12 Players Who Hurt Their Stock in the 2014 NCAA Basketball Tournament
Before "One Shining Moment" had even finished playing at the conclusion of the 2014 NCAA men's basketball tournament, we had already begun mentally shifting gears to the offseason and thoughts of which players helped and hurt their NBA draft stock in the tournament.
As a point of full disclosure, I am by no means an NBA draft expert. (Based on my predictions throughout the tournament, I hardly even qualify as a college basketball expert anymore.) I'll certainly watch the draft on June 26, but I have no clue who needs what or which attributes are most valuable this year.
In lieu of that, I'm approaching this piece from a "Which players raised the most questioning eyebrows about their abilities to compete at a professional level?" perspective.
For the majority of these guys, they could have shot 0-of-12 from the field and committed 15 turnovers without moving the needle too far in the wrong direction. A bad game doesn't undo a great 32-game season any more than a single poor outing ruins a starting pitcher's chance at a Cy Young.
But let's just say that if you were on the fence about these players before the tournament, they didn't do much to convince you of their impending stardom.
Russ Smith, Louisville
When Louisville won the 2013 national championship, we all assumed the team's junior shooting guard and leading-scorer-by-a-wide-margin would depart for the NBA.
But Russ Smith heard the criticisms about being too much of a ball hog and not an efficient-enough scorer.
Would he be a point guard or a shooting guard at the next level? If the former, he didn't distribute the ball anywhere near as often as he should have. If the latter, how could he become a prolific three-point shooter in the NBA if he could barely make them in college?
To silence the doubters, Smith came back for his senior year, becoming a much-improved shooter, passer and decision-maker.
But that all went out the window in the tournament.
Smith shot 38.5 percent from the field, 15.4 percent from three-point range and 64.5 percent from the free-throw line. He had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.87 and reverted to his Russ-diculous ways by attempting 20 field goals against just three assists in the Sweet 16 loss to Kentucky.
If you watched Smith play during the season, you saw a significantly improved player. By Ken Pomeroy's metrics, Smith was the best player in the country (subscription required). But there was a pretty clear difference from his approach in February against Temple to that which he displayed in late March.
LaQuinton Ross, Ohio State
Take away Ohio State's NCAA tournament game, and LaQuinton Ross had a pretty fantastic finish to the season. In his final six games before Selection Sunday, Ross averaged 20.7 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.
In the loss to Dayton, however, Ross needed 12 field-goal attempts to score 10 points and had as many turnovers (five) as rebounds, blocks and steals combined.
Worst of all, Ross failed to display that killer instinct needed to become a prominent scorer on a winning team. Over the final 11 minutes, Ross only attempted two shots.
He missed both of those three-pointers.
As SB Nation's Sam Vecenie wrote in his well-researched near-novel about whether or not Ross is making the right decision by going to the NBA:
Ross is a guy that, with some coaching and development, can really improve his game and get drafted into a better career situation by waiting until 2015. I don't fault Ross for his decision given the current climate of college basketball and his life situation, but I do think that he is one of the few players that could benefit by holding off.
Semaj Christon, Xavier
Way back on the very first day of the 2014 NCAA tournament, Xavier was eliminated by North Carolina State, and Semaj Christon didn't look like anything special.
Against one of the least aggressive defenses in the country, Christon committed seven turnovers.
He had done a much better job than last season at limiting those mistakes, but that matched a season high and was the third time in his last five games that he committed at least five turnovers. In the other two games during that stretch, he attempted more than 20 field goals and scored fewer than 20 points.
Christon has all of the skills to be an incredible player. However, he tried to become too much of a one-man show down the stretch, and it became a real detriment to the team as the Musketeers lost four of their last five games.
He has declared for the NBA, but I think it's a mistake.
He'll wind up somewhere on the cut line between late first round and early second round. But considering the minimal turnover on Xavier's roster, its well-above-average incoming class of recruits and the considerable drop in talent around the rest of the Big East, one more year in college could have conceivably vaulted Christon into a top-10 type of talent.
Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
The actual, physical ankle injury that Willie Cauley-Stein suffered against Louisville won't do anything to negatively impact his draft stock. If Nerlens Noel could get drafted No. 6 overall with a torn ACL, a sprained ankle certainly won't be a problem.
