NBA Draft 2011: NCAA Tournament Risers and Fallers, Sweet 16 Edition
As we progress deeper and deeper into the NCAA tournament, the performances of a handful of players begin to stand out as being extremely influential to the eventual outcome of the 2011 NBA Draft.
Now some of these collegiate prospects have thrived in the spotlight of the NCAAs, raising their levels of play and carrying their teams to victory.
Others, though, have struggled against the tournament competition, looking to be far from NBA-caliber at this point.
As a result, these standout players' draft stocks have experienced either a significant rise or fall.
Consequently, this slideshow will serve to sort out the best and worst performances among the NBA prospects heading into the Sweet 16, describing what they have done and what effects that will have on their professional futures.
Rising: Derrick Williams, Arizona
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During the regular season, Arizona Wildcats sophomore forward Derrick Williams posted an impressive stat line of 19.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, one steal, one three and 0.7 blocks per game—all while shooting a blistering 60.0 percent from the field and 58.1 percent from three.
And after posting a 22-point, 10-rebound double-double and blocking the game-tying shot attempt to seal a 77-75 win over Memphis, Williams looked like he was just going to build upon his regular-season success in the NCAA tournament.
However, the highly efficient forward struggled with his efficiency in his matchup with the Texas Longhorns, shooting a pathetic 4-of-14 from the field.
So why, you ask, is he still on this list?
Well, Williams still managed to post 17 points, nine rebounds and three steals in the game.
Moreover, the 6'8", 241-pound Wildcat was able to get to the foul line very often—something that the best pros are able to do on poor-shooting nights.
But most importantly, he stepped up when it matter most—once again—by hitting the game-tying shot, getting fouled while doing so and converting on the game-winning free throw.
Therefore, Williams is gaining a reputation as not only a great player, but an extremely clutch performer as well.
And so long as he doesn't disappoint in his upcoming contest against the Duke Blue Devils in the Sweet 16, Williams should expect to earn a place among the top five draft selections in 2011.
Falling: Ben Hansbrough, Notre Dame
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After an impressive senior season in which he averaged 18.4 points, 4.3 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 2.6 threes and 1.3 steals and won Big East Player of the Year, Notre Dame senior Ben Hansbrough looked like he was going to play his way into the NBA.
However, Hansbrough played a terrible game in his team's exit from the Big East tournament, shooting a horrendous 18.8 percent from the field and turning the ball over six times.
Nevertheless, this was a setback which the 6'3", 202-pound guard should easily have been able to overcome in the NCAA tournament.
But that did not happen.
Instead, Hansbrough posted back-to-back poor-shooting games, with a combined field-goal percentage of 37.5 in a win over Akron and a big loss to Florida State.
Consequently, the combo guard may not be able to follow his brother Tyler Hansbrough to the NBA, as his struggles may have completely pushed him out of the draft.
Rising: Brandon Knight, Kentucky
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Brandon Knight entered his freshman year at Kentucky with the greatest of expectations, after being one of the most highly rated recruits in his class and taking the place of Kentucky's last point guard, the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA draft, John Wall.
And while his performance throughout the season was solid, it wasn't exactly spectacular, as his point guard play was routinely questioned.
Nevertheless, the NCAA tournament arrived and presented Knight with an opportunity to show off the strides he had made during his first year of college ball.
However, he failed to score during the first 39 minutes and 58 seconds of his first tournament game against Princeton, notching a career-low point total.
But when he finally did score, with two seconds remaining in the game, his contested layup was the go-ahead game-winner, and therefore, the biggest two points of the game.
Knight then followed up his poor, but clutch performance with a career-high 30-point explosion against the West Virginia Mountaineers, propelling Kentucky to a 71-63 victory.
Consequently, his bad game seems to have been a fluke, and when one combines this with the fact that Knight averaged 4.5 assists to only 2.5 turnovers through the tournament, it's clear that the 18-year-old definitely has the potential to be a solid lead guard.
Therefore, barring another awful performance when he matches up against Ohio State in the Sweet 16, Knight could very well be a lottery selection in the 2011 NBA Draft.
Falling: Demetri McCamey, Illinois
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After looking like the one of the best pure point guards in the nation early in the season, Illinois senior Demetri McCamey struggled down the stretch.
In the end, his numbers were mostly down across the board from his junior year, and as a result, people have begun to doubt his legitimacy as an NBA prospect.
And further hurting his case, McCamey failed to impress during the NCAA tournament, turning the ball over six times against UNLV, and then turning it over four times and being held to six points on 2-of-9 shooting as his team was handily defeated by the Kansas Jayhawks.
Nevertheless, the 6'3", 200-pound guard may still be selected in the 2011 NBA draft, albeit not in the first round.
Rising: Shelvin Mack, Butler
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After serving as the second option for the 2010 NCAA tournament runner-up Butler Bulldogs, guard Shelvin Mack returned to the team for his junior season.
And following the departure of teammate Gordon Hayward to the NBA, Mack was asked to shoulder more of the load, which he accomplished by increasing his points, rebounds, assists and threes totals.
Moreover, he has regularly played up to level of the best competition, averaging 18.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.8 threes and 2.0 steals per game against 2011 NCAA tournament teams this season.
And included in that is his most recent 30-point outing, during which he sank seven threes while upsetting the No. 1-seeded Pittsburgh Panthers to advance to the Sweet 16.
