As the Cleveland Cavaliers continue to struggle, we’d like to offer you some alternative viewing experiences. The Cavs will almost assuredly be picking at the top of the 2019 NBA Draft, and it’ll be important to keep tabs on all of the top prospects this winter. That might be a challenge this year, as the class could have a lot of fluctuation during the season, especially outside of the top two. That can make it difficult to keep track of everyone.
But never fear — we will be here to provide your weekly watch guide to all of the top prospects. Each week, we will break out the best games of the week for NBA Draft interest, including who will be matching up and where to find the week’s top games in college basketball and Europe. Our focus this week centers on Jarrett Culver, Keldon Johnson and Nassir Little
Virginia Tech vs. North Carolina - 7:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
Virginia Tech: Nickeil Alexander-Walker; North Carolina: Nassir Little, Coby White, Cam Johnson
A high profile matchup here features Little and Cam Johnson chasing Alexander-Walker around screens and pick-and-rolls. Little’s defense has been fairly inconsistent this year, and he’s going to have to be on his game if the Tar Heels are going to compete here. Meanwhile, Coby White gets a chance to showcase his scoring and passing acumen on a big stage again. He’s firmly solidified a spot in my top ten, and could be a dark horse consideration for the Cavaliers.
Iowa State vs. Kansas - 9:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
Iowa State: Talen Horton-Tucker, Tyrese Halliburton, Lindell Wigginton; Kansas: Devon Dotson, Quentin Grimes, Dedric Lawson
Iowa State’s guard trio helped Iowa State easily handle Kansas the last time these teams played. While Wigginton struggled, Horton-Tucker had a strong defensive game, and Halliburton coordinated a strong offensive showing for the Cyclones. The interesting question this time will be what Grimes does; he had perhaps his best game of the year against Horton-Tucker, and has actually started to turn things around.
Marshall vs. Western Kentucky - 9:00 p.m. EST, CBS Sports Network
Marshall: Jon Elmore; Western Kentucky: Charles Bassey
Bassey had a strong game in the first go-around against Marshall, with 16 points and eight rebounds. The question of whether he could thrive in a high-pace NBA-style game was answered with a strong yes. He’s somewhat struggled since then though, so we will see if he can turn things around.
Texas Tech vs. Kansas State - 7:00 p.m. EST, ESPN2
Texas Tech: Jarrett Culver; Kansas State: Dean Wade
With Wade back and healthy, Kansas State’s season is back on track, and the early second-round prospect is here for an anticipated matchup with Culver. Wade’s defensive versatility matches up well with Culver, and he is a pretty good scorer at the college level as well. This is a potential trap game for the Red Raiders, and Wade’s performance in this matchup will make the difference.
Kentucky vs. Mississippi State - 7:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
Kentucky: Keldon Johnson, P.J. Washington; Mississippi State: Quinndary Weatherspoon, Aric Holman
Matchup problems are the theme of the week for Kentucky, because they have two games that will really stress Johnson and Washington, their two main draft prospects. First comes Mississippi State, who has veteran forward Quinndary Weatherspoon to throw at Johnson, and Holman’s smart, versatile game to test Washington.
Duke vs. Pittsburgh - 9:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
Duke: Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish, Jack White; Pittsburgh: Xavier Johnson
R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson have stepped up in surprising ways since Tre Jones’s injury, with Barrett making some surprising playmaking strides and Williamson thriving on defense. After tough battles with Florida State and Virginia, Duke should get a little breather against a good, but not great Pitt team featuring Xavier Johnson, a raw but talented point guard prospect.
Tennessee vs. Vanderbilt - 7:00 p.m. EST, ESPN2
Tennessee: Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield; Vanderbilt: Simi Shittu
Shittu should present problems for Tennessee given his size and mobility, and Tennessee’s lack of real interior presence. But they have Schofield and Williams, two strong, quick, first-round level forwards, who are going to give Shittu fits. If you could put Williams’s brain in Shittu’s body, you’d have a top-two pick in this class, and that’s going to make for a great contrasting styles matchup here.
Washington vs. Oregon - 9:00 p.m. EST, ESPN2
Washington: Matisse Thybulle, Jaylen Nowell; Oregon: Louis King
Two teams with opposing trajectories clash in an interesting rivalry. Oregon’s season has largely been a disaster given expectations with Bol Bol out and King struggling to carry the load. Meanwhile, Washington has been red hot so far in PAC-12 play, and features two rising wing prospects in Jaylen Nowell and Matisse Thybulle. Seeing how these two do defending King and Will Richardson will be a good data point for two players creeping into the draft conversation.
