(1) UNC (27-4)
(16) Alabama A&M/Oakland
(8) Minnesota (21-10)
(9) Iowa St (18-11)
(5) Villanova (22-7)
(12) New Mexico (26-6)
(4) Florida (23-7)
(13) Ohio (21-10)
(6) Wisconsin (22-8)
(11) N Iowa (21-10)
(3) Kansas (23-6)
(14) Bucknell (22-9)
(7) Charlotte (21-7)
(10) NC State (19-13)
(2) UConn (22-7)
(15) C Florida (24-8)
Raymond Felton, 6-1, PG, junior, lottery pick
Scouts either love Felton or they don't, there is no middle ground when it comes to him. He's stepped up his game big time this year for the Heels and is the #1 reason they are in the position they are in right now. A lot is riding on this tournament for Felton; he is their PG and the guy who will have the ball in his hands down the stretch for Carolina, but that hasn't always worked out that well for Felton in the past. Therefore, it will be key for him to show that he can perform when the pressure is on. If Felton continues to hit his outside shots, play good defense and run his team full of pros like a pro, he's a likely lottery pick and maybe even a top 10 pick.
Marvin Williams, 6-9, forward, freshman, potential #1 pick
No one is really sure whether Williams will come out or not, and the NCAA tournament could play a huge role in that. If he can step up his game like he has at times this year and help his team win a national championship, there might not be much left for Williams to prove at the NCAA level. He could just as well return to Carolina next year and be the man for that team, though. Either way, its hard to imagine his stock going up or down too much over the next month. He's already a top 3 pick whenever he decides to come out, and his incredible potential is enough to make anyone forget a poor performance or two.
Jawad Williams, 6-9, forward, senior, bubble first rounder
Carolina's senior will be expected to step up and provide his team with leadership, good defense, a reliable outside threat and some serious aggressiveness on their way to the final four. He's a bubble first rounder, and strong and confident play reminiscent of the way he performed earlier on in the season could help secure his place in the 1st round of the draft. He's certainly got all the tools, but he's still considered a tweener with his lack of ball skills. Now wouldn't be a bad time to disprove that belief.
Rashad McCants, 6-3, shooting guard, junior, bubble first rounder
This talented, but sometimes troubled shooting guard has had a tough past few weeks, and just returned to Carolina's lineup in time to see them lose to Georgia Tech in the ACC tournament. North Carolina didn't look like they missed a beat in McCants' absence, and that doesn't bode well for him. Scouts will be watching him very closely this month, looking to see how he fits in with Carolina's team concept, scrutinizing his defense and shot selection, and generally just watching every move he makes in order to come to a final opinion on him before he declares for the draft. Scouts all over the place on how to rank him at the moment.
Sean May, 6-8, PF/C, senior, 2006 first rounder?
He's probably not getting any taller anytime soon, but his terrific post presence has been very steady for North Carolina this season and another huge reason why they are considered the favorites to win the National Championship. May doesn't have a whole lot to gain either way, but North Carolina really needs him to play big for them.
Jackie Manuel, 6-5, SG/SF, senior, bubble 2nd rounder
Carolina's defensive specialist, he has shown some flashes of being able to do other things in sparks this year, but probably too little, too late. He could be a fantastic player for Europe, a swingman version of Maceo Baston who can lock down guys and guard anyone from the 1-4 positions.
Rawle Marshall, 6-7, SG/SF, bubble 2nd rounder
At 12-18, Marshall and Oakland somehow managed to sneak into the dance via their conference tournament. Oakland will be in the play-in game against Alabama State on Tuesday, and they'd be very happy to advance and then get spanked by North Carolina. This is a good opportunity for Marshall to show off his stuff for the scouts, though, as Oakland needs Marshall to have the ball in his hands creating as much possible for them to have any chance as it is. If they do advance past the play-in game, Marshall will be rewarded by going up against Jackie Manuel from UNC, one of the toughest perimeter defenders in the tournament. Scouts will be watching closely to see how he stacks up against the huge rise in competition for this extremely long and athletic swingman, especially his outside shooting, defense and ball-handling.
