March Madness is upon us, and unless your boss is really breathing down your neck you'll be paying attention to the first round games on Thursday and Friday. And for Bulls fans, that means getting a look at potential pieces of the franchise's rebuild.
And with the Bulls owning the Pelicans' first-round pick, there are even more players to keep your eye on as you watch the games (and watch your bracket implode by Thursday mid-day). Here's a chronological list of games that include first-round picks the Bulls might be interested in, from Thursday at 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday.
Thursday: 11:15 a.m. - No. 10 Oklahoma vs. No. 7 Rhode Island
Who we're watching on Oklahoma: No. 11 Trae Young (PG)
Why Young? Because when he's on his game he's the most electric player in college basketball. His Sooners went into a tailspin in the final two months of the season after being ranked as high as No. 4 in the country. Young is an outstanding shooter, distributor and decision maker who became the first player to lead college hoops in points per game (27.4) and assists per game (8.8). The Bulls have Kris Dunn, but Young's game was built for the NBA. He's an option with their own pick.
Thursday: 1:45 p.m. - No. 15 Iona vs. No. 2 Duke
Who we're watching on Duke: No. 1 Tre Duval (PG), No. 3 Grayson Allen (SG), No. 34 Wendell Carter Jr. (C), No. 35 Marvin Bagley III (PF)
Why Duval? Duke and their point guards. The latest of the crop is Duval, a super-athletic guard who has admittedly struggled but has potential. While he defers as a scorer, he is averaging 5.5 assists and has contributed as an on-ball defender (1.5 steals). Duval may come back to Durham for a second season, especially with the talent Coach K is bringing in, but he'll be in consideration as a first-rounder on talent alone if he does declare.
Why Allen? Everyone's got an opinion on the kid, but they all agree on one thing: he can shoot with the best of them. Allen is shooting nearly 38 percent on 7.2 3-pointers per game, and he continues to show a little more ever year in the passing department, averaging 4.5 assists this season. There's a belief that his game is better suited in the free-flowing NBA, meaning he could be a consideration for the Bulls' late first-rounder. They could use an upgrade on ball-handlers who can shoot, and his ability to play off the ball - his more natural fit - makes him valuable.
Why Carter? While everyone's talking about Marvin Bagley (below), Carter has arguably been just as good. He's isn't as quick or versatile as Bagley, and doesn't have quite the same perimeter game, but his 260-pound frame allows him to bang inside (9.3 rebounds) and defend at a high clip (2.2 blocks). He has been one of the anchors of Duke's zone defense this season, and he's also shooting 56 percent from the field on the other end. He'll certainly be in consideration for the Bulls when they select in the Lottery.
Why Bagley? On a Duke team loaded with talent, Bagley shines brightest. His 6-foot-11 frame is long and athletic, and he always seems to be in the right spot on the floor. He's averaged 21.1 points, 11.5 rebounds and shot 37 percent on a limited number of 3-pointers. But he plays so well around the rim, has a solid mid-range game and is explosive in transition. He's a superb talent and only just turned 19 years old. He'll continue to expand his game and will have All-Star potential from Day 1 as a pro, but the Bulls will need Lottery luck to have a chance at drafting him.
Thursday, 2:10 p.m. - No. 11 Loyola vs. No. 6 Miami (Fla.)
Who we're watching on Miami: No. 4 Lonnie Walker IV (SG)
Why Walker? Though you'll have to root against the Chicago team in this year's NCAA Tournament, Walker is one of the most fun players in March. He's a combo guard who plays above the rim and with plenty of energy as a defender. That versatility would fit well in Chicago, where the Bulls are still trying to figure out how to utilize their talent off the ball. Walker fits that mold, and if you're looking for him he'll be the blur in transition, the guy scraping for a loose ball or going up top for a dunk.
Thursday, 5:50 p.m. - No. 16 Radford vs. No. 1 Villanova
Who we're watching on Villanova: No. 25 Mikal Bridges (SG)
Why Bridges? The term "two-play player" is overused these days, but it fits for Bridges. He's arguably the best wing defender in the draft, and he expanded his offensive game as a junior, averaging 18.0 points on 52 percent shooting (and 43 percent from deep). He's the No. 2 option on the Wildcats' top-ranked offense, and he can guard four positions (1.1 blocks, 1.6 steals). He's "old" as a junior, but that may be why such a talented player is available for the Bulls late in the top-10.
