As the month of March reaches its expiration date, so does one of the most electrifying events in sports: March Madness. The beauty of the event lies in its unpredictable nature, as viewers watch their preliminary brackets go to waste with upset victory upon upset victory. Teams like Middle Tennessee come in as a 15-seed and defeat teams like 2-seed Michigan State, who were the tournament favorites by viewer majority each year, which adds to the excitement of the sport. Though the inconsistencies of college basketball pile up each season, senior Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield seems to have no problem consistently performing on the big stage.
With talk of either LSU freshman Ben Simmons or Duke freshman Brandon Ingram being taken first overall in the upcoming 2016 NBA Draft, here are some reasons that it would not be surprising if Hield's name would be the first one to be called come draft night.
The Experience: In a league that has moved to the trend of declaring for the NBA draft after just one successful season, Buddy Hield's success has redefined that norm. Before last season's NBA draft, Hield consulted a professional analyst to predict where he might be drafted if he had declared - the answer is in the second round. This was not a good enough result for the ever-competitive Hield, who decided to take one more season in college in order to further develop his game. Now, he looks back on his decision with no regrets, as he sees himself rise as high as 3rd overall in recent NBA mock drafts.
The Competition: Upon the fact that Ben Simmons' LSU Tigers did not even qualify for the NCAA Tournament and Ingram's Duke Blue Devils losing in the Sweet 16, Hield sees a unique opportunity to jump past his competition. It is true that we have seen players like Kemba Walker and Frank Kaminsky take their respective teams to the NCAA Tournament finals (and even win on Walker's part), and it is true that these players were still drafted outside of the top 5, despite their success. However, the opportunity that Hield has is unique because Simmons and Ingram have both proven that they do not bring a winning atmosphere to their respective teams, especially Simmons. What separates a good player from a great player is that a great player makes his team better, which is a quality that only Hield has shown to possess.
The Momentum: Any talk of Brandon Ingram or Ben Simmons has come to a whisper as March Madness awaits its upcoming final four matchups. Hield is one of the only top players left standing, and he comes into the final four boasting a points-per-game average of 29.25 over span of the NCAA Tournament. This is unheard of for a college player, as college games are eight minutes shorter and much less high scoring than NBA games are. His scoring is coupled by an outstanding attitude and a motivation that emanates a focus on the team, rather than the individual. Hield can see upward movement in his draft stock as analysts see more and more characteristics that lead to Hield smoothly transitioning into the NBA game.
The Game Evolves The Same Way Buddy Does: This year is the first year that a resounding amount of people have been convinced that the best player in the NBA is no longer LeBron James. Stephen Curry has made quite a run at this title, promoting a trend of three-point shooting small ball that has become much more popularized recently, due to its convincing success. Hield has shot a ridiculous .458% from three point range this season, which has Steph Curry-esque qualities written all over it. Ben Simmons may remind people of LeBron James and Brandon Ingram may remind people of Kevin Durant, but Buddy Hield reminds people of Steph Curry, and Curry is the one who owns the title of greatest basketball player on the planet, at this point in time.
As Oklahoma continues to inch closer to its dreams of being NCAA Basketball National Champions, Buddy Hield continues to gain hype for his potential selection in the 2016 NBA draft as the leader of this Sooners team.