Vincent Grier, 6-5, SG, junior, 2006 bubble first rounder
It has been quite a road for Vincent Grier, but his path is going to end in the Big Ten stardom spotlight. After beginning his career at Charlotte, Grier took a pit stop at juco powerhouse Southern Idaho, before taking over as the star for Dan Monson's resurgent Gopher team. Grier has a very complete offensive arsenal. He is physical enough to beat up smaller guards down low, and is very effective at scoring off the dribble. As a lefty, he gets his shot off over taller opponents, and has the athleticism to throw down on anybody. Grier has been nothing short of dominant down the stretch, and has scored 25+ points five times this season. The Gophers have a very winnable game against Iowa State in the first round of the tourney, and it may be the first chance for many to get a look at Grier. If he can pull of a big game, draft hype will follow heading into 2006.
Jeff Hagen, 7-0, center, senior, bubble 2nd rounder
In somewhat of a surprise, Minnesota's behemoth center Jeff Hagen has put in a very productive senior season and earned himself an invite to the Portsmouth Invitational. Hagen has some very nice qualities, in that he is impossible to move in the low blocks (7'0, 270), and has nice touch around the basket. Once he locks in his defender in the post, he is impossible to stop. However, slow doesn't quite fully describe Hagen's lack of mobility. He really struggles to get up and down the court, and that is going to hurt Jeff Hagen's chances of catching on with a team in the league.
Curtis Stinson, PG, sophomore, bubble first rounder
As a player flying somewhat under the radar, Curtis Stinson is seriously considering making the jump this June. He is a couple of years older than you average sophomore, and is physically ready to make the jump. At 6'3 and 215 pounds, he is strong to the point where it's very hard to alter his shot once he gets into the lane. He is also the second leading rebounder on his team. Stinson is adequate as a playmaker, but will make his living on hitting the short floater in the lane. Where Curtis can improve is as an outside shooter, as he is very poor standstill jumpshooter (25% from 3). Stinson probably has to prove he can hit the outside shot consistently before he can seriously enter the first round picture, but a big tourney performance could really improve his stock. Performances like his 29 point outing in the Cyclones' upset win over Kansas are worthy of excitement, but the feeling is that he remains somewhat of an unknown commodity.
Jared Homan, 6-9, PF, senior, bubble second rounder
Iowa State has produced numerous hard-nosed PF's that surface in the league from time to time (Loren Meyer, Paul Shirley, Jackson Vroman), and Jared Homan may just have a chance to be the next Cyclone big man to make a living in the league. While he's probably closer to 6'8 than his listed height of 6'10, Homan has done a great job of manning the post in a very, very physical league. He has a nice repertoire of back to the basket and face up post moves. When you think of all the nasty, physical bigs of the conference like Brad Buckman and Kevin Bookout, Homan belongs in the conversation.
Curtis Sumpter, 6-7, forward, junior, 2006 bubble 2nd rounder
Curtis Sumpter holds the auspicious title of the best player on his team, even if one of his teammates are often the leading scorer or rebounder or passer. The 6'7" junior has been forced to play the power forward position his entire college career because that is simply where his team has needed him to play. Before this season, Sumpter needed to convince people that the tweener label does not apply to him, and he has been doing so all year, boasting a much improved perimeter game (including showing off 3 point range). His next task is to improve on his ball handling skills to show that he can be a small forward in the NBA.
Allan Ray, 6-2, guard, junior, 2006 bubble 2nd rounder
Villanova's leading scorer on the year, Junior Allan Ray is looking to shed the label of merely a college star. He is hampered by his height (6'2), but makes up for it with his smooth stroke and lightning quick release. He is shooting 44% from the floor and 41% from beyond the arc. However, if he wants to be a factor in next year's draft, he'll need to show he has the handle to at least play the combo guard in the NBA and the offensive skills to force teams to take a chance on him. Sadly, he'll never get a chance to actually play the point guard, as Villanova has 2 other solid point guards that deserve playing time as well (sophomore Mike Nardi and freshman Kyle Lowry).
