This particular bracket features a couple of potential lottery picks, plenty of experienced seniors and more tweeners than any Euroleague scout could possibly hope for. Villanova and Florida will be keeping the scouts in their seats, with Arizona and Oklahoma not too far behind.
Washington Bracket NBA Draft Prospects
Randy Foye, 6-4, senior, point guard/shooting guard, (lottery pick?)
One of the season's highest risers on draft boards, Randy Foye emerged as Jay Wright's number one offensive option with his impressive combination of strength, athleticism, and shot creating ability. While he hasn't always shot the highest percentage, he is certainly the most consistent and most dangerous member of Villanova's potent perimeter offensive attack. He personifies the Wildcat mentality, in that he is tough-minded, physical, athletic, versatile, a lock-down defender, and has never met a shot he didn't like.
The main questions about Foye have to do with his ball-handling abilities. He certainly isn't a natural distributor, but also fits the description of "lead guard" quite well. With his size, athleticism, toughness, and ability to score in an almost limitless amount of ways, it is easy to see him finding success in the NBA as a scoring specialist. Foye could really help his stock in this tournament by showing off his point guard abilities, though with Kyle Lowry around, we might just have to be content with a couple of scoring explosions.
Kyle Lowry, 6-0, sophomore, point guard, (future lottery pick?)
If you are looking for a player that could blow the lid off his stock with a big tourney run and end up declaring for the 2006 draft, Lowry could be your man. While many point to Allen Ray and Randy Foye as Jay Wright's stars, I would make the case that Lowry is the most important cog in that 4 guard lineup. His all-out explosiveness and end to end speed will remind you of Raymond Felton, and he might be an even better defender. Without Lowry's smothering ball pressure, this team wouldn't even be close to a 1 seed.
Lowry still struggled a bit with his decision making, including when to pass and when to look for his own offense, but on the whole does a great job of getting the ball into the hands of Foye and Ray. As it becomes obvious to the rest of the nation that Lowry is the engine behind Villanova's 4 guard offense, expect his stock to skyrocket.
Allan Ray, 6-2, senior, shooting guard
Allan Ray is probably the "household name" on Villanova's roster, but isn't quite the NBA prospect that Foye and Lowry are. What he can do is score points in a hurry, at a level that even Foye can't match. Unfortunately, his all around game isn't really up to par with his offensive exploits. He looks for his shot first and foremost, and often hinders his teams with long cold streaks from the field. Ray is unproven as a ball-handler, and always looks to shoot almost as soon as he touches it in the Wildcat offense.
Ray has the potential to dominate this tournament, but will have to prove he can play some point guard if he really wants his NBA stock to bump up. It will be interesting to see if the eye injury effects his shooting stroke over the next couple of weeks. From what weve been told Ray has accepted his invite to Portsmouth and is expected to attend and show NBA scouts that he has more point guard skills than hes been able to show in Villanovas 4-guard offense. A deep run into March could alter those plans, but Ray will have to show some type of playmaking ability somewhere if he's going to have any shot at landing in the 1st round.
Marcus Williams, 6-8, freshman, shooting guard (???)
The impressive thing about Williams is that he appears to be the one Wildcat that actually gets better when the game is on the line. He has the skill-set of a go-to scorer, and makes things happen in the clutch. While Williams isn't likely to have the type of tournament that would put him on the 2006 map, he is going to emerge as one of the nation's biggest stars over the next two seasons. If he were to lead Arizona to an upset of Villanova in the second round, Marcus Williams would become a household name overnight.
Hassan Adams, 6-4, senior, small forward, (late first rounder?)
It has been one disappointing season for Hassan Adams, who started out the season quite hot. But off the court incidents and generally tentative play have really dropped Adams' stock in recent months. Adams remains one of the most formidable athletes in the country, but that bullish, warrior's mentality we saw from him as a sophomore has all but disappeared. It would take one amazing tournament for Adams to turn his season around, and that doesn't seem likely with Williams hogging the spotlight.
