For my money, the best game of the first round was the Drake/Western Kentucky matchup, and not just because of the buzzer beater.
I'm admittedly biased because I grew up in Iowa, was a one-time fixture at the Drake Relays and had other dealings with the campus in Des Moines. Regardless, it really was a terrific game, with the Hilltoppers shooting lights-out from the field while building a 16-point lead before Drake closed out regulation with a 29-14 run to get the game into overtime. In the extra session, Drake built a lead but missed several chances to land the knockout punch. Jonathan Cox, who scored 17 points during Drake's late run, hit a pair of free throws with 5.7 seconds left in OT to put the Bulldogs up by one. Then Ty Rogers chucked in a 25-footer at the buzzer to win it for Western Kentucky.
Great game, but it's unfortunate Drake won't get the opportunity to play to a wider audience in the second round. The Bulldogs were one of the best stories of the college basketball season, getting picked for last in the Missouri Valley Conference but going 28-4 to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in 37 years.
What really stood out about Drake was their completely unique style of play, built around 6'1" senior point guard Adam Emmenecker, a one-time walk-on who emerged as the MVC's player of the year. The Bulldogs employed an offensive structure akin to the pre-Shaq Phoenix Suns. They spread the floor with multiple three-point shooters and Emmenecker would penetrate into the lane and get the ball to an open shooter with uncanny skill--similar to that of the Suns' Steve Nash.
There is a world of difference between Nash and Emmenecker, though, especially in terms of overall ability. Most significantly, Emmenecker has absolutely no outside shot. He attempted just two three-pointers all season. He posted the 15th-highest free throw rate in the country, though. Emmenecker was 0-for-10 from the floor but 11-of-12 from the line against Western Kentucky, and added six rebounds and 14 assists. He's a long way from an NBA prospect, but he was as fun to watch--in a much different way--as Davidson's Stephen Curry.
Anyway, this is another installment in my series on NBA prospects so I hope you'll forgive me that little outburst of NCAA tournament romanticism. There was actually a pro prospect in that game--Western Kentucky's Courtney Hill. Hill scored 15 points in the game and disappeared during Drake's late-game run. He seemed pretty passive, though you don't want to draw too much from one game when it comes to intangible qualities.
Matchups and prospect reports for the next two days follow. Updated comments are notated with the date. New reports are also noted. As always, if there are other teams or conferences that you follow that have players you feel should be identified as an NBA possibility, drop me a line. I'm not stingy. I'd rather have too many prospect reports than too few. One thing I want to re-emphasize is that my initial pool of prospects was compiled by combining the Top 100 rankings of Web resources that specialize in NBA prospect analysis. So if there is a player who was missing, it's because he is--by consensus--not considered a pro prospect or at least was not at the time those rankings were published. My initial list was 157 players long, though that included foreign players and players on teams not in a postseason tournament. I've since added 15 players from tournament teams and will be happy to add as many players as I need to.
Duke (28-5) vs. West Virginia (25-10), 2:10 p.m.
Gerald Henderson, Duke Henderson's namesake father was a longtime NBA guard, best remembered for a steal for the Celtics in the 1984 finals. The younger Henderson has the highest usage rate among Duke's regulars but the lowest eFG%, shooting just 14-for-49 from long range. Defensively, he has solid metrics, including a surprisingly high block rate, and he projects to be a plus defender. Frankly, though, Henderson's inability to become a more efficient offensive player has probably hurt his draft stock.
DeMarcus Nelson, Duke A physical 6'4" guard, Nelson gets to the line and rebounds well for his position. He's undersized for a pro off-guard, however, so he'd likely be a combo player at the next level. He has solid shooting percentages, though his numbers suggest he is most comfortable taking the ball to the basket. A senior, Nelson's ceiling is limited, though he did improve in each of his college seasons. Could end up in a similar role to former Blue Devil Chris Duhon.
Kyle Singler, Duke Singler was Duke's second-leading scorer as a freshman. He's got some rough edges, as evidenced by an elevated turnover rate and a low assist rate. He took the highest percentage of shots among the Blue Devils' starters but needs to improve his efficiency. Singler has good size at 6'9" and if he improves his perimeter game, he could help an NBA team down the road.
Xavier (28-6) vs. Purdue (25-8), 4:40 p.m.
Robbie Hummel, Purdue as a 6'8" swing forward with solid ability on the perimeter, the freshman Boilermaker is a comer. Pomeroy's offensive rating slotted Hummel as seventh-best in the nation. Looks like he has the ability to develop a terrific all-around game. He's a little slow afoot, something he needs to continue to compensate for at the collegiate level.
