The Big Dance is getting started and the NBA scouts are salivating along with the rest of us.
Yes, the pro prospects on display will be plentiful over the next couple of days. With that in mind, I'm going to hold off commenting on the players I watch and pool those observations for the weekend. For now, we'll just look ahead with our NBA viewer's guide.
First, though, I want to comment on my frame of reference for writing about a player's height and weight as they relate to his suitability for a certain position at the pro level. These are the averages for each position for this year's NBA:
Center: 6'11", 253
Power forward: 6'9", 238
Small forward: 6'7", 220
Shooting guard: 6'5", 207
Point guard: 6'1", 187
These are average sizes for all players who have appeared in a game this season according to their listed primary position. The averages are not weighted for minutes or productivity. Most importantly, they are simply a basic description of a typical player for each position. They are not meant to be an expression of the "ideal" size or weight. While 6'11", 253 lb. are the average figures for a center, the ideal is probably more like 7'1", 280 pounds. I just want to be clear on that distinction.
All through March's college basketball fiesta, I'll be viewing the NCAA, NIT and CBI tournaments through the eyes of an NBA fan. In particular, I'll be watching those players who could end up in this year's draft. My pool of prospects comes from mining the Top 100 lists for several Web outletsm so if you think someone is missing, or you want to chime in with observations of your own, drop me a line. I will make an effort to add players that catch my eye as the postseason unfolds and will alter my assessments based on the observational evidence that I collect.
Xavier (27-6) vs. Georgia (17-16), 12:20 p.m.
Kansas (31-3) vs. Portland State (23-9), 12:25 p.m.
Darrell Arthur, Kansas Arthur is a probable lottery pick if he comes out. He has NBA size for a power forward at 6'9" and the frame to add to his 230 pounds. Arthur has a nice midrange game but needs to learn how to improve his ability to drive to the hoop and get fouls.
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.
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.
Michigan State (25-8) vs. Temple (21-12), 12:30 p.m.
Raymar Morgan, Michigan St. 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 St. Neitzel is a premier outside gunner but lacks the size or athleticism to get enough shots or to defend adequately in the NBA.
Dionte Christmas, Temple His name makes him a prospect, if nothing else. He's a deadeye outside shooter who has averaged over 20 two years running. A little on the thin side at 6'5" and lack of athleticism marks him as a shooting specialist off the bench in the pros, if he proves he can get his shot off.
Purdue (24-8) vs. Baylor (21-10), 2:50 p.m.
Aaron Bruce, Baylor A nifty shooter and passer at the college level. A 6'3", 195 pound senior, Bruce doesn't have the athleticism to play NBA ball.
Curtis Jerrells, Baylor Very quick lefty point guard with terrific playmaking skills. Streaky as a shooter but could get drafted.
Kevin Rogers, Baylor Rogers looks good on the receiving end of alley-oops and is a solid rebounder. Beyond that, he's a limited, fringy prospect.
Robbie Hummell, 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.
Marquette (24-9) vs. Kentucky (18-12), 2:30 p.m.
Dominic James, Marquette James is a good passer and has quick hands on defense but is only 5'11", is an inefficient shooter, and has regressed for two straight seasons since a very good freshman year.
Patrick Patterson, Kentucky The 6'8" freshman had a nice debut for the Wildcats, scoring over 16 per game and posting an eFG% of 57.4. He displayed a burgeoning ability to get to the line and to block shot. Patterson could stand to develop a jump shot and should continue to work on his rebounding.
UNLV (26-7) vs. Kent State (28-6), 2:55 p.m.
Pittsburgh (26-9) vs. Oral Roberts (24-8), 3:00 p.m.
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.
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.
Stanford (26-7) vs. Cornell (22-5)), 5:00 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 Brooks' 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.
Southern Cal (21-11) vs. Kansas State (20-11), 7:10 p.m.
OJ Mayo, Southern Cal Unrealistic expectations masked the fact that Mayo became the best player on a talented team as freshman. Needs to make better use of his athleticism in getting to the basket. He'll develop that skill at the pro level as a top eight pick in the coming draft. Tim Floyd says he is a much better person and teammate than he's given credit for, though his usage rate does little to dispel the notion that Mayo is selfish.
