(1) Duke (25-5)
(16) Delaware St (19-13)
(8) Stanford (18-12)
(9) Miss St (22-10)
(5) Mich St (22-6)
(12) ODU (28-5)
(4) Syracuse (27-6)
(13) Vermont (24-6)
(6) Utah (27-5)
(11) UTEP (27-7)
(3) Oklahoma (24-7)
(14) Niagara (20-9)
(7) Cincy (24-7)
(10) Iowa (21-11)
(2) Kentucky (25-5)
(15) E Kentucky (22-8)
Shelden Williams, 6-9, PF, junior, mid-first rounder
Williams is probably the most productive big man in the NCAA along with Andrew Bogut this year, and Duke will be counting heavily on his presence in the paint on both ends of the floor to make it to the final four. He has reminded many of Emeka Okafor with the type of defense he's been playing this season, blocking shots, rebounding and scoring when Duke's guards decide to feed him. If Williams can stay out of foul trouble like he has all year long and get opposing big men in trouble himself, he could very well cement a place in this year's lottery with some dominating performances.
J.J Redick, 6-3, SG, junior, ???
Redick has been proving the doubters wrong all season long with his incredible shooting and scoring ability, being virtually impossible to stop even against the toughest defenders the ACC has to offer. When he gets going, there isn't a more dangerous scorer anywhere in America right now. His fantastic free throw shooting will undoubtedly come in very handy for Duke when they are look to put games away, and his shooting ability makes no lead insurmountable if he catches fire. His draft stock heavily depends on who is being asked, some will tell you that he is a lock to be drafted in the first round and maybe even the lottery whenever he decides to come out, while others will say that his size, average athletic ability and defense will make him into nothing more than a nice role player off someone's bench.
Daniel Ewing, 6-3, PG/SG, senior, 2nd rounder
Ewing has failed to show that he can be a steady PG on the NCAA level this year, and that along with his streaky shooting and questionable shot selection are the main reasons many people believe that Duke does not have what it takes to make a final four run. Ewing stands more to gain from this tournament than any of Duke's NBA prospects, as he'll have every opportunity to show that he can run a team successfully and get everyone around him involved. There is no doubt that he has the size, defense and athletic ability to play in the league, but it's the PG skills that the scout will be looking for out of him. Duke will only go as far as Ewing will take them, but luckily for them he has turned up his play as of late, dishing out 19 assists in their last two games. If Ewing can continue to run Coach K's offense effectively, he could even work his way into the end of the 1st round.
Matt Haryasz, 6-11, PF/C, junior, 2006 first rounder?
A longtime sleeper in draft circles, 2005 was Matt Haryasz's first chance to truly show his value as a player over the course of a season. After starting out slowly, Haryasz has blossomed into one of the hottest post players in the nation over the final half of the season. In the mold of a Michael Doleac high post big man, Haryasz has a sweet jumper out to the college 3-point line, and is one of the Pac-10's best rebounders. While he might not have the upside of some of the other top-tier prospects, his genuinely mobile 6'11 frame and beautiful shooting stroke make him a very intriguing 2006 prospect. He matches up against a tough big man in Mississippi State's Lawrence Roberts in the first round, and can gain some interest from scouts with a big performance.
Lawrence Roberts, 6-9, PF, senior, 2nd rounder
Roberts is the only reason why Mississippi State is even in the tournament, and him being banged up towards the end of the year really slowed them down. Roberts is in a tough spot because he's expected to carry the scoring load for his team, drawing double and triple teams with little help from his teammates, while at the same time trying to show that he deserves to be in the NBA next year. At times, Roberts has fallen in love with the outside shot, and while the NBA scouts want to see him hit it, this clearly is not a big strength of his. Mississippi State is a team that is coming in to the tournament on the downfall, and will have to play extremely well to even get past the first round. Roberts will be matching up with Matt Haryasz from Stanford in the first round, an excellent matchup as far as the draft is concerned. If the Bulldogs advance, he will get Shelden Williams and Duke. Roberts might have to return to Chicago this summer to try and improve his stock, because this year did nothing to help him, and probably even hurt him a bit. Luckily for Roberts he has a great chance to help his stock with an excellent performance here.
