Checking Tourney Stock at the Elite Eight, part 2

Checking Tourney Stock at the Elite Eight, part 2
Mar 28, 2005, 02:01 am
Stock Up:

Sean May, North Carolina 29 points (13-19 FG), 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks

Out of all the future pros on the floor for North Carolina today, it was the most underrated of all of them who did the most damage and carried his team to the Final Four. May was absolutely dominant from start to finish, getting off to a great start with 14 points in the first 8 minutes, and then continuing to make big plays all over the floor until UNC eventually came away with the win. May showed off his entire arsenal of skills today, establishing position deep in the paint and catching tough passes, using his terrific footwork and finishing with a soft touch, rebounding like a monster with his Velcro-like hands, hitting some gorgeous shots from mid-range, making beautiful passes to get his teammates going (especially Jawad Williams), blocking shots and showing some great leadership skills. May has helped himself out tremendously in this tournament so far by showing the scouts that his size should not be considered an issue and putting up monster numbers for his team, but doing it the right way. His matchup with Paul Davis and Michigan State in the Final Four should be excellent.


Alando Tucker, Wisconsin 25 points (9-17 FG), 2 rebounds, 2 assists

Tucker probably should have been mentioned after his terrific Sweet 16 performance against NC State, but luckily for us he had another chance to show off his skills, heart and outstanding athletic ability on the biggest stage he's ever played at. He was the one who carried the Badgers throughout the game with his scoring and defense, being very aggressive on both sides of the court and showing some serious talent off the dribble. His wingspan is outstanding and makes him very tough to get a shot off against, along with allowing him to finish in creative fashion around the basket. His quickness gave North Carolina's defense fits all day long, starting with the usually terrific defender Jackie Manuel, then moving on to Marvin Williams who's lateral quickness got exposed a bit on the perimeter, and lastly Rashad McCants who didn't even try to keep up with him defensively. Tucker's footwork is outstanding on both ends of the court and his vertical leap is simply a thing of beauty. For him to really become a legit NBA prospect next season he will have to add a consistent perimeter shot to his arsenal (went 0-4 from behind the arc today), because he is undersized as it is already at 6-5 and will have to work hard on all his perimeter skills to show that he can eventually play a Desmond Mason type role in the league. He definitely opened some eyes with his play this month, though.

Randolph Morris, Kentucky 20 points, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks

Morris showed that he is anything but overrated today, being flat out dominant inside the paint at times, ending up as Kentucky's top scorer in a huge game and showing off some terrific raw ability on both ends of the floor. He is an old school fundamental big man, with excellent hands and an assortment of moves he can go to. He established position in the paint very well, drew a lot of fouls and ended up shooting 8-10 from the line, which is very solid for him. Defensively he did a great job on Paul Davis and was extremely active in his time on the floor. Some people might forget at times that he's only a freshman, but all the playing time and experience he received this year will really help him out down the road. Andrew Bogut didn't look like much as a slightly older freshman either, and many of the same people that are now singing his praises were already calling him a bust back then. Be patient, remember he just turned 19 two months ago, notice the physical attributes, the intelligence and the skills and watch him break out next season. He still has quite a bit to work on, especially in terms of positioning himself for rebounds and learning when and how to rotate, along with finishing a little better around the rim and adding more strength to his terrific frame, but all the tools are there and he's being taught by the best in the business at developing big men, Tubby Smith.


Maurice Ager, Michigan State 21 points (6-13 FG, 2-4 3P), 8 rebounds, 1 block

Ager is another player who should have been mentioned here at least once so far, but for one reason or another hasn't. He's been a huge spark for his team with his above the rim play and a big reason why they'll be in the Final Four next weekend. His terrific athletic ability combined with his solid perimeter shooting will likely get him some good looks in next year's draft. He was big for the Spartans early on, as he has been all month long, scoring 8 points in the first few minutes and ending the half with 12. He showed some good body control while finishing at the hoop, solid defense and excellent work on the offensive glass. With Anderson, Torbert and Hill graduating this year, he'll have a great chance to really explode in the Big 10 next season.

Shannon Brown, Michigan State 24 points (8-10 FG, 5-6 3P), 4 rebounds

We were looking pretty smart for leaving Brown off our players to watch in the NCAA tournament article up until now, but today Brown showed that he can not be ignored anymore as a draft prospect, having his best game ever so far in his career and being simply the best player on the floor for most of the game. He made some incredibly athletic moves at the basket, played stifling defense on whoever he was assigned to, was under control and made great decisions with the ball in his hands, and was on fire from outside for the entire game, ending up with a career high 24 points. He's going to have to play at least some PG next year if he really wants to become a legit draft prospect, and appears to have the passing ability to do so, but it remains to be seen whether Coach Izzo will give him the chance to do that. Let's see how he looks going up against Rashad McCants on Saturday.


