(1) Washington (27-5)
(16) Montana (18-12)
(8) Pacific (26-3)
(9) Pittsburgh (20-8)
(5) Georgia Tech (19-11)
(12) George Washington (22-7)
(4) Louisville (29-4)
(13) LA-Lafayette (20-10)
(6) Texas-Tech (20-10)
(11) UCLA (18-10)
(3) Gonzaga (25-4)
(14) Winthrop (27-5)
(7) West Virginia (21-10)
(10) Creighton (23-10)
(2) Wake Forest (26-5)
(15) Chattanooga (20-10)The Prospects: WashingtonNate Robinson, 5-8, PG, junior, Washington, high 2nd round pick
521APTre Simmons, 6-5, SG, senior, Washington, 2nd round pick
Just how does a 5'8 PG get the draft buzz that Nate Robinson
has been getting this season? Watch Robinson play, and you don't have to be asking this question. One of the truly unique athletes in the draft this season, Robinson plays above the rim like a 6'6 wing. He penetrates at will, and is sure to have at least one dunk that makes the tourney highlight reel. While he deferred to his teammates at times during the season, Robinson really began to pick it up near the end of the year, and made crucial plays down the stretch in almost every win during Washington's Pac-10 title run. Robinson really has a chance to raise his stock during the tourney, as he matches up against some of the premier PG's in the nation. Chris Paul
, Carl Krauser
, and Jordan Farmar
are just a few of the potential big matchups. Scouts need to see him against NBA-level talent, and a successful showing could push Nate Robinson
into the late first round.
Coming out of nowhere to emerge as the Huskies' premier outside scoring threat this season, Simmons is a lanky shooting specialist that can really explode when he gets hot. Possessing a picture-perfect stroke, he may remind you of a smaller Fransisco Garcia type. Like Garcia, he has virtually no limit to his range, but also has that slender frame that makes it tough for him to create his shot against stronger, more athletic defenders. The Huskies need Simmons to stay hot if they want to advance in a very tough bracket, another outburst of 20+ point games like he had in February could get quite a few NBA types on board. Brandon Roy, 6-6, SG, junior, Washington, 2006 2nd rounder?
made a lot of scouts laugh when he tried to declare out of high school, but those same scouts are probably very interested in Roy 3 years later. Despite some injury struggles, it's hard not to notice Roy out there on the floor. He has a very complete floor game, and is very good at getting in the air and creating. He's got great size at 6'6 with long arms, and very few wings out there can put the ball on the floor and produce like Roy. While he has a nice midrange jumper, his outside shot is still in need of work. If he comes back next year, stays healthy, and starts hitting the 3, he will become a household name by the time the 2006 draft rolls around.
PittsburghChris Taft, 6-10, PF/C, sophomore, Lottery Pick?
Taft has had a very up and down season for Pitt, with two excellent 20/10 performances being the only real highlights to a very frustrating year for both Taft and the many scouts and fans that have followed him closely. Taft has looked somewhat lazy and not very interested in showing the world that he is indeed capable of being a lottery pick. Many, including us, have soured on him, but everyone (and especially us) will be back on the bandwagon if this athletic paint beast can continue to show the type of aggression he has lately (actually, one game) for Pitt. If his team is going to have any shot at advancing past the first round, Taft will have to show that he has some fire in him. Few players in this tournament can throw their weight around scoring and cleaning the glass the way he can. A good tournament is an absolute must for his draft stock if he wants teams to forget how poorly he's played all year long. Otherwise, many of them could be scared to use a high pick on him and he might have to come back for another year, which wouldn't be such a bad thing considering how raw he is. Carl Krauser, 6-2, PG, junior, 2nd rounder
This streetball legend has improved a lot in his junior season, as you might expect from a player who is almost 24 years old right now. Krauser will also have to have an excellent showing as the catalyst of Pitt's offense for the Panthers to do any damage in the tournament. Proving that he can be a playmaker, continuing to step up in the clutch like he has many times this year, feeding the post and playing good defense will earn Krauser the points he needs to get a chance to stick in the league whenever he decides to come out. He needs to improve his outside shooting if he wants any chance to move up into the first round. Chevon Troutman- 6-7, PF, senior, bubble 2nd rounder
If you want to find a reason why Pitt is even in the tournament, considering how inconsistent they've been, then look no further because the answer is right in front of your eyes. Troutman has been the glue that has kept this team from falling apart, using his wonderful footwork to score in the paint, rebounding like a madman despite his below average size, and hustling all over the floor to do all the little things that his team needs to come away with the W. It's become almost a given that Troutman is going to play well, but even if he does, his NBA draft stock will still be up in the air when the tournament is over. There are few players in the NCAA that we would rather watch play basketball, but we're just not sure whether Troutman has what it takes to make it in the league at his size. Someone should take a flier on him, though, if only for what he would bring to practices day in and day out.