Paul Davis, 6-11, center, junior, 2006 1st rounder?
One of several prospects on the Spartans that has been through the draft hype ringer for what seems like forever, Paul Davis has had a somewhat disappointing 2005 regular season. Despite possessing some of the best natural tools of any college big man, Davis rarely dominates a ballgame. Tom Izzo plays a deep rotation, which has cut into Davis' minutes, but Paul also puts himself on the bench with a tendency to pick up cheap fouls. He receives very little help down low, and it seems like he should get a few more opportunities in a very guard-dominated offensive system. There is a lot to like about Davis, from his 6'11 frame to his superb touch on the ball, but he is going to have to escape the soft tag that his play has earned over the past three years. Right now, expect him back in East Lansing for the 2006 season. Nonetheless, if he can stay in games mentally and actually get some consistent touches, March could be a big month for Davis.
Alan Anderson, 6-6, SF, senior, bubble 2nd rounder
Michigan State has three senior guards that have been contributing for four seasons now, and Alan Anderson has probably developed into the best NBA prospect of the group. Always known as a defensive/glue guy, he has really emerged as an offensive threat over the 2nd half of the season. Amongst several other impressive offensive feats, Anderson has scored in double figures in 14 straight games, and is a shooting a stunning 65% over his past eight games. While clearly a wing on the NBA level, Anderson has experience at playing anything from point to power forward, and is very opportunistic around the basket. If the Spartans go anywhere this March, it will be behind the efforts of Alan Anderson. Let's call him a sleeper for now, as certain parts of Anderson's game have to be very appealing to NBA GM's. If things go according to plan, he could have a very significant assignment in the second round, going toe to toe with Syracuse's Hakim Warrick.
Maurice Ager, 6-5, SG, junior, 2006 2nd rounder
Maurice Ager first broke onto the scene with an impressive NCAA tournament performance as a freshman, but hasn't been able to turn his considerable raw skill into consistent production as of yet. He certainly turned the corner during his junior year, raising his scoring averaged by nearly 5 ppg (8.5 to 13.3), and shooting 10% better from the floor (39% up to 49%). However, Ager still remains maddeningly inconsistent, and a somewhat one-dimensional player. If his shot isn't falling, he isn't going to make a big impact on the game. Ager has NBA-level athleticism, length, and shot creating ability. A good NCAA tournament puts him in the first round picture for 2006, though he needs to produce more consistently next season.
Although he's one of the top five players in college basketball, Warrick's NBA potential is very much up to interpretation and will be one of the most hotly debated topics in this draft. His athletic ability is undisputed, but no one really knows which forward position he will be playing at in the league, or whether he'll be playing both. Warrick surprised a lot of people by nailing a few threes in the Big East tournament - he's now up to 8 of them on the year. Showing off his jump shot from the mid-range area and the perimeter will quiet many of his critics, and his excellent defensive ability in Syracuse's intricate zone leads many to believe that he has the ability to guard SF's if needed. With that said, Warrick has been a lottery prospect for 3-4 years now and this tournament will probably not make or break his stock either way. Everyone knows what kind of player he is by now and what he's capable of doing. The matchup with Taylor Coppenrath and Vermont (although Syracuse plays zone) will be very intriguing to say the least.
Gerry McNamara, 6-2, PG, junior, 2006 bubble 2nd rounder
Syracuse's point guard will have to show his incredible shooting ability along with getting everyone involved to get help Syracuse get out of this extremely tough bracket. While he has great size and a sweet shot, G-Mac is hardly a shoo-in to play at the next level with average playmaking skills and athletic ability.
Josh Pace, 6-5, guard, senior, bubble 2nd rounder
This athletic combo guard will need to hit his open shots from the perimeter (a major weakness of his), continue to defend with intensity and show that he indeed has the versatility to make up for his lack of any one specific skill to make him attractive for the NBA.
Taylor Coppenrath, 6-9, PF, senior, bubble 2nd rounder
Coppenrath has a great chance to show the scouts what he brings to the table as far as the NBA is concerned when he goes up against a potential lottery pick in Hakim Warrick and Syracuse. This extremely smart and skilled post man can really help his stock with an outstanding performance, especially on the defensive end. If he can contain Warrick and do some damage inside the post and on the perimter as well to keep Vermont in the game, he'll help his chances of being drafted immensely. Even if he doesn't, Coppenrath will have a chance to show his stuff in Portsmouth and most likely Chicago as well.
