The 2022 NCAA Tournament brings a refreshing set of normalcy, with fan bases across the country tuned into the festivities beginning in mid-March. While all four regions have exciting college basketball teams, each features high-end prospects in advance of the 2022 NBA Draft, and that is especially true of the West Region. The stars are out in a big way in the West, including the No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga, a star-studded No. 2 seed in Duke, and other squads that are chocked full of talent.
DIME will be rolling out a pre-tournament look at each of the regions from a draft prospect and, in this space, we’ll touch on the top five prospects from the West Region. Up first? Gonzaga big man Chet Holmgren.
Chet Holmgren – C/F, Gonzaga
Not everyone is in love with Holmgren, largely because is incredibly skinny at 7’0 and less than 200 pounds. Beyond that, though, Holmgren has been one of the most efficient players in the country this season, and his defensive feel as a rim protector is absolutely outstanding. He’ll need to put on some muscle mass, as everyone knows, but Holmgren’s combination of length, acumen, shooting profile, and positional flexibility makes him a clear candidate for No. 1 overall.
Paolo Banchero – F, Duke
Banchero isn’t exactly a secret, as many had him No. 1 entering college. It isn’t as if Banchero has struggled either, operating as Duke’s most reliable offensive player and the head of the snake for the Blue Devils. On the flip side, he is shooting only 30.6 percent from three-point range and might not be a true No. 1 option on offense. He’s also a pure power forward, which is a bit out of place in the current NBA, but Banchero also has the ability to be the best player on a Final Four team. That wouldn’t be a bad thing for his Draft stock if he can get Duke out of this region.
AJ Griffin – F/G, Duke
It hasn’t been a steady season for Griffin, who had a very slow start coming back from injury. Since he reestablished himself, Griffin has shot the lights out (46.7 percent from three) and showcased his athleticism and feel. He is 6’6, strong, lengthy and able to scale up and down the lineup. It would be helpful for his stock if he had a few big offensive games, but scouts are already tantalized by what happens when it all comes together.
Jalen Duren – C, Memphis
As Memphis has come alive, so has Duren. Over the last two months, he is averaging 14 points, nine rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game, shooting more than 60 percent and flashing his mammoth defensive upside. The 18-year-old has a reported 7’5 wingspan, and scouts will undoubtedly be intrigued if he ends up facing Holmgren in the second round. Regardless, Duren also projects as a player that should look better in the NBA with more spacing and improved guard play around him. He’s already good now, which helps.
Mark Williams – C, Duke
There is a bit of a drop-off after the top four to Williams, with his teammate Trevor Keels and Alabama guard JD Davison among the contenders. The NBA is already falling in love with Williams, though, as the big man has been a defensive force for Duke. He is blocking nearly three shots per game (in 22.9 minutes), and Williams is finishing at more than a 70 percent clip. He is certainly a traditional big man that doesn’t space the floor, but Williams is extremely long, active, and productive.