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ESPN’s Jay Bilas: Deandre Ayton is ‘Hall of Fame good’

(AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

Deandre Ayton is going into the NCAA Tournament hot after averaging a 24.7-point and 12.7-rebound double-double in the Pac-12 Tournament. Ayton is playing at an extremely high level and the nation is noticing.

On ESPN’s First Take Monday morning, Jay Bilas had some high praise for the Arizona Wildcats center.

“You’ve seen Deandre Ayton, he’s ridiculous,” Bilas said to the panel. “He’s Hall of Fame good.”

The praise didn’t stop there for the Wildcats big man. The dominant season from Ayton got him compared to another all-time great center.

“Shaquille O’Neal with more skill at this age,” Max Kellerman said.

“Way more skill,” Bilas said.

In Shaq’s freshman season at LSU, he averaged 13.9 points and 12 rebounds per game on 57.3 percent shooting. Ayton this season has snagged 11.5 rebounds a game while also scoring 20.3 points on 63 percent shooting.

In arguably O’Neal’s best season, his sophomore year, he averaged 27.6 points a game while shooting 62.8 percent, blocking five shots a game and grabbing a dominant 14.7 rebounds a game. That season he won the AP Player of the Year award.

Despite being in a great draft class, Ayton seems to be so far ahead of the other great players in the NCAA.

“(Ayton is the) number one overall pick without question,” Stephan A. Smith said.

With this year’s draft class potentially featuring talents around the NCAA like Duke’s Marvin Bagley III, Alabama’s Collin Sexton and Oklahoma’s Trae Young, the center seems leaps and bounds ahead of this year’s fellow players.

“None of those guys are in his class,” Kellerman said.

Arizona was selected in the tournament as a four seed, but Bilas believes this was a mistake because of the Wildcats’ resume and talent.

“The screw up here that the committee made is Arizona as a four seed,” Bilas said. “Arizona is one of the four most talented teams in the tournament.”

Even with all the talent Arizona has, Bilas doesn’t think it is enough to get them out of the south region of the bracket.

“(Arizona) was miss-seeded, and I think that’s a problem,” Bilas said. “But Virginia still, they’re the best team. I still think they’re going to get through there, they’re the best team in this bracket and they defend in a way like I haven’t seen.”