Michigan’s Trey Burke drives past Northwestern defender Jared Swopshire (12) during a Jan. 3 Big Ten game at Evanston, Ill. Burke, projected to be taken in the middle of the first round should he declare for the 2013 NBA Draft, matches up with South Dakota State star Nate Wolters in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. (Photo by Tony The Tiger under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)
March Madness is upon us. 2013 NBA Draft prospects are littered throughout the teams. The brackets are set, teams now know who they must prepare to do battle with and fans of college basketball everywhere are rejoicing because it is that time of year again. However, it is not just college basketball fans who will be paying attention to the NCAA Tournament.
NBA scouts will keep a close eye on some of the top prospects throughout the tournament. This is where the best players square off against the best players in three weeks of nonstop, high intensity action. Except you don’t have to be an NBA scout to know who to keep an eye on during the tournament. We’ve got you covered.
The first two rounds of the NCAA tournament are where you will have the best chance to see the most NBA prospects in action. In the blink of an eye, some of the big names could be gone and you might miss your chance to watch them play. If you follow this list of players, you’ll be sure to see some great games and some great playing in the second round.
Notes: These players have the most interesting matchups to judge their NBA talent based on their second round games and potential third round games. New lists will be put out before each round. Individual player profiles to come later.
Trey Burke, Michigan, and Nate Wolters, South Dakota State
In one of the most anticipated one-on-one pairings of the second round, the Michigan Wolverines and their star point guard Trey Burke do battle with the South Dakota State Jackrabbits, who have a star point guard of their own in Nate Wolters.
Burke and Wolters’ greatest assets to their respective teams are their scoring abilities. Both players have a wide range of ball-handling moves to free them up for scoring opportunities. Burke is quick off the dribble while Wolters uses elusive jabs and bursts into the lane for scores. Both players shoot around 40 percent from 3-point range, around 80 percent from the free-throw line and nearly 50 percent from the field. Wolters averages almost 23 points per game while Burke scores just more than 19 per game.
This matchup will come down to making the right decisions for their teams when it matters most. Burke averages 6.7 assists per game while Wolters averages 5.8. Both players know how to score and know how to find their teammates for scores just as well. One thing Wolters must avoid doing on offense is handling is turn his back on Burke. Burke’s quick hands have picked the pockets of many unsuspecting opponents throughout the year and has even won a few games for Michigan. Wolters doesn’t generally turn his back on defenders, but a few mistakes here or there could spell the end of the Jackrabbits’ upset hopes.
Burke is projected to be selected in the middle of the first round of the draft while Wolters has been projected anywhere from late first round to early second. Scouts will want to see how the two point guards lead their teams and how well their styles will translate at the next level.
If you’re not familiar with Wolters yet, (first of all what have you been doing, living with Patrick Star under a rock?) then take a look at this highlight reel of him dropping 53 points earlier this year:
Shabazz Muhammed, UCLA, vs. Minnesota
One thing was certain when Shabazz Muhammed chose to play basketball at UCLA this season: there was about a zero percent chance he would return for his sophomore season. If there was any doubt of this, Shabazz has gone out of his way to make sure the world knows he’s NBA ready.
He’s NBA ready, not just in his playing ability, but in his attitude. His attitude was first highlighted after teammate Larry Drew II took the final shot at home against Washington to win the game. The shot went in, UCLA won, but Shabazz showed no interest in congratulating his teammate on the game-winning shot because he felt he should have taken the shot. That’s his mindset. He always feels he should be the one taking the shot, no matter the situation. This is highlighted in his total assists for the season. In 29 games played, Shabazz has recorded a whopping 26 assists.
Aside from his attitude, Shabazz is a great scoring talent, scoring 17.8 points per game on 44 percent shooting and 40 percent from 3. He has the length to finish in the paint and touch to shoot around the perimeter. Minnesota’s game plan will be to shut down Muhammed. Doing so will be a challenge though. Shabazz wants the ball and with the absence of Jordan Adams, he will be even more vital to UCLA’s plan of attack against the Gophers.
Scouts will be looking at Shabazz’s scoring ability as well as his willingness to play unselfishly to win the game, which could cause him to drop lower in the draft than most would expect come June.
Doug McDermott, Creighton, vs. Cincinnati
Creighton’s Doug McDermott has put on an incredible season. Averaging more than 23 points per game on 56 percent from the field and nearly 50 percent from beyond the arc, McDermott was above and beyond any single player in the country this season statistically. He is the heart and soul of the Creighton Blue Jays and they will only go as far as McDermott can take them.
If McDermott can take Creighton past Cincinnati in the second round (which this writer is predicting he will) he will be faced with his biggest challenge of the season: a head-to-head matchup with the Duke Blue Devils and Ryan Kelly. If there is one player who can expose McDermott offensively and defensively it is Ryan Kelly. Kelly himself isn’t necessarily an NBA prospect, but he is an identical player to McDermott. Both player small-power forward positions who love to shoot from beyond the arc but aren’t afraid to take it inside. Kelly is ready to make take his Blue Devils and lead them to an NCAA Championship and would gladly like to humiliate McDermott in the process. If Doug can pass this test, look for his draft stock to shoot up from late first round to a lottery selection.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter to discuss the NCAA tournament and NBA Draft @NathanGiese