Jason Fraser, 6-10, PF/C, junior, 2006 bubble second rounder
This 6'10 PF/C has a lot to prove next season. For the past three years people have been waiting to see him take the next step and become a standout NCAA player, but he has yet to deliver. A proficient rebounder and defensive player (averaging 6.5 rpg and 2.5 bpg in only 20 mpg) Fraser's career has been limited by injuries and fouls not to mention this year his team has begun to prefer a shorter, and quicker, lineup. He needs to show that he can stay on the court and be a factor on the defensive end of the court if he wants to regain the attention of NBA scouts.
Danny Granger, 6-8, Small Forward, late lottery pick?
The Lobos and Granger accomplished quite a feat by even making the NCAA tournament, and now that they are here they could be a very dangerous team to match up with. They'll meet Villanova in the first round and will have to play an outstanding game in order to advance. Granger against Curtis Sumpter is a great matchup to look out for. Granger will have to be utilized a little better then New Mexico usually does, and he won't be able float, not for even a second. There are no easy matchups on this Villanova team, so staying out of foul trouble will be key. If they somehow manage to get by Nova, Florida will likely be waiting for them, with a very tough matchup for Granger in freshmen Al Horford and Corey Brewer. This summer is probably the time for Granger to really make a move on the lottery, but advancing in the tournament would be a sweet bonus for him and New Mexico.
David Lee, 6-9, PF, bubble first rounder/2nd round pick
This super athletic power forward has made some huge strides in his game this year, showing that he's not as soft as most people thought with his work on the glass, and developing a very nice mid-range game to compliment some very nice moves in the post complimented by the ability to finish with both hands. As Florida's only senior, Lee will be expected to be a major force on both ends of the court for the Gators. He needs to show that he is a better rebounder in the tourney, play good defense, and continue to use his immense talent to score from different parts of the court. He's on the right track and his stock is on the rise lately, but another early exit for the Gators will be a major setback for him.
Anthony Roberson, 6-1, PG, junior, likely 2nd round pick
Roberson has made no secret of his desire to declare for the draft when this season is over, and he has made some major strides in his game to back that up. The main thing Roberson needs to prove as far as the NBA is concerned is that he can run an NBA team, and Roberson is in a terrific spot to prove that. Meanwhile, he has continued to rain three pointers and show how he is improved as a slasher and defender. The Gators will only go as far as Roberson leads them, but this class of PG's might be too stacked for him to work his way into the first round. An outstanding showing in the tournament will help his chances immensely heading into 2006 if he decides to stay.
Corey Brewer, 6-8, SF, freshman, future 1st rounder
Brewer's outstanding perimeter defense is a huge reason why the Gators got the #4 seed they did. He is a much better player now than he was when the season started, as his outside shooting has started to come along as well as his slashing and ball-handling. Brewer needs at least another year or two to develop his body and become a better offensive player, but you are looking at a potential lottery pick down the road if he continues to work hard.
Al Horford, 6-9, PF, freshman, future 1st rounder
You'd be hard pressed to find a better freshman defender and rebounder in the country, while his terrific wingspan, motor and athletic ability have made him a force in the post for the Gators this year. According to sources in Gainesville, he has grown an inch from the 6-8 he is currently listed at, and might even reach 6-10 by the end of next year. If that happens, along with continued improvement offensively, the Gators could have yet another lottery pick developing in Gainesville.
Alando Tucker, 6-5, SF, sophomore, ???
There has been some discussion of Alando Tucker's development into an NBA-caliber wing, though he isn't quite worthy of draft discussion yet. After starting his career as an undersized PF, Tucker has slowly made the transition to a combo/wing type player. He is extremely explosive off the bounce, and plays a physical style that will bother a lot of players. However, Tucker is still very raw from the perimeter, and at just 6'5, it's doubtful he can ever be a true 3 at the next level. Players with size really bother him, as was completely obvious against Illinois in the Big Ten championship game. He still has two seasons, however, and Wisconsin is going to need his scoring punch if they hope to get anywhere in the field of 64.
Mike Wilkinson, 6-8, forward, senior, bubble 2nd rounder
Mike Wilkinson has always been one of the Big Ten's most unheralded performers, and has improved his numbers every season he has been with the team. He is your prototypical Big Ten PF. He plays the game with a mean streak, and is tough as nails. Over the past two seasons, he has added a very nice outside jumper. At just 6'8, that might be his only shot at the league. He would have to play a Pat Garrity-style role on an NBA team, but it's doubtful he has what it takes physically. However, if Wilkinson wants to continue his career overseas, he will have ample opportunity.
