7 Teams with the Most NBA Talent in the 2014 Sweet 16
As the madness of March continues, it's time to break down the Sweet 16 teams that boast the most NBA talent.
NCAA success doesn't automatically translate to pro talent, as several strong teams don't have many (or any) prospects.
In fact, the Sweet 16 squad that topped our rankings is one of the lowest-ranked seeds still remaining in the tournament.
This list includes teams that have at least three NBA prospects on their roster. Rankings are based on potential level of NBA impact and total number of prospects.
7. Louisville Cardinals
Probable 2014 Draftees: Montrezl Harrell, Russ Smith
Future Draftees: Wayne Blackshear, Terry Rozier
The 2013 national champs returned a strong squad for 2013-14, including one of the most imposing physical specimens in the 2014 draft.
Louisville's Montrezl Harrell sports a 7'3" wingspan, a strong physique and loads of vertical bounce and agility. He dominated the AAC paint throughout this season, and he'll be a handful for opposing frontcourts in the NBA. Although his skill level is in its early stages, he knows how to finish strong and sink short-range jumpers.
As a rebounder, transition finisher and defensive playmaker, he provides terrific value in the middle of the first round.
A discussion of Louisville basketball would be worthless without the mention of Russ Smith, even if he's a second-round prospect. "Russdiculous" has evolved nicely as a combo guard, averaging 6.4 assists per 40 minutes as a senior and shooting 40 percent from three-land.
His speed on both ends of the floor makes him an exciting reserve option, but his 6'0" body will cause some mismatches for his club.
6. Florida Gators
Probable 2014 Draftees: Patric Young, Chris Walker, Scottie Wilbekin*, Casey Prather*
Future Draftees: Michael Frazier, Kasey Hill, Dorian Finney-Smith
Although top-seeded Florida has a bunch of potential NBA players, it ranks lower on our list because Patric Young and Chris Walker are the only prospects with good odds of getting drafted in 2014.
Both of them have garnered draft interest primarily based on their physical tools. Young has tormented opponents for four years with his strength and tenacity in the paint, but his draft stock is held in check by a limited scoring repertoire. He's improved as an interior scorer a little over the years but not enough to prove he could regularly post up opponents or knock down mid-range jumpers.
Walker's NBA appeal revolves around how he could potentially utilize his 6'9" frame and ample athleticism. He has played limited minutes for Billy Donovan, so we haven't seen him operate in a sustained role. At only 19 years old, he could develop into a dynamic power forward who can thrive on the boards and in the open floor.
As for the rest of the crew, their collegiate exploits don't figure to translate to NBA success in the near future. Scottie Wilbekin could latch on as a dependable reserve quarterback, Michael Frazier could stretch defenses, and Kasey Hill and Dorian Finney-Smith could carve out roles in the future.
*Not a lock to get drafted but projected to make an NBA roster
5. UCLA Bruins
Probable 2014 Draftees: Zach LaVine, Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams
All-Stars? Potentially LaVine
Only three UCLA Bruins are safely projected to play at the next level, but they include two of the most unique prospects of the 2014 class.
For starters, Kyle Anderson has legitimate point guard skills in a 6'9" body, as he continually demonstrates the vision, timing and touch of a gifted passer. His rebounding skills and improved mid-range jumper add value to his draft stock.
The big knocks against him are his foot speed and overall athleticism, as they're well below-average. He's going to have trouble guarding opponents and creating separation offensively in the NBA.
LaVine is an attractive risk-reward prospect due to his size, electrifying athleticism and fluid shooting stroke. He can go from Point A to Point B as fast as anyone in the college game, and he has combo-guard potential and enough leaping ability to stand out in the NBA.
But will he actually reach his ceiling? Can he become an advanced shot-creator and passer? It's far from guaranteed, which makes him a more uncertain commodity than some of his peers.
4. Michigan State Spartans
Probable 2014 Draftees: Gary Harris, Adreian Payne, Keith Appling
Future Draftees: Branden Dawson
All-Stars? Potentially Harris
While Michigan State isn't loaded with as many prospects as teams like Kentucky and Arizona, its top dogs are absolute studs.