But the fact that Kentucky played just fine without Cauley-Stein is a bit alarming.
Obviously, the Wildcats' continued success without him was a testament to how well Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee can play, but it at least makes one wonder exactly what value Cauley-Stein would be bringing to an NBA team.
Cauley-Stein blocks a lot of shots, but he also commits a lot of fouls. He doesn't provide much value when it comes to offense, either.
Why take Cauley-Stein (11.5 points, 10.2 rebounds, 4.8 blocks and 4.5 fouls per 40 minutes) with a lottery pick if a guy like UNLV's Khem Birch (14.7 points, 13.0 rebounds, 4.8 blocks and 2.9 fouls per 40 minutes) will be there in the second round?
If Cauley-Stein was healthy for Kentucky's run to the championship game, that's not a question anyone would be asking. Throw in Cauley-Stein's atrocious free-throw shooting (42.6 percent over his two years at Kentucky), and it's hard to believe a rebuilding team would use him as one of its primary pieces.
Kendall Williams, New Mexico
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
After emphatically bursting onto the NBA radar last year with a 46-point game against Colorado State, we started buying into Kendall Williams and the No. 3 seed New Mexico Lobos.
They won one game in the previous year's tournament and were ready to build on that success—right up until they lost to Harvard and Williams made one field goal while committing four fouls and two turnovers.
But hey, they learned from that experience, right? When the Lobos were the No. 7 seed matched up with a short-handed Kansas in the round of 32, they immediately became a sleeper team once again.
Except they never woke up.
Cameron Bairstow had himself a monstrous game and season to potentially sneak into the second round of the draft this June, but Williams scored three points on nine field-goal attempts to deliver his second dud in as many tournaments.
He'll play professionally somewhere. He finished his senior season averaging 16.0 points, 4.9 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game, which is eerily similar to the numbers that Xavier's Tu Holloway posted in his senior season before going undrafted and eventually ending up in Turkey.
It's just disappointing that Williams never seemed capable of showcasing his talents on the national stage.
George Beamon, Manhattan and Taylor Braun, North Dakota State
For most NBA hopefuls, the NCAA tournament serves as either the icing on the cake or a blip on the radar of a resume with dozens of already oft-dissected games.
For others like Manhattan's George Beamon and North Dakota State's Taylor Braun, the tournament is one of the only opportunities for seniors with gaudy numbers to show what they're capable of doing against real opposition.
Neither delivered on expectations.
Beamon entered Manhattan's game against Louisville as one of the more frequent foul-shooters in the country, but he attempted zero freebies against the Cardinals. He averaged 19.2 points per game during the season but scored just seven on the biggest stage.
Braun had two chances to prove his worth after the Bison upset Oklahoma in the round of 64, but he struggled in both games. Braun made just 5-of-25 field-goal attempts after shooting 49.1 percent during the regular season.
Zach LaVine, UCLA
Of all the players declaring for the NBA in the past month, Zach LaVine makes the least amount of sense.
LaVine had some good games this season, but he was arguably the fifth-best guard on a team that earned a No. 4 seed in the tournament. What's next? Louisville's Terry Rozier bolting for the NBA?
LaVine scored a grand total of eight points in his three NCAA tournament games. He averaged just one point for every 7.1 minutes on the court and was responsible for a whopping 3.6 percent of UCLA's scoring during that trip to the Sweet 16.
With a great tournament run, I absolutely could have seen him leaving for the NBA. But after those three games? Really?
Of course, with LaVine the decision has less to do with his immediate prospects in the NBA and more to do with his disappointment in his role in Steve Alford's system.
As LaVine's father told the Los Angeles Daily News in regard to the frustration over Alford's evident refusal to give LaVine a fair shake in the rotation, "It’s like a marriage. If it doesn’t work out, you get a divorce. I don’t blame anybody."
LaVine's godfather, Marvin Carter, added, "I just wish Zach had more of a chance to compete. Every year he spends at UCLA after this one is a waste. It really is."
Plenty of us are familiar with feeling screwed out of playing time because of a coach's insistence on giving playing time to his son, but we didn't take that frustration and suddenly decide to jump a level without ever excelling at the original one.
