Every season it seems that at least one prospect absolutely lights it up during the NCAA tournament and significantly boosts his stock heading into the NBA draft.
In years past, notable examples include Stephen Curry’s outburst during Davidson’s underdog run, Jimmer Fredette shooting BYU into the Sweet 16 and Anthony Davis’ superb shot-blocking that led Kentucky to a national title.
Let’s take a look at the draft hopefuls who have soared up the big boards for their March Madness contributions in 2013.
Trey Burke, PG, Michigan
The Wolverines superstar took home every National Player of the Year award and brought his team to the cusp of a championship before falling short against Louisville.
Even in mid-January, when the Wolverines were rolling as arguably the best team in college basketball, the 6'0", 190-pound sophomore was widely regarded as a mid-first round pick at best.
However, after he carried Michigan through the Big Dance as a No. 4 seed, scouts and general managers finally fell in love with Burke’s ability to score, facilitate and—most importantly—win.
While undersized, Burke should be the second PG off the board after Marcus Smart and has very little chance of landing outside the lottery.
Mock Draft Projection: No. 6 – New Orleans Hornets
Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville
Dieng may not have been the most consistent player in the tournament (as evidenced by his zero points on one shot attempt in the Final Four against Wichita State), but the Cardinals big man stepped up when he needed to.
In 37 crucial minutes vs. Michigan, the Senegal native nailed 4-of-6 shots for eight points, hauled in eight rebounds, dished a ridiculous six assists, blocked three shots and even picked up a steal.
Dieng proved to onlookers that he could handle the pressure and come through in the clutch, a rare quality in young, athletic big men.
At 6'11", 245 pounds, this junior center has the size and explosiveness many franchises in the back half of the first round will be looking for.
He’s a bit raw, but his upside may be well worth the risk and development time.
Mock Draft Projection: No. 24 – New York Knicks
Mitch McGary, PF, Michigan
Because the Michigan Wolverines were the youngest team in the 2013 NCAA tournament, many of their under-the-radar talents finally had a chance to shine during a magical six-game stretch.
What will happen with McGary?
On a team full of risers, no player improved his stock more than freshman big man Mitch McGary. In just a few weeks, the freshman phenom went from being a relative unknown to a potential top-10 draft pick.
At 6'10", 250 pounds, McGary has the size and strength to dominate in the paint. He put those talents on display during the tournament, hauling in a ridiculous 10.7 rebounds per game over that stretch.
It’ll be interesting to see if the young man elects to return to Ann Arbor to hone his raw skills, or capitalizes on his stock being sky-high and declares for the upcoming NBA draft.
Mock Draft Projection: No. 8 – Oklahoma City Thunder