I don’t know if you like the just the NBA, or just the NCAA, or both. But what I do know is that you like the Bulls (well … at least I’m assuming you do, because you’re here)! So with March Madness set to start with the first four games on Thursday, I decided to whip together a quick tournament guide for Bulls fans.
Here ya go!
Bulls Alma Mater’s in the Tournament:
Zach LaVine – UCLA (11)
Coby White – UNC (8)
Patrick Williams – Florida State (4)
Daniel Gafford – Arkansas (3)
Otto Porter – Georgetown (12)
Thaddeus Young – Georgia Tech (9)
Garrett Temple – LSU (8)
Ryan Arcidiacono – Villanova (5)
Denzel Valentine – MSU (11)
If You Love Chicago, You Should Also Love …
Illinois: As hard as Northwestern might try, the Fighting Illini are Chicago’s Big Ten team (AND MY ALMA MATTER BABYYY). Junior guard Ayo Dosunmu and sophomore center Kofi Cockburn pack arguably the best one-two punch in the entire NCAA. Then, the rest of the supporting cast is beautifully built around exciting young talent and savvy vets. The Illini have not been to the NCAA tournament since 2013, and they had not won the Big Ten Tournament since 2005. Now, they are a No. 1 seed in the midwest region in a good position to make a Final Four run. Join the bandwagon.
Loyola-Chicago: If you don’t follow college basketball, I still bet you heard about the Ramblers in 2018 (or Sister Jean). Only a few years ago, this Missouri Valley Conference team put together one of the best cinderella runs college basketball has ever seen. They entered the tournament as an 11-seed and plowed their way to the Final Four, taking down Power 5 teams left and right. Senior center Cameron Kurtwig is one of the only remaining members of that historic team, and he is leading the Ramblers with 15.0 points per game as he looks to spark another magical run.
Unfortunately, you’re going to have to pick just one of these home-state teams to cheer for because the two will face each other if each team gets past the first round.
Some Players to Watch
There is a ton of special talent in this NCAA tournament, and the 2021 NBA Draft is expected to be loaded with star-level talent. As things currently stand, the Bulls are expected to be at the back of the lottery – specifically, 12th. With that said, we have to keep in mind that (1) a lot of movement in the standings can still occur, and (2) the lottery exists. I guess we also can never rule out the possibility of a trade up or down the board, as well. So regardless, this draft has plenty of big names, and with the Bulls just looking to add talent almost anywhere, there are several players fans might as well keep an eye on. I’ll start with the projected top-3 draft picks (not including those on G-League Ignite), and then just include some names I like.
Oklahoma State: 20-8 (4 seed)
Stats: 20.2 points (45.4 FG%, 41.2 3PT%), 6.3 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game.
Cunningham has been a coveted prospect for years, and he is currently projected as the clear-cut No. 1 pick of the 2021 draft. The guy has elite size for his position, and while he has turned the ball over more than scouts would like to see this season, he posses all the skills necessary to lead an offense. The Bulls chance of walking away with Cunningham is slim, but he is still a joy to watch.
Gonzaga: 26-0 (1 seed)
Stats: 14.3 points (51.2 FG%, 35.4 3PT%), 5.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists, 2.0 steals
Another player viewed as a top-3 pick, Suggs looks like the ideal lead guard. He would fill a major hole for the Bulls on both ends of the floor as a physical defender and reliable passer.
USC: 22-7 (6 seed)
Stats: 16.5 points (59.6 FG%, 32.0 3PT%), 7.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 3.2 blocks
For the Bulls fans shouting for a more physical and larger big man, Mobley is your guy. Absolute beast defending the glass, and he has pretty tremendous upside as a scorer as well
Gonzaga: 26-0 (1 seed)
Small Forward, 6’7″
Stats: 19.2 points (54.4 FG%, 44.4 3PT%), 4.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists
ESPN’s 10th-ranked prospect
If the Bulls move on from Lauri Markkanen in the offseason, they could shove Patrick Williams over to four and move Kispert into the 3. The guy is an absolutely dynamic three-point shooter, and he would add to the Bulls already wildly efficient offense. Is he a superstar? Probably not, but he is the type of player any team would be happy to have.
Baylor: 22-2 (1 seed)
Point Guard, 6’2″
Stats: 14.1 points (51.5 FG%, 46.4 3PT%), 5.4 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 2.0 steals
ESPN’s 26th-ranked prospect
I could envision the Bulls being interested in someone like Mitchell. He may be one of the older players in the draft (a junior), but he would make an immediate impact on both ends of the floor. We also know AKME likes two-way talent and Mitchell is an elite perimeter defender with an improving 3-point shot. He may not be the super gifted floor-general the Bulls need, but I’m sure he could help them in several ways.
Tennesse: 18-8 (5 seed)
Stats: 12.5 points (47.0 FG%, 44.4 3PT%), 3.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.3 steals
ESPN’s 27th-ranked prospect
Everything about Springer screams combo guard, but he is also one of the youngest players in the league. I could envision AKME believing he can develop into a steady PG for this Bulls team, as he has gradually improved in almost all facets as the season has gone on.
Florida State: 16-6 (4 seed)
Small Forward, 6’9″
Stats: 11.0 points (50.0 FG%, 29.7 3PT%), 4.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists
ESPN’s 7th-ranked prospect
Read up on Barnes, and he kind of sounds like Patrick Williams 2.0. He is from Flordia State, has an NBA-ready frame, can guard 1-5, and is super raw.
UNC: 18-10 (8 seed)
Stats: 9.7 points (51.9 FG%), 7.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists
ESPN’s 33rd-ranked prospect
Since Karnisovas seems more like a “best player available” kind of guy, Sharpe might be outside the Bulls range. However, if they decide Carter Jr. is best suited as a back-up big man, Sharpe is one of the higher-ranked centers in this draft.
Some Players from the State:
Ayo Dosunmu Junior (Chicago) – Illinois
Trevion Williams, Junior (Chicago) – Purdue
Xavier Pinson, Junior (Chicago) – Missouri
Marquise Kennedy, Sophomore (Chicago) – Loyola-Chicago
Craig Beaudion, Senior (Chicago) – Cleveland State
Cameron Kurtwig, Senior (Algonquin) – Loyola-Chicago
Aquan Smart, Freshman (Evanston) – Maryland
Tom Welch, Sophomore (Naperville) – Loyola-Chicago
Joseph Yesufu, Sophomore (Bolingbrook) – Drake
Adam Miller, Freshman (Peoria) – Illinois
Da’Monte Williams, Senior (Peoria) – Illinois
EJ Liddell, Sophomore (Belleville) – Ohio State
Jeremiah Tilmon, Senior (East St. Louis) – Missouri
Feel free to throw other names in the comments!