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The Five Best NBA Draft Prospects In The 2022 NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Region

When the bracket was revealed in advance of the 2022 NCAA Tournament, many analytical observers pointed to the relatively soft nature of the Midwest Region, at least beyond the top two seeds in Kansas and Auburn. However, that is not the case from the standpoint of the 2022 NBA Draft, and many professional observers will be taking their deepest look yet at the upcoming class. The Midwest Region is full of intriguing prospects, including at least one top-five guy, and that makes for appetizing basketball consumption in the coming days and weeks.

As part of DIME’s pre-tournament look at the best prospects in the class, we’ll roll through the top five players in the Midwest, headlined by Auburn’s Jabari Smith.

Jabari Smith – F, Auburn

Smith is a fantastic prospect. The 6’10 forward is an unbelievable shooter, burying 43 percent of three-pointers on big volume, and no one can block Smith’s shot at his size. Comparisons to Kevin Durant are too aggressive (for anyone), but Smith does have the potential to be a thoroughly dynamic scorer. He doesn’t have a ton of juice as a ball-handler, and Smith is just a solid defender rather than a spectacular one, but he’s a top-four guy to be sure and some see him as a potential No. 1 overall pick.

Keegan Murray – F, Iowa

Iowa zoomed through the Big Ten Tournament, and Murray is the team’s centerpiece. The 6’8 forward is averaging 23.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game on high-end efficiency (56 percent from the field and 41 percent from three), and Murray is doing it against elite competition. Some of the questions about his early-season breakout have already been answered, and he could conceivably climb into the top five or six of June’s Draft with a big tournament. He’s been that good.

Johnny Davis – G, Wisconsin

Unfortunately, Davis has been a little bit banged-up down the stretch, missing some time and suffering a bit on the floor when he plays through injury. In zooming out, though, Davis has been a fantastic player this season, and he is on track for a top-10 selection. Davis has been the sun, moon, and stars for an otherwise limited Wisconsin offense, and he is capable of putting the Badgers on his back. Even if he doesn’t, Davis has the tools to be a quality scorer in the NBA and the mentality to shift into a lesser role, with plus defense, if he needs to.

Ochai Agbaji – G/F, Kansas

In some ways, Agbaji is a conventional choice in that he averaged 20 points per game for a No. 1 seed. At the next level, he may not be a primary option, but Agbaji is making 40 percent of his three-pointers this season and he’s a willing defender. He is more of a 2 in terms of size, but Agbaji’s 3-and-D projection is undeniable and he has more juice with the ball in his hands than a typical player with that label.

Tari Eason – F, LSU

Eason and Auburn’s Walker Kessler are neck-and-neck for No. 5 here but, in an effort to diversify the viewing guide, Eason gets the nod. LSU is a giant question mark after firing their head coach on the eve of the tournament, but Eason should be able to shine as a defensive monster. He’s 6’8 with athleticism and length, and Eason profiles as a switchable piece at the next level. The big change has been his offense and, even with some growth needed on that end of the floor, Eason could sneak into the late lottery with a big month.