By Aran Smith
When we think back on the 2008 NCAA tournament and the first weekend of upsets, big games, and Cinderella stories, nothing will remain indelibly etched in our minds stronger than Stephen Curry's shooting performances taking down two goliaths in Gonzaga and Georgetown.
Curry has been the most instrumental player of the tourney, taking Davidson on his back and into the Sweet Sixteen.
With 40 and 30 points in the first two rounds including 25 second-half points in both games, it's become clear that Curry is the deadliest shooter on the college level.
He also has the top rooting section in the country as his Mom, who receives a lot of air time, tears up every time Curry performs his late-game heroics.
Meanwhile his Dad (former NBA sharpshooter) Dell Curry remains much more subdued, as Stephen points to him after clutch shots, just as Dell had with his father back in his glory days.
The biggest mystery surrounding Stephen Curry is how every major North Carolina school (North Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest, NC State, and Charlotte) missed on the son of one of the NBA's greatest all time shooters. Even Dell Curry's alma mater, Virginia Tech didn't offer the former Hokie star's son a scholarship.
It's obvious the kid can play, and he's a tremendous college talent. Which leads us to the question of what type of pro he can be?
Projecting him to the NBA level, he's a 6-1 combo guard, with a skill set somewhere between Steve Kerr and Juan Dixon. Right now, he's more of a shooting guard, and hasn't proven that he can run a team, however he does display solid passing ability giving him a chance to develop into a point at the next level, at least within the rotation.
Curry's incredible tournament has certainly piqued the interest of NBA scouts with his phenomenal, clutch shooting. His ability to catch the ball, square to the basket, and shoot from 3 accurately, all in one motion, gives him great potential to get shots off. This further enhances his ability to make an NBA impact.
His standout numbers all season show that his tourney performance is no fluke. Granted, they are in a Mid Major Conference, he's averaging 25.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.9 apg, while shooting a phenominal 49 fg%, .89 ft%, and .44 3p%.
Alexander's draft stock has seen the biggest rise over the last month of the season.
He finished off the regular season scoring 30 or more in 3 of their last 6 games, including a big 34 point effort in their big win over UConn.
In the process, he helped the Mountaineers secure a bid in the NCAA tournament by leading them three games deep into the Big East Tournament.
He has followed that up by leading the Mountaineers to two wins in the NCAA tournament including a victory over Duke in second round, where they next play Xavier in the Sweet Sixteen. Alexander's stock is flying sky high.
ESPN's newest studio analyst and all time winningest coach Bob Knight went so far as to say that Alexander had been the most valuable player on any team in the country over the last couple weeks of the season.
Though his shooting numbers haven't been sparkling in West Virginia's two tournament wins (combined 11-34), he has been instrumental in coming up with key rebounds, and shots and has scored 14 and 22 in the two games.
He displays a lot of toughness and leadership abilities and has risen his stock to a potential top ten pick in next years draft. Against UConn, Alexander wowed scouts with his dunk over fellow freakish athlete Stanley Robinson as he slowed down in the open court only to shock Robinson by jumping higher and dunking right over him.
Coach Huggins feels that Alexander still has a lot to work on, and clearly would love to have him back for his senior season. And it's clear Alexander's outside shooting is an area he must focus on, but with such tremendous play to finish the season, NBA teams are interested, and Alexander will have a decision to make.
The Bruins have reeled off 12 straight wins, some coming with the help of favorable calls, and all due to the clutch play of their floor general Darren Collison.
"DC" single-handedly kept the Bruins in the first half in their game against Texas A&M going 4-4 for 3. He would end the game in dramatic fashion blowing by defenders for two clutch runners to help UCLA "survive and advance".
It was a close call and showed that the Bruins are vulnerable, but it also showed that Collison and company are able to get stops and perform well in pressure situations.
Collison and company have held opponents to a tournament best 39 points per game through the first two rounds. They will need to pick up their offensive play and stop falling into the trap of playing from behind if they want to win the championship.
Coming off a preseason knee injury, Collison had a slow start to the season, but he has been the Bruins most clutch player in the Pac-Ten tournament and the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.
