Through NBA Eyes: Round 3 of the NCAA Tourney

Heavyweight headliner: Samhan vs Udoh

Note: I will be live-tweeting the NCAA "through NBA eyes" experience on Twitter at @poormanscommish.

Let's continue to take a look at the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, and Final Four through NBA eyes. We had Round 1 and Round 2, in which Omar Samhan's romp into the Sweet Sixteen has apparently put him on the NBAdraft.net board, while he still fails to make the mock draft on DraftExpress. For others, like Jerome Randle of Cal, getting bounced from the tourney can also mean getting bounced from the draft board. He appeared -- rather surprisingly, I might add -- as a late late late pick on NBAdraft.net, but has since disappeared from it. Those are just two fringe draft board (and Bay Area!) examples. 

Let's not forget the bonafide lottery picks. I've kept a rather superficial pulse on the mock drafts on NBAdraft.net and DraftExpress, and it seems to me that NBAdraft.net is more swayed by the tournament than DraftExpress.

For example, small forward Wes Johnson of Syracuse has been playing great and is listed as the #3 overall pick -- Golden State's! This is ahead of even DeMarcus Cousins or Derrick Favors, both of whom I've suggested as "must-picks" for the Warriors, if the Dubs' lottery position holds. Meanwhile, there are only two lottery picks on NBAdraft.net who are not playing in the tourney (7-footers Donatas Motiejunas of Lithuania and Hassan Whiteside of Marshall), and three on DraftExpress (power forward Ed Davis of UNC, Jan Vesely of the Czech Republic, and Motiejunas). So you can see that the NCAA Tourney offers a showcase on lottery picks. Only time will tell, i.e., on Draft day in June, which one of these boards tends to reflect the reality of NBA GM decision-making.

Without further adieu, let us jump to the games we must watch this Thursday and Friday, looking at the NCAA Tourney through NBA eyes...

NOTE: I may reference "tuning in" or out to various games, but actually CBS doesn't really give you the choice, over-the-air. So just pretend you've got the overpriced $69 DirecTV Mega March Madness package (I don't) or you've got multiple laptops and screaming bandwidth (I wish) hooked up to CBSsports.com's rather good online streaming.

THURSDAY, MARCH 25, 2010 (tonight!)

  • 4:07pm PDT: #5 Butler vs #1 Syracuse

    At this point, when the #16 and #15 seeds are gone, I don't know how you can not tune into any game involving a sure-fire lottery pick. Wes Johnson is one example. We're talking about the future of the NBA, directly and, without question, translatable to history that will be written. For example, last night's Josh Smith dunk? Well, some people on Facebook were claiming that Corey Brewer's facial on Derek Fisher was better. Corey Brewer? 7th pick overall (2007), who has worked hard and finally come onto his own after two straight rather "blah" NBA Summer Leagues, and not to be lost in obscurity in Minnesota.

    Anyways, I digress. Butler has an interesting potential first-round pick as well, who could be called on to guard Johnson: Gordon Hayward (sophomore 6'9" 207) -- not to be confused with Lazar Hayward of Marquette. Gordon Hayward's listed as the 26th pick on DraftExpress and not listed on NBAdraft.net. Of the "baby Dirk Nowitzki" mold, he's averaging 15.2 ppg, 8.3 rpg, but a surprisingly low 28.2% from the three-point arc (44.8% last year as a freshman), for someone described by DraftExpress as having a "sweet stroke". I have not seen Hayward play yet and I'm curious to see how he compares to Nevada's Luke Babbitt (sophomore 6'9" 225), who is averaging 21.9 ppg, 8.9 rpg, and 41.6% on treys. Another "baby Dirk" -- btw, the aforementioned Vesely is also one -- Babbitt is interestingly listed at #22 on NBAdraft.net and not at all on DraftExpress. Makes you wonder where each draft board is getting their information. Obviously, not the same sources. Very weird, considering there are only so many NBA GMs, scouts, and elite agents out there.

    Incidentally, in Round 1, I mentioned that Lazar Hayward (not listed on DraftExpress and now #41 on NBAdraft.net, was #30 at the time of my writing) would be a mini-battle between the two draft boards. Well, Marquette lost and Lazar didn't have an extraordinary game, although I can see with his mini-Carlos Boozer-like frame and approach to the game, why he'd be on the board in the first place. Of course, DraftExpress proceeded to offer a recap on him within a few days.

    Thanks to powers that be at CBS, I'll have exactly 20 minutes to check out Gordon Hayward before switching to...
  • 4:27pm PDT: #11 Washington vs #2 West Virginia

    Da'Sean has an amazing 6 game-winners.
    Here, we get to see Quincy Pondexter matched up mano-y-mano against another small forward NBA prospect, for the third straight game. For Pondexter, first it was the brawny Lazar Hayward of Marquette, then it was Darington Hobson of New Mexico. After vanquishing those two, now it's Devin Ebanks (sophomore 6'9" 215) of West Virginia.

