While early entry is the norm for most top tier NCAA prospects, in most drafts there are more seniors drafted than any other class of player. In 2012, the first senior chosen was Tyler Zeller at 15. While there were only 4 taken in the first round, 21 were drafted overall, by far the most of any class. There is still great value in choosing a player who has taken their time with the college process. Some players bloom late and some teams can really benefit from a player who has matured mentally as well as physically through 4 years of college experience. Here are our top 15 seniors with the NCAA tournament beginning today:
1. CJ McCollum 6-3 190 PG Lehigh Sr.
As a dominating scorer from a smaller school, McCollum was having an All-American level season before succumbing to a broken left foot after playing 12 games, but his body of work still puts him amongst the candidates for first senior taken in the 2013 draft.
McCollum has adept scoring and dead eye shooting ability. He was shooting a high volume of three pointers at a 51.6% clip, while averaging close to 24 ppg before going down with a broken foot. The senior PG is very shifty and quick while displaying a nose for the ball. Playing PG at the NBA level will be an adjustment, but McCollum always has his scoring to fall back on. Only a month older than Michael Carter-Williams, McCollum has the skill to be in the conversation as a lottery pick.
2. Mason Plumlee 6-10 245 PF Duke Sr.
With Duke getting off to a 15 game win streak to start the season, Plumlee was one of the early leaders for college player of the year. Even with that talk dying down, he is is having an All-American type season, showing a great deal of improvement in his touch and awareness on the offensive end. Also an improved free throw shooter, Plumlee still shows limited range and will have to add strength. He also is not incredibly long, which could cause him issues on defense at the next level. Coming back for his senior season has been a good decision and he seems like a likely top 20 selection with lottery hopes.
3. Nate Wolters 6-4 190 PG North Dakota Sr.
Last year, Nate Wolters torched University of Washington for 34 points in a win on their home floor. For his senior season, Wolters had more marquee performances, scoring 28 on the home court of a strong New Mexico squad. He also went off for 53 points against IPFW, more than any player in the past 3 seasons. But Wolters can do more than just score as he has averaged over 5 rebounds and close to 6 assists the past two seasons as well. After an anomaly type of season from behind the arc in his junior year, he upped his percentage to 39, while shooting 49.3% from the field overall. South Dakota State once again represented the Summit League in the NCAA tournament, as he matched up with Trey Burke and limited his effectiveness.
4. Isaiah Canaan 6-1 195 PG Murray State Sr.
The Murray State Racers were one of the better stories of last year’s NCAA season and sort of an afterthought during this one. Losing a close OVC title game to Belmont has not really helped their star garner the accolades he was receiving last season around this time. Isaiah Canaan is a tough, strong guard who has been a fantastic shooter at a high volume during his career at Murray State, enough to believe he could provide a scoring guard role for some team out there. He is on the small side and more of a combo than a true point. His toughness and consistency make him a likely late first round or early second round selection.
5. Erick Green 6-3 195 PG/SG Virginia Tech Sr.
After a 7-0 start to the season, including an impressive victory over Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech limped to the finish line. Regardless, Erick Green led the nation in scoring and his leadership garnered enough respect for him to win the ACC Player of the Year. His consistency this season was very impressive and he has the size to be a combo guard, though the ultimate hope is for him to play the point. Playing well against top competition tends to tell people you can provide something at the next level and look for Green to be one of the more talked about guards in this draft.
6. Jeff Withey 7-0 240 C Kansas Sr.
Withey’s defensive presence for Kansas the past few seasons has been invaluable. His shot blocking has been elite and his over 2:1 block to foul ratio shows he can do so without having to go to the sidelines for prolonged periods of time. More of an offensive threat this season, he still lacks range and will have to deal with much quicker, stronger players at the NBA level as opposed to dominating with his size as he often does at the NCAA level. Bill Self really seemed to do wonders with Withey and it looks like he can provide value as a defensive back-up center at the next level as he continues to work on his back to the basket offense.
7. Rodney Williams 6-7 210 SG/SF Minnesota Sr.
At the NBA level, most players can score if given some opportunity. Defense is a huge mark of separation. This is why Rodney Williams may possess more NBA level value than his average numbers may indicate. Sort of a poor man’s Josh Smith, Williams is a very high level athlete and has never really been able to put it all together to become a major offensive threat at the college level. One thing he can do is defend multiple positions and use his quickness to do a great job staying in front of his man. If a team is willing to put in time with Williams on his ability on the offensive side of the ball, they could be getting a potentially solid defensive minded wing.