Georgia TechJarrett Jack, 6-3, PG, junior, potential lottery pick
After an outstanding ACC tournament, leading his team to the finals and a pretty nice seeding after being on the bubble just a week ago, Jack is looking to boost his stock even more with an excellent NCAA tournament. He is tournament tested already, taking Georgia Tech on his back all the way to the finals last year when they lost to UConn. How far Tech gets is completely up to Jack and exactly how much of the offensive load Paul Hewitt decides to put on his shoulders. Playing the way he has all year long will cement his place in the lottery and further silence the critics who say that he is not a pure PG (ridiculous if you've ever watched him play) and can't shoot (again a ridiculous comment considering his stats this year). Jack's heroic performance against Duke in the ACC tourney finals wasn't quite enough to get the Jackets the trophy, but only further proves the caliber of player that he truly is. 219APLuke Schenscher, 7-1, Center, senior, 2nd round pick?
The big Aussie has really come on late for the Yellowjackets, much like he did last season where his inside presence was a huge factor in taking pressure off Georgia Tech's guards. He needs to play good defense, stay out of foul trouble and rebound well to help his chances of being drafted.BJ Elder, 6-3, SG, senior, bubble 2nd rounder
Considering his physical attributes, there isn't a whole lot Elder can do here to improve his stock too much in the tournament. If he can be consistent with his outside stroke he will at least give the scouts something to think about and show that he is deserving of getting a look. Isma'il Muhammad, 6-6, PF, senior, bubble 2nd rounder
Not really a serious prospect considering that he's a 6-6 PF who can't shoot to save his life when he's anywhere outside of 5 feet beyond the basket. Muhammad has even regressed this year and will need to work hard to even be on the court for Georgia Tech when things really matter. His defense and rebounding will be valuable, but he's got a long ways to go to even show that he can play in Europe. The Globetrotters might have a spot for him, though. Will Bynum, 5-10, guard, senior, bubble second rounder
Also not a serious prospect considering that he's a 5-10 shooting guard. His athletic ability and timely scoring can land him a good job in Europe, though. Bynum is Tech's best player when it comes to creating shots for himself off the dribble. He needs to shoot well, find the open man and play solid defense to get solid minutes for Tech in this tournament.
George WashingtonPops Mensah-Bonsu, 6-9, PF, junior, 2006 2nd rounder?
On a team full of individual talent on the college level, Pops Mensah-Bonsu
is probably the Colonial with the best chance for success on the next level. He has a nice body for an NBA PF, and some rim-rocking athleticism. Unfortunately, he hasn't developed much since scoring in double-digits as a freshman, and really struggles against bigger players. His basketball IQ and overall skill level need some work. GW is a team that could have pulled off an upset in the first round, but drew a tough draw against Georgia Tech in the first round. Mensah-Bonsu is a guy to keep an eye on for next season, as the Colonials should be the favorites to win the A-10 once again.
LouisvilleFrancisco Garcia, 6-7, SG/SF, junior, bubble first rounder
Ellis Myles, 6-7, PF, senior, bubble 2nd rounder
This very versatile swingman is under a lot of pressure to step up big for Louisville in the tournament. His numbers have been way down over the past few weeks, and the fact that his coach already declared him for the draft has put a lot of pressure on Garcia to perform. He won't have an easy time, though, as his first matchup will be against a very athletic Louisiana Lafayette team. He's probably hoping to draw the weaker of their defenders, Tiras Wade
. Garcia needs to show that he can create his own shot when being guarded by more athletic players than him, something that has proved to be very difficult for him this season. He'll be expected to continue to light it up from the perimeter as well as play semi-decent defense and making the type of plays as Louisville's point forward that made him such an intriguing prospect in the first place.