Andrew Bogut, 7-0, Center, sophomore, potential #1 pick
Bogut's stock can go nowhere but down, considering that he's the #1 player in the draft right now. He has not been playing awfully well as of late, at least not as dominating as you might expect a guy with his size and skills to be. That might be because he's been a bit under the weather again, though. This is a great opportunity to see how he plays against some real big men, and the farther he's able to advance, the more we'll be able to tell. Bogut and the Utes might be feeling a bit snubbed by the committee with the way they've been seeded, though, and they have some extremely tough matchups coming up for each round they'd manage to advance. The Utes will be playing against a very tough UTEP squad in the first round, and should not overlook the super talented duo of Omar Thomas and Filiberto Rivera. If they can beat them then we have what looks like a fantastic matchup with Oklahoma and their terrific front court of Taj Gray and Kevin Bookout. This will be one of the toughest tests you'll find anywhere in the NCAA almost. If they can somehow get through to the elite eight, then we'd have the matchup that every draft fanatic has been dreaming about, Bogut vs. Shelden Williams and Duke. If Bogut could get the Utes into the Elite 8 and past these superior frontcourt, he will have asserted himself as the clear-cut dominant force at the college level and the #1 prospect for this upcoming draft.
Filiberto Rivera, 6-2, PG, senior, 2nd rounder
While Rivera remains under the radar for the most part, it's hard to ignore the credentials Rivera brings to the table. After winning the national JUCO title as a sophomore, Rivera has helped turn a program coming off of a 6-24 season into one that has reached the NCAA tournament two years in a row. Rivera is the consummate PG; a speedburner in the open floor, lightning off the dribble, and a standout when it comes to all the floor general things that one likes in a PG. Amongst other statistical accomplishments, Rivera currently has a 3.5-to-1 assist to turnover ratio, handed out 18 assists in a game against Louisiana Tech, and broke out scoring wise with a 32 point effort against Boise State in the WAC tourney final. Rivera isn't ever going to lead a team in scoring, but he possesses great body control and a steady outside shot. Coming at 6'2, even his size makes him a prototype NBA point guard prospect. While Rivera hasn't gotten much national attention to this point, despite being on our mock draft for most of the season, he is a guy who could really impress if the Miners could pull of the upset against Utah. Expect Rivera to get serious looks in the second round in the upcoming draft. He's turned down playing in Portsmouth in hopes of saving his best stuff for the scouts in Chicago at the pre-draft camp.
Omar Thomas, 6-5, SF, senior, bubble 2nd rounder
Omar Thomas was Rivera's teammate in junior college, and also made the move to UTEP. More of an off-the-bench scoring threat as a junior, Thomas has really blown up in 2005. He scored no less than 21 points in his final eight games, and really carried the Miners to their WAC tourney championship. Thomas is clearly a dominant college player, but he is going to struggle on how to translate his game to the next level. He essentially played PF this season, and at 6'5, that isn't feasible in the league. Despite some obvious perimeter skills and a very solid outside jumper, he probably is too small to even play the 3 spot. Thomas is a perfect player for a top-tier European club, as he plays an intense, physical style, and has an incredible amount of bounce around the rim. He converts the shots that your average post man will see bounce off the rim most of the time. While it's fairly clear that Thomas will have to start his pro career overseas, keep tabs on how his perimeter game develops. He could be a guy that ends up in the NBA someday as a hustle-type wing. We would have no beef with that whatsoever if he did. He's that good and that much fun to watch.
Taj Gray, 6-9, PF, junior, Oklahoma, bubble first rounder
Taj Gray was the most touted player to transfer in from the JUCO ranks this season, and he has lived up to the hype. He began making draft waves during a hot stretch of play near the end of January, before cooling off to end the season. He is your typical Big XII post player in every sense of the word; strong, tough, physical, and long armed. In Kelvin Sampson's scheme, he remains the most consistent offensive threat in the post. Where many college big men are actually much shorter than their listed heights, it appears that Gray is a legit 6'9. He will have plenty of chances to prove himself early in the tourney, with a huge matchup against Niagra star Juan Mendez in the first round, followed by the assignment of slowing down either Andrew Bogut or UTEP's Omar Thomas. He would be better served to return for 2006 and show a bit more consistency, especially when it comes to his face-up game and hitting the mid-range jumper, but could probably get a least a look at the first round in 2005 if he indeed decides to declare.
