NCAA Tournament 2012: 3 Players Who Are Drastically Improving Their Draft Stock

Amelia AhlgrenContributor IIIMarch 19, 2012

NCAA Tournament 2012: 3 Players Who Are Drastically Improving Their Draft Stock

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    While upset stories are the darling of the NCAA tournament, Cinderellas exist on the individual level as well.

    Some players in this year's Big Dance have risen from obscurity and are now revered nationwide as top NBA draft prospects.

    Others are turning around a tarnished image to once again rise to the top of scouts' lists.

    Here are three guys whose draft stock has risen commensurate with their NCAA performance.

3. C.J. McCollum

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    Diehard college basketball fans may not be surprised to hear the nation raving over C.J. McCollum's NBA potential, but most of the nation was stunned by his stellar performance against Duke in their March Madness matchup.

    Yes,'s Chad Ford had already pegged him to be a late first-round pick and yes, in the 2011 regular season McCollum was bringing down the sixth-most points of NCAA players. However, it was his contribution to Lehigh's first-ever tournament win that will have the nation talking about the shooting guard's draft prospects.

    McCollum is used to being overlooked.

    As a college recruit, no major conference schools sought him out. He was courted by the likes of Bowling Green, Kent State and Akron before ultimately settling on Lehigh.

    While the shooting guard has spent his years as a Mountain Hawk burying buckets, it's been hard for the nation to watch him grow.

    In the 2011 season, Lehigh was featured on national television just over a handful of times.

    But when Lehigh drew Duke in this year's Big Dance, McCollum didn't hesitate to make an emphatic debut while he had the nation's attention.

    He dropped 30 points and drew 13 fouls against the Goliath, turning our attention to the guard's draft prospects after Lehigh's exit from the tournament.

2. C.J. Leslie

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    C.J. Leslie may be the second C.J. on this list, but it is certainly for good reason.

    The forward has been on a rampage campaign to quash doubts about his performance.

    Analysts at (among others) have aired concerns about his ability to play hard, commenting,

    If he's going to be successful at the next level, he'd be well served to show a more consistent motor running the floor.

    However, Leslie has displayed a fire-in-the-belly attitude during the tournament as he led his No. 11 seeded North Carolina State Wolfpack past San Diego State and Georgetown to the Sweet 16.

    He's shooting over 47 percent and averaging 14.5 points in the Big Dance (numbers on par with his regular-season statistics), but what will have scouts talking most is his consistent effort on the floor.

    Leslie has played with tremendous heart, including against Georgetown when he swiped the ball from the Hoyas and dunked it with just seven seconds remaining in the first half.

    This new relentless playing style has most certainly elevated Leslie's NBA draft stock.

1. Tu Holloway

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    Despite not swinging his fist in Xavier's December brawl with Cincinnati, Tu Holloway raised some eyebrows when he claimed that Xavier "(has) a whole bunch of gangsters in the locker room."

    These misguided post-brawl comments, combined with some inconsistent shooting throughout the season, caused Holloway's draft stock to plummet.

    But it is back on the rise after a stellar Big Dance performance to date.

    Holloway dropped 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting against Notre Dame.

    He was Xavier's clutch guy in that game, burying a bucket with 12 seconds left to give the Musketeers a one-point lead over the Irish.

    Holloway issued a repeat performance against Lehigh, raking in 21 points to help Xavier put an exclamation point on its win over the Mountain Hawks.

    If Holloway can continue to play consistently for the rest of Xavier's run, scouts will have to reconsider ranking him as a late second-rounder.