Seven of the 15 players on the final ballot for the John R. 2021 Wooden will compete in the NCAA Tournament this weekend. Three Gonzaga Bulldogs stars (Corey Kispert, Jaylen Suggs and Drew Timme) will join Baylor’s Jared Butler, Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson, Villanova’s Jeremy Robinson-Earl and USC’s Evan Mobley in an effort to help their teams win the Final Four next week in Indianapolis. With that in mind, we asked our college basketball experts at ESPN to rank the players with the most interesting matchup – or potential matchup – in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight.

Which NCAA Tournament finalist playing in the second week of the Wooden Awards do you find most interesting?

Myron Medcalf, senior college basketball writer: I think a possible Elite Eight matchup between USC and Gonzaga will provide a rare opportunity to see a pair of top-5 draft picks compete for a Final Four spot. It’s also an incredible showcase for both players.

Fill out your bracket by picking a winner in each of the NCAA Tournament games, from the Sweet 16 to the championship. Tournament Challenge Second Chance

USC’s Evan Mobley was named Pac-12 Player of the Year and Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs made the Associated Press’ second team for his debut season. But Tuesday’s potential Elite Eight matchup between the two players is an important one and a glimpse of what a top NBA team might get this summer if they select one of the talents. This could be a good match too, probably the first time Gonzaga has been pushed. You’d think a team would be able to defend the rim and get second chances, and USC is holding opponents to 41.4 percent inside the arc, the highest in America, according to KenPom. Top 15 in offensive rebound percentage. Mobley vs. Suggs is a potentially great match.



Jalen Suggs floats in and changes hands in the air for a basket that increases Gonzaga’s lead.

Jeff Borzello, College Basketball Insider: I think the best one-on-one match would be Mobley against Drew Timm in the regional final. Mobley is probably the best defensive player in the country, and Timm is one of the best post players in college basketball offensively. Timme has excellent footwork and finds angles and space on the block, allowing him to beat his opponent in the paint and drive to the basket. He has experience, he can make one-on-one shots, he can pass effectively. But Mobley is not someone he has seen all season. Mobley is tall, can defend inside and outside, is a top shooter and, as one coach told me, can play two back-to-back shots better than anyone he’s ever seen. Gonzaga relies heavily on her ability to score in the paint and finish in the line, but USC will really test that.

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As far as Sweet 16 games go, I find it intriguing that Hunter Dickinson plays a lot against Florida State’s big men. The Seminoles are the biggest team in the country, and Leonard Hamilton will throw four of five at Dickinson during the game. Can they exhaust it?

John Gasaway, college basketball writer: I’ll take a cue from a regional semifinal between Wooden finalists and say I’d really like to see Jared Butler and Baylor against Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Villanova. Butler has made just four of his last 19 shot attempts from beyond the arc, but otherwise he has been brilliant both offensively and defensively. He and the Bears will likely get their first 40-minute test against the Wildcats, who are currently using Robinson-Earl’s offense a lot. The sophomore has scored 40 points in his team’s two wins so far, and his double-double against Winthrop (22-11) also included six assists and three blocks. Those who gave up on Villanova when Collin Gillespie was out for the season were sorely mistaken, as Robinson-Earl took over. The winner of this contest will be a clear threat to the national title.



Jeremiah Robinson-Earl takes a pass from Jermaine Samuels and scores in Villanova’s win over Winthrop.

Joe Lunardi, ESPN Bracketologist: For me, this weekend is all about Gonzaga getting a good Final Four spot. And with the finalists for the Wooden Award (T-H-R-E-E of the Wooden Award), any other result could be considered a major setback for an otherwise historic team. I’m not saying the trio of Kispert, Timme and Suggs need to complete an unbeaten run to be remembered as all-time greats, but if they failed to do so last weekend – especially in a group without the numbers 2, 3 and 4 – it will detract from the legacy of one of the greatest teams of the modern era. Lost in the Final Four to great teams like Michigan, Alabama or Baylor? It happens. Only lose to a very good Creighton, USC or Oregon at the regional championships? Not so much. Despite the epic opening weekend drama, the 2020-21 season will be remembered for two things: the pandemic and how far Gonzaga has come.

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