of the best players on the floor. He recorded a season-high 28 points in an overtime win over Wisconsin that really gave scouts a glimpse of what type of player he could be at the next level.
Maxwell Lewis, Pepperdine
Draft stock: 15-30
Sophomore: 17.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.8 apg
Pepperdine had a disappointing year after going 9-22 and finishing last in the West Coast Conference. Lewis struggled to make shots at the end of the season but is still considered a first-round prospect. At 6-foot-7, he has great size for a shooting guard and a high release on his jump shot that makes it tough to defend. His best performance of the season came in a win over Northern Arizona where he put up 30 points (12-for-19 from the field) in 33 minutes. Lewis can be a little turnover prone, especially in the double-team or when the defense slides over to help in the lane, but what he projects as an NBA guard supersedes the subpar season he had at Pepperdine.
Brandin Podziemski, Santa Clara
Draft stock: 20-35
Sophomore: 19.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 3.5 apg
Podziemski put up big numbers this season at Santa Clara that initially got scouts intrigued, but now he’s consistently being thought of as a first-round draft prospect. He’s shifty off the dribble and finds unique ways to get a shot off or find a teammate when getting in the paint. Scouts will be curious to see how he does against tougher competition during the pre-draft process but with the success fellow Santa Clara product Jalen Williams is having his rookie year for the Oklahoma City Thunder, it bodes well for all mid-major draft prospects like Podzimski. The 6-foot-5 guard is shooting 43.6% from 3-point range and nearly 50% from the field as Santa Clara gears up for the first round of the NIT against Sam Houston on Wednesday night.