(1) Illinois (32-1)
(16) Fairleigh-Dickinson (20-12)
(8) Texas (20-10)
(9) Nevada (24-6)
(5) Alabama (24-7)
(12) UW-Milwaukee (24-5)
(4) Boston College (24-4)
(13) Penn (20-8)
(6) LSU (20-9)
(11) UAB (21-10)
(3) Arizona (27-6)
(14) Utah State (24-7)
(7) So. Illinois (26-7)
(10) St. Mary's(CA) (25-8)
(2) Oklahoma St. (24-6)
(15) SE Louisiana (24-8)
Deron Williams, 6-3, PG, junior, Illinois, potential lottery pick
The most highly regarded of Bruce Weber's trio of superstar guards, Williams is the guy you want to play PG on your team. He absolutely controls the game without having to be a scoring threat, by directing tempo and getting people the ball in the right places. In this way, he might remind you a bit of Jason Kidd. A thick-bodied 6'3, Williams is somewhat similar to Kidd physically as well. While he doesn't have Kidd's top-tier speed in the open floor, he does shoot the ball a lot better than Jason ever has. When the Illini need a big shot, Williams is often the guy taking an off balance jumper at the top of the key. He also is very crafty at getting to the basket, using pump fakes, spin dribbles, and other tricks of the trade to their full advantage. Where Williams falls a bit short is in the athleticism department. He doesn't have that killer first step that most PG's depend on, and looks quite slow at first glance. However, most scouts aren't hung up on this. They see Williams as a guy who can come in and run a team right away, and make everybody around him better. In the tourney, watch how he matches up against quicker PG's. If he can make a good impression in this area, he could hear his name called as high as the late lottery on draft night.
Dee Brown, 5-10, PG, junior, Illinois, 2006 first rounder?
The yin to Williams' yang, Dee Brown is another Illinois guard that has a serious shot of hearing his name called in the first round eventually. If Williams is the captain of Illinois' battleship attack, Brown is the engine. There isn't a player with better end-to-end speed in all of college basketball, and he has a virtually endless supply of energy. Some players tend to slow down as the game goes on, and Brown literally feeds on guys that can't go a full forty minutes. Dee's question marks are somewhat serious, however, in that at 5'10, he isn't his team's primary ballhandler. He clearly has the handles to play lead guard in the league, but probably doesn't have a feel for the floor general type things that Deron Williams excels at. However, Brown's game is tailor-made for that lead guard off the bench role that Bobby Jackson and Earl Boykins currently excel in. Brown probably comes back in 2006, hones his PG skills, and makes a run at the mid to late first round in 2006. He has said that he would declare for the draft if he was a first rounder this year, though, so an excellent NCAA tournament with Brown at the helm could push him over the top and out.
Luther Head, 6-3, guard, senior, Illinois, 2nd round pick
Luther Head, the final piece of Illinois' guard trio, just may be the most difficult of the three to project. He currently plays more of a wing role for the Illini, and his 6'2 or 6'3 height just isn't going to cut it as a wing in the league. So the question that has to be asked is, can he make the transition to PG? Head's PG skills are very up in the air at the moment. He moves like a guard and has a decent handle, but it's not clear whether he has the vision and natural mentality to make the switch. He is a superior leaper and can clearly defend points at the next level, however. Devin Harris has been mentioned as a possible comparison, and that isn't entirely out of the question. Harris was a wing when he entered college, and made a very nice transition over the course of his career. Of course, he had two years to hone his skills at Wisconsin, while Head is about to get thrown into the fire. He probably needs a GM picking in the late first round to fall in love with him, much like Danny Ainge did with Delonte West last season. If not, he's a 2nd rounder all the way.
James Augustine, 6-10, PF, junior, Illinois, 2006 2nd rounder?
