It’s no coincidence that one of the first images TV viewers saw Monday night just prior to the NCAA men’s title match—a 82-76 Louisville triumph over Michigan—was Chris Webber climbing out of an SUV, wearing a knit beanie with a Michigan “M” on it. Shortly after, the camera went to Jalen Rose and Juwan Howard in the stands, standing with Jimmy King and Ray Jackson. Four of the storied Fab Five made the NBA. Two—Webber and Rose—were stars. And Howard, at age 40, is still there, with the Miami Heat.
Let’s face it, the NBA is all over the NCAA Tournament. When you get past the brackets, and the Cinderellas, and the disappointing favorites, and the mid-majors, and the celebrity coaches, the focus quickly goes from the teams to the individuals.
Admit it. You can’t help but think: Which players are good enough to take their skills to the next level via the upcoming 2013 NBA Draft?
Keep in mind the word ‘parity.’ Just as this year’s NCAA Tournament was wide open, with no super team to speak of, there is also no clear-cut LeBron type to transform a pro franchise. But there are a lot of gifted prospects who could become difference-makers.
Start with Michigan and Louisville, because they’re fresh in our minds. Wolverines point guard Trey Burke might go in the top five, certainly the top 10. He has the complete skill set, but also the moxie to handle big-game situations and the leadership ability you want at that position. Michigan will also offer shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. and small forward Glenn Robinson III, both of whom have the tough-mindedness of their NBA dads.
But Louisville will have a representative in center Gorgui Dieng, an athletic shot-blocker who will come into the Association with the benefit of having developed his game under Rick Pitino and his crack staff. And don’t forget guard Russ Smith.
Some of the other NCAA Tournament names likely to make the jump include UNLV’s Anthony Bennett, Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, Kansas’ Ben McLemore, Georgetown’s Otto Porter and UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad.
Then there are other candidates who didn’t participate in the NCAA Tournament at all because their teams underachieved. Four of them were on the same Kentucky team – Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin and Willie Cauley-Stein.
Who will have Chris Webber-Jalen Rose-Juwan Howard careers? And which players will be like Jimmy King—a very brief period of NBA employment?
Here is an informal look at a possible top 10 in the 2013 NBA Draft:
1. Nerlens Noel, Kentucky, 6-10, 230, C, Fr.
2. Anthony Bennett, UNLV, 6-8, 240, PF/SF, Fr.
3. Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA, 6-6, 225, SG, Fr.
4. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, 6-4, 225, PG/SG, Fr.
5. Victor Oladipo, Indiana, 6-5, 220, SG, Jr.
6. Trey Burke, Michigan, 6-0, 190, PG, Soph.
7. Otto Porter, Georgetown, 6-8, 200, SF, Soph.
8. Ben McLemore, Kansas, 6-5, 190, SG, Fr.
9. Cody Zeller, Indiana, 7-0, 240, C, Soph.
10. Rudy Gobert, France, 7-0, 230, C/PF.
Who do you think will most successfully make the leap from college to pro? Tell us in the comments.