The NCAA tournament is halfway done, and if that wasn’t sad enough, how about the fact that four of the likely Top 10 picks have already been bounced? We do this little exercise every year during the tournament – NBA stock up/stock down – and in reality, nobody’s career is being made or broken in one or two March games. However, an amazing weekend – like the one DJ Stephen of Memphis had – can certainly generate some draft buzz.
DJ Stephens, Memphis, G/F. Undersized at 6-foot-5, but plays like he’s got springs in his shoes. The kid can soar. This block of potential lottery pick Adriaen Payne was JaVale-like. It’s well-documented that Stephens can kiss the rim. Could he make himself into a defensive-stopper, like a Tony Allen or Dhantay Jones? He’s a 2nd round pick right now.
Khalif Wyatt, Temple, G. He just knows how to get buckets. Clark Kellogg said he has an old man’s game, and that’s accurate. Wyatt (6-foot-4) dropped 31 on NC State (12-of-14 FTs) and then hung 31 on Indiana, with many coming against Hoosiers’ defense star Victor Oladipo. Unfortunately, at the end of the game, Wyatt was locked down by Oladipo and his teammates couldn’t get the job done. Needs to work on his 3-point shooting (31 percent, but just 4-of-19 in the tourney).
Gary Harris, Michigan St., SG. Fantastic shooter, but the freshman is streaky. Remember when he went 1-for-7 against Ohio State in the Big Ten semifinals? He played the opposite against Memphis Saturday – 23 points, 6-of-9 FGs, 4-of-7 three’s. I’ve got him solidly in the first round right now, but staying in school could vault him into the lottery for 2014.
Vander Blue, Marquette, SG. Highly-acclaimed out of high school, it’s taken him a few years to get going, but Blue carried the Eagles to a win over Butler in a tremendous game Saturday after swooping in for the game-winner against Davidson. At 6-foot-4, Blue reminds me of a young Kendall Gill. He’s better off the bounce than Harris, but needs to improve his 3-point stroke (30 percent for the season, but 5-of-10 in the tourney). I think he’s a fringe first rounder right now, but another year of school would be a wise move.
Andre Hollins, Minnesota, G. Not a pure point guard, but he had a tremendous weekend shooting (16-of-29 FGs, 11-of-18 three’s), and probably should open next season as a 3rd team All-American. At 6-foot-1, he can’t be a shooting guard, so a year of working on his handle/distribution and we could be talking about a 1st rounder. Williams and Mbakwe graduate, so it’ll be his team next year. When Trey Burke leaves for the NBA, will Hollins be the best point guard in the Big Ten, ahead of Aaron Craft?
Guys who looked good in the opener, but then didn’t follow it up well: Allen Crabbe of Cal, Doug McDermott of Creighton, Sam Thompson of Ohio State. I think Crabbe (only a junior) is 2nd round material, and so is McDermott (only a junior). Thompson is only a sophomore, and I’m excited to see him against Arizona.
Mike Muscala, Bucknell, PF. The best player in the Patriot League really, really struggled against Butler Thursday, shooting a terrible 4-of-17 against Andrew Smith. Muscala is still probably a 2nd round pick, but it’s tough to get excited about his prospects. What happens if he goes against Gorgui Dieng in a workout? Or Payne?
Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss, SG. He’s sick of playing for free, so the Rebels junior is likely to leave early for the pros. I know Jim Boylen of the Pacers said Henderson had an NBA future back in January, but let’s be realistic – nobody’s drafting this punk in the first round, and even in the 2nd, will teams see him as too much of a headache? Barring a major attitude adjustment, I can see him going to Europe and getting in a Renaldo Balkman-type situation.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE LOTTERY PICKS?
Anthony Bennett, UNLV, F. Disappointing performance against Cal. Didn’t demand the ball. Didn’t react well to double teams and a zone defense that collapsed around him. The good news – he’s a beast, and it might taken arrest or something dramatic for the 6-foot-8, 240-pound monster to fall out of the lottery. He declared for the draft over the weekend.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, G. I’m still bitter about the Cowboys’ defeat against Oregon. I already wrote about it Friday. I love Smart and he’s a Top 5 pick if I’m an NBA GM.
Otto Porter, Georgetown, F. I’ve said he’s got a ceiling of Scottie Pippen, but he didn’t flash that look against the Florida Gulf Coast Dunking Eagles Friday. Porter looked a bit stunned during a 5-for-17, 13-point, 11-rebound showing. He’s still in contention for the No. 1 pick in June.
Ben McLemore, Kansas, SG. What. Happened? I’ve had McLemore as the No. 1 pick for a little over a month, and two games against Western Kentucky and UNC won’t change that, but … uh … 2-for-14, 0-8 from deep, 13 points, six turnovers, and a wide-eyed, “I’m lost” look on his face all weekend. He was so bad against UNC (0-9 FGs), Bill Self kept him pinned to the bench for much of the game (he played only 24 minutes). It certainly won’t get any easier Thursday against Michigan, which probably will have Glen Robinson or Tim Hardaway defend him.