Entering the 2013 NCAA tournament, the Syracuse Orange were a team with encouraging talent but baffling inconsistency. For that reason, just 8.1 percent of ESPN Tournament Challenge brackets had Syracuse in the Final Four.
To our surprise, the Orange are in the Final Four, and their under-the-radar prospects are about to make their names well-known—so who has the most to gain in terms of draft stock?
The Orange may not have been expected to get here, but that doesn't mean the talent isn't in place. Syracuse has pieced together one of the deepest rosters in college basketball, with several players qualifying as NBA-caliber prospects.
While point guard Michael Carter-Williams has been established as a potential lottery pick, a few other Syracuse players are in that same conversation.
As we often see at this stage of the tournament, players can see their draft stock rise with just one outing. With that in mind, numerous players will be looking to boost their stock and subsequently push their team into the national championship game.
So who might those Syracuse Orange players be?
Throughout the duration of the 2012-13 season, Syracuse's most consistent source of production has been C.J. Fair. The 6'8" small forward has shot the ball at an elite clip, defended at a high level and run the floor in transition as well as anyone in the country.
Come the Final Four, Fair will be able to make the leap into the first round with a standout performance.
For the season, Fair has posted averages of 14.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 1.1 steals on 47.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Unfortunately, Fair has yet to garner the hype of other small forwards due to the system he plays in.
As a Syracuse product and a 2-3 zone alumnus, Fair will have questions to answer—regardless of what transpires.
With that said, Fair could be a high-quality contributor at the NBA level. Whether or not he needs another year at Syracuse is debatable, but there is no question that he possesses the physical tools necessary to thrive.
With a big performance during the Final Four, Fair could become a first-round lock.
Brandon Triche is a 6'4" point guard with a solid build and a high basketball IQ. With that said, Triche is also playing as an off-guard and shooting below 30 percent from beyond the arc.
If any Syracuse player needs a big performance, it's Triche.
Triche, a senior, is currently projected to go in the late second round, if he gets drafted at all. To put it simply, this young man must put forth an outstanding effort to draw the attention of scouts.
If not, the concerns about his lack of elite athleticism could be his undoing.
Truth be told, Triche is a better shooter than his percentages suggest. The fact of the matter is, there is no rational reason for him to attempt 4.3 three-pointers per game.
As a reserve lead guard in the NBA, Triche could prove his worth as a quality defender, facilitator and pinch shooter.
Matched up against the likes of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., Triche could go a long way toward building his draft stock. Not only will he be able to prove his defensive worth, but Triche could quiet concerns by shooting at a high rate.
One way or another, Triche needs to put on a great performance.
A case could be made for Rakeem Christmas, but he has the benefit of being a 6'9" sophomore with a 7'2" wingspan. The forward in dire need of a standout performance, however, is a senior small forward with good size but limited career production.
That player is James Southerland.
Southerland has been extraordinary in 2012-13, averaging 13.5 points and 5.2 rebounds in a well-balanced offense. He's shooting 40.3 percent from beyond the arc and has made 83 three-pointers thus far.
Southerland will need a huge shooting performance against Michigan to enter his name into the conversation of first-round draft choices.
Southerland is an elite shooter with superb size at 6'8". This alone makes him a valuable commodity at the NBA level, although it doesn't quite offset his status as a zone-first defender.
Southerland may be one-dimensional as a scorer, but he'll need to place that one area on full display against Michigan.