63 games, hundreds of NBA hopefuls and one 94-by-50-foot stage for the best prospects in America to prove they belong at the next level. The main draw of the NCAA tournament is undoubtedly the upsets, the buzzer-beaters and the unparalleled passion, but March Madness also provides a better-than-ever glimpse at the best NBA draft prospects playing in the biggest games of their lives to date.
When it comes NBA draft stock, the NCAA tournament varies in importance depending on who you are. In years past, we've seen that a deep tournament run can elevate a player's stock a la Kemba Walker in 2011 or Buddy Hield in 2016, while a transcendent performance in a tournament-defining upset can help vault someone into the lottery, a la C.J. McCollum against Duke in 2012.
At the same time, poor showings from elite prospects don't always have a major effect. Andrew Wiggins went 1-for-6 in his last collegiate game, an ugly upset loss at the hands of Stanford, and went No. 1 the next summer. Jabari Parker went 4-of-14 and was ousted by Mercer the same year, and he was selected right after Wiggins. Two bad games, two tournament upsets and two top picks who have starred in the NBA.
So, there you go. The NCAA tournament is important for the NBA draft, and it's also not important. Clear as mud. Nevertheless, no matter how much stock you put into these performances, the Big Dance still offers a tremendous opportunity to get a look at the future of the Association.
With that in mind, and with 32 games set to play out over the next two days, you can click through the gallery for my 2017 first-round NBA mock draft. Note that the draft order is based on NBA standings as of March 15. (Getty)
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