Chris Rodgers, 6-4, senior, point guard (undrafted)
I'm sure you are shaking your head seeing Rodgers on a list like this, and rightfully so. Rodgers has a chuckers mentality that would make Salim Stoudamire shudder, and a jumpshot that would do the same thing. Nonetheless, he is one of the top on the ball defenders in the nation. There is a reason Lute Olson let him back on the team. He has nice size for an NBA point guard and certainly has the athleticism to make it. Rodgers might be an interesting case for the Portsmouth folks to think about. Rodgers has "poor man's John Gilchrist" written all over him, but if Arizona can make a run in this tournament, you just never know...
Alando Tucker, 6-5, SF/PF, junior
In the NCAA tournament, he will have to be a consistent scoring threat and hit big shots for his team. It would also help the Badgers if he could bring his three point shooting back to where it was last season. This year, Tucker has made only 16 of his 67 three point attempts. If the Badgers are to make a run during the tournament, Tucker will be the guy who needs to step up and lead them, and if he can improve his perimeter skills during the off season, he could possibly work himself into the first round of the 2007 draft.
Brian Butch, 7-0, PF/C, sophomore
Kammron Taylor, 6-2, guard, Junior
In the NCAA tournament, Kammron Taylor can help Wisconsin greatly if he plays under control. He has a high energy style of play that teammates can feed off of if hes sharing the ball, but it also alienates teammates if Taylor takes bad shots in the process. Taylor will have to display some point guard skills if NBA scouts are going to take notice of him. A good start would be improving his .88 assist to turnover ratio. If Kammron Taylor can play more like a true point guard in the NCAA tournament, it will greatly improve both his draft potential and his teams chances of winning.
Nick Fazekas, 6-11, junior, power forward (bubble first rounder)
Fazekas has left no doubt in anyone's mind that he intends on entering the draft and probably stay in if he is even remotely liking what he's hearing, so after filling up his stat-lines against mostly (but definitely not just) mid-major caliber talent, a good performance against a high caliber team or big man could go a long ways in solidifying his spot in the 1st round.
#4 Boston College
Craig Smith, 6-7, power forward, senior, (late 2nd round pick?)
One of the top producers in the ACC, Smith is a fundamentally sound forward with excellent passing and rebounding skills. On the offensive end, Craig Smith has a variety of moves he uses to get himself shots in the post, and also has the ability to hit a jumpshot all the way out to the 3 point line inconsistently. He uses his strength and plethora of moves on offense to create good shots for himself, which has led to a field goal percentage of nearly 58% for Smith this season. He lacks the athleticism that most NBA forwards possess, as well as the size to play the 4. Due to this, Smith is a tweener when it comes to projecting him to the NBA.
If Boston College is going to make a run in the NCAA tournament, Smith will have to lead the way. If he can keep up his production on the offensive end and his high rebounding numbers, Smith will at least stand out in the tournament, although there may not be a position for him in the NBA. Though he is a capable shooter from the mid-range, Smith only shoots 66% from the free throw line. Free throws are often the most important part of tournament games, and hell need to step up in the clutch for his team to have success. Although Craig Smith doesnt have the ideal physical attributes to go along with his well rounded game, someone might like him enough to select with a second round pick. If not, theres plenty of money to be made in Europe for a player like Smith.
Sean Williams, 6-10, center, sophomore
In the NCAA tournament, Williams can be an energy guy off the bench for Boston College. His ability to block shots can provide momentum boosts for his team, as he displayed at the ACC Conference Tournament when he sent a Tyler Hansbrough dunk attempt back the other way. If Sean Williams can contribute consistently in the tournament and improve his offensive game over the summer, he is definitely a guy to keep and eye on for the 2007 or 2008 NBA draft.
