Players in the past have really helped their draft status by having a great NCAA Tournament. One that comes quickly to mind for me is Joakim Noah in 2006. He was a relative unknown going into that NCAA Tournament. By the team he had led the Florida Gators to a national championship, set the record for blocked shots in the championship game…before halftime, and walked away with the Final Four M.O.P award, he was a lottery pick. He had his buds Al Horford and Corey Brewer decided to come back for one more year and defend their title, and they did it successfully. By the time the NBA Draft came around the following June, they were all lottery picks. All are doing well in the NBA to this day.
So who in this year’s tournament is like that? The first player to come to mind is Mitch McGary, who I confess, I had never heard of until I watched him set two picks in the Round of 32 against the VCU Rams that the Rams players did not get up from immediately. He has been the breakout star of this NCAA tournament, leading the Wolverines to the championship game on Monday against the Louisville Cardinals. If he decides to come out, he looks to be a first rounder.
Speaking of Louisville, how about Russ Smith. He is a little waterbug that is just about unstoppable in the open court. He can handle the ball and also shoot the jumper too. His draft stock has surely risen during this tournament as the Cardinals had made this run all the way to the championship game.
Jeff Withey of Kansas was also impressive in the NCAA Tournament. KU was Michigan’s toughest game thus far in the tournament, in fact the Jayhawks had them on the ropes. It was the backcourt that did the Jayhawks in though. Withey was outstanding. He is a shot blocking machine but also has an decent offensive game to go with it.
You can put just about anyone on the Wichita State Shockers on this list, but the guy who really stands out for me is Cleanthony Early. He just has a NBA body. He is long, lean and can shoot the jumper. Look for his draft stock to rise.
C. J. Fair of Syracuse did his draft stock some good in the tournament as well. He was the main reason the Orange made it to the Final Four. He really improved his outside shooting this year and he showed it inn the tournament.
Those are the players who stood out to me as ones who did themselves some good in the NCAA Tournament. Guys like Trey Burke, Aaron Craft, Shane Larkin and Peyton Siva did nothing to hurt their draft stock, but probably didn’t improve it a whole lot either.