LaMarcus Aldridge was one of the few lottery prospects to back up the hype on the biggest stage he's played in so far. Mustafa Shakur exploded for what might have been his best game of his career at the best possible time for the Arizona Wildcats. Tyler Hansbrough looked like a senior leading his team to victory behind 24 points and 9 rebounds individually, and Brandon Rush finished off his college career on a very sour note that murks his NBA draft future up considerably.
Note: This was a fairly disappointing day from most of the major and minor draft prospects, as well as their respective teams. Rather than talk about average and typical performances from most of the top players we've been writing about all year long, we instead prefer to wait and see how they will perform in the next round and beyond.
LaMarcus Aldridge, 6-11, Sophomore, PF/C, Texas
19 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks, 7-13 FG, 5-6 FT
Aldridge started out the game in dominant fashion once again, scoring 8 of his teams first 9 points in the opening 9 minutes of the game. Playing very unselfishly, he didnt force any bad shots, and passed out of the post when he was double teamed, which lead to some good ball movement and easy shots for teammates. In the second half, Aldridge continued where he left off, scoring efficiently and unselfishly, and finished the game with a double-double.
In addition to the good numbers, Aldridge started showing a little bit of passion. Playing passively has been a knock against him for the entire season, so coming out with some intensity is very helpful in his chances of being the top pick in the draft. If he can come out and continue to lead Texas with some aggression through the rest of the NCAA tournament, it will vastly improve his chances of hearing his name called first at the draft in June.
Mustafa Shakur, 6'4, Junior, Point Guard, Arizona
17 points, 9 assists, 2 turnovers, 2 steals, 1 blocks, 6-13 FG, 3-5 3P
Shakur has been playing extremely well for over a month now for Arizona and translated his solid regular season finish to what might have been his best game of his Arizona career so far, in front of his family and friends in his hometown of Philadelphia.
Shakur played with the type of assertiveness that we've rarely seen from over the past 3 years, taking control of his talented Arizona team, initiating the offense swiftly and confidently and running their half-court sets with purpose. When Hassan Adams worked hard off the ball coming off screens he delivered crisp passes in perfect position to help him knock down a number of impressive mid-range jump shots, helping his draft stock as well quite a bit in the process. Shakur pushed the tempo of the game constantly, using his speed as well as his teammates' to run the Badgers out of the gym with a 35-11 lead early in the game that they never relinquished. Arizona was just too athletic for Wisconsin on both ends of the floor and that started first and foremost with their point guard who finally looked committed to using his natural gifts in a controlled and purposeful manner.
Regarding his NBA draft prospects, when it's all said and done, Shakur is still a 6-4, extremely long and super athletic point guard who will always draw more than his fair share of attention from scouts. He's going to get plenty of share of chances to make the NBA thanks to his natural physical attributes, especially if he can finally put it all together consistently as a senior.
Tyler Hansbrough, 69, Freshman, PF/C , North Carolina
24 Points, 9 rebounds, 3 steals, 8-14 FG, 8-10 FT
The majority of Tylers points from the field came in the painted area, where he was able to dominate. His persistence and wide array of post moves lead to 10 attempts from the free throw line, where he converted 80%. On the defensive end, Hansbrough altered some shots and held his position in the paint. He scored 13 of his points in the second half, and made some key plays down the stretch including a steal, and a tie breaking layup with less than a minute remaining.
The leadership that Tyler Hansbrough has displayed as a freshman is very rare in college basketball. Few first year players are able to lead a team into the tournament, much less win a game, and it makes it more impressive that he was able to do it in one of the toughest conferences in college basketball. If he can improve his help defense a little bit and become more dominant on the glass while leading his team to the Sweet 16, we could see Tylers draft stock rise even higher. As it stands, he is knocking on the door of the NBA lottery whenever he decides to declare.
Ronnie Brewer, 6'7, Junior, PG/SG/SF, Arkansas
14 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 turnovers, 3-9 FG, 1-3 3P, 7-8 FT
Brewer played outstanding defense during that stretch, getting his hands on plenty of balls, intimidating with his wingspan both in the passing lanes as well as around the basket and igniting the fast-break whenever he had the chance. It was still too little too late, and now NBA scouts and GMs will have to decide how much of Arkansas' inability to win games should be credited to Brewer and how well his versatile skills might potentially fit into their system.
Brandon Rush, 6-7, Freshman, SG/SF, Kansas
9 points, 7 rebounds, 4-13 FG