Jared Dudley, 6-7, Forward, Junior
In the NCAA tournament, Dudley will be asked to create more shots for himself than hed probably prefer, but will be able to do so because of the fact that he plays heavy minutes at the power forward position going up against players that are slower than him. When Boston College goes big with Smith at the 4 and Williams at the 5, look for Dudley to use his back to the basket game facing up with smaller players. If Dudley can constantly be a match-up problem for the opposition during the NCAA tournament, it will vastly improve Boston Colleges chances of winning games. Dudley is a smart player and a hard worker, and though its tough to see him be anything better than a second round pick at this point because of his average perimeter skills and athletic ability. Another summer of polish could greatly help Jared Dudleys draft stock going into the 2006-2007 season.
Christian Maraker, 6-10, senior, SF/PF, (undrafted)
One of the more versatile players in this bracket, the 6-10 Maraker is a mismatch waiting to happen. Boston College will have to put a defender on him who can defend both in the post as well as out on the perimeter, since Maraker is equally adept scoring from anywhere on the floor. In the post he likes to receive the ball from 8-12 feet out and go to either the turnaround jump shot or his go-to move: the jump hook, which he executes beautifully with either hand. On the perimeter, Maraker can step outside and knock down the 3-pointer if hes left open, or just shoot the mid-range jumper over the top of a smaller opponent. If the double-team comes, as it often did this past year, Maraker had the smarts and passing ability to find the open man with regularity.
Defensively, Maraker has good size and length but is lacking in both the strength and quickness departments. He is a mismatch on this end too, one that Boston College will certainly look to take advantage of, which makes you wonder what his future position will be in the NBA, as he lacks the bulk and defensive ability to match up with most 4's but is surely too slow to effectively guard perimeter oriented 3's. This game should be a great matchup for him, since he will likely get a chance to prove both going up against the likes of Jared Dudley and Craig Smith on both ends of the floor. A good outing here could be great momentum for Maraker heading into a likely invite to Portsmouth.
Taj Gray, 6-9, senior, power forward, (bubble 1st rounder)
The tough and extremely athletic Gray will be looking to accomplish a goal in the NCAA tournament he probably hoped he had already done at this point in the season: solidify himself as a solid 1st round pick.
After an up and down year in which he displayed plenty of potential but did not improve on his production from last year even one bit, the Sooners will be counting on a highly motivated Gray to help take advantage of the size advantage they will have against likely every team they will face. Not disappearing offensively when they need him the most, playing solid defense and staying out of foul trouble, and doing all the little things that made him a fan favorite in Norman over the past two years will give Gray some great momentum heading into the draft process. His measurements will be the key to where he gets drafted, but making it to the Sweet 16 wouldn't hurt his stock much either. To do that, though, the Sooners will have to get by an equally talented frontcourt in Al Horford, Joakim Noah and Florida, not an easy task.
Terrell Everett, 6-4, senior, point guard,(early 2nd round pick?)
The key to Oklahoma's hopes of doing anything in the Dance, not many players at this tournament have more to gain or lose than Terrell Everett. Showing great upside at times as a tall and athletic pass-first point guard, Everett has racked up a huge number of assists this year while also giving up way too many possessions with head-scratching turnovers. If Everett is running his team the way we've seen him when he's at his best, Oklahoma will go deep into the tournament and Everett's stock will rise accordingly. If he reverts back to his inconsistent ways, displaying poor shot selection, shaky ball-handling skills and bad decision making, Oklahoma will be bounced out early and Everett will probably have to rely on the NBA pre-draft camps to show teams what he can do he's focused on the task at hand.
#11 Wisconsin Milwaukee
Joah Tucker, 6-5, senior, SF/PF, (undrafted)
Tucker is the heart and soul of this years UW-M team after losing Bruce Pearl and Ed McCants from last years Sweet 16 team. He is a very productive player from mid-range and from the post, proving that he can score and rebound with the best in his conference thanks to his tremendous strength, length and a relentless attitude. Unfortunately for Joah, he is still more of a post player then he is a wing, and lacks height for either position at only 65. A strong tournament performance could solidify a Portsmouth invite for Tucker, but at the moment, he is on the outside looking in.