Wisconsin (30-4) vs. Kansas State (21-11), 4:20 p.m.
Michael Beasley, Kansas State The consensus top prospect in the nation. Most compare him to Carmelo Anthony but he's a better rebounder than that. How about a young Chris Webber?
Bill Walker, Kansas State For all of his hype, Walker has underachieved with Kansas State. His once near-mythic explosiveness just hasn't been there since a knee injury last season. He needs to get more consistent in all aspects of his game. A 6'6" tweener, he would do well to hang around another year outside of Michael Beasley's considerable shadow.
Washington State (25-8) vs. Notre Dame (25-7), 6:40 p.m.
Derrick Low, Washington State During his four years for the Cougars, Low has developed into a terrific outside bomber. However, 6'2" guards with that low of an assist rate don't make it in the Association.
Kyle Weaver, Washington State Weaver is another four-year player for Wazzu. He has a well-rounded floor game and inconsistent shot. He's long enough to be a factor defensively but needs to get stronger. Should get drafted.
Stanford (27-7) vs. Marquette (25-9), 6:45 p.m.
Brook Lopez, Stanford Lopez's usage went up and his efficiency went down as a sophomore but the seven-footer still projects as a top-five pick.
Robin Lopez, Stanford Robin is the Jarron Collins to brother Brook's Jason Collins in the Stanford twin-big-man canon. He's not ranked as high as his brother, but has a similar skill set and is actually a little bit better shot blocker.
Dominic James, Marquette James is a good passer and has quick hands on defense. At the same time he is just 5'11", is an inefficient shooter, and has regressed for two straight seasons since a very good freshman year....3/22: followers of Marquette feel that James is absolutely not a pro prospect. After seeing him against Kentucky, I'd have to agree.
Jerel McNeal, Marquette ADDED 3/22: The 6'3" junior is a tremendous defensive player who needs to improve the consistency and range of his outside shot. He'd have to play point guard at the next level. He appears to have the passing skills to do that but he'll have to improve his turnover rate, which is a little high for a college off-guard.
Wes Matthews, Marquette ADDED 3/22: A reader stated that Matthews is a better pro prospect than Dominic James, though I think his intent was to damn Matthews with faint praise. I decided to add Matthews and to take a closer look. He's the son of the former NBA point guard of the same name. He does a good job of drawing fouls but there's not much else in his stat line that I like.
Kansas (32-3) vs. UNLV (27-7), 6:50 p.m.
Darrell Arthur, Kansas Arthur is a probable lottery pick if he comes out. He's got NBA size for a power forward at 6'9" and the frame to add to his 230 pounds. Has a nice midrange game but needs to learn how to improve his ability to drive to the hoop and get fouls.
Mario Chalmers, Kansas Chalmers is one of the most skilled two-way point guards in the NCAA. He can flat stroke it from the outside and is a ballhawk on defense. He needs to cut back on turnovers and exhibit more lead-guard traits to make an impact in the NBA.
Sherron Collins, Kansas Collins is a lightning-fast bowling ball as a 5'11", 200-pound point guard. He commits too many turnovers and lacks range on his outside shot. A former prep standout, Collins needs to hang around Lawrence until Mario Chalmers and Russell Robinson depart, leaving him with his first chance to run the show full time.
Darnell Jackson, Kansas Hard-working, high-character type whose size slots him as an NBA tweener and whose lack of athleticism will limit his ability to translate his skills to the pros. As a Jayhawk, the 6'8" senior has emerged as one of the NCAA's most efficient players.
Sasha Kaun, Kansas A fringe, Brad Lohaus-type prospect at best, if he pulls an outside shot out of his hat. Could join the likes of former KU players Raef Lafrentz and Scot Pollard on NBA benches, but don't count on it.
Brandon Rush, Kansas Rush could still emerge as the best pro among the deep group of current Jayhawks. He's a gifted athlete and excellent defender. He needs to get far more aggressive, both in terms of being more selfish with his own shot and in taking the ball to the rim. His passivity is his biggest negative.
Pittsburgh (27-9) vs. Michigan State (26-8), 9:10 p.m.
DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh An undersized power forward with long arms, Blair is a tremendous rebounder, shot blocker and interior defender. A jump shot would help his cause.
Sam Young, Pittsburgh Young really blossomed as a junior, increasing his scoring average by over 11 points and doing it with a solid eFG%. He's got good defensive ability for his size but is his ballhandling skills are limited. Has emerged as a prospect but needs a big senior year to establish himself as a true small forward.
