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5 NBA draft prospects to watch in the 2019 NCAA tournament

For The Win logo For The Win 3/18/2019 Andrew Joseph

CAPTION: LUBBOCK, TX - JANUARY 28: Jarrett Culver #23 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders goes to the basket against Kouat Noi #12 of the TCU Horned Frogs during the second half of the game on January 28, 2019 at United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock, Texas. © (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images) CAPTION: LUBBOCK, TX - JANUARY 28: Jarrett Culver #23 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders goes to the basket against Kouat Noi #12 of the TCU Horned Frogs during the second half of the game on January 28, 2019 at United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock, Texas.

The NCAA tournament is a three-week showcase of everything that is fun and exciting about college basketball. There's the upsets, the buzzer-beaters and, of course, the breakout superstars.

There's no better launching pad for a player's NBA draft stock than the NCAA tournament. Just last year, Donte DiVincenzo played his way into a first-round pick thanks to his breakout March (and April) during Villanova's championship run.

And every year, NBA execs and scouts converge on the NCAA tournament sites to get a closer look at prospects in these high-pressure games. This tournament, in particular, is loaded with NBA talent. And NBA fans should make sure to tune in when these five players are in action.

5. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Virginia Tech

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Between Duke's R.J. Barrett, Arizona State's Luguentz Dort and Virginia Tech's Alexander-Walker, these three college stars are the latest addition to Canada's basketball renaissance. They all will play in the NCAA tournament, but fans should make a point to watch Alexander-Walker in action.

The 6-foot-5 sophomore from Toronto is the Hokies' leading scorer. He brings size and versatility to both guard positions and shoots just shy of 40 percent from 3-point range. He makes for a tough matchup against shorter guards. We'll have to see who St. Louis matches up against him, but the potential Javon Bess-Alexander-Walker matchup presents plenty of intrigue.

4. Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech

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Culver edged out Kansas' Dedric Lawson for Big 12 Player of the Year honors as the Texas Tech sophomore's draft stock continues to rise. The 6-foot-5 guard was a main reason behind Tech's Big 12 regular season title, and he brings in the skillset NBA teams want in a wing. He can defend, attack the basket and knock down the outside shot (though he can improve in that area).

Last season, Culver struggled in the Red Raiders' Elite Eight run. He averaged just 7.5 points on 33 percent shooting (14 percent from 3). Now as Tech's go-to scorer, he's poised for a bounce-back showing.

3. De'Andre Hunter, Virginia

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Hunter could have been a first-round pick last season, but he decided to stay at Virginia after breaking his wrist in the ACC tournament. He appeared to have made the right call because Hunter went from a projected first-round pick last year to a potential top-5 pick this season.

In his sophomore season, Hunter has drastically improved his 3-point shot, shooting 45.7 percent from range (he was 38 percent as a freshman). His size - a 6-foot-7, 7-foot wingspan guard - is exactly what the NBA is looking for. He can defend some at the 4 or even take on smaller guards. Tony Bennett's teams are known for their defensive tenacity and high basketball IQ on offense. Hunter fits that mold precisely.

2. Ja Morant, Murray State

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The NCAA tournament selection committee did basketball fans a great service by pairing Murray State against Marquette. On one hand, it's a bummer that either Markus Howard or Ja Morant won't make it past the first round. Still, that matchup will be a treat to watch.

Morant could very well end up being the second pick in the draft, and his obvious strengths are athleticism, speed and playmaking. He's not a great shooter (low 30s from 3), but he can take over games on his physical skills alone. He essentially doubled his productivity from his freshman season.

One question mark for Morant, though, is his competition. Playing in the Ohio Valley, Morant played just two games against power-conference opponents. He scored 25 against Auburn and 38 against Alabama. He hasn't needed to deal with the grind of playing against pro prospects that your typical ACC or Big 12 guard faces on a game-by-game basis. But Morant is entertaining to watch. There's absolutely no denying that.

1. Zion Williamson, Duke

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There's not much to say other than that Zion Williamson is the most exciting college basketball player since … ever? Every game he's a part of is a must-watch event.

Even though this NCAA tournament can do little to improve his stock (he's already going to be the first pick), he's objectively fun. This is a list of NBA prospects to watch, and you should watch Zion Williamson play basketball.

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