Thursday, 6:10 p.m. - No. 12 Davidson vs. No. 5 Kentucky
Who we're watching on Kentucky: No. 3 Hamidou Diallo (SG), No. 5 Kevin Knox (SF), No. 22 Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (PG)
Why Diallo? If teams were drafting on potential alone he'd be a top-10 pick. But the freshman shooting guard is still incredibly raw and is more of an athlete than a basketbal player at this point. That means he's been fantastic in transition and can get to the rim at will. But he also shot below 34 percent from deep, committed more turnovers than he had assists and doesn't play terriffic defense. But again: potential is critical in the NBA, and GMs love it. Diallo could be an option when the Bulls use their Pelicans pick.
Why Knox? He's your prototypical combo forward in today's NBA. Knox has really come on strong in the second half of the season (like all Cal Kentucky teams), and his inside-out game from a 6-foot-9 scorer has NBA teams salivating. He's a bit rough around the edges and doesn't offer much in the way of defense, but he's capable of going off for 30 on any given night and that will have him in the mix for a top-10 selection.
Why Gilgeous-Alexander? There's something to be said for a 6-foot-6 point guard. Gilgeous-Alexander has really improved his stock in the last month or so, averaging 18.4 points and 6.1 assists over his last eight games. He's also a versatile defender, which has him moving his way up draft boards. The Bulls could use versatility and a stout defender in their backcourt to match what Kris Dunn does. He'll be in play when the Bulls make their first pick of the first round.
Thursday, 8:20 p.m. - No. 9 Alabama vs. No. 8 Virginia Tech
Who we're watching on Alabama: No. 2 Collin Sexton (PG)
Why Sexton? In a league domianted by point guards, Sexton may be the best in this year's class. His numbers will tell you he's a shoot-first point guard, as he's averaging 19.0 points on 44 percent shooting and just 3.5 assists. But more than that, Sexton is a playmakers. He's a smart player, is lightning quick in transition and plays good defense. He's a lot like De'Aaron Fox, who went 5th overall in last year's draft. The Bulls will give Sexton a hard look on draft night. He'd be an excellent fit next to Kris Dunn as the Bulls search for more ball handlers.
Thursday, 8:40 p.m. - No. 13 Buffalo vs. No. 4 Arizona
Who we're watching on Arizona: No. 13 Deandre Ayton, (C)
Why Ayton? Because you want to see a grown man play against a bunch of kids. Apologies to Buffalo, but Ayton is that special. He averaged 20.3 points on 61.6 percent shooting, 11.5 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in the regular season, and not even those numbers tell the story. He's 7-foot-1 with an NBA-ready body, is a force around the rim yet still made 12 3-pointers, and improved as a defender as the season went on. He'll be the No. 1 pick in June, barring something unforeseen. Pray for Buffalo the same way you pray for the Bulls' Lottery chances.
Thursday, 8:50 p.m. - No. 14 Montana vs. No. 3 Michigan
Who we're watching on Michigan: No. 13 Moritz Wagner (PF)
Why Wagner? Much like D.J. Wilson did a year ago, Wagner is seeing his stock improve as the Wolverines dominate down the stretch. Wagner tested the NBA waters after his freshman season and wound up returning to Ann Arbor. It was a good call, as he's averaged 14.5 points on 53 percent shooting and 7.1 rebounds in a larger role. He's got stretch-forward potential, making 40 percent of his 134 3-pointers this season, and has a built 245-pound frame that could make him playable right away. His defense needs work, but the Bulls could fall in love with his versatility late in the first.