Terrell Everett, 6-4, guard, junior, 2006 bubble 2nd rounder
Yet another JUCO transfer that Coach Sampson has struck gold with, his shift from the SG to PG position has not only helped his NBA stock, it's also made the Sooners a much better team. Everett is a good athlete who knows how to play defense and has nice ball-handling skills. Lately he's also shown the ability to find the open man as you can tell by the five assists per game he averaged this year. Most of his game right now is based off taking the ball strong to the hoop and either dishing off or getting to the line, but his jump shot is starting to come along nicely as well. This will be a huge factor in determining his NBA stock next year, and the NCAA tournament looks like a great place to get started on that. The other factor will be Everett's ability to play under control and run the offense smoothly for Oklahoma as their PG. If he can do that, Everett and the Sooners will be in great shape in this tournament. His name has only really emerged lately since he started manning the point, but if he continues to play well the whole country will know about him by this time next year. This is a fantastic opportunity for Everett to show the scouts exactly what he is capable of.
Juan Mendez, 6-8, PF, senior, borderline 2nd rounder
This undersized PF has been in the NCAA's top 10 for both point and rebounds all season long, but he has some versatility to his game as well, being able to step out and hit threes, and even block some shots when opponents challenge him. Just being here is a huge accomplishment for the Canadian Mendez and Niagara, and unfortunately it will take a miracle for them to get past the first round. Mendez will get an early chance to show that he can compete with the cream of the crop of the NCAA before he heads out to Portsmouth, starting with a huge matchup with Taj Gray and Kevin Bookout, and a good performance for him and his team in the first round could help establish him as a solid 2nd round pick. It's not going to be easy, though.
Jason Maxiell, 6-7, PF, bubble 2nd rounder
Maxiell is an extremely athletic post player who would undoubtably be a more exciting NBA prospect if he were only a few inches taller. He is a load in the post with his bulky frame, but he can get off the floor very well to block shots too (really excels here). His numbers aren't as impressive as they should be this year because of the emergence of Eric Hicks, another very athletic, but extremely undersized paint beast. He also doesn't get the ball in the paint nearly as much as he should, that's probably because of the fact that Cincinnati doesn't have a real PG, they rely on trigger happy freshman Jihad Muhammad to bring the ball up the floor. Maxiell's size is the number one thing holding him back, and it's pretty obvious that doing well in the tournament won't make him any taller. A potential matchup with Andrew Bogut and the Utes in the sweet 16 could do wonders for his stock if he can somehow manage to slow the Aussie down.
Armein Kirkland, 6-8, SG/SF, junior, bubble 2nd rounder
Kirkland is only a junior, but we've been looking for a chance to talk about him all year long. He's probably one of the most versatile players in the NCAA right now. He has a terrific handle and solid athletic ability and will regularly play the point for Cincinnati while showing that he actually has very good instincts here. He's a decent outside shooter, but could improve in this area. He's been in Coach Huggins' doghouse this year times, though, and this is the area which is holding him back the most. His shot selection can be very questionable, he isn't the best decision maker and his intensity level on the defensive end of the floor isn't always consistent. His body language can be questionable as well. Kirkland's goal in this tournament should be to be a solid role player for Cincinnati, hit his open shots, feed the post, play solid defense, and just generally do what's asked of him. With Maxiell leaving next year, Kirkland could step up and fill the huge void that the excellent post man will leave. And with his versatility and all around skills, the scouts will certainly be taking notice. That starts here in the tournament.