Joakim Noah, 6-11, sophomore, PF/C, (future lottery pick?)
Being the best player on a perennially ranked top 15 team in the country, attention was never going to be hard to come by for a player like Joakim Noah. But add in the fact that he is at least 6-11, has solid athletic ability, plenty of skills, extra long arms and possibly the best motor in college basketball, and the picture gets a bit clearer. Now consider the extremely rare combination of upside and current production that Noah is displaying on a nightly basis, and you understand why many NBA scouts now consider him to be a top-20 pick should he decide to enter this year.
Whether or not he remains there and decides to capitalize on that will decide heavily on how he plays in the tournament. Noah will need to show that his lack of strength will not be as much of an issue as some think it might be, as well as stay out of foul trouble, maintain his poise down the stretch, and continue to be the glue that holds his team together when things get tough for this young squad. A huge matchup with Kevin Bookout and Taj Gray could be a great chance for both Noah and Horford to create a serious buzz amongst the many scouts that will be in attendance. Should both teams be able to advance a round, this could be one of the best big men matchup well see in all of March.
Al Horford, 6-9, sophomore, PF/C, (future lottery pick?)
Corey Brewer, 6-8, sophomore, SF, (future lottery pick?)
As a draft prospect, Brewer has the height, frame, length and early strength that is a prerequisite to play on the wing in the best league in the world. Defensively, he is already one of the better off the ball defenders in the SEC, and potentially in the NCAA as he continues to gain experience. Brewer has terrific hands, an outstanding motor and a knack for anticipating that just can't be taught. His attitude helps him out tremendously, as he's relentless and will give his entire team as well as the crowd a huge burst of energy when he is playing up to his full potential. Offensively, Brewer shows sparks but nothing close to being consistent enough. His ball-handling is spotty at best, his outside shooting mechanics need serious work, and he can be very mechanical at times with the moves he makes. Most of his offense comes off his hustle and athleticism, and a lot of effort will need to be put in to make him a consistent threat to create his own shot off the dribble. A bad ankle injury derailed what looked to be a first-team All SEC caliber season at the very least as Brewer barely practiced in the last month or two of the season. Recently hes looked like hes back at full strength, particularly in the SEC tournament finals where he was once again Floridas best player.
Taurean Green, 6-0, sophomore, point guard, (???)
As a college player, Green does everything a team could hope its point guard to do well; whether its scoring, passing, shooting, handling the ball, playing great defense, slashing to the basket and finishing at the rim, hitting clutch free throws, showing leadership skills and most importantly making everyone better. He rarely leaves the floor and is more than willing to take his team on his back when the offense bogs down. He plays the game with an arrogance and confident demeanor that all the great lead guards have, but doesnt let that affect the way he runs his team and keeps his ego in check the way most cocky point guards cant.
As far as his NBA potential goes, that is really anyones guess. Generously listed at 6 feet, he doesnt have the excellent physical attributes that most of this excellent class of sophomore point guards do, not being incredibly tall, long, strong or explosive, although he is a fine athlete. Players in his mold-- Jameer Nelson is probably his best NBA comparisonusually have to do a bit more to carve themselves a spot in the league. Winning games the way he has so far and being the best player on his extremely talented team is always going to be the best way to accomplish that. Taking his team deep in the tournament will go a long ways in quelling his many. Little guys always have it a little bit tougher to prove themselves, but Green is clearly on the right track and only seems to be improving week by week after being just a marginal contributor on a decent team in his freshman year. The Gators will only hope that Greens improvement will continue throughout the tournament, as his ability to handle intense pressure as Floridas only legit ball-handler has made many Gator fans nervous in big games down the stretch.
Brandon Bowman, 6-9, senior, SF/PF, (undrafted?)
The California native tested the waters last year after having a superb junior season at Georgetown. After realizing that he had no chance of being a first round pick, Bowman took his game back to D.C. for his senior year. Unfortunately he has seen his numbers drop in every major statistical category and his draft stock has plummeted in the process.
