Stock Watch: Final Four
By Aran Smith
While Saturday's Final Four match ups didn't live up to the billing with a dream-scenario four number one seeds turning into two blow outs, there's still hope that Monday night's match up between Memphis and Kansas can have the excitement to make up for it. Here are the prospects that are rising and falling from Saturday's semifinal games in San Antonio.
The Derrick Rose destruction crew just continues to level everything within it's path. Rose's latest victim being Darren Collison who he tormented and toyed with in leading the Tigers to an easy victory over UCLA.
The superlatives and hyperbole continue to stack around Rose who is playing at a level unequaled at the college level right now.
A year ago, when Rose led his Simeon high high school team, which besides their floor general was short on high Division 1 talent, over an undefeated Oak Hill Academy and their stacked roster of high division one recruits, it was a clue as to just how good this Memphis team would be this year.
Rose's ability to make everyone around him better and dominate on both ends of the floor make him a can't miss NBA prospect. While Michael Beasley has had the more dominant individual performance, Rose has shown the ability to win, leading the Tigers to the championship game.
Rose's 25 points (7-16 fg) (11-12 ft) 9 boards and 4 dimes in the Final Four against one of the top defensive backcourts in the nation showed just how unstoppable this freshman phenom truly is.
Over the tournament, Rose is averaging 21.4 ppg, 5.6 apg, 6.6 rpg, and 1.2 turnovers. His dominance over the tournament is going to make it extremely difficult to pass on him with the first pick in the 2008 draft.
No one's dance moves were stronger than Brandon Rush's during Saturday's Final Four semi-finals. His 25 points led the charge as Kansas built a 28 point first half lead, withstanding a big second half push by North Carolina to reach the Championship game.
Rush's 11-17 shooting and clutch baskets were a huge lift for Kansas. His timely offensive rebound and putback ended a six minute second half scoring drought in which the Jawhawks saw their lead shrink from 18-4.
The talented wing had long been a player who failed to step up in big games and important situations. But he stepped up in an enormous game taking over when the Jayhawks needed him most and in doing so showed his maturation and ability to focus.
Rush's knee was a concern during the year coming off ACL surgery, but playing without the brace and moving around and showing that he's back to where he was athletically has squashed most of the fears about his knee.
He had a solid year (13.4 ppg) and an outstanding post season (20.6 ppg) which has given his stock a big boost.
Also impressive for the Jayhawks were Sherron Collins (11 pts, 4-9 fg) who's been a key sparkplug off the bench and nailed a couple of timely baskets, Mario Chalmers, who had 11 points on 5-10 shooting, and Darnell Jackson who helped contain Tyler Hansbrough, and was highly effective shooting 5-6 for 12 points in 17 minutes.
Rush scored 9 of the team's final 30 points to help lift Kansas to victory. His performance cements a place in the first round where he should find a spot in the late teens to early 20s.
CDR had a monster game on the biggest stage making a great case for why he deserves to be drafted in the first round this year.
While he lacks standout quickness and athleticism for the NBA level, he's got the craftiness of a veteran and just gets buckets. He is a scorer more so than shooter, who some how some way finds a way to put the ball in the basket.
While being covered by one of the nation's top defenders in Russell Westbrook for much of the game, CDR led all scorers with 28 points on 9-17 shooting.
His emphatic baseline dunk over Kevin Love was the game's signature moment providing a knock out blow as UCLA attempted a comeback in the closing minutes.
His defense is very solid as he's got long arms and the desire to play hard on both ends.
While lacking a strong physique and at times looking a bit frail, Douglas-Roberts has proven beyond any doubt that he is a prolific scorer with the intangibles to perform in the clutch.
He should battle for a place in the mid-to-late first round with the second tier of shooting guards consisting of Brandon Rush, Kyle Weaver, Richard Roby and Courtney Lee.
Westbrook was the lone bright spot for the Bruins with a strong 22 point (10-19) performance and did his best to help contain the premiere backcourt in the country in Rose and CDR, though for the most part in vain.
His incredible athletic prowess was on full display as he outrebounded bigger opponents and ran the court in his usual gazelle like fashion. He displayed his array of offensive skills even knocking down 2-3 from 3 point range.
Although the Bruins lost, Westbrook did nothing but enhance his stock with back to back excellent performances in the Bruins two biggest games of the season. While his skills would benefit by returning to UCLA, it's hard to fault a guy from leaving when they're projected as a lock first rounder with a good chance to go in the top 10 picks.
Collison had a miserable 1-9 shooting, 2 point performance, struggling mightily against a long athletic defender in Antonio Anderson.
He had his hands full on the defensive end as Rose is one of the top 10 point guards on the planet right now, and his speed and relentless attacking style are enough to take any college guard off his game.
Still, Collison's awful performance on such a big stage unquestionably hurt his stock. His fifth foul resulted in an unceremonious end to his season, as it appeared to be throwing up the white flag prematurely as the Bruins still had a glimmer of hope to get back into the game.
Collison was coming off an excellent Elite Eight performance against Xavier in which he scored 19 points on 7-12 shooting.
His body of work is still strong with three trips to the final four in his three years at Westwood, and though his body is slight, he's shown the speed and quickness to effectively run the point guard position. His jumpshot is another point of concern as he has an unorthodox release, but it's effective.
Collison's shot rimmed out on numerous occasions and with Rose pushing the tempo on the other end, the Bruins margin for error proved slim.
He was seen as a possible late lottery pick going into the Final Four, but is now more likely a late teen to early-20s pick.
After suffering a mid-season high ankle sprain, Ty Lawson never was able to fully get on track. While he had some solid games in UNC's run to the Final Four, his obviously has not returned to 100% and is lacking the amazing burst that defines his game.
Had North Carolina won it all, his stock surely would have received a big boost and he could have left for the draft and expected to be taken in the 20s. With North Carolina's blow out loss at the hands of Kansas, the sophomore point guard will need to return to Chapel Hill and continue to develop his skills.
His 2-8 fg, 9 point performance in the national semi-final is further proof that the sophomore point guard isn't ready for the next level. He did not display the ability to run the team and set teammates up that would suggest he's prepared for the next level.
While Lawson has phenomenal quickness, his size is a major concern and he will need to further his ability to get shots off at his size. Returning for his junior year would help to ensure his ability to successfully make the jump and possibly become an NBA starting point guard someday.
While Lawson's teammates fared a little better, Ellington going 8-21 for 18 points and Hansbrough finishing with 17 (6-13) and 9 boards.
All three Tar Heels, Lawson, Hansbrough and Ellington could possibly get into the first round this year, but none are a lock and all would benefit by returning for another season, as North Carolina would be the favorite to win a national championship with all of them back.