Augustine has spent the 3 seasons tantalizing scouts with some very nice post fundamentals, but always playing second fiddle to the guards and never producing as consistently as he should. At a slender 6'10, Augustine has a beautiful jump hook, and has the defensive textbook down pat. He bangs and rebounds well enough to keep Illinois afloat in the paint, though he sometimes has trouble with more wide bodied post players like Terence Dials of Ohio State. To get into the first round in 2006, Augustine will have to assert himself as one of Illinois' go-to options on offense. He will have his chance to impress the scouts with the spotlight on Illinois during this tourney, so stay tuned on Augustine
Daniel Gibson, 6-2, PG, freshman, Texas, future first rounder
Daniel Gibson has received as much draft hype as any freshman guard in 2005, and it is deserved, for the most part. After the losses of PJ Tucker and LaMarcus Aldrige, Gibson has been the player to step up offensively for the Longhorns. At 6'2, he has handled the physical rigors of the Big XII schedule very nicely, and possesses a very nice long range shot. His playmaking should be considered steady at best, but considering the load he has shouldered over the past two months, it's almost surprising that he hasn't committed more turnovers (3.1 per game). Not many guards in this tourney have a tougher road in front of them than Gibson does. He goes up against a very athletic, physical Nevada team in the first round, with the Illinois buzzsaw looming. Some have pegged him as a first rounder this June, despite him saying that he won't be coming out, so watch how he does against Illinois' standout guards (if Texas gets through) and judge for yourself.
Nick Fazekas, 6-11, Center, sophomore, 2006 1st rounder?
Fazekas is making a lot of noise about the fact that he wants to play in the NBA, and his coach has said that he won't be surprised to see him test the waters. The tournament is a great chance for him to show the scouts what he can do against top prospects outside of the WAC, but he'll have to advance at least a round to do so. They go up against Texas in the first round in what looks like a decent matchup for Nevada and Fazekas, with Texas being without LaMarcus Aldridge and P.J Tucker, their starting frontcourt. If they get through that game he'll go up against James Augustine and Illinois, in what looks like an impossible matchup on paper. This won't be an easy game for Illinois, though, and Fazekas will have the chance to do quite a bit of damage if he can get the ball where he wants it. Fazekas is a sweet shooting, extremely skilled big man, he's been tearing up the WAC all season long and is already one of the best NCAA big men you'll find in the tournament. He is somewhat lacking in the athleticism department and probably doesn't have the bulk or experience to make an immediate impact in the NBA, but he's a great prospect with excellent size and skill regardless. He'd probably be best suited returning for another year to Nevada and testing his stock next year.
Kennedy Winston, 6-6, SG, junior, first round pick
Winston has already decided that he'll be testing the waters this summer, and this is an outstanding opportunity for him to show his stuff and possibly up his stock into the lottery. He's an athletic SG who can shoot and create his own shot with the best of them, although he needs to work on rounding out his game to avoid the one dimensional tag. Of all the wing prospects in the draft, none understand how to slash like Winston. Hitting his shots, playing good defense and showing that he can be the go-too guy on a successful tourney team will be Winston's main priorities in the tournament.
Craig Smith, 6-7, PF, junior, Boston College
Craig Smith is your prototypical undersized PF. That has nothing to do with his dominance at the college level, but probably hurts his chances at an NBA career. Listed at 6'7 but probably closer to 6'6, Smith is a truly dominant scorer in the Big East. He does it mostly with his bulk, all 250 pounds-plus of it. There aren't many players that have the strength to bang with Craig Smith. He creates space, knows how to get his shot up, and has very nice touch in close to the basket. However, he can be contained even in college, as his lack of height is apparent against teams with bigger frontcourts. Given his body type and skill set, there is little chance he can convert into a 3. Even when comparing him to a Corliss Williamson or Larry Johnson, he seems to be quite a bit more grounded than those two. While a 2nd round selection isn't out of the question, it is likely that Craig Smith will have to prove himself in Europe before getting a real chance at the NBA.
Jared Dudley, 6-7, SF, sophomore, Boston College
One of the latest examples of Al Skinner's uncanny ability to find under-the-radar talent, Dudley followed up an instant impact freshman season with emergence into stardom as a sophomore. Dudley is a smart, post-oriented wing, who might end up as somewhat of a tweener when it comes time to project his NBA value. However, he is a very adept slasher, and is very good as using his length to score over smaller defenders. His wing skills are improving, so he may just need a bit of time to make the full-time switch. At 6'7, he certainly has the body to play 3 in the NBA. Jared Dudley is crucial to the Eagles' success, as his 4 point dud of a performance in a 22 point loss to Pittsburgh shows. If Boston College is to shake off an underwhelming conclusion to a spectacular season, Jared Dudley will have to be a big part of the picture.
