NCAA College Basketball: Top 10 Players With the Most To Gain from March Madness

Michael PerchickCorrespondent IFebruary 28, 2011

NCAA College Basketball: Top 10 Players With the Most To Gain from March Madness

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    NEW YORK - JUNE 24:  Wesley Johnson stands with NBA Commisioner David Stern after being drafted by The Minnesota Timberwolves at Madison Square Garden on June 24, 2010 in New York, New York.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    As Selection Sunday rolls around, teams will wait nervously to hear their names called.  A similar process will occur a few months later, as top players anxiously await hearing their names called at the NBA Draft.  

    Here we review 10 players with the most to gain from March Madness. 

Jimmer Fredette

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    SAN DIEGO, CA - FEBRUARY 26:  Jimmer Fredette #32 of the Brigham Young Cougars celebrates the win against the San Diego State Aztecs during the second half at Cox Arena on February 26, 2011 in San Diego, California. BYU beat SDSU 80-67. (Photo by Kent Hor
    Kent Horner/Getty Images

    Jimmer has watched his draft stock skyrocket as his magical season has continued.  But there are still a lot of questions about Fredette's decision-making and ability to handle the ball, especially in light of his recent turnover woes.

    Look at what the NCAA Tournament did for Steph Curry and his draft stock.  While Fredette is already being talked about as a late-lottery pick, he can move into the top 10 if BYU can make it to the second weekend, and Fredette can put up a couple big games. 

Keith Benson

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    MILWAUKEE - MARCH 19:  Keith Benson #34 of the Oakland Golden Grizzlies shoots the ball over Gary McGhee #52 of the Pittsburgh Panthers in the second half during the first round of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Bradley Center on March 1
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Unlike Jimmer, the name "Keith Benson" certainly doesn't get people talking. 

    Benson is Oakland's dominant big man, and as long as the Golden Grizzlies make the tournament, Benson will be able to show the country his stuff. At 6'11", 225 pounds, Benson can certainly stand to add up to 30 pounds of muscle to his core without giving up any of the athleticism that makes him tough to guard.

    He has a soft touch, a big wingspan (7'2"), and is terribly tough to guard inside.  Many teams will look at Benson as a matchup hell in the tournament, and a big tournament for Benson can push him into the late first round (meaning a guaranteed contract).  

David Lighty

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    COLUMBUS, OH - FEBRUARY 15:  David Lighty #23 of the Ohio State Buckeyes reacts while playing the Michigan State Spartans on February 15, 2011 at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Everybody thinks of Jared Sullinger when they think Ohio State.  But David Lighty has quietly put up a big season for the Buckeyes, who are likely to head into the tournament with a top seed. 

    But Lighty will have a chance to shine in the tournament as teams will do everything they can to stop Sullinger in the post.  If Lighty can put up a big tournament, he may be able to sneak into the back-end of the first round. 

Norris Cole

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    MIAMI - MARCH 20:  Guard Norris Cole #30 (R) of the Cleveland State University Vikings takes a shot over  guard L.D. Williams #42 (L) of Wake Forest Demon Deacons during the first round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the American Ai
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    Cleveland State's do-everything guard literally does everything.  Standing at only 6'1", Cole is averaging 21.6 PPG, 5.5 APG and six RBG.  That's right—a 6'1" guard who averages more rebounds than assists.  Cole even put up a 41 point, 20 rebound and nine assist performance earlier this month, displaying off all of his skills at once.

    Cleveland State pulled off a major upset a couple seasons ago as a No. 13 seed blowing out No. 4 seed Wake Forest, a team that featured nobody as touted as Cole.

    Cole is currently predicted as an early-second round pick, but my guess is that's because people haven't seen him play enough to use a first-rounder on him.  

    If Cole puts up a big game or two in the tournament (if Cleveland State makes it), Cole should skyrocket into a top 25 pick. 

Kemba Walker

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 27:  Kemba Walker #15 of the Connecticut Huskies pulls up for a three against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Petersen Events Center on December 27, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Walker was all the talk(er) in the beginning of the season, putting up highlight after highlight, hitting big shot after big shot.  He's still putting up big numbers, but has cooled down considerably since his blistering start.

