The NCAA tournament bracket is set and March Madness officially begins Tuesday night. For Knicks fans, this means a chance to watch some of their potential future contributors compete on the biggest stage of college basketball. Here are the names to keep an eye on as we edge closer to one of the most important offseasons in New York hoops history.
The Core Four
The general consensus seems to have circled around the following players as the top four selections in this year's NBA draft: Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish. Fans should be plenty aware of their names at this point, but if not, all outside of Morant are playing for No. 1 seed Duke, while Morant will get an opportunity to turn heads coming into the tournament with 12th-seeded Murray State. There isn't much convincing left to do with these names -- they're clearly a tier above the other prospects, with Williamson of course having all but locked up the top selection. Knicks fans hope they see one of them in blue and orange next season.
The fifth pick
The Knicks have a near 50 percent chance at falling to the fifth pick, even if they hold on to the worst record in the league. Past Reddish, the next pick is anybody's guess. Some of the more often mentioned names will be up for scrutiny. One is Jarrett Culver, a wing with scary two-way potential with 3-seed Texas Tech. De'Andre Hunter, whose Virginia team secured a No. 1 seed, is a tantalizing prospect at forward, potentially a switchable defensive force that can spread the floor as well.
A couple of other names that are in the discussion are Nassir Little of 1-seed North Carolina and Rui Hachimura of top-seeded Gonzaga. They'll have all the lofty expectations and bright lights they need to cement themselves as must-get prospects.
The second round
The Knicks' second round-pick is going to Brooklyn, but they still own one for themselves via the result of several trades and four teams swapping the lesser and greater of their picks in some convoluted mess. Chances are the Knicks will pick somewhere in the 53-55 range. While this is about as big a crapshoot as one can expect, keep these names in the back of your mind as you watch the tournament unfold:
Shamorie Ponds -- The rest of the NBA will have to come to some sort of agreement that they aren't too much of a fan of his, as he has a good chance of being picked early in the second. But if he drops to the Knicks, and they're willing to bring on another young point guard, they'd be nabbing someone all too familiar with playing under the Madison Square Garden lights, leading his St. John's team into the tournament behind a potent scoring game.
Tyus Battle -- Sticking with the New York theme, Battle will be repping the Syracuse Orange in the Big Dance, and he can sell fans on his impact defensively. His ability to attack the rim against top-tier tournament defenses is a must-watch aspect of the tourney, but a breakout performance could make him an intriguing pick late in the draft.
Eric Paschall -- Villanova seems to always make the best out of lesser recruits, but don't sleep on Paschall. He has the potential to be a fan favorite for any team, and his energy and toughness reverberate the second he steps on the court. Knicks fans can easily fall in love with his versatility, and if he can play with the big boys while still bringing the same defensive motor, they might hope he falls enough to snatch him up.