    Ebanks is only averaging 12.0 ppg, but he's got 8.3 rpg and he's only a sophomore playing for a potential Final Four program led by Coach Bob Huggins. Like other future NBA small forwards, he's got length and athleticism. I haven't seen him play much this year, but this past season his name got called a lot on ESPN's College Gameday, so it will be good to get an eyewitness refresher. He's listed at #17 on NBAdraft.net and #27 on DraftExpress.

    Another one to watch out for as it pertains to the 2010 NBA Draft is WVU's playmaker, Da'Sean Butler (senior 6'7" 230). He's averaging 17.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg, and a respectable 3.3 apg (for a forward). He's listed at #20 on NBAdraft.net and #43 on DraftExpress. He's a bit of a tweener and you'd hope that he could possibly play the 2 in the NBA. But what's most remarkable is that he's got six game-winning shots this season. You figure, there's got to be something up with that. That's something you can't teach. He gets one more in the Tournament, he'll move into lottery territory (Top 14) on NBAdraft.net and definitely first round on DraftExpress.
  • 6:37pm PDT: #6 Xavier vs #2 Kansas State

    Kansas State's got a lot of heart, as shown by point guard leader Jacob Pullen (a beard better than Baron Davis's?!) but through NBA eyes, this team is pretty boring to watch.

    So, spend about 20 minutes to see if Xavier's Jordan Crawford catches fire -- he of summer scrimmage dunk-in-LeBron's-grill fame. Crawford is not listed on NBAdraft.net or DraftExpress, but a solid Xavier run has and can continue to add to his future draft stock. He's averaging 20.2 ppg, which is pretty eyebrow-raising for a sophomore.

    Then tune into...
  • 6:57pm PDT: #12 Cornell vs #1 Kentucky

    When you follow Bay Area product and Asian-American Jeremy Lin as closely as I have, you're bound to come across Cornell. On my blog, I wrote about how Cornell dominated Harvard, as well as the draft prospects of spot-up shooter Ryan Wittman (senior 6'7" 215, 17.8 ppg, 43.0% three-point pct) and center Jeff Foote (senior 7'0" 265, 12.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.9 bpg). Neither of them are listed on NBAdraft.net or DraftExpress.

    Earlier in non-conference play, Cornell took Kansas to the wire, only to be undone by the heroics of Sherron Collins. Here comes the ultimate test for them: Kentucky. So this is more of a draft litmus test for Wittman and Foote than it is for Kentucky's draft/lottery picks John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, and Eric Bledsoe. However, let me get Foote out of the way. He is not NBA-caliber, and it's not because he chose #1 as his uniform number and not #7 -- what a missed golden opportunity (get it, "7" Foote?)! As I wrote on my blog, he's too slow and indecisive. He gets far too many traveling calls for a center.

    But you must watch this game for a bigger purpose. That of freshmen, out-of-this-world athletes directly up against system-trained fundamental seniors. This doesn't happen much in basketball. In ethnic amateur rec tournaments that I run, the fundamentalists always beat the athletes. However, not when the athletes are mega-athletes. On that note, I'd have to say, I love Cornell's little point guard Louis Dale and I think he has a bright future as a pro somewhere, but there's no way he can cover Wall. If Cornell employs the three-quarter-court press it did on Harvard and the rest of the Ivy, you'll see Wall and the taller Kentucky players cut that up, resulting in alley-oops. After that, you see the dominoes falling. Even if Foote can neutralize Cousins in some remote fashion as he held his own against fellow 7-footer Cole Aldrich in that earlier Kansas game, who checks Patterson? What about Daniel Orton off the bench?

    I know, I know. I'm not saying much. #1 Kentucky will beat #12 Cornell, whoop-dee-doo. But I knew that Cornell would make the Sweet Sixteen based on its seniors, coaching, role players, and fundamental style of play (c'mon, Temple? Wisconsin?). If it were any other team besides Kentucky, which could probably beat the New Jersey Nets at least once in a seven-game series, I think Cornell could advance to the Elite Eight (wow, think about that). Heck, I even wrote on my Cornell-Harvard blogpost that if I were a European billionaire, I'd probably buy the entire Cornell team and start a new Euroleague championship-caliber club. I'm all for the underdog and I can't stand watching And1 streetball, can't stand attitudes like Cousins, so under normal circumstances I'm more of a basketball purist. But now, Cornell has drawn its worst nightmare after a favorable path through Temple and Wisconsin.

    One more prediction: Ryan Wittman will finally meet a team where there's no outs for a guy gunning for the NBA. All season long, he's launched from way beyond the arc, with hands in his face, with no conscience and no consequences, thanks to devoted loyalty from his teammates, a 7-footer next to the rim, and smallish opponents. I think his approach is all wrong, if he wants a shot at the NBA. In the NBA, as a spot-up shooter you need to make open shots on weakside kick outs. Shooting long-range jumpers with guys in your face is not really acceptable in a league full of superstars -- well, unless you're Corey Maggette in which you've been paid millions to do just that, or you're Marco Belinelli in which case you just simply do not care. [Aside: I was told by the DraftExpress guy that that's the characteristic of Italian players!]