Georgetown will look for their super athletic wing to provide a consistent performance on both ends of the floor. Simply put, if Bowman plays well, Georgetown has the ability to beat Duke. If he plays poorly, the Hoyas lose to teams such as South Florida.
For Bowmans sake, he needs to show scouts that he can revert back to the player he was during his sophomore and junior seasons where he was shooting the three well, using his length to frustrate opposing players, and providing a consistent scoring punch from the outside. Showing more passion and awareness on the court on what is going on around him will help him and his team tremendously. Scouts will look to see if Bowman can regain his old form, as he will go undrafted if he continues his current play. Bowman has accepted his invite to Portsmouth according to what we've been told.
Jeff Green, 6-8, sophomore, SF/PF, (future first round pick)
Georgetown will look for Green to provide a solid all around punch playing as a high post power forward. He has shown flashes of brilliance here, and will need to keep that play up in order for the Hoyas to make it past the second round this year. Green is one of the more intelligent players youll find on this side of the bracket, possessing excellent passing skills, a solid motor and plenty of all-around skills that do not show up in the stat-sheet.
Scouts will be looking to see if Green shows the potential to make the transition to small forward, which he will most likely be forced to do at the next level due to his lack of height and power forward skills. A strong performance is crucial for Greens draft stock this year, although he is much better suited to return to D.C. for at least another year to hone his perimeter skills before entering the draft.
Roy Hibbert, 7-2, sophomore, center, (future first round pick)
Hibbert would best be suited by returning to Georgetown for at least another year before considering entering the draft. Although many will surely attempt pressuring him to enter this year because of his size, Roy seems to be a very grounded and humble individual and will most likely realize that he still has a ways to go before he can contribute in the NBA. 10 years ago Hibbert would have likely been a lock for the lottery whenever he decided to come out based on what hes shown so far, but the NBA has moved more towards agile big men who rely more on quickness than pure height and back to the basket skills. Continuing to improve his coordination and all-around skills around the basket will make Hibbert a much better player down the road, one that is capable of changing the game on both ends of the floor.
#2 Ohio State
Terence Dials, 6-9, senior, center/power forward (late second round-undrafted)
The Buckeye senior comes into this NCAA tournament as the teams go to guy, after being named the Big Ten player of the year. Dials really needs to show scouts that he is able to play facing the basket, and is not just another undersized college center.
NBA scouts will be looking to see how well Dials is able to score against more athletic opponents, as well as how he will fare guarding more perimeter oriented players. They will also look to see if Terence responds to double teams better then he has thus far this year, as his suspect decision making is evidenced by his 3.3 turnovers for every one assist that he dishes out. Potential matchups with both Georgetown and Florida would be excellent opportunities to show these types of skills, and the scouts will be out in droves if Ohio State will manage to advance.
In order for the Buckeyes to make a run deep into March, Dials must provide the consistent inside scoring and rebounding presence that he is provided all year. The Ohio State guards do a great job of getting Terence plenty of touches, so this could really be a coming out party for the senior center.
JeKel Foster, 6-2, senior, shooting guard (undrafted)
Foster has been one of the more pleasant surprises for Ohio State this year, but really wasnt looked at as much of an NBA prospect until very late in his career. At only 62, he will have to show more point guard skills throughout OSUs tournament run if he hopes to have any chance of being drafted.
Scouts will be looking to see if Foster can become a legitimate combo guard prospect, possibly as a spark plug type player off of the bench. Others may have already written him off to Europe as just another undersized SG, so hes going to have to show the ability to guard bigger, stronger SGs throughout the tourney.
Ohio State is going to look for Foster to do a little bit of everything this tourney, just as he did all season. He defends well, knocks down the open three, and makes very sound decisions. JeKel is going to be more consistent however, as one bad game from him could very easily end the Buckeyes 2005-2006 season prematurely.