Collison's clutch late season performances have answered a number of his critics as it's becoming more obvious that Collison has the requisite desire and intangibles to excel at the next level.
Statistically, Collison is the most effective guard in the country by a long shot. He rarely turns the ball over (1.87 a/to), shoots extremely well from the field, line and from distance (49% fg), (88% ft), (52% 3p%), and also puts a great deal of pressure on opposing guards (1.9 spg).
While his points per game isn't as gaudy as Texas's DJ Augustin (19.2 to Collison's 15.1 ppg), Collison plays in a more defensive oriented team with more scorers surrounding him and has better length, point guard skills, athleticism and defensive ability.
Collison is considered a potential late lottery pick for the 2008 NBA draft.
Every prospect's NBA success hinges, at least in part, on the situation they wind up in. But for Kevin Love, it's probably even more important that he go to a team that is able to utilize his strengths. Playing on a team such as Utah or Indiana who play more of a slow down, half court system would be the optimum scenario for Love.
What separates Love from the average bigman are his off the chart basketball IQ and intangibles. His ability to pass and shoot at his size, make him very unique.
In UCLA's second round dogfight with Texas A&M, Love's two fadeaway jumpers in the closing minutes showed what a competitor and clutch performer he is.
His 7 blocks, including several late in the game against draft prospect DeAndre Jordan showed his ability to rise to the occasion and make plays at both ends of the floor.
While scouts feel that Love is a better college player than NBA prospect due to his lack of speed, his ability to knock down shots from mid-range and on the perimeter mean that no matter what he will be able to contribute offensively.
The Pac-Ten player of the year is averaging 17.3 ppg, 10.6 rpg and 1.8 apg on the year. He's one of the few bigmen who makes those around him better with his great outlet passing and all around vision.
Should UCLA win it all this year, it's likely that Love will be taken somewhere in the lottery. If the Bruins fall short of a Championship, Love is still expected to leave for the NBA, but could see his draft stock slip some.
Though Robin lacks the shooting touch and draft intrigue of his twin brother Brook, he has had a tremendous string of games to close out the regular season and through the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.
On the year, Robin's numbers aren't at the level of his brother's at 10.3 ppg and 5.7 rpg. But he has been instrumental in Stanford's tournament success with 18 pts (7-10) and 9 reb against Marquette and 14 pts (7-9 fg) against Cornell.
Robin is less "NBA ready" than his brother and would benefit by returning for his junior season. He would be able to polish his offensive game as he would become the focal point of the Cardinal offense with his brother off to the NBA.
But the twins appear to be attached at the hip, and one leaving and one staying just no longer appears to be an option.
Robin is expected to follow Brook and leave school after this season and enter his name into the NBA draft. He is considered a likely mid-late first rounder due to his size, athleticism and potential.
With averages of 16.2 ppg and 4.3 rpg and 2.2 apg, while shooting extremely efficient 48% fg, 82% ft% and 42% 3p.
UNC is on a 13 game winning streak since losing to Duke on February 6th. Sophomore Wayne Ellington has been on fire over the past few weeks scoring in double figures in all but one game, and hitting 2 or more 3 pointers in all but one game. His 3 point shooting ability gives him a lot of intrigue for the next level.
On the negative side, he's a small 2-guard and lacks point guard skills even though he spent some time at the position in high school. He's also not the most explosive player, although he has great quickness and is extremely agile.
There are rumors swirling that Ellington will enter his name in the draft this year. His draft stock will surely be affected by how the Heels finish out the season. As of now he's a borderline first rounder. Should North Carolina win it all, there's a good chance Ellington, Hansbrough and Lawson would all elect to leave school and become first rounders.
Speaking to NBA folks after the weekend, the first name mentioned when the topic turns to players slipping is Roy Hibbert.
Hibbert had a nightmare conclusion to his impressive Georgetown career, fouling out in 16 minutes as the Hoyas bowed out of the tournament at the hands of Stephen Curry and Davidson.