Sean Williams, 6-10, Center, freshman, Boston College
How can a player averaging under 4 ppg be on this list? If you've seen Sean Williams sky through the lane and send an opponent's shot into the stands, you know the answer to this question. While his playing time has been reduced in recent games, Williams is already one of the top handful of shotblockers in the nation. He is not only an explosive leaper, but has a giant wingspan that will allow him to play center on the next level. His offensive game is raw, but the athleticism will win you over right away. While Al Skinner probably continues to give most of the minutes to senior Nate Doornekamp this March, be prepared for Williams to absolutely skyrocket up draft boards next season once he is getting starter's minutes. Expect 4+ blocks per game next year
Brandon Bass, 6-7, PF, sophomore, 2nd round pick
The SEC player of the year will need to be at his absolute best for the Tigers to do any damage in the tournament this year. Bass declared for the draft last year and played very well in the last two days of the NBA pre-draft camp. He's an incredible athlete, but also a very smart player who can score from anywhere on the court. He is a top notch rebounder and blocks a lot of shots with his terrific hands and vertical leap. He is supposedly not very happy playing for LSU and will try to jump to the NBA when the right opportunity presents itself, and this tournament is his chance to show that he belongs. He'd be a combo forward at the next level because of a lack of size, and that definitely hurts his NBA potential. However, he'd probably be able to find himself a spot on a team as a 2nd rounder if he's really desperate to get out of Baton Rouge.
Glen Davis, 6-8, Center, freshman, bubble 2nd rounder
The SEC freshman of the year, Davis has been frustrating defenses all season long with his massive body (he weighs over 300 pounds) but surprisingly nimble movement. Davis and Bass represent one of the best 4/5 combos in this tournament, and they'll be very hard to beat if their team finds a way to get them the ball inside. Davis is probably too short to be a center in the NBA and way too plump to play PF at his current size, but on the NCAA level he'll be absolutely unstoppable once he learns how to fully use his tools. He's a smart player too, and can actually put the ball on the floor and get in the air to rebound and block shots. If you have the chance to watch LSU play, take it, because this guy is very fun to watch.
Antonio Hudson, 6-6, SG, senior, bubble 2nd rounder
This guy is the X factor for LSU and their tournament hopes. If he shows up to play and is hitting his outside shots, the Tigers are a very tough team to stop. The problem is he's very inconsistent and doesn't appear to have a very high basketball IQ. Sometimes he can get too caught up in his own game and forget to get his teammates involved. He is a good athlete, has NBA size, and has improved quite a bit this season. Hudson doesn't really do any one thing particularly well to necessarily get drafted, but this tournament is a great chance for him to up his stock and show that he deserves consideration.
Donell Taylor, 6-6, SG, senior, UAB, bubble 2nd rounder
The better prospect of the Taylor brothers that provides the Blazers with most of their scoring punch, Donell has nice size and athleticism at the wing spot. He shoots the ball very well, and has big game scoring potential. While Taylor isn't a guy that you can count on for go-to production every night, it will be Taylor who would get UAB a first round upset win over LSU. The best Donnell Taylor can probably do right now is get a few second round looks after a good Portsmouth performance. He has the athleticism and some of the tools to get scouts interested.
Salim Stoudamire, 6-1, SG, senior, Arizona, 2nd rounder
As yet another Arizona prospect with a very mixed NBA skill set, let's get to the point with Salim Stoudamire. There isn't a better shooter at the college level, maybe not anywhere. He can get his shot at any time, from any place on the floor, with his body contorted at any angle. The spectacle he put on in the first half of the Pac-10 championship game had to be seen to be truly understood. Unfortunately, Stoudamire isn't a complete NBA prospect. At just 6'1, he can't play shooting guard in the league. He might have the physical tools to make a switch to the point, but he absolutely doesn't have the mentality. In the second half of that same game against Washington, he shot his team out of the game, and seemed ready to blame anyone but himself. It's hard to see him ever developing enough of a distributor's mentality to become a starter on the next level. One thing is for sure: Salim Stoudamire's success or failure is going to become a barometer for aspiring NBA combo guards for years to come. It's important to keep in mind that Stoudamire can single-handedly beat anybody in this tournament. His teammates indeed sometimes force him to.
Hassan Adams, 6-4, SF, junior, Arizona, 2006 1st rounder?
When talking about pure athletes at the NCAA level, Adams' name should almost always come up first. There isn't a better leaper at the college level, and Adams has the strength to really rock the rim. Many people expected Adams to really explode this season, after a nice sophomore campaign where he averaged 17 ppg. However, things haven't quite gone as expected this year. After getting to play near the basket in a Shawn Marion-type role a season ago, the Wildcats added some frontcourt strength, which moved Adams into more of a guard-type role. His perimeter game isn't nearly as ready as some thought. He's an inconsistent shooter, and at just 6'4, he doesn't exactly have an easy time getting his shot off. Off the dribble or fading away, he just doesn't have the touch. Adams has shown his potential in short spurts this year, but has also disappeared for stretches. If Adams wants to regain first round draft status, he ought to come back in 2006, and work on improving his 24% 3-point shooting and poor ball-handling.
