The Final Four in Dallas is now set in stone. Saturday night will feature matchups of Florida vs. UConn and Wisconsin vs. Kentucky -- congratulations if you had that in your bracket. Mine is busted along with the rest of ours.
But we have plenty of time to look forward to next weekend in Dallas, so right now, lets look back on what was a hell of an Elite Eight. Our cinderella Dayton gave top-seed Florida their very best shot, Wisconsin took a thriller from Arizona in a heavyweight battle, then UConn and Kentucky continued to shock us with clutch wins that came down to the wire against Michigan State and Michigan respectively.
In order of the games, lets take a peak at the remaining draft prospects that played in the Elite Eight:
Patric Young: The Florida senior certainly has not hurt his draft stock in this tournament. In past years he has been a potential first-rounder, but has been considered a late pick this season. Young is physically ready for the NBA, and has shown stretches of dominance in the paint during the tourney. His 12 points, six rebounds and four blocks in the Elite Eight pretty well describe what kind of player Young is.
Aaron Gordon: We know all about the Arizona freshman by now. At this point, nothing will take Gordon out of the top-10 picks, he could even go as high as fifth by the time the draft rolls around. I am starting to love his versatility on both ends of the floor, especially defensively. Gordon has even improved his scoring of late, despite only eight points against the Badgers. Gordon did rip down 18 boards, however, so he was still very much a contributor for the Wildcats, even in defeat.
Nick Johnson: The nephew of the late Dennis Johnson certainly has an NBA future ahead of him. As a junior, he most likely will have to wait for the second-round to hear his name called, but the PAC-12 POY has first-round potential. His tournament performance looks to have Johnson tight roping the line between being a first or second-round pick. He was clearly Arizona's best player in the tournament, his game is very controlled, but he could be somewhat of a "tweener" in the league.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson: No one seems to be talking about the other Arizona freshman, but RHJ is the real deal. The question is, will he enter the draft? Who knows. But if Hollis-Jefferson does, he would most likely be a first-round-pick. At the same time, the consensus seems to be that he would benefit from another year in school, especially when he could get a chance to be "the man" with Johnson and Gordon gone.
Shabazz Napier: By now we have all heard the Kemba Walker comparisons, but the thing is, they are legit. Napier is carrying the under-seeded Huskies to the Final Four in classic "Kemba-like" fashion. Napier, a local kid from Roxbury, is only projected as a second-round pick, though -- that is going to change. Not that he and Walker are the same player, but scouts were only lukewarm on Walker until late in the season, and he ended up the ninth pick in the 2011 draft. Expect a high climb in upcoming mocks for Mr. Napier.
Gary Harris: Harris is projected to be selected the highest of the Michigan State crew expected to enter the draft. With the other Spartan stars all seniors, Harris jumps out as their best player as a sophomore. Harris is a mature wing player that had a pretty solid tournament for himself. He gave his best effort in defeat, going down with 22 points against UConn. Harris has lottery potential, but could fall just outside the top-14.
Adreian Payne: It would have been nice to see a bit more consistency from the senior during his March run, but Payne did display his potential on the big stage. Before his three average games to wrap up his season, Payne dropped 41 in the opening game of the tourney. There's his ceiling, and scouts took notice. He should be a mid-late first-rounder.
Keith Appling: Appling killed his draft stock in the last few games. Already a fringe draft pick as a senior, Appling scored two points in each of his last three games. He has only reached double-digits in two of his last 14 games after a hot start that placed Appling on many draft boards. Right now he may not even get selected in the first 60 picks, meaning he would be hoping for a shot in summer league.
Julius Randle: Randle has been playing great in March, leading the unexpected Wildcats into the Final Four. Per usual, Randle has posted a double-double in all four of his tournament games as a freshman. At the same time it is tough to up his draft stock. The top-three picks seem to be decided already (although the order is still up in the air), which means Randle still could go as high as fourth and as low as seventh in June's draft.
James Young: Young is an interesting talent. Another one of Kentucky's freshman, Young had been having a poor tournament, but had a good shooting day against Michigan. His hot and cold season has had him on the fringe of a lottery pick and slipping to the second round. I say he goes right in the middle as a pick in the mid-twenties of the draft if he declares.
Harrison Twins: We package them together in everything else, so I will continue the trend here. When Kentucky slid this season, a lot of it had to do with their young backcourt, made up by Andrew (PG) and Aaron (SG). In the tournament they have grown up and learned how to play. Andrew has been holding the team together as the point guard, and also came up with a huge 20 point effort against Wichita State. Aaron has been scoring the ball and shooting extremely well of late, he also knocked down the game-winner to send his team to the Final Four. Right now we don't know if they will declare for the draft, but if they do, expect them to be mid-late first-rounders.
Willie Cauley-Stein: WCS missed the Elite Eight matchup with an ankle injury. Rumors about a fracture have not been confirmed or denied by Kentucky, but obviously there is no way this can help Cauley-Stein. No matter what at this point, it feels like he will be a mid-first-round selection based on size and potential.
Nik Stauskas: The Michigan sophomore just keeps improving. He is consistent, a fantastic shooter and an underrated athlete. Stauskas is a lock to be gone before the 20th pick, and could even find himself in the late lottery. In all likelihood, he is taken in the mid-late teens, and deservingly so -- he could be a steal that late.
Glenn Robinson III: I love Robinson's NBA potential, and his dad's career helps make anyone optimistic about Robinson's projection. He is an inside out player still looking for consistencies in his game. He has, however, been consistent in the tournament. Robinson has shown he is very well-rounded on both ends of the floor in the process. I like him to go just a few picks behind Stauskas in the draft.
The college season is almost over! We will get to enjoy the Final Four, then it's time to break down individual workouts building up to the draft.
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Julian Edlow 3/31/2014 11:12:00 AM Tweet Edit