NCAA Tournament 2012: Eight Elite 8 Studs That'll Boost Their NBA Draft Stock
Syracuse, Louisville, Ohio State and Florida all advanced to the Elite Eight on Thursday night.
All four of these programs have excellent coaches and winning traditions.
On top of that, they each have players who will boost their NBA draft stock as they move into the next round and beyond.
Here are 10 players who could turn some NBA heads as they continue to do their thing in 2012 March Madness.
8. Gorgui Dieng (Louisville)
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Gorgui Dieng is quickly grabbing the attention of lots of people in college basketball and beyond.
His quickly-developing game is one of the reasons why the Cardinals will be facing Florida on Saturday in the Elite Eight.
The 6'11", 235-lb. sophomore from Senegal should get a lot of credit for Louisville's suffocating defensive effort on Thursday night. Dieng was ferocious against Michigan State (blocking seven shots, nabbing three steals, grabbing nine rebounds and scoring five points), knocking the first No. 1 seed out of the 2012 NCAA tournament.
ESPN.com's Eamonn Brennan reports that the Spartans' 44 points were the fewest scored by any No. 1 seed in the shot-clock era.
Dieng's offensive game needs to continue to come along and he needs to add weight and bulk to his lean frame.
But he is definitely getting on the NBA's radar and will help himself even more if he can launch Louisville into the Final Four.
7. Dion Waiters (Syracuse)
Dion Waiters is a key factor in Syracuse's super season and their current run to the Elite Eight in the 2012 NCAA tournament.
Waiters' timely 13 points helped the Orange hold off Wisconsin on Thursday night.
He is a skilled SG who has no trouble creating his own shot in the lane or on the perimeter.
The 6'4", 215-lb. sophomore has an NBA-ready body, exceptional range and also has the ability to knock down pull-up jumpers.
Waiters (12.6 ppg; 2.3 rpg; 2.6 apg) may be one year away from serious NBA consideration. But if he blows up against Ohio State, who knows where he will end up?
6. Deshaun Thomas (Ohio State)
If Deshaun Thomas isn't careful, he's going to be answering some serious questions...from NBA scouts.
The 6'7", 220-lb. sophomore forward is having a fantastic 2012 NCAA tournament.
In Ohio State's first three March Madness games this year, Thomas is averaging 25 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.
By hitting seven of his 15 three-point attempts in these games, he is demonstrating a nice touch from beyond the arc.
If he can keep up this high level of production, the Buckeye's very well could be New Orleans-bound.
5. William Buford (Ohio State)
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Even though William Buford had a sub-par game on Thursday against Cincinnati (four points, five rebounds and three steals), he is ready to make a huge impact on Ohio State's Final Four journey.
Buford is one of Ohio State's all-time leading scorers. In his four years in Columbus, he has established himself as one of the premier wings in the college game.
He not only can score (averaged in double figures all four years at OSU), but he also defends and rebounds his position well.
With OSU playing Syracuse on Saturday, Buford will benefit from another opportunity to show NBA scouts that he can deliver in big-game situations.
4. Patric Young (Florida)
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Patric Young continues to pretty much impress anyone who watches his game.
Playing in Florida's extremely perimeter-oriented attack, Young is not asked to score a truckload of points.
His 10.6 ppg scoring average could be significantly higher if he played in a more balanced offensive situation.
Young excels off the court, too. He was named the 2012 SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year. The 6'9", 250-lb. sophomore has earned a 3.37 grade-point average in Telecommunications.
Young's matchup with Louisville's Gorgui Dieng on Saturday will be an interesting matchup to keep your eye on.
3. Kris Joseph (Syracuse)
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Kris Joseph is the senior leader on Jim Boeheim's squad that will face Ohio State on Saturday.
Joseph is Syracuse's leading scorer at 13.5 ppg and the Orange depend on him to pull down rebounds and play nasty defense.
One of Joseph's challenges in terms of the NBA is that he plays PF in college. At 6'7" and 215 lbs., he projects as an SF at the next level.
After two decent first games in the tournament, Joseph had a mediocre outing against Wisconsin, scoring seven points on 3-of-8 shooting and only grabbing two rebounds.
Syracuse will need Joseph to bring his "A" game on Saturday if they are going to advance to the Final Four in New Orleans.
2. Bradley Beal (Florida)
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Bradley Beal may be the best NBA SG prospect right now in the college game.
Beal did a little of everything in the Gators' Sweet 16 victory over Marquette. He scored 21 points, grabbed six rebounds, handed out four assists, nabbed two steals and blocked two shots.
Not only is the 6'4" freshmen from St. Louis a pure shooter (14.8 ppg), but he also rebounds exceptionally well (6.7 rpg)
Add a high basketball IQ and phenomenal court vision to that package and you can see why Beal could be the first shooting guard taken in the 2012 NBA Draft.
1. Jared Sullinger (Ohio State)
Jared Sullinger is still a force to be reckoned with in the middle.
The 6'9", 265-lb. sophomore controlled the paint against Cincinnati on Thursday night, scoring 23 points and grabbing 11 rebounds as the Buckeyes advanced to the East Region finals on Saturday against Syracuse.
After an outstanding freshman season that saw him selected as the national freshman of the year, Sullinger, to many people's surprise, came back to campus to work on his game and help Ohio State do exactly what they are doing: making a deep run again in this year's NCAA tournament.
One facet of his game that he has improved this year is shooting beyond the arc. One of the knocks on his game last year is that he really didn't show that he could face the basket and still be much of an offensive threat.
On the season, Sullinger hit 42 percent of his three-pointers. So far, he has knocked down 3-of-5 in the three tournament games.
How Sullinger plays in the rest of the tournament may influence at what level of the NBA Lottery he might be chosen in the 2012 draft.