Channing Frye, 6-11, Center, senior, Arizona, bubble 1st rounder
A name that has been suffering from a bit of overkill the last couple of seasons, Channing Frye's pro prospects remain very up in the air. At a slender 6'11, Frye has nice athleticism, good touch out to 15 feet, and a nice array of post moves. However, Frye has been maligned for a lack of toughness around the basket and a tendency to disappear at times. His slender build makes it difficult to project what position he plays at the next level, and how he scores. He definitely moves and plays like a C, but might not have the bulk to be effective in the league. There are times when Frye brings his A-game and looks like a bonafide first rounder, and others when you have to wonder where the fire is at. A giant sweet 16 matchup against Oklahoma State looms
Mustafa Shakur, 6-3, PG, sophomore, Arizona, ???
There aren't many players who have seen their stock drop over the course of the season like Mustafa Shakur has. Blessed with your prototypical NBA PG's body and a world of athleticism, it's very hard to understand how Shakur is unable to produce more consistently. On his loaded Wildcat team, he often looks torn between looking for his own offense and satisfying the demands of numerous players that need lots of shots. His decision making is often poor, and he hasn't shot the ball well at all with one of the ugliest strokes in the NCAA that he has tried to alter. Perhaps in time he will be able to cement his role as a scorer or distributor, and emerge in the Pac-10. At times, he looks like a legit NBA starter. A breakout performance in the tourney could be a building point for next season, but Shakur is looking like a guy that will need all four years to secure a spot in the first round.
Darren Brooks, 6-3, PG, senior, Southern Illinois, bubble 2nd rounder
Brooks and the Salukis have had a very up-and-down season this year, but despite losing in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament semifinals, they will be in the NCAA tournament with a very nice seeding, after reeling off nine straight wins to close off the year before losing in the semis. Brooks has outstanding size and athletic ability for the PG position, but hasn't had much draft buzz this year because of the fact that he isn't a true PG, and because he sometimes struggles with his outside shot. He has a great shot to up his stock for the draft with a run in the tournament, though, and him being at the top of his game--shooting well, running his team like a pro and playing his trademark outstanding defense is the only way for that to happen.
Daniel Kickert, 6-9, PF, junior, 2006 bubble 2nd rounder
Saint Mary's from the WCC will be facing Southern Illinois from the MWC in a matchup between two of the best mid-major teams in the tournament. For Saint Mary's to advance they will have to be deadly from behind the arc, and their perimeter loving big man Kickert from Australia will have to be at the top of his game. Kickert shoots the three at a great clip at almost 48%, but his athletic ability and defense leave a lot to be desired. He's more of a 2006 prospect, but it never hurts to leave a good taste in the mouths of the scouts for next season.
Joey Graham, 6-7, SF, senior, Oklahoma State, mid-first rounder
After showing flashes of potential that turned the heads of draft buffs last season, Graham has developed into a full fledged star in 2005. Built like a fullback, Graham has one of the more impressive physical packages of any 2005 draft prospect. He has also shown off a very nice midrange jumper, and his stroke is still improving. While Graham's ball skills remain a bit shaky for a wing, he is getting better in that area as well. He shows a very nice ability to pick up points around the basket, and never forces anything. He needs to improve his lateral quickness, but projects as a top-notch defender at the next level. With OSU's lack of inside presence, Graham is forced to play a lot of PF. A matchup against the very similar Hassan Adams of Arizona is looming in the second round. Look for this game to go a long way in determining Graham's spot in the first round.
John Lucas, 5-10, PG, senior, Oklahoma State, bubble 2nd rounder
John Lucas has burst onto the college scene after transferring out of a messy situation at Baylor. While his PG skills and crunch time ability can't be argued against at the college level, it remains to be seen whether Lucas has what it takes to catch on in the league. Generously listed at 5'11, he is quite undersized to be a full-time PG at the next level. Lucas has a slight frame, and doesn't have that dynamite quickness that sub 6'0 PG's need to survive in the NBA. Nonetheless, John Lucas does have quite a bit of toughness, the bloodlines and a certain ability to make the most of situations that will get him a look or two come June.