After a brief lull in December, Dalton Knecht has come back stronger than ever. The fifth-year senior suffered an ankle injury against North Carolina, which seemed to put him in a bit of a rut ahead of SEC play. But that has changed in a large way over the last couple of weeks.
Knecht has scored 28, 36, 39 and 25 in his last four games, shooting 14-29 from three-point range and 45-81 from the field. The Tennessee offense is running almost exclusively through him, and the NBA world has been taking notice. The 6-6 wing might not be the elite athlete that pro teams covet, but his ability to shoot and score have pushed him into contention to be a first round pick in this summer’s draft.
In fact, more than that, Knecht could be a lottery selection.
Bleacher Report and NBADraft.net have Knecht going 13th overall. SBNation’s own Ricky O’Donnell has him sneaking in the first round at No. 30, while ESPN projects Knecht to land 32nd overall to the Spurs.
Knecht is leading the way for Tennessee, which moved up to No. 5 in this week’s AP top 25 poll. The Volunteers appear to be on their way to securing another top seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament, and they remain the odds on favorite to win the SEC following a big win against Alabama over the weekend.
His hot streak has not only kept Tennessee going, but it’s also put him in position to potentially take home some hardware. Per DraftKings Sportsbook, Knecht has moved into the No. 2 spot of the National Player of the Year (Wooden Award) race. Purdue’s Zach Edey is the heavy favorite at -700, but Knecht is now shown second at +2000. North Carolina’s RJ Davis, Duke’s Kyle Filipowski, Kansas’ Hunter Dickinson and UConn’s Tristen Newton are all listed in third with +3000 odds.
Knecht will certainly have a chance to showcase himself down the stretch with matchups against Kentucky (twice), Auburn, Texas A&M and at Alabama remaining. He’ll then have a chance to lead Tennessee through the SEC Tournament in Nashville in March.
Tennessee hopes Knecht can stay hot this weekend as the Volunteers head to Nashville to face the Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday night.