This super versatile, but undersized point center has been the glue that has held Louisville together as a team, and a very underrated reason why they have had as much success as they did. He probably doesn't have the size to make it in the NBA, but he's one of the best big men in the country you've never heard of. Myles is tough as nails down low, and is impossible to keep off the glass. His passing ability is absolutely fantastic, as he has had one triple-double and nearly had two others in March alone to back that up. Juan Palacios, 6-8, forward, freshman, future 1st rounder
A late recruit by Coach Rick Pitino, Palacios has had an immediate impact as a freshman for the Cardinals this season and will be expected to carry part of the scoring and rebounding load if Louisville is to advance past the Sweet 16. He is somewhat caught between positions as a very bulky 6-8 SF, but his toughness and improvement over the course of the season has made him a legit draft prospect in the next couple of years. Larry O'Bannon, 6-3, SG, senior, bubble 2nd rounder
O'Bannon has been the guy who has stepped up over the past month and taken over the scoring load that Louisville had sorely been missing when Garcia disappeared. He's undersized for the NBA and doesn't offer much beyond his sweet outside stroke as far as the league is concerned, but on the NCAA level he is exactly the type of guard you want to have on your team, doing a little bit of everything for the Cards. If he continues to score the way he has in March so far, Louisville will be in great shape. He'll probably be the guy who's asked to slow down LA-Lafayette's prolific swingman Tiras Wade
, so look for this to be one of the key matchups in this potential upset game.
Louisiana LafayetteTiras Wade, 6-6, SG, junior, ???
Wade has been making quite a name for himself this year with his shooting ability and NBA-ready body for Louisiana Lafayette. He led his team to the NCAA tournament with some outstanding performances in the Sun Belt conference. Louisiana Lafayette will be in the tournament now for the second year in a row and are really a team to look out for with how athletic their entire team is. There are rumors that Wade could declare for the draft this year, as he is already 23. He needs to improve his ball-handling a bit, but he is one nasty kid on the court and now the scouts and the entire nation will get another chance to see exactly what he can do.Orien Greene, 6-4, PG, senior, bubble 2nd rounder
Greene is a big PG with an excellent wingpsan and athletic ability that has been slowly improving his PG skills since transferring to La Lafayette from Florida. He is one of the best defenders in the country and has been drawing comparisons to Keyon Dooling
with his play this year. He'll have a great chance to show off his playmaking skills, and if he can do a good job along with hitting the outside shot (a major weakness of his) he has a good chance to put himself firmly on the radar for this upcoming draft.
Texas TechRonald Ross and Jarrius Jackson, 6-2 and 6-1, guards, senior and sophomore, Texas Tech
Bobby Knight's teams always seem to surprise, and this year he is doing it on the backs of a couple of under recruited combo guards in Ross and Jackson. Ross, a former walk on, has come out of nowhere to be the go-to guy. Jackson has also put up some big numbers in individual games, despite being a bit more inconsistent. These two are typical Bobby Knight guards; Tough minded, eager defenders that make very few mistakes. While neither should be considered a true PG, both have a 2/1 assist to turnover ratio, and could develop into full-time PG's. While both these guys could turn out to be Hollis Price
-type tweeners, Tech's outstanding play over the second half of the year dictates a mention of Ronald Ross
and Jay Jackson.
