Orlando Magic 2023 NBA Draft: 5 players to watch in the NCAA Tournament’s Regional rounds

Anthony Black has been a strong defender and point guard for Arkansas' run to the Sweet Sixteen. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
Anthony Black has been a strong defender and point guard for Arkansas' run to the Sweet Sixteen. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports /
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Nick Smith Jr., Arkansas Razorbacks
Arkansas’ Nick Smith Jr. brings the ball down the court during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament first round match-up between Illinois and Arkansas, on Thursday, March 16, 2023, at Wells Fargo Arena, in Des Moines, Iowa.0316 Illinos Arkansas 016 Arw /

5 players to watch in the NCAA Tournament regional rounds

Nick Smith Jr., Arkansas

First Round: 6 points, 2/10 FGs vs. Illinois
Second Round: 0 points, 0/4 FGs vs. Kansas

Anthony Black, Arkansas

First Round: 12 points, 6 rebounds, 4/12 FGs vs. Illinois
Second Round: 4 points, 1/6 FGs vs. Kansas

Regional Semifinals: Thursday vs. UConn (7:15 p.m., CBS)

Arkansas is probably the team most NBA scouts are going to be watching this week with two potential NBA guards on their roster. And both of them struggled in the first two rounds despite advancing to the Sweet Sixteen.

Nick Smith Jr. is considered the better of the two prospects, but he played absolutely horribly in the first two games.

Injuries have been the story of Smith’s freshman year. And he is still likely working his way back from the knee injury that cost him most of the season. But he averaged 12.6 points per game on 37.3-percent shooting for the season. In the seven games heading into the NCAA Tournament, he averaged 18.1 points per game on a 46.6-percent effective field goal percentage.

Those were encouraging numbers that Smith was healthy again and starting to perk up heading into these pressure games.

Then the NCAA Tournament happened and he did not seem to hit those marks at all. He has lacked some of the explosiveness that had scouts excited for him before the injury. And he was just generally unimpressive. Even in a marquee game against Kansas.

His backcourt battery mate in Anthony Black did not fare much better offensively. For Black though, his attraction to the NBA is his defense. There he was pretty good. He still played 37 minutes in the win over Kansas in the second round and was a big part of the Razorbacks holding on for the win.

Everyone wants to see more from both Smith and Black moving forward. The winner of this UConn and Arkansas game might be the dark horse to win the whole thing.

The other player to watch out for in this big matchup is Ricky Council IV.

Council was the actual leading scorer for the Razorbacks, posting 16.1 points per game and scoring 21 points in the win over Kansas (and 39 points in the first two rounds.

Council is in this third year after transferring from Wichita State to Arkansas this year. So he is a bit older. ESPN has him 41st on their Big Board. So another big game in the NCAA Tournament could help him climb into the late first round or earlier in the second.