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2011 NBA Draft: NCAA Tournament Risers and Fallers Leading into Final Four

Shane DePutronCorrespondent IMarch 31, 2011

2011 NBA Draft: NCAA Tournament Risers and Fallers Leading into Final Four

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    The Elite Eight is long gone, and as we head into the Final Four of the NCAA tournament, the performances of certain players have been greatly magnified and will ultimately have a substantial impact on the outcome of the 2011 NBA draft.

    However, not all prospects have been able to handle this spotlight with the same level of grace.

    Some individuals, like Connecticut's Kemba Walker, have thus far excelled on the national stage, effectively propelling their teams to victory.

    However, other players, such as Kansas' Markieff Morris, have struggled, failing to impress on the court while holding their teams back.

    And along with these tournament successes and failures comes drastic changes in the prospects' respective draft stocks.

    So as a result of these fluctuations, this slideshow will serve to sort out those players whose stock is on the rise from those whose stock is falling.

Rising: Kemba Walker, UConn

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    After a regular season run which saw him carry his UConn Huskies from obscurity to a Big East title, Kemba Walker has been able to maintain his high level of play through the NCAA tournament.

    Through his four tournament games, Walker is posting an impressive 26.75 points and 6.75 assists per contest, while only turning over the ball an average of 2.5 times.

    Most recently, he helped his Huskies send home the red-hot Arizona Wildcats and their star forward, Derrick Williams, while drastically outplaying his former high school teammate Lamont "Momo" Jones.

    And while Kemba's diminutive stature (6'1", 172 pounds) and concerns over his ability as a true point guard may still cause him to slip some, Walker should still expect to hear his name called in the latter portion of the 2011 NBA draft lottery.

Falling: Alex Oriakhi, UConn

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    Despite the success of his team, UConn forward/center Alex Oriakhi has witnessed his draft stock plummet throughout the course of the 2011 NCAA tournament.

    While frequently battling foul trouble, Oriakhi has only managed to post a per-game average of 6.25 points on 34.6 percent shooting—horrendous numbers for a player of his size and athleticism.

    Moreover, these stats pale in comparison to his regular season marks of 9.6 points on 49.7 percent shooting.

    Consequently, there is little chance he would be drafted if he chose the throw his name into the pool for the 2011 NBA draft.

    Nevertheless, as a sophomore, the 6'9", 240-pounder still has plenty of time to develop and play a larger role on the post-Kemba UConn Huskies, thereby giving him a chance to try and make a name for himself before the 2012 NBA draft.

Rising: Jamie Skeen, VCU

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    After enrolling at Wake Forest, enjoying a successful freshman campaign and being named to the ACC All-Freshman team, things were looking up for Jamie Skeen.

    However, after struggling with knee injuries and academic concerns, Skeen eventually transferred out to Virginia Commonwealth.

    Flash forward four years, and now the 6'9", 240-pound forward is back in the national spotlight.

    Most recently, Skeen posted a double-double to the tune of 26 points and 10 rebounds, leading his No. 11 VCU Rams to a shocking upset over No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks.

    And perhaps most impressively, he achieved this against the highly touted Morris twins, utilizing a polished inside-out repertoire and an uncanny ability to get to the free-throw line at will.

    So despite his knee limiting him to average athleticism, the 22-year-old's NCAA tournament showing may have very well earned him a spot in the second round of the 2011 NBA draft.

Falling: Markieff Morris, Kansas

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    After a regular season where he showed an amazing level of development, Kansas Jayhawks junior Markieff Morris appeared to finally be stepping out from behind his brother Marcus' shadow.

    However, as Kansas has advanced farther into the NCAA tournament, the taller Morris brother's game has shown a considerable lack of polish.

    In his last two matchups, Markieff shot a miserable 35 percent from the field and 50 percent from the line.

    Moreover, in his squad's heartbreaking loss to VCU, he turned the ball over an eye-popping eight times.

    So although his stock will drop, Morris' athleticism, 6'10", 245-pound frame and tenacity on both defense and on the boards should see him picked somewhere in the mid-to-late first round of the 2011 NBA draft.

Rising: Brandon Knight and Josh Harrellson, Kentucky

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    As Kentucky has advanced farther and farther into the NCAA tournament, two individuals have stood out at their key performers: freshman point guard Brandon Knight and senior center Josh "Jorts" Harrellson.

    Knight came into the season as one of the nation's top-ranked recruits; however, due to concerns over whether or not he was a true point, he began to plummet down many draft boards.

    Harrellson, on the other hand, never had much hype, seeing as though he came into the year as an unheralded holdover from the previous coaching staff who had played sparingly the year before.

    Nevertheless, both Knight and Harrellson have stepped up their games in the tournament, as they have posted per-game averages of 15.75 points, 4.75 assists and 14.75 points, 9.0 rebounds, respectively.

