Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker was viewed as a first-round pick before the NCAA Tournament, and that certainly won’t change as he continues to put up one monster performance after another for the Badgers during their second consecutive Final Four run.
In his latest brilliant effort, Dekker scored 27 points on 8-of-11 shooting in Wisconsin’s 85-78 victory over Arizona in the Elite Eight on Saturday night. Dekker shot 5-of-6 from long range and 6-of-7 from the charity stripe.
Dekker really stood out in a nearly flawless second-half offensive performance by Wisconsin. He scored 20 of his 27 points in the second half, with all five of his three-pointers coming in that half. One of them was just an absurd dagger:
You have to love the swag.
While Dekker hit some crazy three-pointers, perhaps my favorite play of his game was his and-1 in the latter part of the second half. With ace defender Stanley Johnson guarding him on the perimeter, Dekker displayed his versatility with a strong drive to the rim and a finish through contact.
In four tournament games, Dekker is averaging 21.8 points and 5.5 rebounds while shooting 60.4 percent overall and 48.1 percent from three. His current run has him shooting up draft boards, as he’s now at No. 16 in DraftExpress’ latest mock draft.
Dekker’s teammate and fellow future first-round pick Frank Kaminsky had another big game against Arizona, just like in last year’s Elite Eight. Kaminsky scored a game-high 29 points on 9-of-20 shooting, and he also grabbed six boards and went 10-of-12 from the line.
The Wildcats tried several different defenders on Kaminsky, from 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski to stud wing defender Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. (Hollis-Jefferson had a strong game with 17 points and eight rebounds.) It usually didn’t matter, although Kaminsky missed some chippies around the basket. He also was a bit too floppy and had some issues defensively, but his immense skills were on full display, as he also did some work off the dribble drive.
The fact that Dekker and Kaminsky both shined against one of the nation’s top defenses in Arizona was impressive, but now they’ll have to do it against the best defense in the country in the Final Four. Kentucky has a stable of giant men who will be tasked with defending Kaminsky, and they’re versatile enough to guard him on the perimeter. It’ll be quite the matchup.
Speaking of Kentucky, let’s take a look at the other draft prospects who played in the Elite Eight.
Towns helps keep undefeated dream alive for Kentucky: The undefeated Wildcats were on the ropes against Notre Dame, but Towns came to the rescue with dominance in the low post against the small Irish front line. Towns had 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting in just 25 minutes of action, and he went 4-of-4 in the last eight-plus minutes of the game, including a game-tying bucket with 1:14 left. Not to mention the fact that the big man had four assists. After his big performance, Towns is now No. 1 in DraftExpress’ mock draft.
Towns’s frontcourt mate, Willie Cauley-Stein, didn’t have his best performance, putting up six points, four rebounds and two blocks in 33 minutes. While Cauley-Stein’s impact often can’t be told through basic box score stats, his defense wasn’t quite as on point as usual. Notre Dame surprisingly had a ton of success in the paint, and Zach Auguste had 20 points on 10-of-13 shooting. However, Cauley-Stein showed off his defensive prowess on the final possessions of the game, blocking a Jerian Grant three on the perimeter and then riding Grant all the way down the court on the final possession that resulted in a missed desperation three-pointer.
Grant, another potential lottery pick, had 15 points and six assists, but he shot just 4-of-14 overall and 1-of-6 from three-point range. The one three was a big one that put Notre Dame up two with 2:36 left, but Grant missed shots on three consecutive possessions to end the game. There was definitely a bit too much hero ball on his part, which was a shame given he’s such a good distributor and Notre Dame had had a lot of success moving the ball and getting good shots against the elite Kentucky defense.
Winslow does it all again for Duke: Justise Winslow is quickly becoming one of my favorite players in this draft. The kid does so many things well on the court in addition to being a scorer. Winslow does plenty of dirty work as well, and he has the knack for coming up with huge plays in key situations. He scored a team-high 16 points in Duke’s 66-52 victory over Gonzaga, and his seven straight points in the second half after the Bulldogs got within two points helped put the game away. He also came away with several key rebounds down the stretch. So while the best wing in the draft shot just 4-of-12, it wasn’t indicative of his overall performance. He has now moved into the top five of DraftExpress’ mock draft.
Jahlil Okafor had a second consecutive quiet game, as Przemek Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis held their own against the big man. Okafor had nine points and eight boards while shooting 4-of-10, and at some points it didn’t seem like he was fully engaged. However, I will note that Duke’s guards didn’t do a great job of feeding the big man. There was also an air-balled free throw mixed in this uneven performance, although that’s not all that surprising given his poor free throw shooting this season.
Harrell good … for one half: Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell got off to a quick start against Michigan State by making six of his first seven shots, including several jumpers. Unfortunately for Harrell and the Cardinals, his layup with 8:59 remaining in the first half was the last field goal he would make all game. The forward still finished with a solid stat line of 16 points, nine boards and four assists, but not making a field goal over the last 34 minutes of the game isn’t a good look. Oh, and Louisville lost 76-70 in overtime.
Terry Rozier had an extremely underwhelming game for the Cardinals, scoring 13 points on a horrific 6-of-23 from the field. Rozier’s shot selection, especially down the stretch, was horrific, as he took several ill-advised, contested jumpers for little reason. The combination of Rozier’s horrid shooting and Harrell disappearing offensively proved to be a death knell, although Wayne Blackshear (28 points) did his best to send Louisville to the Final Four. But it wasn’t enough.