Raymar Morgan, Michigan State A solid swingman type whose progression as a sophomore has been somewhat marred by a late-season fade. He takes the ball to the hoop with abandon but needs to improve his outside shot. If he shows the ability to guard NBA perimeter players, he could stick.
Drew Neitzel, Michigan State Neitzel is a premier outside gunner but lacks the size or athleticism to get enough shots or to defend adequately in the NBA.
UCLA (32-3) vs. Texas A&M (25-10), 9:15 p.m.
Chris Daniels, Texas A&M Corpus Christie!
Joseph Jones, Texas A&M Jones has been a consistent perform in his four years at A&M but his production was down this season with DeAndre Jordan on the scene. Offensive rebounding is his primary skill but it's probably not enough to get him into the league, which probably isn't something you would have said about him when he was a freshman.
DeAndre Jordan, Texas A&M Despite a relatively unproductive freshman season, Jordan would be a top-ten pick if he were to come out. The 7'0", 255 pound freshman is extremely talented and extremely raw, as evidenced by his 43.7 percent mark from the foul stripe. He's got no passing skills and turns the ball over way too much but he's got the potential to be a dominant rebounder and interior defender.
Darren Collison, UCLA Tremendous defender and outside shooter, Collison still needs to improve his playmaking abilities to become the dynamic point guard he has the potential to be as a pro.
Kevin Love, UCLA One of the premier freshman and overall rebounders in the land. Love has a full range of skills and a body mature beyond its years. Projects as a late lottery pick, he'll be a steal if he really drops that low in the draft.
Luc-Richard Mbah a Moute, UCLA Still far more potential than production, he has tremendous upside, particularly as a Tayshaun Prince-type defender. Nursing a tender ankle but expected to start first round game against Mississippi Valley State.
Josh Shipp, UCLA Became more a three-pointer shooter this season but is still better from the midrange. Shipp is highly regarded but really doesn't standout amongst his talented teammates.
Russell Westbrook, UCLA Emerged as the Bruins' best playmaker and overall best prospect. Westbrook needs to improve his shooting but can take it to the hoop with the best of them and like most of his UCLA teammates, he's an excellent defensive player.
Akron (24-10) at Massachusetts (22-10), Noon
Gary Forbes, Massachusetts A swingman player who would be an averaged-sized NBA small forward, Forbes is a scorer whose low percentage on threes doesn't stop him from hoisting them up.
San Diego (22-13) vs. Western Kentucky (28-6), 12:10 p.m.
Courtney Lee, Western Kentucky A 6'5" shooting guard, Lee is a long-range gunner with no conscience on offense. Rest of his game and physical attributes are pedestrian but his shooting ability could get him a pro opportunity.
Texas (29-6) vs. Miami (23-10), 2:15 p.m.
DJ Augustin, Texas A 6'0" pure point guard, Augustin is a dynamic ballhandler and distributor. He's also better shooter than he's often given credit for and draws a lot of fouls by getting into the lane. Athletically, he's not really a standout, which could undermine his chances to translate his considerable skills to the next level.
Damion James, Texas James ventured out to the perimeter more often as a sophomore but needs to get better in that regard to play in the NBA as he's only 6'7" He also happens to be one of the nation's best rebounders, especially among players his size. If he makes it as a pro, it'll be because of his defense.
Georgetown (28-5) vs. Davidson (27-6), 2:40 p.m.
Roy Hibbert, Georgetown Waddya know, it's a defensively-superior Georgetown seven-footer. Every draft should have one of these. Hibbert is understandably best known for his defensive prowess and shot-blocking. But his offensive game has improved in each of his four seasons with the Hoyas. He even hit all three of his three-point attempts this year--the only three attempts of his career. His soft touch should allow his offensive repertoire to continue to expand at the next level. Current prospect lists slot him in the mid- to late-first round. That seems too low but what holds him back is his lack of foot speed.
DaJuan Summers, Georgetown Still more potential than production, the 6'8" sophomore nevertheless displays a solid range of skills on both ends of the floor. He's probably more advanced defensively at this point as his shot is a little inconsistent. Has definite upside but he needs to stay put for another year.
Pat Ewing, Jr., Georgetown ADDED 3/22: Several readers felt that Ewing should be listed as a prospect because of his defensive ability. Consider him listed.
Austin Freeman, Georgetown ADDED 3/22: A 6'4" freshman, Freeman is an efficient outside scorer with NBA range. Undersized, he'll have to show a more complete game as his college career progresses
Chris Wright, Georgetown ADDED 3/22: Georgetown's 6'1" freshman point guard is a nifty playmakers is someone to watch down the line.