    Moreover, Knight has hit big shot after big shot, regularly stepping up to clinch wins, while Harrellson has provided a consistent interior presence, outplaying many other high-profile bigs.

    Consequently, when the 2011 NBA draft rolls around, Knight will likely be a lottery selection now, and Harrellson, surprisingly, may even become a second-round pick.

Falling: Terrence Jones, Kentucky

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    After an outstanding regular season, which had his draft stock soaring, Kentucky's Terrence Jones has fallen back to earth. 

    And while he has by no means struggled during the NCAA tournament, averaging a hair above 10 points per game, Jones has appeared passive and unassertive on the court.

    Moreover, his inability to drive to his right is a glaring weakness which would be exploited at the next level.

    Nevertheless, the 6'8", 244-pound freshman still has great athleticism and a solid skill set, and at just 19 years of age, he could still be selected in the mid-first round of the 2011 NBA draft.

Rising: Harrison Barnes, North Carolina

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    North Carolina's Harrison Barnes entered the season as the top-ranked collegiate prospect in the nation.

    However, after a few early road bumps, many people began to doubt his legitimacy, questioning both his aggressiveness and abilities.

    Nevertheless, Barnes began to put it all together by the season's end, and entering the NCAA tournament, he was really rolling.

    Through his four games, he has posted impressive averages of 21.0 points, 8.25 rebounds, 2.75 threes and 1.75 steals.

    Moreover, in a few of the matchups, the freshman completely shouldered the load for his UNC Tar Heels, single-handedly keeping them in games.

    Consequently, he has certainly played his way back into the early part of the 2011 NBA draft, and a top-five selection would not be surprising.

Falling: Josh Selby, Kansas

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    Kansas freshman Josh Selby entered the season under suspension for committing NCAA violations.

    However, his return was highly anticipated, as the ultra-explosive point guard was expected to provide a dominant presence in the backcourt to compliment to Morris twins in the frontcourt.

    And while he came out firing, Selby struggled with inconsistency and he looked more like a 2-guard.

    Moreover, he then hurt his foot and missed a few games, and after his return, he never regained his pre-injury form, failing to record a double-digit scoring total.

    And those struggles have carried over into the NCAA tournament, where Selby in only averaging a minuscule 3.75 points per game.

    Consequently, should he decide to enter the 2011 NBA draft, he would be lucky to be a first-rounder, based merely upon his upside.

    Therefore, his best course of action would likely be to return to Kansas and make a run at the 2012 NBA draft.

Rising: Derrick Williams, Arizona

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    Despite his Arizona Wildcats' season ending at the hands of UConn in the Elite Eight, Derrick Williams has solidified his spot as one of the standout performers of the 2011 NCAA tournament.

    Following up an impressive regular season campaign, Williams posted averages of 22.75 points, 9.25 rebounds and 1.75 threes per game.

    Furthermore, the sophomore forward has regularly stepped up in the clutch, blocking the game-tying attempt against Memphis, scoring the game-winning points in an upset of Texas and scoring a career-high 32 points in a victory over No. 1 Duke.

    And even though his team was ultimately sent home by Connecticut—due in large part to his first-half foul trouble—Williams' unique combination of size and skill has him as a legitimate contender to be the first overall selection in the 2011 NBA draft.

Falling: Chandler Parsons, Florida

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    After a successful regular season, which saw him take home the SEC Player of the Year award and his team earn a No. 2 seed, things were looking up for senior forward Chandler Parsons and his Florida Gators.

    Yet after making a run to the Elite Eight, Parsons and Florida were ultimately sent packing by No. 8 Butler Bulldogs.

    And Parsons' play was a major factor in this loss, as he only notched a total of five points.

    Moreover, despite being renowned for his all-around game, scoring was one area where his performance was notably lacking throughout the NCAA tournament.

    In his four tournament games, Parsons only put up 9.5 points per contest on a meager 36.6 percent shooting.

    But his scoring woes extended to the line as well, where he only converted his free throws at a 50 percent clip.

    And since scoring points is the name of the game, Parsons could drop all the way to late in the second round when the 2011 NBA draft finally arrives.

Rising: Shelvin Mack, Butler

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    After teammate Gordon Hayward departed in the 2010 NBA draft, it has been a hefty load of Shelvin Mack which has powered the Butler Bulldogs to their second consecutive Final Four appearance. 

    And after posting averages of 21.25 points, 3.25 assists and 3.50 threes per game, Mack is showing that he has the ability to play with the best and take over when it counts.

    Moreover, in his most recent outing (27 points), the junior guard had to overcome both a rolled ankle and bloodied face in order to defeat a higher-seeded opponent, which serves as a testament to his sheer will to win.

    So even though the 6'3", 215-pound Mack is a bit of a combo guard, his impressive showings in last year and this year's NCAA tournaments should help to solidify a spot for him somewhere in the late first to early second round of the 2011 NBA draft.

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