So given his penchant for putting up solid numbers and winning, Mack can reasonably be expected to get drafted in the early second round.
Falling: E'Twaun Moore, Purdue
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With the Purdue Boilermakers entering the 2010-11 season without star forward Robbie Hummel due to injury, last season's leading scorer, senior guard E'Twaun Moore, needed to step up even more to fill some of the scoring void.
However, since his team became heavily reliant upon his scoring punch, his occasional struggles become all the more apparent.
In Purdue's eight losses this season, Moore is averaging nearly seven points per game below his scoring average in wins.
This was highlighted by his most recent 10-point (5-of-15 shooting) performance in Purdue's 19-point loss and elimination from the NCAA tournament at the hands of the Virginia Commonwealth Rams.
But that's not all, as there are concerns over the 6'4", 190-pounder's position at the NBA level.
Due to his lack of elite-level athleticism and size, he is likely to have a future at point guard.
However, that is also problematic because of his questionable decision-making, as seen in Purdue's win over St. Peter's in its first tournament game, when Moore turned the ball over a whopping seven times.
So with a game in the NCAAs where he struggled running the point, followed by another one where he struggled to score, Moore may very well plummet all the way to the late second round of the 2011 NBA Draft.
Rising: Kendall Marshall, North Carolina
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Ever since stepping into the starting point guard role midseason for the North Carolina Tar Heels, freshman Kendall Marshall has performed like a veteran.
During his 18-game stretch as the starter, the team has gone 16-2 and Marshall has averaged 7.7 assists per game.
Moreover, his regular-season success has carried over into the NCAA tournament.
In UNC's first matchup of the NCAAs, Marshall dished out 10 assists, while only committing two turnovers, on the way to a 102-87 win over Long Island.
Next, he followed this up by an even more impressive performance against the Pac-10 champion Washington Huskies, achieving a 13-point, 14-assist double-double.
And since it's obvious that he is an extremely talented floor general, should Marshall decide to enter the 2011 NBA draft, a mid-to-late first-round selection would not be surprising.
Falling: Tyler Honeycutt, UCLA
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There is no doubt that UCLA wing Tyler Honeycutt is one of the more talented and versatile players in college basketball.
On the year, he has accumulated per-game averages of 12.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.1 blocks, 1.7 threes and 0.7 steals.
However, Honeycutt often has trouble getting the most out of his talent and has struggled with inconsistency.
And in his two NCAA tournament games, his weaknesses have shown themselves on the national stage.
First, despite a relatively strong overall performance throughout UCLA's opening-round game, the 6'8", 188-pound sophomore missed free throws and turned the ball over at crucial junctures, nearly allowing the Michigan State Spartans to overcome a 23-point lead.
However, Honeycutt's Bruins came out on top 78-76, and next faced the Florida Gators.
Against Florida, Honeycutt did not fare as well, shooting a dreadful 4-of-14 from the field in a 73-65 loss.
Nevertheless, because of his potential, Honeycutt will still likely be a first-round pick, although he has likely fallen to a spot mid to late in the round.
Rising: Harrison Barnes, North Carolina
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After entering the season as the top overall recruit and the consensus No. 1 draft pick, North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes stumbled out of the gate, struggling to put up the huge numbers expected of him.
As a result, the 18-year-old, 6'8" freshman was labeled as not being aggressive enough, being merely a supporting player and being, simply put, a bust.
However, toward the end of the season Barnes began to put it all together, averaging exactly 20 points per game over his last 12 games, including a 40-point effort during the ACC tournament.
Most recently, Barnes excelled in his two NCAA tournament games, first posting an outstanding double-double of 24 points and 16 rebounds against the Long Island Blackbirds.
Moreover, in that game he also knocked down two threes, dished out three assists and swiped two steals, leading his team to a 102-87 victory.
Then, Barnes and UNC were matched up against the Pac-10 champion Washington Huskies, where he posted a line of 22 points, four threes, three steals, two rebounds and two assists, on the way to an 86-83 win.
Next UNC is to play against the Marquette Golden Eagles in the Sweet 16, where Barnes will undoubtedly look to continue his hot streak.
So with outstanding size, athleticism and a well-refined, all-around game, Barnes' latest performances may have very well allowed him to re-enter the 2011 NBA Draft's top five selections.
Falling: Cam Long, George Mason
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The George Mason Patriots first achieved nation-wide notoriety for their run to the 2005-06 Final Four—an achievement which gained their basketball program the power to land recruits such as Cam Long.
Now in his senior year, Long has excelled for the Patriots, posting per-game averages of 15.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.8 threes and 1.4 steals.
And while he had been projected as a possible draft pick because of his regular-season, his NCAA tournament may change some minds.
In George Mason's Round-of-64 matchup against Villanova, Long struggled, shooting 2-of-9 from the field and turning the ball over five times.
Nevertheless, the team still managed to win 61-57, putting an end to Nova's horrible second half.
Long and his team then were unfortunate enough to square off against the No. 1 seeded Ohio State.
And while Long posted a decent scoring total in this one, he managed to commit seven turnovers, which helped to seal the blowout 98-66 win for the Buckeyes.
So with two less-than-stellar tournament performances under his belt, the 6'4", 188-pound combo guard may see teams passing on him at the 2011 NBA Draft, as it's very possible that he could now go undrafted.