Stephen Curry, Davidson The son of former NBA designated shooter Dell Curry, Stephen is one of the nation's most exciting players and prolific scorers. Despite posting the 18th-highest usage rate in the land, his eFG% this season was 60.9. That's a lethal combination. Of course, he did it against less than top-notch competition and is only 6'1" -- not the kind of shooting guard you want to construct your NBA roster around. His shooting ability should land him a role at the next level. He could be used in a role similar to the way Philadelphia uses Louis Williams. Or if his abilities really translate to the pros, he could have a larger role playing alongside a bigger point guard, in the same way Golden State pairs Baron Davis with Monta Ellis....3/22: A dynamic scorer. Lit up Gonzaga for 30 second-half points and 40 overall in Davidson's first-round win. Has what coaches always call the "it" factor. If he does the same thing against Georgetown's defense in the second round, look out.
Siena (23-10) vs. Villanova (21-12), 2:40 p.m.
Scottie Reynolds, Villanova Reynolds in an undersized combo guard, a description he shares with backcourt mate Corey Fisher. Reynolds is more of a scorer than a shooter. He's not a great athlete, either. Doesn't really add up to an NBA resume.
Tennessee (30-4) vs. Butler (30-3), 2:30 p.m.
Chris Lofton, Tennessee A fine shooter and scorer, Lofton's percentages were actually down in his senior season. Not terribly physical and doesn't create opportunities for others. Since he's 6'2", that probably means he won't get drafted. But he could fill a similar role to Louis Williams of the 76ers if his ability to get his shot translates.
Tyler Smith, Tennessee Smith displays a full package of skills in a prototypical swingman's body, though he could stand to add a few pounds. He's an efficient midrange scorer, gets into the lane and is a good rebounder for his size. A sophomore, he's a tremendous athlete and if he develops his three-point shot, he could be a solid lottery pick. Heck, he may be one anyway.
JaJuan Smith, Tennessee ADDED 3/22: Tennessee fans felt I was giving short shrift to Tennessee on the prospect front. As good as they are, they're probably right. Smith, a 6'2" senior off-guard, is primarily a perimeter player without the size or playmaking skills I like to see in NBA guard prospects.
Wayne Chism, Tennessee ADDED 3/22: The 6'9" sophomore banger, Chism has a nice build, is a solid interior defender and shot-blocker, and displays an ability to step outside and take the jump shot. He's inefficient as a scorer and shooter and probably not big enough to get by on defense alone at the next level.
Memphis (34-1) vs. Mississippi State (23-10), 4:45 p.m.
Joey Dorsey, Memphis Dorsey, a senior, is a burly, defensively-oriented big guy who is efficient at converting the opportunities others create for him. He's one of the best percentage rebounders in the college game. Can't shoot, especially from the line, but he'll have a pro career.
Chris Douglas-Roberts, Memphis A nice spot-up shooter in the midrange to play off of Derrick Rose, Douglas-Roberts may lack the athleticism and strength to get his own shot at the pro level. He doesn't shoot a lot of threes and his eFG% is over 60.
Robert Dozier, Memphis Dozier is a long, lean forward with not much of an offensive game but defensive skills good enough to land him a bench role at the next level.
Derrick Rose, Memphis The nation's best point guard prospect, some think the 6'3" freshman could go first in the coming draft. He's an athletic marvel, with topflight leaping ability and quickness. Turnover rate was a little high and his numbers don't exactly leap off the page, most likely due to the balance of the talented team on which he plays. The bottom line is that as a freshman, he nearly led his team to an undefeated season.
Shawn Taggart, Memphis Memphis followers insisted Taggart be added. The raw 6'10" , 22-year-old sophomore is banger of the bench for the nation's No. 1 team.
Jamont Gordon, Mississippi State Undersized for his position, Gordon fills up all the columns of a box score. But he's not an efficient shooter and turns the ball over too much. The 6'4" junior lefty has a usage rate of nearly 30 and because of that ability to create offense, you can't count him out as a prospect....3/22: True to his scouting report, Gordon had 8 points, 11 rebound and 9 assists in a first-round win over Oregon. But he was 2 of 14 from the floor and committed 6 turnovers. From the little bit I saw, his ability to see the floor stood out. I'm anxious to see him matched up with Memphis in the second round.
Charles Rhodes, Mississippi State The 6'8" senior has improved steadily during his four years with the Bulldogs but is a longshot prospect at best.
Louisville (25-8) vs. Oklahoma (23-11), 5 p.m.
