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Rival Views: Which player has boosted his stock the most?

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The Sweet Sixteen kicks off on Thursday and along with those who were expected to make it, there have been some surprises. So far, many players have elevated their status during their respective Sweet Sixteen runs, but whose stock has risen the most? National basketball analysts Eric Bossi and Corey Evans have both identified freshmen as their stock boosters, but as usual they have Rival Views.

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Zhaire Smith
Zhaire Smith (AP Images)

The rapid development of Texas Tech freshman Zhaire Smith from undersized high school post player worth taking a flyer on because of extreme athleticism into legitimate NBA prospect has been one of the most impressive things that I've seen all year. For that, Smith and Red Raiders coach Chris Beard along with everybody else inside the Texas Tech program deserves a lot of praise. Smith was already known in Big 12 circles as a budding star and had started to make his way onto NBA Draft boards, but in the NCAA Tournament, he's kicked it into overdrive.

In particular, Smith's 18-point, nine-rebound and seven-assist performance to help Tech to a tough win over Florida in the round of 32 made me and everybody else take notice. It was known he could defend, it was known he could play above the rim - his 360 alley-oop finish with a one step takeoff was maybe the most athletic play of the first weekend of the tournament - but it's the all-around game he's starting to show that has people drooling about his long-term potential.

I'm not yet saying that Smith needs to throw his name into the 2018 NBA Draft, but were he to do so he would get serious consideration from NBA teams. Most importantly right now is that he's continuing to peak at the exact right time and he's a big reason why Texas Tech has a real chance to knock off Purdue and move ahead to the Elite Eight.


How can it not be Shai Gilgeous-Alexander? Sure, the Canadian put together a solid string of games to complete the year and during Kentucky’s run through the SEC Tournament, but his dominance on the biggest of stages has enhanced his profile even further.

Gilgeous-Alexander has played 76 of Kentucky's 80 tournament minutes, which reflects just how important he is to the Wildcats' success. Averaging 23 points and close to seven rebounds and four steals in two games, Gilgeous-Alexander didn’t just move his team to the Sweet 16, but also boosted his NBA standing as a likely lottery pick in June.

He hasn’t scored in single figures since mid-February and has continually shown the chops to lock down the opposing team’s best scoring weapon. His profile has been enhanced tenfold since this time last week and, with a manageable path ahead to the Final Four, things could improve even more for Gilgeous-Alexander.