UCLADijon Thompson, 6-8, SG/SF, senior, bubble first rounder
Opinions vary wildly on what Dijon Thompson
will accomplish at the pro level. After a very unsuccessful foray into the draft waters last season, Thompson came back to school and did exactly what he needed to do. Not only just an outside shooter anymore, Thompson improved his rebounding, his defense, and his overall intensity on the floor. He still remains as good at getting his own shot as wing prospect out there. Nonetheless, issues remain. His scoring comes and goes, and like many scorers, when his shot goes cold, he tends to drift. His defense is still very much a work in progress, as his lack of awareness leads to a lot of easy buckets. Overall Thompson is still very much on the first round bubble. He is the kind of player that could absolutely explode over a 2 or 3 game run, which is very possible given UCLA's bracket position. If Dijon Thompson
can get his jumper off the dribble going, there is nobody on Texas Tech that is going to slow him down Jordan Farmar, 6-2, PG, freshman, future first rounder
On a resurgent Bruin team, Jordan Farmar
is very exemplary of UCLA's chances of making a splash in this tournament. Blessed with the kind of court vision and mental edge that Deron Williams
is turning into first round money, Farmar is a main reason for his team's turnaround. He controls tempo, makes big plays on both ends of the floor, and is the kind of difference maker that most coaches dream of having at the PG spot. Unfortunately, he still plays like a freshman sometimes. While he is a wizard with the ball, he still doesn't value it like he should. There have been some games where his turnovers issues have directly affected the outcome. His shooting is inconsistent, and while he has nice size for a PG (6'2) there may be some minor quibbles about whether he has the athleticism to play point in the league. All things considered, he is a future first rounder. Many have called Jordan Farmar
a coach out on the floor. It will be interesting to see how well he can control a game in which he is pitted against Bobby Knight.
GonzagaAdam Morrison, 6-8, SF, sophomore, future lottery pick?
502AP Ronny Turiaf, 6-10, PF, senior, first round pick
There aren't many prospects rising more quickly than Adam Morrison
of Gonzaga. After tearing up several of the nation's top teams early in the season, Morrison ended the season on an absolute tear. There isn't much not to like about Morrison, as he can get his shot whenever he wants it, from anywhere on the floor. The level of difficulty on many of his attempts is very high, but he still manages to shoot nearly 50%. He has great offensive instincts, and is very willing to find the open man if he draws a bit too much interest from the defense. Athletically, Morrison is much improved, perhaps even from the beginning of the season. He has relatively wide shoulders, giving hope that he can put on quite a bit of muscle. In short, he is the closest thing we have seen to an American playing a Euro-style game in quite a while. While he still needs work as a defender, a strong NCAA tourney could absolutely blow the top off of Adam Morrison
's stock. While he is a surefire lotto pick in 2006, with the right moves in the tourney, he could find himself there a year early.
Another player who has been up and down mock draft boards for years, it is finally time for Turiaf to make his jump to the league. While there are some negatives to Rony's game, you have to love the fire and passion he plays with. He gets to every loose ball and rebound, and seems to really relish knocking people around in the paint. His offensive game remains quite raw, but Turiaf is going to score quite a few points just off his dominance on the offensive glass. Rarely have we seen a player put on so much bulk over the course of four years, as Turiaf has gone from being a slender kid to a mini bulldozer. While some may be surprised to see Rony Turiaf brick so many post moves, one has to love his ability to dominate around the basket on the college level. If he focuses on this, he can secure his spot in the first round and perhaps move up into the teens. Rony Turiaf is going to absolutely have his way with whoever he faces in the second round, as neither Texas Tech or UCLA have someone who can fight with him in the paint. Erroll Knight, 6-7, SF, junior, ???
A player you don't hear much about, Erroll Knight
has been somewhat overshadowed by the emergence of fellow wing Adam Morrison
. Nonetheless, Knight is a guy that turns heads every time he steps out on the floor. Comparing favorably to Arizona's Hassan Adams
, there aren't many wings that can match up with him athletically. Strength wise, he will bull past anybody and really makes the rim shake. You probably won't see much from Knight in terms of eye popping numbers, but there will be a play or two which will impress. If Morrison decides to head to the league early, look for Knight to step up and fill his shoes offensively. Like Adams, he needs to improve his overall ball skills and his ability to create offense off the dribble. Derek Raivio, 6-1, PG, sophomore, ???
Many were of the opinion that the loss of longtime standout Blake Stepp would be the undoing of Gonzaga this year. Imagine the surprise when a skinny little kid named Raivio came in and did a better job than Stepp did last year. Despite looking like your 12 year-old brother, Raivio is the perfect PG for the Gonzaga offense. He pushes the ball very well, and makes good decisions on the break. While he isn't the greatest leaper in the world, he can get to the basket. Raivio is a first-tier quick release shooter, as his 48% 3-point percentage will attest. Listed at 6'3, it's doubtful that he is even 6'2, and he needs to add a lot of muscle to his twig-like frame. However, Raivio has a bit of Steve Blake
or Travis Diener
to his game. It's doubtful he is the kind of player that can come out early, but his ability to push the ball and quick-release stroke from long range are going to turn heads this March.