James White, 6-7, SF, junior, 2006 2nd rounder
The enigmatic, but ridiculously athletic swingman has had a decent season for himself in his junior campaign. The improvement he has shown in various areas is quite noticeable, but he still has his work cut out to ensure being drafted. Working on his handle, continuing to expand his range, and being much more consistent should be his priority next season. White has become a terrific perimeter defender for Cincinnati, and has even gotten some playing time at the point this year. This should come in quite handy for the Bearcats in the tournament, and White can improve his stock for next year if he can show that he can shut down a top player or two in the dance. He'll have a great chance against Kentucky and Kellena Azubuike if Cincy can get past Iowa.
Adam Haluska, 6-5, SG, sophomore, ???
With the dismissal of troubled star Pierre Pierce, somebody on the Hawkeyes had to step in and pick up some of the scoring load. Transfer Adam Haluska has done a fine job, showing off some very nice touch from deep and a well-rounded offensive game. It took Haluska a while to get back into a rhythm after transferring from Iowa State, but he has now made the transition and is looking like a potential star for the Hawkeyes next season. He is somewhat lacking in athleticism, but he reminds many of former Cyclone star Fred Hoiberg. He could end up catching on in the league as a shooting specialist if he continues to develop, though he is going to be hard pressed to find his shot against Cincy's stable of lock-down wings.
Kelenna Azubuike, 6-5, SG/SF, 2006 bubble first rounder/2nd round pick
For Kentucky to have any shot at making some noise in this tournament, Azubuike will have to be in top form. He's had a very up and down season with the Cats this year, but there's no better time for him to step up and prove that this is his team and he can indeed be a star. He's a very smooth and athletic SG with an NBA body, a developing outside shot and very good defensive tools, but he has been very passive at times. He has had his manhood questioned by Coach Tubby Smith, saying that he looks like Tarzan, but plays like Jane. He doesn't take the ball to the hoop nearly as much as he should, and he seems very content on being a role player. Next year is his chance to really show that he's a legit draft prospect, but it's never too early to get started on that, especially considering how much Kentucky needs him to step up.
Rajon Rondo, 6-3, PG, freshman, future first rounder
Rondo has a heavy load on his shoulders. He's being asked to run his team effectively as a freshman under a lot of pressure from the Kentucky nation, and the results this season have been fairly mixed. He has shown strokes of brilliance at times, but has also looked like a very green freshman at others. Rondo has all the tools the NBA looks for in a point guard. He is ridiculously quick, has good playmaking skills, plays outstanding defense and appears to have the right mentality. His outside shooting is horrendous right now (but that doesn't stop him from chucking them up when teams play off him) and he is barely shooting 50% from the free throw line, which is downright pathetic for a guard. He still has a lot of work ahead of him, but he's in a great situation to work his way into the league in a few years if he continues to improve.
Randolph Morris, 6-10, Center, freshman, future lottery pick?
Morris is also in a great situation to improve and eventually become an NBA player, as he's received plenty of coaching and playing time in Lexington this year. He's been up and down as well as you would expect from such a young, raw big man, but he has all the tools and more to be an impact player after another year or most likely two. He's fairly mobile, has excellent hands and a great body, a nice mid-range shot and is becoming a very good rebounder and shotblocker under Coach Tubby Smith.
Chuck Hayes, 6-6, PF, senior, bubble 2nd rounder
Not a serious NBA prospect because of the fact that he's a 6-6 PF, but definitely a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the NCAA tournament. Hayes is an outstanding defender who can hit the mid-range shot, deliver terrific passes, rebound like a monster and do all the little things Kentucky needs to come up with the win. Erik Daniels is now on an NBA roster with the Kings and he was a similar type of player as far as the draft is concerned, playing center for Kentucky at 6-7, so don't count him out. Hayes will have lots of chances to show his stuff for the scouts in this tournament, but there is little chance they don't know what he is capable of doing already, as he's been outstanding from day one for the Wildcats.
Shagari Alleyne, 7-3, Center, sophomore, ???
If you want to watch a truly unique prospect, check out Kentucy's behemoth Shagari Alleyne. Despite being as skinny as he is tall (7'3), Alleyne has made an occasional impact this year for Tubby Smith. His freakishly long arms completely change the game, and Alleyne has shown very dramatic improvement in his sophomore season. He will only get spotty playing time in very specific situations, but you might just get a chance to decide for yourself if Shagari Alleyne will play in the NBA someday.
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