Who knows if he could have gotten immediate eligibility somewhere else, but if it was apparent that he wasn't going to start at UCLA, it might have been in LaVine's best interest to transfer elsewhere for a year.
Rodney Hood, Duke
Rodney Hood couldn't have picked a worse time to have his worst scoring output of the season.
Then again, it makes perfect sense that Hood saved his worst for last, because the most frustrating thing about him is his propensity to completely disappear in the second half of games.
That tendency was on full display in the loss to Mercer. Hood was held scoreless in the second half. In fact, completely disappearing would have been an upgrade compared to his 0-of-3 shooting effort, three turnovers and three fouls over the final 11 minutes of the game.
Hood has so much raw talent, but we rarely saw him harness it for an entire game. And for a player who projects as a three-point shooter and not much else at the next level, he certainly dealt with bouts of passivity when it came to creating his own shot.
With the ridiculous amount of talent that Duke has recruited for next season, it doesn't even make sense for Hood to stay for another season. But his inevitable departure for the NBA would have made more sense after a couple of impressive games in the tournament.
Wayne Selden Jr., Kansas
Good on Wayne Selden Jr. for being one of the few potential early entrants on this list who actually is coming back for another year, because he had a dreadful tournament.
During the regular season and Big 12 tournament, Selden averaged 10.2 points per game. However, in Kansas' two NCAA tournament games, he only scored four more points than you, me and Joel Embiid.
Even if he had a great tournament run, though, he needed another year of grooming. For a 6'5" shooting guard who doesn't do a ton of rebounding, assisting or stealing, his three-point shooting (32.8 percent) is pretty dreadful.
If you can remember the days before Aaron Harrison became "Aaron the Assassin," he and Selden had very similar seasons, with the biggest exception being that Harrison was a better free-throw shooter and a slightly bigger focal point of his team's offense.
And even after Kentucky's memorable run, Harrison is maybe a late first-round draft pick. Selden would have been lucky to be a first-round pick, but he'll almost certainly be a lottery pick after one more year in college.
Cady Lalanne, Massachusetts
For Cady Lalanne, this was a tale of two seasons.
Through his first 18 games, Lalanne was averaging 14.0 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Massachusetts was 16-2 and ranked No. 13 in the AP Top 25, and he had a double-double in 50 percent of the Minutemen's games. The junior forward was slowly but surely getting noticed in NBA draft circles.
But something changed in late January.
Over his last 15 games, he averaged 8.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. He had just one double-double in an 11-point home loss to 11-20 George Mason.
In Massachusetts' one tournament game, Lalanne was absolutely destroyed in the paint. Tennessee's Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes each had a double-double and combined for 37 points and 25 rebounds. Lalanne finished the game with eight points and seven rebounds, unable to do much of anything on either end of the court.
Good news for Massachusetts that he'll presumably be back next year, but if he and the Minutemen had been able to maintain their fast start, Lalanne could have developed into a first-round pick.
Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
The problem with scouting is that you never truly know if less is more until you actually get more from that player.
Throughout the first three months of the season, Tyler Ennis was a fantastic point guard. For my money, he was the best point guard in the country during Syracuse's 25-game winning streak to open the season.
He was averaging just under nine field-goal attempts per game and 13.6 points, 6.6 assists and 2.5 steals per 40 minutes. He was also averaging 1.32 points per field-goal attempt. Clearly he could run the offense, but we wanted to know if he could develop into a more assertive scorer.
And when Syracuse started losing games, he proved that he shouldn't be the primary shooting threat.
Sure, his points per game skyrocketed from 11.6 over the first three months of the season to 16.2 points per game over his last nine games, but both he and the team suffered for it.
As Syracuse closed out the season with losses in six of its last nine games, Ennis' number of field-goal attempts per game jumped from 8.9 to 15.2. His peripheral numbers dropped to 5.2 assists and 2.2 steals per 40 minutes.
He averaged 17.5 points per game in the NCAA tournament, but he needed 16 field-goal attempts per game to get there. Over his last nine games, his points per field-goal attempt plummeted to 1.07.
Ennis could have a fantastic career as an NBA point guard, provided he fully embraces the position. If he tries to model his career after Rajon Rondo instead of Kyrie Irving, he'll be an asset wherever he lands.
I just think his draft stock would be much higher if he had figured that out two months ago.
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.