Wayne Simien, 6-8, PF, senior, bubble first rounder
The guy on Kansas who you will hear the most about, Wayne Simien, is also the one who's stock is up in the air the most. He is all you can ask for and more out of an NCAA PF and will be rewarded accordingly at the end of the year with various awards and accolades. He's incredibly skilled and can score from anywhere on the court, expanding his range all the way out to the three point line this year. He's an excellent passer with outstanding footwork in the paint and is a terror on the glass. Easily one of the best playes in the NCAA right now, his draft stock is up in the air because it is not clear just how tall he is. He's listed at 6-9, but I don't think even Simien believes that. He's probably somewhere between 6-7 and 6-8, and that's a bit undersized for an NBA PF. He also doesn't have extraordinairy athletic ability or an outstanding wingspan to make up for that. He doesn't really have a lot to prove here in the tournament, as everyone knows exactly what kind of player he is and what he's capable of doing. The main question is how much will his size bother the teams drafting in the 1st round.
Aaron Miles, 6-1, PG, senior, early-mid 2nd rounder
Kansas' second best NBA prospect is their steady, but extremely underrated PG Aaron Miles. Any team looking for a solid backup PG will be giving him a long look, as he's the consumate role player who does it all. He's fundamentally sound, a superb playmaker, has improved his outside shot to a 50% clip this year, and is arguably the best defensive PG in the NCAA right now. He needs to show that he can indeed hit the 3 in the tournament (his improvement in this area has been so radical that some still consider it to be a fluke) along with showing that he can effectively run a team under pressure, especially down the stretch. Miles has more to gain from this tournament than anyone else on this team, and a good showing could push him into the 1st round. To be successful in the NCAA tournament, you have to have an outstanding PG. Kansas has that, and Miles needs to show that he can step up his game when it means the most. Anything less than a final four appearance will be considered a disappointment for Kansas fans.
J.R. Giddens, 6-5, SG, sophomore, future 1st rounder?
His NBA stock has taken a huge hit this year, and the tournament might be an excellent opportunity for him to repair that a bit, although it might be too late for this year. Giddens needs to show that he's more than just a spot up shooter, which means playing good tough defense and taking the ball strong to the rim and finishing. You'll know exactly what Coach Self thinks of this extremely athletic sophomore by the minutes he plays him. He has a deep bench and won't hesitate to sit him if he's not playing the way he thinks he's supposed to. The impending age limit and Kansas' talented graduating senior class leaving is good news for Giddens who would be best off showing that he is an NBA caliber player and declaring next year.
Keith Langford, 6-4, SG, senior, bubble 2nd rounder
Langford will probably get an invite to Portsmouth and maybe Chicago, but his lack of size as a 6-4 SG along with an inconsistent outside shot might be too much to overcome to stick in the league. Tony Allen, who he resembles somewhat improved his stock tremendously in the tournament last year by taking his team to the final four. Langford can help himself similarly with an outstanding tournament.
Eddie Basden, 6-5, SG/SF, senior, bubble 2nd rounder
One of the best perimeter defenders in this draft, Basden has really established himself as a legit NBA prospect over the past 6 weeks with his fantastic play for the 49ers. He does a little bit of everything, scoring when needed, handling the ball extremely well, playing terrific defense, rebounding, and providing the type of leadership that helped Charlotte establish itself as a ranked team just a few weeks ago. Basden needs to have an outstanding tournament for Charlotte to go anywhere in this tournament, starting with their first game against NC State, where it would not surprise me to see him guard Julius Hodge. If he can shut him down, he will gain a lot of points in the eyes of scouts, and will get a chance to prove himself against some real NBA players in the next round against UConn. Hitting the outside shot and showing that he can create his own shot will help him out greatly as well, but at the end of the day it might come down to just how tall he actually is. Just from eyeballing it, 6'5 might be a stretch.