    For Walker, a bad NCAA tournament showing can knock him back to the end of the first round.  A big tournament can knock him to the fringe of the lottery.  

    His decision-making has been his biggest flaw thus far, and if he's able to make big plays in key situations, that will be able to ease the minds of many NBA scouts.  But a late-game meltdown from the UConn star can doom his draft status.  

Chris Singleton

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    ORLANDO, FL - NOVEMBER 27:  Chris Singleton #31 of the Florida State Seminoles looks to pass against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the Old Spice Classic at Disney's Milk House on November 27, 2009 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Imag
    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    At 6'9", Singleton is a shut-down defender with the potential to be a matchup distraction at small forward.  His offensive game is not developed enough to establish any consistency, which has troubled both Florida State's offense and Singleton's draft status so far this season.  

    Singleton will have to show scouts some consistency in his offensive game, as well as the ability to create his own looks.  If Florida State is bounced early, and Singleton struggles, he may slip to the second round or decide to stick around for his senior season.  

Kenneth Faried

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    DAYTON, OH - MARCH 20: Kenneth Faried #35 of the Morehead State Eagles drives to the hoop against the Louisville Cardinals during the first round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the University of Dayton Arena on March 20, 2009 in Day
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Faried has quietly put together a very nice career at Morehead State, but his senior season has seen him really come into his own.  His stats are incredible (17.1 PPG, 14.8 RBG, 2.1 BPG, two SPG), and he's done it all while shooting 63.7 percent from the field.

    The two big issues?  

    Morehead State is no lock to make the tournament and Faried's size (6'8").  If Morehead State wins their conference tournament and gets the automatic bid to March Madness, Faried will have a chance to show off his talent against top-flight competition.

    There's been a trend of undersized grinders to have successful NBA careers lately (Kevin Love, David Lee, DeJuan Blair), giving hope to a guy like Faried.

    If Faried puts up a big game in the tournament, look for him to be drafted in the top 20.  Even if Morehead State doesn't qualify, Faried should still be a first-round pick, but definitely slip back to the fringe of the round. 

Gary Flowers

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    Flowers isn't a household name...yet.  He's led Southern Mississippi all season and is a solid all-around player.

    Shooting 42 percent from behind the arc, this 6'8" small forward averages 19.3 PPG and 7.7 boards a night, as well as 1.6 blocks/game.  His size makes him tough to face defensively, and if the Golden Eagles make a run in the tournament, it will have a lot to do with Flowers.

    Currently projected as a second-rounder, he'll have a chance to move to the fringe of the first round with a big tournament. 

Harrison Barnes

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    CHAPEL HILL, NC - FEBRUARY 27:  Harrison Barnes #40 of the North Carolina Tar Heels drives to the basket on Dino Gregory #33 of the Maryland Terrapins during their game at the Dean E. Smith Center on February 27, 2011 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Pho
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    People still remember Barnes for how he started at UNC, not what he's done since.  Both Barnes and UNC have looked much better as of late with their showdown this weekend against Duke likely to decide the ACC regular-season crown.

    Barnes has still struggled with his shot (40 percent from the field, 31.5 percent from downtown), but if he can help lead UNC to a couple wins in the tournament, he'll solidify a top 10 spot for himself. 

Nolan Smith

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    DURHAM, NC - FEBRUARY 23:  Khalif Wyatt #1 of the Temple Owls tries to stop Nolan Smith #2 of the Duke Blue Devils during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 23, 2011 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Smith already has one national championship ring, but he's at the forefront much more this season than he was last year.  

    So far, Duke is on-line for at least a No. 2 seed in the tournament, with a chance to lock up a No. 1 seed if they win the ACC tournament. 

    If the Blue Devils make another run in the tournament, Smith will have a lot of opportunities to show he has the quickness and athleticism to succeed in the NBA.  

    At 6'3", he may be better suited as an undersized shooting guard, which would hurt his draft stock immensely.  He must be able to show that he'll be able to guard quicker point guards, all while showing off his superior decision-making skills. 

    A big tournament should push Smith into the top 25, and possibly the top 20.  But a poor showing in the tournament can knock Smith back to the fringe of the first round.