Ohio State won the Big 10. The NC Triangle collapsed. And Florida basketball is all the rave. Now that Championship week is behind us, Thursday marks the beginning of March Madness. Conference championships were just practice. This is the main opportunity where the 2013 draft prospects vie for positions. There’s never a shortage of young guys who will declare for the draft. Some you’ll be watching already. But this is just my list of 5 players that immediately stand out.
Shane Larkin: After his performance last week in the ACC finals, it was like watching Steph Curry 2.0. Not to take anything from the other Curry brother Seth, but I’ve been far more impressed with Shane Larkin’s all around game throughout the entire season. I’m sure when he chose to play basketball over baseball, he didn’t picture himself knocking off the ACC powerhouses. This Hurricanes team is made up upperclassmen who physically look like they could be NBA 2nd year guys already. So Larkin’s confidence as the starting PG really stands out. I like him just as much as I like Ben McLemore. Although Louisville has a comparable talent in Russ Smith and Kansas has a solid all around team, I believe in The U. Which is why in the Final game, I have Louisville vs. The U.
Doug McDermott: Creighton is 1 of those teams that can be an early bracket-buster and McDermott is a major reason why. He has nice footwork for a guy his size and his shooting stroke is money. His defense is less than stellar, which would probably relegate him to a role player in the pros. But I can apply what I said about Chandler Parsons to McDermott. If he does go pro, the team that gets him will be getting a steal because the kid has a sound IQ and is very coachable.
Deshaun Thomas: I watched Ohio State in person over the weekend and Thomas was 1 of the 3 players out of the Big 10 that I vividly remember. 1 of the primary things scouts always look at is how a college player improves year by year. Though his shooting percentage has taken a dip because he’s shooting more, Thomas has improved in every statistical category. The matchup against Notre Dame is going to be very telling down on the block.
The media rarely talks about players from the Mountain West conference. Jamaal Franklin (of San Diego State) is 1 of the better guards that you’re not paying attention to yet. He attacks the rim, can create his own shot, and has continued to improve in ISOs. The prominent weakness in his game is that he doesn’t defend away from the basket. SDSU is a small team as it is and if they do squeeze by Oklahoma, Georgetown will punish them inside. However, Franklin reminds me a bit of JR Smith. And Smith hasn’t done too bad for himself professionally right?
Mike Muscala: Bucknell has the disadvantage of a lacking a wider fanbase since they play in a conference that’s not known for basketball. But in terms of college big men, I do think Muscala is worth some observing. Muscala has an awkward build to be listed as a center. I can’t really put my finger on it. For that reason, I don’t think he’d be an impact guy until he put on some upper body size. He plays more like a 4 guy and reminds me more of Andrei Kirilenko than Pau Gasol or Kevin Love. But Bucknell is much like Creighton; their success relies heavily on their featured big man.