Gary Harris has continually proved to be a versatile shooting guard who projects to be a substantial contributor on both ends of the NBA floor. If he can shoot the ball efficiently, he will reach some sort of stardom. He works craftily away from the ball to find shooting opportunities, and he's become a creative player once he gets the ball.
In the frontcourt, Adreian Payne is enjoying a magnificent postseason, including strong showings in the Big Ten tourney and a 41-point barrage in the NCAA tournament against Delaware.
He will likely land in the mid-first round because he has the size and skill set of a stretch 4. His long-range delivery is dangerous, and he's become increasingly comfortable finishing strong around the hoop.
Elsewhere, Keith Appling and Branden Dawson figure to be decent peripheral assets. They won't be standouts by any stretch of the imagination, but they know their roles and will be able to execute when opportunities present themselves.
3. Arizona Wildcats
Probable 2014 Draftees: Aaron Gordon, Nick Johnson
Future Draftees: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski
All-Stars? Potentially Gordon
With a robust collection of future NBA talent that plays together as a unit, it's no wonder Arizona is a No. 1 seed and Final Four hopeful.
The Wildcats' two safest draft picks are Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson, and they both possess sharp court sense and brilliant athleticism. Gordon couldn't keep up with the exploits of fellow "fabulous freshmen" forwards Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins, but he remains a great option in the lottery due to his versatility. His defense, rebounding, passing and timely scoring have drawn comparisons to Shawn Marion.
Johnson is on the bubble between the first and second rounds because he's not a pure point guard and doesn't have great size (6'3") to be a scoring guard. That being said, he has displayed the ability to facilitate and hit the open man, and there's plenty of spring in his step to hang with NBA-caliber athletes.
The rest of Sean Miller's crew should probably wait until next year to turn pro. Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski are quite promising, and they can do some serious damage when they get the ball in position to score.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is still raw from a ball-handling and shooting standpoint, but a productive March may boost his stock enough to push him out the door.
2. Michigan Wolverines
Probable 2014 Draftees: Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III
Future Draftees: Mitch McGary, Caris LeVert, Zak Irvin
All-Stars? None (Outside chance for Stauskas)
Due to Mitch McGary's back injury, we haven't seen the full force of Michigan's talent in 2013-14. That's pretty impressive, considering it's a No. 2 seed that won the regular-season Big Ten title.
Breakout years from Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert helped buoy the Wolverines to another huge year, and Glenn Robinson's contributions make it a trio of super-sophomores.
Stauskas is the only clear-cut 2014 first-rounder right now, as he's several notches above his teammates from a shot-creating and shooting standpoint. He's absolutely lethal if opponents give him room to breathe, and even when they apply solid defense, he can separate off the bounce and elevate to shoot. His court vision and instincts set him apart from most 2-guards.
Meanwhile, GR3 and LeVert are explosive contributors, especially in the open floor. They may jump to the NBA this spring, but that doesn't mean they're ready to handle the rigors of being pro swingmen.
McGary's situation is tricky. He possesses enough size, low-post skill and court awareness to warrant a mid-first-round pick, but his back may force him to return another season and rebuild his favor among NBA executives.
1. Kentucky Wildcats
Probable 2014 Draftees: Julius Randle, Willie Cauley-Stein, James Young
Future Draftees: Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Alex Poythress, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee
For the most part, John Calipari's last couple freshman classes haven't been quite as attractive to NBA scouts as we thought they would be.
However, Kentucky tops our list because it has a truckload of long-term professional potential. We're getting a good taste of it on this Sweet 16 run too.
Julius Randle stands out as the most NBA-ready player of the bunch, as he's already overwhelming college opponents and routinely notching double-doubles. If he can polish his footwork and ball skills a little more during his first couple of seasons, he could become an All-Star.
Behind him are several highly talented youngsters who could be key role players but not much more than that.
Willie Cauley-Stein had 4.8 blocks per 40 minutes this season, and he'll be an athletic rim protector and end-to-end energy guy in the NBA. James Young may develop into a smooth secondary scoring option if he improves his ball-handling. The Harrison twins have a solid chance of being more than role players, but they still have a lot to learn about efficiently operating a backcourt.
While Calipari's boys didn't exactly meet the NBA hype, they've helped their stock with solid showings in the SEC tourney and the Big Dance.