Curtis Withers, 6-8, forward, junior, 2006 bubble 2nd rounder
This rugged 6-8 combo forward has gotten better and better for Charlotte as the season progressed. He talked about declaring for the draft before the season started, but was trying too hard to show the scouts that he's not a tweener with his play on the perimeter. He appears to be a lot more relaxed now, and he's picked up his play accordingly. If Withers decides to use this tournament as a springboard to show off his skills and overdoes it, Charlotte will be in trouble. They need him to dominate inside like he did against Memphis in the NC State game, and he'll have a terrific opportunity to impress against Charlie Villanueva and UConn, if they can indeed get through to the 2nd round.
Julius Hodge, 6-7, SG, senior, 2nd round pick?
No one has more to prove in this tournament than Julius Hodge, as no one's stock has taken such a huge hit this year as this somewhat enigmatic SG. Hodge has an outstanding handle and PG skills at 6-7, and he plays the game with about as much fire as you'll find from any player in the nation, but beyond that he has had a horrendous season and should consider himself lucky to even be in this situation to improve his stock. His outside shooting has been practically non-existent, his first step looks slower than ever, and even his defense has looked poor. The results have showed as NC State only got into the tournament thanks to the punch to the groin Hodge took from Chris Paul, which gave them the chance to beat Wake in the ACC tournament without Paul, and essentialy took them off the bubble. Scouts will be watching Hodge closely, as his outside shooting has been a bit better over the past month or so. He might have to go prove himself in Portsmouth, though, if he wants to get to Chicago.
Charlie Villanueva, 6-11, PF, sophomore, lottery pick
This is a fantastic opportunity to show the scouts and the nation just how much he has improved this year. Villa's incredible package of skills, size and athleticism make him one of the most intriguing and versatile players in this tournament. He can do it all from the power forward position for UConn and they will need him at his absolute best (like he has been for most of the 2nd half of the season) to get anywhere in the tournament. We'll especially be watching how aggressive and intense he is in this tournament, as he has been somewhat inconsistent in these areas over his college career and a great motor is really the only thing holding him back from being a sure-fire lottery pick.
Rudy Gay, 6-9, SF, freshman, future top 5 pick
One of the top freshman in the NCAA, Gay has a great chance to show why many consider him a surefire top 5 pick whenever he decides to come out. No one knows whether he'll be declaring this year or not, but a national championship and a superb performance in the tournament--hitting his open shots, playing good defense and showing the intensity the scouts love to seeâcould lead him to declare this year. UConn needs someone to step up badly, and Gay could be the guy to do it if he puts his mind to it. It's a great opportunity for him to shine.
Josh Boone, 6-10, Center, sophomore, future lottery pick
What looked like a breakout season for this skilled defensive center has turned into a somewhat disappointing year as the expectations ballooned out of proportion. Boone started off the season by putting up Okafor-type numbers, but has now been relegated to being a role player for UConn, in charge of hitting the glass, playing outstanding defense and scoring most of his point off junk. Boone looks like he'll be coming back for at least another year, and he's got plenty of time to show the offensive skills the scouts will be looking for. Nonetheless, he is still one of the top shotblockers in the nation and UConn will need him at his absolute best.
Hilton Armstrong, 6-11, PF/C, junior, ???
While Armstrong isn't going to get more than a dozen minutes or so a game to prove his abilities, he is a legitimate NBA prospect that is stuck behind several even better ones. Armstrong shows great size at 6'11, with long arms, solid mobility, and a decent feel for the game around the basket. If two or more of the UConn bigs decide to skip town, look for Hilton Armstrong to have a very solid senior season and put himself firmly on the draft radar.
Marcus Williams, 6-3, PG, sophomore, ???
This sophomore point guard led the nation in assists, but has everyone scratching their heads trying to figure out what type of prospect he is. Some games, his combination of speed, court vision, and burgeoning outside shot wow scouts into marking him down as a sure-fire first rounder. The only problem is, the next game (or perhaps the next minute) he makes one of the boneheaded decisions that have UCONN fans drinking heavily. Williams will be in an interesting situation this tournament: UCONN just suspended their only other point guard for the duration of the tournament. UCONN will have to rely more and more on Williams in the backcourt giving him an opportunity to shine. If he learns to maintain control on the court the sky is the limit.