Derrick Caracter, Louisville There's a lot to like in the 6'8" sophomore's game, such as his offensive rebounding and shot blocking. He's very strong but has a lot of rough edges to his game. He LOOKS like an NBA player but, after all, we're not selling jeans here. And Caracter hasn't even emerged as a full-time starter at the college level.
Earl Clark, Louisville A long, lean swing forward, Clark has tried to improve his perimeter game with mixed results. He's an inefficient shooter and struggles from three-point land but excels at getting to the foul line. He's a solid rebounder and very active defensively. His much ballyhooed passing skills have yet to manifest themselves in the form of assists. He's a work in progress with exceptional upside.
David Padgett, Louisville Padgett is a former transfer from Kansas who hit the game-winning shot in the last game at Mizzou's old arena. For that, he probably should be banned from the pro game. Padgett is a skilled and extremely efficient (67.5 eFG%) inside scorer. He's not a great rebounder or defender, however. Padgett is already 23 years old and has struggled through injury woes. He probably doesn't have the range of skills or the athleticism to play at the next level.
Juan Palacios, Louisville Palacios' playing time and production have slipped in his senior season. A 6'8" banger, he's probably dropped off of any draft lists that he was on.
Terrence Williams, Louisville Williams is an athletic 6'6" (maybe) swing man with an excellent floor game and a questionable outside shot. He only hit 41.2 percent from the field but shoots so many threes that his eFG% of 48.4 is not quite so unsightly. A fantastic leaper and athlete, Williams will not reach his ceiling unless he become more aggressive at taking the ball to the basket. Fundamentally, he's improved but still has a long way to go, as evidenced by his 56 percent mark from the foul line. Williams would do well to hone decision making during his senior season next year.
Blake Griffin, Oklahoma Does everything you want an interior player to do. He shoots at a high percentage, is a beast of a rebounder on both ends of the floor, draws scores of fouls, is an underrated passer and is solid on the defensive end. He does all of this in a 6'10", 243 pound body that just turned 19 last week. He's extremely athletic and, on top of everything, has the obligatory smarts of a coach's son. Sounds like a high lottery pick to me...3/21: The more you see Griffin, the more you're impressed by him. Really plays smart and unselfish and his physical skills stand out. You'd like to see him improve his shooting. He under 60 percent from the foul line and consistent 15-18 footer would round out his game.
Longar Longar, Oklahoma Longar has the type of build that inspires a lot of patience. But the more he's been asked to do, the more inefficient he has gotten. That's natural to an extent, but not the degree of Longar. A fringe prospect.
North Carolina (33-2) vs. Arkansas (23-11), 5:15 p.m.
Wayne Ellington, North Carolina Ellington is the perfect spot-up shooter to play alongside a top playmaker in Ty Lawson and interior player in Tyler Hansbrough. He's an efficient shooter but has turned out to be sort of one-dimensional. He doesn't attack the basket nor does he create much offense for his teammates. Defensively, he's just adequate. A little undersized for his position, any hopes of being a designated shooter in the pros will depend on his ability to hit the NBA three-pointer.
Danny Green, North Carolina Green made a lot of strides as a junior but is still a longshot pro prospect. A swingman at the college level, he won't be able to play forward in the NBA. He's an efficient shooter at Carolina but not particularly adept at getting his own shot or getting to the foul line. Defensively, he has nice steal and block rates and displays good instincts.
Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina Possibly the most high-profile player in the NCAA, Hansbrough's father went to Mizzou and his failure to follow in dad's footsteps is the stuff of Greek tragedy. Hansbrough finished 14th nationally in Pomeroy's offensive rating, with his best trait being an ability to get to the foul line. Hansbrough plays extremely hard on both ends of the floor and you can't argue with the production he's had playing against pretty good competition. Still, he's not considered an elite prospect because of limited athleticism. So what kind of pro will he make? He always makes me think of Shane Battier. Remember, Battier played on the block as a collegian before becoming a three-point shooting/perimeter defending glue player as a pro. I could see Hansbrough developing a face-up game and following a similar path.
Ty Lawson, North Carolina If only he were taller...the 5'11" sophomore had some injury woes this season. He was 35th in the NCAA in assist percentage and posted an excellent steal rate. He makes the Carolina engine hum, picking spots to get his own shot and getting to the line when he needs to. Why can't he be another Chris Paul? The answer lies in usage rate and turnover percentage.
Sonny Weems, Arkansas Physically, he reminds of former Razorback Ronnie Brewer but this 6'6" senior is much more of a perimeter player. Has athleticism to defend in the NBA but really needs to improve playmaking skills....3/22: Had a career-high 31 points on 12-of-14 shooting in Arkansas' win over Indiana in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Bradford Doolittle is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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