SEC basketball had a surprisingly good run in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, sending three teams to the Elite Eight and five to March Madness.
Several games in the tourney meant more opportunity for exposure, and SEC players took advantage. There were a few, like De’Aaron Fox, who cemented already strong stock. Others used surprising performances to launch themselves onto draft radars.
Here are four SEC basketball players who improved their NBA draft stock in the NCAA tournament.
Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina
Tourney stats: 23.6 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.8 SPG, 47.2% FG, 40.6% 3P
Perhaps no player in the NCAA Tournament improved his stock more than Thornwell. After barely being projected as a draftable prospect heading into March, some sites have him as a borderline first-round pick. Granted, he’ll probably settle in the middle of the second round, but that’s a significant rise.
Thornwell was undoubtedly the best player in the NCAA Tournament. Offensively, he almost singlehandedly led South Carolina to the first Final Four in program history. On the way, Thornwell outdueled All-Americans Johnathan Motley and Luke Kennard. There are concerns about high-end athleticism, but Thornwell will find a spot in the league.
De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky
Tourney stats: 21.3 PPG, 2.8 APG, 50% FG
Fox desperately wants to be the No. 1 overall pick. He won’t be, but obliterating UCLA’s Lonzo Ball in the Elite Eight was enough to at least push him into the conversation. Fox scored 39 points on 13-for-20 shooting against Ball, thoroughly exposing him on defense.
Fox was the engine that made Kentucky go this season. In fact, Kentucky was the only Elite Eight team that started more than one freshman. While he may not contend with Ball or Markelle Fultz of Washington to be the first point guard off the board, Fox solidified himself as a top-10 pick with his performance in the tourney.
Devin Robinson, Florida
Tourney stats: 12.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 52.8% FG, 40.0% 3P
There are perhaps no more valuable role players in the NBA than 3-and-D wing players. As a hyper-athletic 6-foot-8 small forward, Robinson has the physical profile to fit the role effortlessly at the next level. In this tournament, he simply needed to prove he could consistently hit the 3-pointer.
Robinson shot a solid 39.1 percent from beyond the arc in the regular season and continued his success in the tournament. Against East Tennessee, he had 24 points on 17 shots. He later added 14 points on 2-for-4 shooting from the 3-point line and 11 rebounds against Virginia. If he can prove that ability during draft workouts, Robinson will be an early second-round pick.
PJ Dozier, South Carolina
Tourney stats: 17.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 50.8% FG
Dozier might not come out for the draft this year, but his performance in the NCAA Tournament helped thrust him onto the national radar. He broke out against Marquette in the first round, scoring 21 points on just four shots in an easy victory. Dozier later scored 17 in a key win over Florida.
While the offense was good, the defense was even better. Dozier and Thornwell helped combined for a suffocating perimeter defensive attack. The Gamecocks created havoc on the perimeter, holding Baylor to just 50 points and holding all but one of their opponents to fewer than 75 points. Dozier’s length and versatility will be a boon in the NBA.