Belmont vs. Murray State - 9:00 p.m. EST, ESPNU
Belmont: Dylan Windler; Murray State: Ja Morant
This will probably be Murray State’s biggest test in OVC play, so it’s an important battle to watch Morant in. Opposite him will be Windler, a strong shooter with creation upside that is a potential second-round prospect at the three. Morant will probably get matched up with him a few times, and while he too is a little undersized, it’s a good test for Morant against another NBA caliber player, and we don’t have a lot of those left prior to the NBA Combine.
Arizona State vs. UCLA - 11:00 p.m. EST, PAC-12 Network
Arizona State: Luguentz Dort, Zylan Cheatham; UCLA: Jaylen Hands, Kris Wilkes
As Dort has fallen out of favor due to a month-long shooting slump, Arizona State attention has shifted fully to Cheatham, a 6’7” athlete with slashing ability and some rim protection upside. He’ll draw some time against Wilkes, which will be a good test of his perimeter defense.
Michigan vs. Indiana - 6:30 p.m. EST, Fox Sports One
Michigan: Ignas Brazdeikis, Charles Matthews, Jon Teske, Jordan Poole; Indiana: Romeo Langford, Juwan Morgan
Game one between these teams was a Michigan win, thanks in large part to Poole’s dictation of the game from the point. Round two’s focus will be on Brazdeikis, who had one of his worst games of the year the first time around in large part thanks to Morgan’s strong play opposite him. Brazdeikis has certainly looked like a first round prospect throughout the year, but he does have physical limitations, which Morgan did a good job to expose. We will see what counters Iggy has for him this time.
Georgia Tech vs. Duke - 12:00 p.m. EST, ACC Network Extra
Georgia Tech: Michael DeVoe; Duke: Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish, Jack White
DeVoe will probably get some time against Barrett, which will be a good matchup, as DeVoe’s length and agility should give R.J. some problems attempting to get to the rim. Other than that, this is going to be a blowout, but it’s still a Duke game.
Iowa State vs. Ole Miss - 12:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
Iowa State: Talen Horton-Tucker, Tyrese Halliburton, Lindell Wigginton; Ole Miss: Terence Davis
A great oddity show here as the country’s two best 6-foot-4 forward prospects square off. Both Horton-Tucker and Davis are fringe prospects this year who would be clear lottery prospects if they were 6’7” because they are both strong rebounders, versatile defensive prospects and flashing hints of on-ball creation. If they could reasonably be trusted to defend bigs on switches, they’d both be great prospects. At least we get to see them square off with each other.
Texas vs. Georgia - 2:00 p.m. EST, ESPN2
Texas: Jaxson Hayes, Kerwin Roach; Georgia: Nick Claxton
Hayes has become a near-consensus lottery prospect in the draft community - some would even have him as a top-five value at this point. I’m not quite there yet, and a big reason why is that he struggles with bigs that have the strength to power through him at the rim and seal him on box outs. Enter Claxton, a sophomore prospect averaging 9.6 rebounds per game and 3.1 blocks per game with an NBA body and athleticism. This is a great proving ground for Hayes.
Kansas vs. Kentucky - 6:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
Kansas: Devon Dotson, Dedric Lawson, Quentin Grimes; Kentucky: Keldon Johnson, P.J. Washington
This game looked much better at the beginning of the season, when Grimes and Immanuel Quickley looked like viable first round prospects and Udoka Azubuike was healthy. Instead, we will focus on how Keldon Johnson does defending Kansas’s quicker guards, and how Washington does on defense against Lawson.
Arkansas vs Texas Tech - 6:00 p.m. EST, ESPN2
Arkansas: Daniel Gafford; Texas Tech: Jarrett Culver
The alternative to Kentucky-Kansas is this game, which features Daniel Gafford’s very interesting matchup with Tariq Owens, a senior who is a fringe prospect thanks to his dominant rim protection at the college level. Gafford’s done well as a vertical spacer again this year, getting dunks essentially whenever he wants in the pick-and-roll. He hasn’t faced Owens, however, a good facsimile to an NBA big defending over the top. It’s also another shot to watch Culver, and see if he can get to the rim against Gafford.
Arizona State vs. USC - 8:00 p.m. EST, ESPN2
Arizona State: Luguentz Dort, Zylan Cheatham; USC: Kevin Porter, Nikola Rackocevic
See above on Cheatham, but in a much more important showcase game against Kevin Porter. This is probably the best challenge Porter will face in terms of NBA length this year.