8. Trevor Mbakwe 6-8 245 PF/C Minnesota Sr.
After an unfortunate ACL injury ending his junior season after 7 games, Trevor Mbakwe battled back to be a big contributor this season for Minnesota. Though he is 6-8, Mbakwe’s wingspan is in the 7-foot-3 area, which combined with his strength and athleticism can make him a disruptive defender. Cody Zeller can attest to that, as he was held to 9 points on 2-9 shooting from the field while Mbakwe finished with 21 points, 12 rebounds and most importantly a 77-73 win which was undoubtedly Minnesota’s biggest of the year. The problem is, these performances are few and far between. Some issues off of the court also could lead to teams questioning whether they want to gamble on Mbakwe. The strength and length are intriguing, though his offense is still on the raw side as far as the next level is concerned.
9. Kenny Kadji 6-11 245 PF Miami Sr.
One of the main reasons Miami was the surprising winner of the ACC regular season title was the play of this Cameroonian native. A top ranked high school center recruit, Kadji struggled during his first two college seasons at Florida before finding his spot as a big stretch 4 with the Hurricanes. Kadji is turning 25 and May, yet still seems to need some time in the weight room to be ready to contribute at the NBA level. Rebounding has improved, though again could be a concern. Still, near 7-footers with his ability to shoot the ball are very intriguing and his play this season makes him worth a 2nd round gamble.
10. Mike Muscala 6-10 240 PF/C Bucknell Sr.
The two-time Patriot League player of the year has led the Bison to a 28-5 record this season, all while being one of the more efficient players in the nation. Muscala has improved his rebounding a great deal, is close to an 80% FT shooter and seems to make very few mistakes considering what a focal point he plays in Bucknell’s offense. The minuses to Muscala are the fact that he has not faced much top competition and may struggle against strong and athletic NBA bigs. He had a poor showing in Bucknell’s opening round loss to Butler shooting just 4-17 with 9 pts. He will have a chance to prove himself at the draft combine, though his work at Bucknell has him locked in on our draft board.
11. Solomon Hill 6-7 230 SF Arizona Sr.
Hill has done a little bit of everything for the Wildcats the past two seasons and has been a team leader. Playing much more of a wing role during his senior season, he has the size and strength to garner utility possibility at the pro level. He will still need to work on his decision making and sort of suffers from tweener status due to his lack of size at the 4 and lack of ideal speed/athleticism for the 3. Hill still knows how to fit into a system and provides a toughness that should keep him on the radar of NBA teams.
12. Ryan Kelly 6-11 230 PF Duke Sr.
If people did not think Ryan Kelly was valuable to Duke, they just had to watch the past few games to see how wrong they were. Duke is 19-1 with Kelly in the line-up and while they were still a strong team in Kelly’s 13 game absence, with him on the floor they look like a championship contender. He provides match-up problems with his size and ability to stretch the floor and four years in Mike Krzyzewski’s system has made him a very smart, crafty player. His 36 point, 7 three pointer performance in a 79-76 win over Miami showed that Kelly is back from injury and displayed an edge to his game. Rebounding, and lack of athleticism are concerns, though if Duke goes far, Kelly’s value will be increased.
13. Michael Snaer 6-5 200 SG Florida St. Sr.
Nobody was more disappointed in Snaer’s senior season than the player himself. After stating his expectation of being the nation’s top SG, he struggled as the primary scorer and his Florida State team struggled to live up to expectations. What Snaer does have going for him is solid athletic ability and a penchant for hard nosed defense. Also known for his ability to perform in the clutch, Snaer sunk ACC foes Clemson, Maryland, Georgia Tech and Virginia on buzzer beating buckets this season. While he did little to catapult his stock to high levels with his overall play in his last season as a Seminole, his prototypical size and nice physical tools make him worth a look as a back-up wing guard.
14. Carrick Felix 6-6 196 SG/SF Arizona St. Sr.
A very strong athlete, Felix has made great strides during his time as a Sun Devil and turned in a very strong senior year. Leading a surprising ASU team in rebounding and steals while shooting over 50% from the field, his defensive acumen gained praise throughout the Pac-12 conference and even at the national level. Lacking ideal ball skills for a 2 guard and size for the 3, he is a bit of a tweener, though his ability to defend either position is of definite value. He will need to gain strength and improve his shooting once at the pro level, though his impressive play has at least made this a possibility at the NBA level.
15. James Ennis 6-7 210 SG/SF Long Beach St.
Leading his team in points, assists, steals and blocks, James Ennis showed a great deal of versatility on the wing. LBSU played a strong non-conference schedule, with Ennis never scoring fewer than double digits, though at the same time never really having a break out performance. Even so, he has great size for the wing, a developing offensive game and some definite bounce that could translate to the next level. He has a lot of potential at the defensive end and made huge strides from his junior to senior season, where after a JUCO stint he was garnering notice. The Big West POY may need to go to Portsmouth to get to the pre-draft camp, just believe that a number of teams will want to see how Ennis works out against top talent. We believe he could indeed stand out.
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