While I have been on the sidelines with dysplasia of my vocal chords and my ongoing battle with cancer, I'm still watching a lot of college basketball. I have a lot of opinions on the sport I love.
With the transfer portal in the headlines all season, the diaper dandies have not always received the attention they deserve. Chet Holmgren of Gonzaga, Jabari Smith of Auburn and Paolo Banchero of Duke have received plenty of attention due to their NBA draft rankings, but there have been other freshmen who have really stood out.
With that in mind, it's time to unveil my "Elite Eight Diaper Dandies" for the 2021-22 season:
Holmgren can do it all -- bring the ball up the court, shoot inside and outside, rebound, block shots and change opponents' shots. He looks thin but he is a solid all-around performer who is improving as the season progresses. Versus San Diego, he had 23 points, shot 9-of-12 from the field and grabbed 12 rebounds.
Coach K has relied on diaper dandies, one-and-done performers and Banchero is the latest that should go in the top five of the NBA draft. He can score, rebound, defend and help lead a relatively young squad. Banchero had 22 points in his collegiate debut vs. Kentucky and 28 points vs. The Citadel.
Smith can contend for the top NBA draft spot too. Smith was the highest-ranked recruit in Auburn history and he has lived up to that billing. He can score and rebound and helped the Tigers reached No. 1 in the AP Poll for the first time. The 6-10 Smith is averaging 16.3 PPG and 6.7 RPG. His top game was a 31-point effort vs. Vanderbilt.
Lewis is listed as a freshman because of the NCAA free year, though it is his second season in Milwaukee. Marquette was picked near the bottom of the Big East preseason poll, and Shaka Smart has relied on Lewis to shine. Lewis really opened eyes up with a 33-point effort in a win over Seton Hall. The Baltimore native is an exciting player and a difference- maker.
Like Lewis, the 6-7 Lofton is technically a diaper dandy despite playing last season. He currently averages a double-double at 16.8 PPG and 10.7 RPG while shooting 54.7% from the field. Lofton had a monster game vs. NC State, scoring 36 points and grabbing 17 boards while hitting 14-of-19 from the field (73.7 FG percent) in a loss.
TyTy Washington Jr., Kentucky Wildcats
Injuries have slowed his momentum a bit, though coach John Calipari has reason to be excited about Washington. Teaming with transfer Sahvir Wheeler gives Kentucky two outstanding ball handlers and distributors. The five-star recruit is averaging 12.4 points and 4.1 assists per contest while shooting a respectable 47.7% from the field.
Wesley is averaging over 14 PPG for the Irish, and scored 24 in a loss to Illinois. The Irish have had a nice ACC season and Wesley has contributed a great deal.
Chandler gets it done on both ends of the court, and is averaging 13.3 PPG and 4.9 APG. He is also one of the top 15 players nominated for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.
The 17th annual Dick Vitale Gala, benefiting the V Foundation, will be held May 6, 2022, at the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota, Florida. For more information visit dickvitaleonline.com.