There are a few basketball fans out there who prefer the NBA game to college hoops. No, really. We're out here.
Nevertheless, even the most ardent NBA devotee has to admit that March Madness is an awfully impressive spectacle. While I personally don't feel like the 65-team, one-and-done format is necessarily the best way to crown a champion--and don't even get me started on conference tournaments--the games themselves are really fun to watch.
So I do sit down in a hoops trance this time of the year just like everybody else, rooting for the upsets whenever a top team appears to be in danger. Thanks to the miracle of the DVR, I'm able to keep on top of the NBA action as well, though means some long days ahead.
The problem with watching as much NBA as I do is that when the NCAA tournament rolls around, I'm not really sure what I'm watching because there is a finite amount of time in which to watch basketball. At least that's what my wife says.
Thanks to the great work by my colleagues here at Basketball Prospectus, I've been able to stay abreast of the top college teams and players. Except for the ones in the Big 12, though, I haven't seen many of them play. The majority of college games I watched this year involved Mizzou, meaning that my opportunities to catch embryonic NBA-caliber talent were severely limited. The March tournaments help to fill that gap. They give me a chance to see many of the names I've seen atop the NBA draft prospect lists in action against top-caliber competition.
With that in mind, I've done some research that will help me be aware of when and where the top prospects will be in action over the next three weeks-and what to watch for. I've put those efforts into the form of a viewer's guide, with the NBA fan in mind. As I watch the action, I'll chime in with any pertinent observations. For now, the comments you'll read are gleamed from scouting reports and from Ken Pomeroy's statistical suite. I look forward to augmenting these assessments with some old-fashioned eyeballing.
Consider this simply an ongoing notation of players in the three tournaments (NCAA, NIT, CBI) who may possibly play in the NBA next season. For you fellow NBA fans, I hope this will enhance your enjoyment of the college games ahead. If you're really zoned in on the pro game and don't know anything whatsoever about college basketball, here's a hint: Make time to watch the USC/Kansas State game on Thursday night.
My pool of prospects come from mining the Top 100 lists on several Web outlets, so if you think someone is missing, drop me a name. I will make an effort to add players that catch my eye as the postseason unfolds.
Coppin State (16-20) vs. Mount State Mary's, Md. (18-14), 7:30 p.m.
Stephen F. Austin (26-5) at Massachusetts (21-10), 6 p.m.
Gary Forbes, Massachusettsl A swingman 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.
UNC Asheville (23-9) at Ohio State (19-13), 7 p.m.
Kosta Koufos, Ohio State. Koufos, a 7'0" freshman, is the best prospect in action tonight, a first-rounder should he decide to come out. He's a nice face-up shooter and shot blocker but probably needs to get more physical.
Evan Turner, Ohio State. Turner is a 6'6" freshman who needs more seasoning and bulk. Unless he improves his range and cuts way down on his turnovers, he's unlikely to be more than a late second-round pick.
He's not on prospect lists, but don't forget about 7'7" UNC Asheville center Kenny George. I saw a wire photo of him last night guarding North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough and it was…wow. He made Hanbrough look like a child.
Robert Morris (26-7) at Syracuse (19-13), 8 p.m.
Donte Greene, Syracuse. As a freshman small forward with excellent length (he's 6'10"), Green would probably go in the middle of the first round if he comes out this year. But he's too prone to hanging around the perimeter and firing threes at this point.
Jonny Flynn, Syracuse. Another freshman, Flynn is strictly a lead-guard type who currently has decent, if not spectacular, playmaking skills. Defensive indicators are shaky and he's short.
Paul Harris, Syracuse. Harris is a fringe prospect on most lists, with an interior player's skills wrapped up in an unfortunate 6'5" frame.
Akron (23-10) at Florida State (19-14), 9 p.m.
Oklahoma State (17-15) at Southern Illinois (17-14), 9 p.m.
Marcus Dove, Oklahoma State. Awfully thin for a senior, Dove is a solid defender who lacks the ability to get his own shot on offense, even at the college level.
James Anderson, Oklahoma State. A capable outside-shooting freshman, Anderson has a lot of room to grow, both in terms of his skills and in terms of adding to the 195 pounds on his 6'6" body.
Randal Falker, Southern Illinois. Falker has the numbers of a superior interior player but not the size--he's just 6'7". He does a great job of getting to the foul line, is an excellent offensive rebounder and shot blocker. A senior, he probably won't get drafted.
Maryland (18-14) at Minnesota (20-13), 9:30 p.m.
James Gist, Maryland. Gist is a senior whose game has been slow to develop. Even at that, excellent defensive indicators and could stick in the NBA as a guy who guards other teams' perimeter players.
Greivis Vasquez, Maryland. Vasquez would seem to have decent upside, with terrific passing skills and a developing perimeter game. The 6'5", 195-pound sophomore needs to improve as a three-point shooter and add strength.
Rhode Island (21-11) at Creighton (21-10), 10 p.m.
Will Daniels, Rhode Island. Daniels has good size, athleticism and shooting ability. He's not much of a passer but has good percentages. A senior, he probably won't go in the first round but should stick with someone.
Alabama State (20-10) at Arizona State (19-12), 11 p.m.
James Harden, Arizona State. Judging by his pre-college reports, Harden may have slightly underachieved this season. He's got terrific shooting percentages, especially for a freshman, good size for an NBA shooting guard and he gets to the line. Harden needs another year, but could be a first rounder if he comes out.
Jeff Pendergraph, Arizona State. A 6'9" junior banger, there is really nothing about Pendergraph's line that stands out, though he is projected as a future second-rounder.
Richmond (16-14) at Virginia (15-15), 7 p.m.
Rider (23-10) at Old Dominion (17-15), 7 p.m.
Jason Thompson, Rider. Thompson is a senior with the body of a slightly undersized NBA center. His standout skill is blocking shots. He's probably going to need to develop a face-up game to stick in the pros.
Brown (19-9) at Ohio (19-12), 7 p.m.
Houston (22-9) at Nevada (21-11), 9 p.m.
JaVale McGee, Nevada. At nearly seven feet tall, McGee is a premier shot blocker. His game still needs some developing, especially his passing skills and his ability to draw fouls. A real prospect, right now the rankings have him everywhere from the top ten to out of the first round.
Marcelus Kemp, Nevada. A sleeper, the 6'5" senior dominates the ball for Nevada, using a third of the team's possessions. His shooting percentages and assist-to-turnover indicators are solid.
Rob McKiver, Houston. You gotta love senior guards in March. Well, maybe not so much in the CBI. McKiver has a shooting guard's game in a (skinny) point guard's body.
Bradford Doolittle is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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