Davon Jefferson, Southern Cal Displayed solid interior skills as freshman but need to develop rest of his game. Very high upside but needs more seasoning under Tim Floyd.
Taj Gibson, Southern Cal Efficient inside banger and rebounder as well as a terrific shot blocker. He's already 23 and while he can play in the NBA, his ceiling isn't that high.
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.
>Duke (27-5) vs. Belmont (25-8), 7:10 p.m.
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's 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.
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 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.
Washington State (24-8) vs. Winthrop (22-11), 7:20 p.m.
Kyle Weaver, Washington State Weaver is another four-year player for Wash. U. 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.
Derrick Low, Washington State During his four years for the Cougars, Low has developed into a terrific outside bomber. But 6'2" guards with that low of an assist rate don't make it in the Association.
BYU (27-7) vs. Texas A&M (24-10), 7:25 p.m.
Trent Plaisted, BYU Tweener big man with a center's game but a power forward's body. Has solid set of interior skills and surprising athleticism. He needs to develop a faceup game to play in the NBA.
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.
Joseph Jones, Texas A&M Jones has been a consistent performer 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.
Wisconsin (29-4) vs. Cal State Fullerton (24-8), 9:40 p.m.
West Virginia (24-10) vs. Arizona (19-14), 9:40 p.m.
Joe Alexander, West Virginia Became much less of a perimeter player under Bob Huggins. Alexander has solid, if not spectacular, all-around indicators. His NBA-build and athleticism should get him picked in the first round.
Notre Dame (24-7) vs. George Mason (23-10), 9:50 p.m.
UCLA (31-3) vs. Mississippi Valley State (17-15), 9:55 p.m.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Maryland (19-14) at Syracuse (20-13), 7 p.m.
James Gist, Maryland Gist is a senior whose game has been slow to develop. But he's got 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 developing perimeter game. The 6'5", 195-pound sophomore needs to improve as a three-point shooter and add strength.
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....3/19: Long, lean Syracuse freshman Donte Greene scored a career-high 27 points for the Orangemen but he looks like he has a lot of growing up to do. Greene, who went to the same high school as Carmelo Anthony, has the same tendency to bide his time floating around the three-point line. Twelve of his 19 FGAs were from past the stripe. He's got a nice stroke, an easy release from well beyond the arc and, at 6'10", can get that shot whenever he wants. But his speed and ability to handle the ball, on display on a first-half breakout, was rarely put to use. He also seemed pretty disinterested on defense. It sounds like he is a candidate to come out this season. He'll be a project but with his raw skills, he'll go pretty high, possibly in the lottery. But he would be best served by another year under Jim Boeheim.
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....3/19: Syracuse freshman point guard Jonny Flynn hurt his back early in the game so I couldn't get a read on him.
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....3/19: My thoughts yesterday on Paul Harris were pretty much right on. He's a nice college interior player but doesn't have the size to play there in the NBA nor the perimeter skills to move to another position at that level.
Southern Illinois (19-14) at Arizona State, midnight
James Harden, Arizona St. 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 gets to the line. Needs another year but could be a first rounder if he comes out....3/19: Arizona State's James Harden was the most impressive player I saw in the chunks of seven games that I watched on Tuesday. The freshman lefty out of LA is a thick 6'5" and displays excellent quickness, strength and athleticism. He has a nice stroke from downtown, as was indicated by his eFG% of 59.3 and his TP% of 42.2 through the conference tournaments. But he's also adept at putting the ball on the floor and making plays in the lane, as evidenced by his FT rate of 62.1, 93rd in the country. He led the Pac 10 in steals and is very active on both ends of the floor, always moving, always disrupting. He looks like a complete package to me. The prospect lists slot him as high as a mid-first rounder but most have him in the second round. I'd argue for the more optimistic of those projections.
Jeff Pendergraph, Arizona St. 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.
Randel Falker, Southern Illinois Falker has the numbers of a superior interior player but not the size-he's only 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.
Bradford Doolittle is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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