March Madness: Under The Radar Prospects
Take a break from filling out your brackets and get these draft prospects on your radar.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year for basketball fans. March is definitely the holy month for hoopheads. The NBA is in full swing and is headed into its drive to the playoffs. For those of us not living in sunny locales, the weather is getting warm enough to hit the blacktop again. But, of course, the centerpiece of March’s festivities is March Madness, aka the NCAA Tournament, the biggest North American sporting event outside of the Super Bowl.
What is so great about March Madness, other than the bracket contests and the first two days of the tournament where hoops is on TV for 12 hours straight, is that 65 teams (soon to be 96 teams?) all feel like they have a chance to win the whole thing. While this truly isn’t the case, the tournament is a good opportunity for fans to see teams and players they don’t normally see on TV. This is especially good for fans trying to catch a glimpse of an underexposed NBA draft prospect. Here are a few of those players who you should be keeping an eye on in this year’s tourney.
Aubrey Coleman | SG | Houston | Senior (vs Maryland, Friday 9:40 p.m. ET)
This year’s NCAA scoring champion (25.6 ppg), the Cougars’ Aubrey Coleman can definitely fill it up, especially via his mid-range jumper and ability to get to the free throw line. Despite being an undersized NBA 2-guard (6-4), Coleman’s explosive scoring ability should see him get drafted in the second round in June.
Gordon Hayward | SF | Butler | Sophomore
Matt Howard | PF | Butler | Junior
(vs UTEP, Thursday 4:45 p.m.)
Butler hasn’t had an alum play in the NBA in 35 years. It looks like that long drought will be over soon, as the Bulldogs currently have two players earmarked for the NBA in Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard. Hayward is the most promising prospect of the two, as he is a 6-8 wing player with a nice outside stroke, decent athleticism and good rebounding abilities. He should be a late first round pick whether he enters this year’s draft or 2011′s edition. Teammate Howard, meanwhile, probably won’t enter the draft until after his senior season next year. He’s a 6-8 hustling power forward who might sneak into the late second round of the 2011 Draft.
Kawhi Leonard | SG/SF | San Diego St. | Freshman (vs Tennessee, Thursday 9:45 p.m.)
A top 50 recruit coming out of high school, Kawhi Leonard had a superb freshman year for the Aztecs, averaging 12 points and 10 boards a game. A projected mid-first round pick in 2011, Leonard saved his best for the Mountain West title game, as he put up 16 points and 21 boards against UNLV.
Lavoy Allen | PF | Temple | Junior (vs Cornell, Friday 12:30 p.m.)
Projected as a second round pick in 2011, Lavoy Allen was a double-double machine for the Owls this year, averaging 12 and 11 a game. The knock on him is he’s too unselfish on the offensive end (a trait we’d like to see in some other players!).
Darington Hobson | SF | New Mexico | Junior (vs Montana, Thursday 9:40 p.m.)
Darinton Hobson excelled in his first season in NCAA D1 (he played two years of junior college ball previously). His stat line illustrates the versatile nature of his game — 16 points, 9 boards and 5 assists a game. He’ll probably be a second round pick in either 2010 or 2011.
Jordan Crawford | SG | Xavier | Sophomore (vs Minnesota, Friday 12:25 p.m.)
Yes, Jordan Crawford is the dude who caused the international scandal this summer by dunkin on King James. The Indiana transfer had a terrific first year with Xavier, putting up 20 points, five boards and three assists a game. He’ll try to sneak into the later stages of the second round of the 2011 Draft.
Keith Benson | C | Oakland | Junior (vs Pittsburgh, Friday 2:45 p.m.)
A projected 2011 second round pick, Keith Benson is a long (6-11, 7-2 wingspan), athletic, skilled center with a nice touch down low and good shot blocking and rebounding skills. But if he plans on become the second ever Oakland University player to make the NBA he needs to get stronger physically .
Arnett Moultrie | PF | UTEP | Sophomore (vs Butler, Thursday 4:45 p.m.)
An athletic 6-11 post player, Arnet Moultrie is still more prospect than pro (as his humble averages of 10 points and 7 boards attests). But, he is skilled and is still only 19 years old so he could find his way into the first round of the 2011 draft proceedings.
Matt Bouldin | SG | Gonzaga | Senior
Elias Harris | SF | Gonzaga | Freshman
Robert Sacre | C | Gonzaga | Sophomore
(vs Florida State, Friday 7:10 p.m.)
The little mid-major that could, Gonzaga, is stocked with NBA talent. The team is led by hard-nosed combo guard Matt Bouldin, expected to be a second round pick in June. He has the ability to do a little bit of everything on the court, but there are questions as to how he will deal with bigger, more athletic guards in the NBA. German freshman Elias Harris, a talented combo forward, is the best pro prospect on the team, but he plans on staying in school at least another year. Look for him to possibly end up a lottery pick in 2011. 7-footer Robert Sacre is an intimidating inside presence who could get himself picked in the second round next year.
Jimmer Fredette | BYU | PG/SG | Junior (vs Florida, Thursday 12:20 p.m.)
One of the best shooters in college, Jimmer Fredette has had an incredible season for the Cougars (21 points, five assists, three boards). A sturdy 6-2, Fredette still needs to prove to NBA scouts that he can play point guard at the next level. As of now he looks like second round material either this year or next.