Monday night's college basketball national championship between Gonzaga and North Carolina may not feature any Top-10 NBA prospects, but Zach Collins and Justin Jackson are doing their best to change that--and are quickly rising in the newest 2017 mock draft.
After combining for seven points and eight fouls against West Virginia and Xavier, Collins--a freshman who comes off the Zags' bench and averages just 17.3 minutes per contest--was looking like a strong bet to return to Spokane next year. But then came the Final Four. With Przemek Karnowski battling an eye injury and Johnathan Williams having his least effective game of the tourney, Collins logged a season-high 23 minutes and responded with 14 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks in a transcendent performance. It was a stark reminder that this is one of the most talented freshmen in the country with some of the best per-40 minutes among the Top 100 prospects. He's a seven-footer with a polished offensive game, just as capable of scoring with his back to the basket as he is stepping out and knocking down a jumper. “The skill set is off the charts, and he has a great feel for the game,” one NBA director of player personnel told Sports Illustrated. “He has a mid-range game and can play short corner. He plays the pick-and-pop game with ease and will be huge in the pick-and-roll game.” Collins has yet to make a decision for next year, but he's moving up draft boards, and another big performance against North Carolina's NBA-sized frontcourt would go a long way in cementing himself as a Top-20 pick.
Then there's Jackson, who is a former McDonald's All-American like Collins but has taken a decidedly different path through college. An enigma with an inconsistent jump shot through his first two years, he turned into a dominant force as a junior. He won ACC Player of the Year and has been a monster in the NCAA tourney, averaging 20.2 points (46.7 percent shooting, 41.7 percent from three-point range), 5.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.6 steals. His unstoppable mid-range game has drawn comparison to Rip Hamilton, and he's looking more and more like a lottery pick with every subsequent game.
There will be some other intriguing prospects on the court Monday night, from Carolina's Tony Bradley to Gonzaga's Killian Tilie, but if we're talking about the 2017 draft, the ones to watch will certainly be Jackson and Collins. You can click through the gallery to see where they land in my newest mock draft, as well as predictions for the other 28 first-round picks. Note that draft order is based on standings as of April 2, 2017. (Getty)