The Hoya center has improved every year of his college career in some way, but appears to have plateaued to a degree in his senior year. Without Jeff Green around, Hibbert found fewer open shots and easy baskets.
Hibbert has some attributes that make him intriguing as he's a solid defender and shot blocker and he has some polished, effective post moves.
Though his statistics don't wow you, the Georgetown system is somewhat responsible due to their their defensive oriented slow down, back cutting style of play.
Early in the season, the consensus was that Hibbert was a probable lottery pick with a chance to go top ten. But after a disappointing overall season and showing in the tournament, his stock has dipped.
Hibbert turned down a guaranteed spot in the first round last season, and may have fallen some from where he would have gone. But he's still a lock first rounder and with good workouts could even climb back into late lottery discussion.
Gordon had a strong freshman season averaging 20.9 ppg on 43% fg and 83% 3p. The Kelvin Sampson firing following his phone obsession, rules violation obviously had a big effect on the team, including Gordon. But his early season wrist injury seemed to have the biggest affect on his declining play.
After February 10th, and over the final 10 games of the season, Gordon shot just 10-62 from 3 point land, taking his 3 point percentage all the way down to 33% on the season. Gordon finished the season with two straight 0-6 shooting performances from 3. His 3-15, 8 point performance in Indiana's tournament loss to Arkansas certainly didn't help his draft stock.
Regardless, scouts know full well what Gordon is capable of when healthy. His wrist injury obviously had a huge affect on his ability to play.
While Gordon's rough finish to the season have some concerned, scouts remain extremely high on him saying that he remains a likely top 5 pick and could still be taken as high as 3rd in the draft. His maturity and NBA readiness are both considered very strong.
With around a month left in the regular season, Shipp's outside shot went AWOL as he went on a 0-21 shooting slump from behind the arc. Since then he has recovered some, but has struggled to perform consistently. He's an excellent outside shooter, but he's been unable to show it.
Whether Shipp was thinking about the NBA too much, dealing with off court personal issues, or just plain lost his confidence, the slump has had an effect on his all around game.
He still has solid all around numbers and is a solid contributor to the team, but his greatest attribute, shooting from outside, has trailed off.
Shipp's 0 points in 37 minutes against Texas A&M and 4.8 point average over his last four games attest to his shooting woes. His 3 point percentage fell to 33% on the year, after being over 40% for the beginning half of the season.
Shipp hit one of the most memorable shots of the season with his Larry-Bird-over-the-backboard last second game winner over Cal which allowed UCLA to advance in the Pac-Ten tournament.
Regardless, Shipp's stock has taken a major hit and it will likely require returning for his senior season and working on his all around game to perform at a higher level to revive it. If he declares for the draft this year, it appears unlikely that he would be drafted.
Taylor was never able to live up to expectations this season. Whether it was Oregon's lack of a quality point guard, too many scorers looking for shots, or his own inability to step up and take charge, it was a disappointing season for the Senior guard.
Taylor had some solid performances, but for a player with first round aspirations going into the year, he struggled to get on track. Taylor finished out the year averaging 12.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.4 apg while shooting very solid numbers: 46 fg%, 82 ft% and 38 3p%.
The Ducks were coming off an Elite Eight finish last year, but were never able to replace the loss of Aaron Brooks, and no one seemed to suffer from his absence more than Taylor.
Taylor is considered a mid second rounder with a chance to move up with good perforamces in work outs and the draft camps.
Price had a tremendous junior season but appears to be snake bit after suffering a torn ACL in UConn's first round loss to San Diego. This coming off two lost seasons early in his UConn career due to a life threatening brain hemorrhage and a his well documented stolen laptop fiasco.
The injury showed just how vital Price is to their team, as the Huskies sputtered in the second half and fell to the 13 seed Torreros.
Price really developed well in his junior season and appeared to be a likely first rounder for 2009, but the injury clouds that. He will hope to make a full recovery during the offseason and come back as strong next season.
In his favor, point guards don't require the same explosiveness and leaping ability as a wing guard or interior player, so his speed returning to where it has been or close will be most important.