NBA Draft Prospects: Sweet 16 Edition
Despite all the upsets, the Sweet Sixteen still contains some sweet NBA prospects.
They don’t call it March Madness for nothing. After a wild and wacky first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, we are left with some real underdogs in the Sweet Sixteen. Unfortunately, with many of the top ranked teams eliminated already, we will miss out on getting a better look at some top NBA draft prospects. But don’t despair — there are plenty of future pros still engulfed in the Madness. Here are some of the Sweet Sixteen matchups NBA draftniks should pay attention to.
Ohio State vs. Tennessee (Friday — 7:07 p.m. ET)
Perhaps you’ve heard of Ohio State’s star player, Evan Turner? If you’ve been reading this blog religiously you definitely have. We recently asked “Can Evan Turner Go No. 1?”, and Turner responded by making us look good during the Buckeyes’ second round game versus Georgia Tech, posting 24 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists (we’ll conveniently ignore that he also shot 8-19 and had 9 turnovers!). Despite having a few other future pros on their roster (William Buford and David Lighty are both potential 2011 second round picks), for Ohio State to make their first Elite Eight since the days of Greg Oden they need Turner to continue to be their do-it-all star. On the Tennessee side of things, keep an eye on Scottie Hopson. Projected as a first round pick in 2011, the 6-7 wingman had a very efficient 17 points (on 7-9 shooting) against Ohio in the second round.
Syracuse vs. Butler (Thursday, 7:07 p.m. ET)
The Orange going up against mid-major darlings Butler is a very intriguing matchup for fans of the NBA Draft. This is due to the fact that three of the top NBA small forward prospects will be suiting up — Butler’s Gordon Hayward (2010 first round pick) and the Orange’s Wesley Johnson (top 10 in 2010) and Kris Joseph (mid-first round in 2011). How Hayward does, offensively and defensively, against long, athletic players like Johnson and Joseph could be a good indicator of how he will do at the next level, the NBA.
Washington vs. West Virginia (Thursday, 7:27 p.m. ET)
The Huskies-Mountaineers battle should feature no less than five future NBA players. Washington is led by forward Quincy Pondexter, whose continued strong play this season has appeared to have elevated him into the first round of this June’s draft. But the best prospect on the Huskies is freshman guard Abdul Gaddy, who, despite his underwhelming play this season, is still considered a future lottery pick. But let’s not forget he just turned 18 years old a couple of months ago, so the sky is still the limit for him. On the Mountaineers end of things, Da’Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks should be getting their names called this June (possibly both in the first round) while teammate Kevin Jones could join them in the NBA in 2011.
Baylor vs. Saint Mary’s (Friday, 7:27 p.m. ET)
This matchup is all a battle of the big men — Saint Mary’s Omar Samhan and Baylor’s Ekpe Udoh. Samhan has been a monster in the Tournament, putting up 29 and 12 in the first round and 32 and 7 in the second. But his lack of NBA athleticism and explosiveness leaves more than a few doubts on whether he can play at the next level (in fact he isn’t projected to be drafted right now). But if he can dominate his matchup with the Bears’ Udoh, who is considered a sure-fire NBA prospect (probably a lottery pick this June), that could change things. Especially if Samhan can get his shot off against a long, athletic shot blocking beast like Udoh.