Before Villanova last year, the previous five NCAA champions sent a player to the first round of the following NBA draft.
North Carolina has a chance to restore the national title-to-first round pipeline this year with Justin Jackson
Consensus first-team All-America forward and 2017 ACC Player of the Year Justin Jackson will enter the NBA Draft and sign with a professional representative, foregoing his senior year of college after the leading the University of North Carolina to the NCAA championship.
Jackson is a good bet to become the oldest player chosen in the first round, though he could slip into the second (and/or get jumped by someone older).
The 22-year-old junior is an antiquated prospect. He’s an upperclassmen who specializes in the mid-range game.
His improved outside shooting boosts his NBA stock. He made 37% of his 3-pointers this year on high volume, including many attempts from NBA distance.
But, in a small-sample irony, going 0-for-9 on 3s in the national-title game will invite questions about his reliability from distance. Jackson shot just 30% on 3-pointers his first two seasons and never better than 75% on free throws.
At 6-foot-8 with length, Jackson can defend multiple positions. But he’s rigid and neither quite athletic nor strong enough to dominate either end of the court. It often seems he operates from the mid-range because he lacks physicality to drive into the paint. Jackson’s lack of strength is particularly concerning because he was older than most of his opponents last year.
Jackson mostly plays within his limitations, which was great for North Carolina. He’s just dealing with more limitations than ideal for the NBA.