    Chism: Future Warriors' 2nd-round pick?
    Eh, but I've been wrong before. Make me eat my words, Cornell.

FRIDAY, MARCH 26, 2010

  • 4:07pm PDT: #6 Tennessee vs #2 Ohio State

    FUTURE WARRIOR(S) ALERT!


    I'll say it. I enjoy watching Evan Turner more than John Wall. He's grown on me. Early in the college season, Wall was a can't-miss, but now, you sort of expect him to make a super-athletic play at some point. To do this at the NCAA level? Meh. At least, that's what it's become and that's just a testament to Wall's super-human abilities. Let's face it, we want to see his exploits done on some future NBA superstar victim.

    But Evan Turner, what a different angle. He's like Grant Hill used to be, only, as Bill Simmons would attest, we don't have to tune into Duke (meaning, the general sentiment of rooting against Duke or not liking Duke). So, for 20 minutes, watch Turner try to dissect the proud Tennesee squad.

    Oh btw, Wayne Chism is on the board for Tennessee, and the Warriors could realistically pick him up with their #33 pick, and despite the fact that this game may feature not one but two future Warriors, you must tune into...
  • 4:27pm PDT: #10 St. Mary's vs #3 Baylor

    It's odd to say that you should be tuning away from Evan Turner versus a Tennessee team with a chip on its shoulder and a fabulous coach in Bruce Pearl, but it's not often you get a 7-footer on a hot streak matched up against a bonafide lottery pick. I'm talking about Omar Samhan (senior 6'11" 260, 21.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 2.9 bpg) mano-y-mano with Ekpe Udoh (junior 6'10" 240, 13.9 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 3.8 bpg). Three-point-eight blocks per game?! Holy mackerel.

    Samhan finally got some love on a draft board and is listed at #50 on NBAdraft.net, while remaining off the DraftExpress board. If he has another breakout game (how many games are "breakouts" before they stop calling them "breakouts"?), DraftExpress may be forced its hand. And you don't think Samhan knows this?

    Thank God CBS doesn't own pay-per-view rights to this!
    Udoh is listed at #24 on NBAdraft.net and #13 on DraftExpress.

    Heavyweight bout of the tournament!
  • 6:57pm PDT: #4 Purdue vs #1 Duke

    Ain't it funny how boxing is totally the opposite from basketball, er, CBS? If Manny Pacquiao was on CBS, they'd have Pac-Man on before you got home from work, then the after that, the undercards. So noooo, we don't get to wait in glorious anticipation of the aforementioned Heavyweight Bout of the Tournament for the last game of the night, we have to make up an excuse to our boss and sneak home, then after the adrenaline is spent, we stay up and watch... Duke. I'm just trying to be funny and speaking from the Bill-Simmons-hates-Duke camp, though. We all know that it is sacrilege to force the East Coast to stay up too late to watch their brothers, that it would be crazy to put a lower-ratings-draw with two teams the general public has never heard of during prime time...
    Wifey: "You're home early to watch Saint Baylor's? Wha? Sandman?"

    Still, this Duke-Purdue game has some merit when it comes to NBA draft prospecting, at least on the fringe. I already wrote in my first installment of Through NBA Eyes that Jon Scheyer would be a bad NBA pick (i.e., someone check his "has blocked" stats). And let's throw Kyle Singler onto the Baby Dirk pile of prospects, however, I would never pick Singler ahead of Babbitt and at #29 on DraftExpress, Singler is rated just three spots below the intriguing and aforementioned Gordon Hayward. Singler is not listed on NBAdraft.net (interesting!).

    I'm actually watching this game to see how Purdue's E'Twaun Moore (junior 6'4" 184, 16.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.8 apg) performs, in those sweet Purdue black-with-gold-trim unis, as it were. He's not on either the NBAdraft.net or DraftExpress boards, but the draft is not deep in terms of NBA-level height that can handle the ball. Here's his chance to shine while America's watching Duke. Plus, with shooter (and another Baby Dirk for next year's draft, mind you) Robbie Hummel out, Moore will have more of the scoring burden shouldered on him, just how NBA scouts like it!

    Incidentally, and I hate to say this, skip Northern Iowa vs Michigan State entirely. I would've been intrigued to see if Kalin Lucas (who's only 6'1" 190) could justify his high first-round ranking on DraftExpress (he was not listed on NBAdraft.net -- interesting!), but now that he has torn his Achilles, there is no doubt that he will not enter this year's draft and return for his senior year at Michigan State, since he would not be able to attend Portsmouth nor the predraft camp nor any workouts -- which incidentally and mathematically gives Jeremy Lin a slightly better shot at making an NBA roster. Also, you know I got love for Asian ballers (yes, Iran is a participating country in the Asian Games!), but Ali Farokhmanesh no longer has the surprise factor and let's face it, he's one-dimensional by pro standards, albeit a solid NCAA player. In short, UNI-MSU will be a boring game, through NBA eyes.

Next post: Saturday morning before Round 4!

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Sorry for the delayed comments on the Round 2 article!

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