Stock Neutral:

Marvin Williams, North Carolina 6 points (1-6 FG), 3 rebounds, 2 steals

Williams has cooled off a bit over the past two games as the competition has gotten stiffer, and did not have a very good (or bad) game today. He rushed a few shots and missed badly, and did not play very good perimeter defense as he was late on rotations a couple of times. Still, it was impossible not to see the talent and terrific attitude from the freshman. Even though his shots weren't really falling he still contributed in different ways; making some nice passes, coming up with big rebounds, getting to the line, bothering people inside the paint with his length, etc. He's got a big task ahead of himself next weekend in the Final Four, as Michigan State likes to go small and he'll have to use every bit of athleticism to keep up with the Spartans' extremely quick forwards. The question of who will be the #1 pick appears to be far from being settled at this point.

Rashad McCants, North Carolina 21 points (8-17 FG), 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block

Offensively McCants had a good game and delivered a nice stat-line, but I'm not really sure he showed enough on both ends of the floor to really elevate his stock much as far as the draft is concerned. In the first half he forced the issue a bit and tried to do a little bit too much at times by dribbling into double coverage and missing the open man. McCants hit the open shots that were created for him by North Carolina's terrific ball movement throughout the game, and even had a couple of nice moves to the basket after settling down in the 2nd, but the way he played on the other end of the floor may have neutralized what he accomplished here. McCants was often slow (or lazy?) to react and rotate in North Carolina's zone defense in the first half, as many of the 3 pointers Wisconsin hit came from the area that he was supposed to guard. In man to man defense he was burned a couple of times by Clayton Hanson and the much more athletic Alando Tucker, but this did not seem to bother him too much. He left a good taste in people's mouths by hitting an open three with three minutes to go, and later coming up with a huge block, but the overall impression from this game was that he could have helped himself a lot more had he only tried harder in such a huge game. His matchup next weekend with Michigan State's super athletic guards could go a long way in evaluating how well he deals with players who are taller and more athletic than him, especially when it comes to getting his shot off within the flow of the offense. He'll have to have a big game on both ends of the court.


Mike Wilkinson, Wisconsin 11 points (5-11 FG), 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals

Wilkinson was fighting all day long in the paint today, doing his very best to slow down Sean May but not getting very far when it comes to actual results. He did show the scouts his trademark exquisite footwork numerous times to finish beautifully around the basket, along with delivering some terrific passes and really playing the game in an intelligent way, but he still has a lot of work ahead of himself this summer to show that he is a legit NBA prospect.

Raymond Felton, North Carolina 17 points (5-11 FG), 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 1 block

Felton had a solid, but not amazing game today. He was once again in foul trouble, and it was once again extremely obvious to any knowledgeable basketball fan what he means to the Tarheels and how badly they struggle when he isn't on the floor. Roy Williams tried to buy time and hide Felton a bit to avoid him picking up a deadly 3rd foul in the first half by going to a zone defense, but this strategy backfired as Wisconsin started lighting it up from the perimeter with Felton trying to avoid the foul and McCants not putting much pride into his defense. On the other end of the court Felton was his usual self. He did a terrific job moving the ball around and getting everyone involved, especially with his terrific post-entry passing, just playing very unselfishly in general, but not shooting the ball particularly well. His clutch free throw shooting, hitting 6 straight in the last minute and a half, eventually sealed the game.


Rajon Rondo, Kentucky 7 points (3-8 FG), 3 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 turnovers

Rondo mixed some sparks of brilliance at times with some incredibly poor decision making in others tonight, playing terrific defense, slashing to the basket and coming up with a couple of steals as usual, but showing his inexperience and looking like he was in way over his head in overtime. He only played 3 minutes in the first half because of early foul trouble, but came back strong in the 2nd half. Kentucky's offense looked very stale in both overtime periods, and it's very clear that Rondo will have to add an outside shot to his arsenal next year and become smarter taking the ball to the basket to fulfill the large amount of potential that he possesses.

Stock Down:

Kelenna Azubuike, Kentucky 9 points (2-6 FG), 4 rebounds, 3 assists

You know you are in trouble when the guy who is supposed to be your best player only takes 6 shots. That wasn't the thing that dropped his stock in my mind, though; it was more about how passive he was today, hiding from the ball, deferring to others for most of the game and not being able to get a shot off at the end of the first overtime. Although Azubuike isn't the quickest guy in the world, there's no doubt that he has the tools to be a terrific basketball player. What he lacks is mental strength more than anything, realizing just how much talent he has and being able to take advantage of it. Tubby Smith said in the past that he looks like Tarzan, but plays like Jane and after the way he performed today under such a huge stage, it's hard to argue with that.


Jawad Williams, North Carolina 6 points (3-6 FG), 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 21 minutes

Williams is still having a tough time battling injuries, he has an injured hip flexor that he suffered in the ACC tournament against Clemson and has been very limited since then. He's only scored 18 points in the tournament so far and has looked noticeably uncomfortable. His shooting has been very off and he has struggled to put the ball on the floor even more than usual. Hopefully he'll be 100% healthy on Saturday because his team will need him and his stock has taken a hit as other players in the draft at his position have stepped up to the plate. He's accepted his invite to Portsmouth, but with the tournament ending only two days before the NBA draft camp kicks off; it's unclear whether he'll be healthy and rested enough to make it. If his team makes it to the finals, he will have to get on a plane the day after he wins or loses and then play 4 days in a row under the scrutiny of hundreds of scouts, executives, GM's, etc. The same goes for Luther Head.

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