Friday, 11:15 a.m. - No. 10 Providence vs. No. 7 Texas A&M
Who we're watching on Texas A&M: No. 44 Robert Williams (PF)
Why Williams? When he's engaged there are few players who possess the kind of talent Williams has. He can score in a variety of ways and has elite athleticism that's helped him become of the one better rebounders in the conference. The Bulls have remade the power forward position, and Bobby Ports' emergence in Year 4 has made it less of a priority. Still, Williams is someone who could have a huge March and pre-draft process to cement his status as a mid-to-late first-rounder.
Friday, 2:10 p.m. - No. 10 Butler vs. No. 7 Arkansas
Who we're watching on Arkansas: No. 10 Daniel Gafford (C)
Why Gafford? Fred Hoiberg wants to play small, and for the most part the Bulls have done this all year. Still, there's value in the NBA for a center who can run the floor, block shots and pound the glass. That's Gafford's game. The 6-foot-11 freshman is averaging 11.9 points on 62 percent shooting, 6.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks. He's only scratching the surface of his potential, so while he may make you scratch your head with a silly play he's also going to wow you a few times every game.
Friday, 3:30 p.m. - No. 10 Texas vs. No. 7 Nevada
Who we're watching on Texas: No. 4 Mo Bamba (C)
Why Bamba? Have you ever seen an 8-foot wingspan? Bamba looks like something out of Space Jam, and he plays with the dominance of a Monstar, too. He was second in the country in blocks per game (3.7) and averaged a double-double (12.9 points, 10.4 rebounds). He's still raw, but one quick look at him and you realize his potential as a defensive star. Once his offensive game fills out he'll be unstoppable. The Bulls will need some Lottery luck to have a chance at drafting this Unicorn of a prospect.
Friday, 5:50 p.m. - No. 9 Kansas State vs. No. 8 Creighton
Who we're watching on Creighton: No. 2 Khyri Thomas (SG)
Why Thomas? The Bulls have improved offensively, thanks to Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen and - at times - Zach LaVine. The defense, however, has been borderline unwatchable at times. Enter Khyri Thomas, the 6-foot-3 guard with a 6-foot-10 wingspan who is an absolute hound on that end of the floor. He's got All-NBA Defensive Team potential, and he's not too shabby as a shooter - he's made between 39 and 41 percent of his 3-point attempts in three seasons with the Bluejays. He'll almost certainly be in the mix with the Bulls' second first-rounder. For as improved as the Bulls are on the wing offensively, the defense has taken a major hit.
Friday, 6:10 p.m. - No. 14 Bucknell vs. No. 3 Michigan State
Who we're watching on Michigan State: No. 22 Miles Bridges (SF) No. 2 Jaren Jackson Jr. (PF)
Why Bridges? As far as the college game goes, there are few better than Bridges. He's averaging nearly 17 points on 46 percent shooting, and contributes in just about every facet of the game. As an NBA pick, his lack of size (6-foot-7) and outside shooting (36.9 percent shooter from deep) may hurt him. Then again, far less athletic players have made it on skill alone. Bridges could be in that camp, especially if he falls on draft night and the Bulls scoop him up late in the first round. He's a good defender and plays above the rim when attacking the basket. There's a spot in the league for that.
Why Jackson? He's the perfect build for a future NBA power forward. Jackson is raw as a freshman, but he rebounds incredibly well (5.8 per game), is a nightmare at the rim (3.2 blocks per game) and has shown serious capability to make outside shots (40 percent on 96 3-point attempts; he made five in one game). He's made for the NBA, and while he hasn't received the same kind of attention as the Aytons, Bagleys and Mambas of this class, he's incredibly valued because of that skill set. It would surprise no one if he's taken in the top-5 on draft night.
Friday, 8:50 p.m. - No. 9 Florida State vs. No. 8 Missouri
Who we're watching on Missouri: No. 13 Michael Porter Jr.
Why Porter? Because we haven't seen much of him at all this year. Twenty-five minutes, to be exact. A back injury limited him to just two minutes in the regular season, and he wasn't great in his lone SEC Tournament appearance (5-for-17 shooting in a loss to Georgia). But there was a reason he was considered by many as the top prospect in this class. He's 6-foot-10, has an incredible feel for the game and can score from anywhere. The Bulls will need some Lottery luck to have a chance at drafting him, unless the back injury scares off teams.