The 2013 NBA draft is still months away, but the NCAA tournament's Final Four in Atlanta will showcase some of the most intriguing talent in the college game.
Several future surefire pros will take the court on Saturday night, and it will be interesting to see how they fare in games of such massive magnitude. The Michigan Wolverines have two standouts that could go in the lottery, while the two other big-name programs remaining each boast promising prospects of their own.
Here is a breakdown of the players likeliest to hear their names called relatively early on June 27 by NBA commissioner David Stern.
Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville Cardinals
The Big East Defensive Player of the Year is a paint enforcer, but may lack the offensive skill set to be a lottery pick. Still, that shouldn't prevent him from going in Round 1. However, it is worth noting that he is a great passer, and would be a great "glue" guy as an NBA rookie.
Any team looking for an upgrade in its interior defense should look to Dieng at some point in the top 30 of the draft. The only problem is, this class is relatively stacked at center with the likes of Nerlens Noel, Cody Zeller, Alex Len and Kelly Olynyk likely to be in the mix along with Kansas senior Jeff Withey.
Dieng has a huge 7'4" wingspan that alters virtually every shot that he contests. His unique athleticism allows him to consistently be in the proper position to protect the rim and also to rack up a lot of rebounds.
The No. 9 seed Wichita State Shockers are one of the best rebounding teams in the country, and should provide a stern, physical test for Dieng on Saturday evening.
In the Cardinals' most recent game against Duke, Dieng put on a show in notching 14 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks. Another productive outing can only enhance his stock, as all the aforementioned big men are no longer in the Big Dance.
Trey Burke, PG, Michigan Wolverines
Burke hit arguably the biggest shot of the NCAA tournament, a last-second three-pointer to knot Michigan's eventual overtime triumph over No. 1 seed Kansas in the Sweet 16.
In addition to being an outstanding facilitator and setting up his teammates, Burke has the all-around offensive game to be an exceptional scorer even in his first pro season.
At 6'1" and 175 pounds, the super sophomore isn't too physically imposing, but he is strong with the basketball and plays bigger than his frame would suggest. That underrated strength and lateral quickness also allows him to be a stout perimeter defender.
When Burke is in the open court, he is extremely dangerous. Decision-making is also not an issue, as he rarely presses, remains composed and changes gears effortlessly to keep the defense on its heels. The fact that he's had to shoulder the scoring load on his own frequently for the Wolverines should prepare him well for the NBA leap.
After Burke won the Wooden Award on Saturday, ESPN Stats & Info's tweeted anecdote highlights just how precocious the Michigan guard is:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Trey Burke joins T.J. Ford (2003) as the only underclassman guards to win the Wooden Award4/5/2013, 3:45:03 PM
Michigan will look to Burke to fill it up once again in a tough matchup with the Syracuse Orange and their renowned 2-3 zone. Another stellar showing will only enhance Burke's stock, especially considering how much Syracuse's opponents have struggled against the Orange's defensive scheme.
Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse Orange
The sophomore has been outstanding leading up to the national semifinals. Carter-Williams ranks third in the nation with 7.4 assists per game, and has managed to keep his turnovers down in the midst of Syracuse's impressive run.
At 6'6", he has exceptional size for a point guard, and may even see some time as a 2-guard in the NBA. The court vision that Carter-Williams possesses makes everyone around him better and should allow him to thrive immediately in the pros.
Due to his ranginess, he is able to create his own shot and beat his man off the dribble with a quick, explosive move toward the basket.
Carter-Williams' length also puts heat on opponents on the defensive end, and in averaging nearly three steals per game, he shows a knack for getting his hands into passing lanes.
There is also plenty of room for Carter-Williams to pack on some weight, and his game would benefit at the next level with some added strength.
Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart and Burke may be better purer scorers than Carter-Williams, but he is the best distributor in this class. He will have a golden opportunity to square off against Burke in Atlanta, and if he is able to lock him down and put up big numbers offensively, he should secure his status as a top-10 pick.
Glenn Robinson III, F, Michigan Wolverines
When watching GRIII on the court, it's almost hard to believe he isn't a guard. Robinson has outstanding fluidity and ball-handling skills while also sporting the frame and rebounding ability of a dynamic forward.
One year may be too short of a stay in Ann Arbor for Robinson, but should he decide to declare for the draft, he is essentially guaranteed to be a first-round pick.
Lack of consistency is a concern with respect to Robinson's effort, as he has shown a tendency to get out of rhythm and disappear for stretches as a Wolverine. However, that is to be expected from a raw freshman.
Robinson's physical gifts alone make him worth taking a flier on him in the lottery; he has an incredible amount of upside and an ideal basketball IQ. That will help him be an instant bench contributor as a sparkplug swingman.
It may take a while for Robinson to develop into a surefire NBA starter, but the squad that has the patience should be rewarded with a potential perennial All-Star.
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