West VirginiaKevin Pittsnogle, 6-11, PF, junior, 2006 2nd rounder?
D'Or Fischer, 6-11, Center, senior, bubble 2nd rounder
Up until mid-February, Kevin Pittsnogle
had no business being on this list. However, as West Virginia's fortunes have risen, Pittsnogle has emerged as West Virgnia's top scoring threat. After a promising freshman campaign, Pittsnogle's minutes had slowly dwindled, as he refused to give the Mountaineers the physical presence they needed in the paint. However, beginning with West Virginia's upset win over Pittsburgh, Pittsnogle began to light up the twine in a way that forced John Beilein to leave him on the floor. Up until his stinker in the conference championship game against Syracuse, he had reached double digits in every game since. While it's hard to see Pittsnogle ever gaining the mentality it takes to truly succeed as a big man in the NBA, 6'11 big men that shoot like Kevin Pittsnogle
are in short supply. If he can improve his game inside the arc, he has to get a look in 2006.
Coming into the season, it was easy to see a guy like Fischer getting drafted in the second round. He had a solid initial season in the Big East, and averaging 4 blocks per game is always going to get you some notice from the scouts. However, Fischer really regressed this season. His shot altering presence has been greatly diminished, as his blocks average has been cut in half. The emergence of Pittnsogle was the final nail in the coffin, as his minutes have been reduced dramatically during West Virginia's tourney-clinching run. Now, Fischer really needs a big-time effort in the dance to win back some draft buzz. His shot blocking tools haven't disappeared and Fischer actually has a very nice outside jumper, but is a poor rebounder and his offensive presence in the paint is nonexistent. If you are looking for somebody with something to prove this March, Fischer is your guy.
Wake ForestChris Paul, 6-0, PG, sophomore, top 5 pick
186Vytas Danelius, 6-9, PF, senior, bubble 2nd rounder
Paul has already solidified himself as a lottery pick and probably even a top 5 pick regardless of what happens in the tournament. Scouts and fans would love to see him prove himself even more by working his magic and taking Wake on his back as deep as he can, just to remind us what an amazing player he is. How far they get will also be a major factor in his decision to declare for the NBA, as an early exit could keep him in school and a final four berth may be enough to get him to declare. The past few weeks have not been easy for Paul, his below the belt shot to Julius Hodge
damaged his reputation immensely in the national media and he's no longer looked at as the same golden boy he was before. His suspension from the first game of the ACC tournament led to Wake's defeat in the first round and showed exactly what Paul means to this team. Paul will have to find a good balance between scoring and passing, as he can get passive at times, along with playing the type of perimeter defense he has shown to be capable of at times in his career, but not consistently.
An inconsistent season in terms of playing time and production have dropped Danelius off the draft radar completely, but he may be able to get back on with a good showing in the tournament. Displaying his usually excellent inside-outside game, hitting the 3 at a good clip, rebounding and fighting on defense are the things Danelius needs to focus on, while remembering his role and playing it accordingly. If he doesn't, he'll be a hot commodity this summer in Europe thanks to his Lithuanian passport. Justin Gray, 6-3, guard, junior, 2006 2nd rounder?
Eric Williams, 6-8, Center, junior, 2006 2nd rounder?
Streaky play and poor defense have all but eliminated any shot he has of being drafted next year, unless he can really show that he can play the point if Chris Paul
decides to leave the team. Wake needs Gray to be a consistent #2 option and toughen up their perimeter defense if they are going to have any shot at making the final four. He has been wildly inconsistent this season and has been torched without mercy on the perimeter repeatedly for Wake.
Has had a great season for himself, being incredibly dominant and efficient at times in the post, but probably isn't a serious NBA prospect considering his lack of size and skills once he steps outside of the arc around the basket in the NBA. Williams playing well defensively and on the glass along with getting the opposition's front court in foul trouble is a big key for Wake's success.