Big East Tournament 2013: Under-the-Radar Stars Who Will Raise NBA Draft Stock

Maxwell Ogden@MaxwellOgdenCorrespondent IIIMarch 8, 2013

Big East Tournament 2013: Under-the-Radar Stars Who Will Raise NBA Draft Stock

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    On Mar. 12, the madness will commence. Although the NCAA Tournament doesn't begin until Mar. 19, there is another bracket that will garner everyone's attention—the Big East Tournament.

    The question is, which under-the-radar players will shine, thus improving their draft stock?

    As much as we may focus on the teams, the conference tournaments are equally about the individuals who create legacies. This year will be no different, as stars will be born at Madison Square Garden.

    What players should we be watching for come the week of Mar. 12?

Vander Blue, Marquette Golden Eagles

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    Position: Shooting Guard

    Age: 20

    Class: Junior

    2012-13 Season Averages

    16.66 PER, 14.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.9 APG, 0.9 SPG

    Per usual, the Marquette Golden Eagles are a true threat to the Big East crown. At the head of their title push is shooting guard Vander Blue.

    Blue is an elite slasher who finishes with exceptional efficiency from inside the three-point line. For evidence, note his two-point field goal percentage of 55.3.

    Assuming he develops a three-point jump shot, Blue could be the next great Marquette shooting guard—Dwyane Wade and Wesley Matthews are two of the most recent.

    Come the Big East tournament, Blue could see a rise in the same manner as Jae Crowder did in 2011-12. Although he's not having a Player of the Year-type season, Blue will have a major platform on which to shine.

    Barring a one-and-done, Blue will boost his draft stock with yet another quality performance.

C.J. Fair, Syracuse Orange

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    Position: Small Forward

    Age: 21

    Class: Junior

    2012-13 Season Averages

    21.11 PER, 14.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.0 BPG, 1.0 SPG, 43.9% 3PT

    In 2011-12, C.J. Fair was praised for his size, length, athleticism and defensive prowess. Unfortunately, Fair was a virtual non-factor offensively.

    Enter 2012-13. Fair is Syracuse's leading scorer and rebounder at 14.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. He's doing so on a slash line of .487/.439/.795.

    In other words, Fair is having a star-caliber season, and the Big East Tournament will display just how serious an NBA prospect he's becoming.

    With Michael Carter-Williams collapsing, the pressure will be on Fair to step up for 'Cuse—as a team with boom-or-bust potential, look for the 6'8" forward to step up as a leader.

    Expect Fair to push through the border of the first round and become a late-round prospect.

Jerian Grant, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    Position: Guard

    Age: 20

    Class: Junior

    2012-13 Season Averages

    17.22 PER, 13.5 PPG, 5.6 APG, 2.7 RPG, 1.2 SPG

    You could make a case that Jerian Grant is the most underrated player in the Big East.

    Grant is a 6'5" shooting guard if you go by the depth chart. The fact of the matter is, Grant is an extraordinary ball-handler for his position and one of the top facilitators in the nation.

    At 5.6 assists, Grant is fifth in the BIg East—one of the players ahead of him is teammate Eric Atkins.

    If not for Atkins, Grant may have the ball in his hands more often. In turn, he'd likely be averaging more assists than his currently stellar numbers.

    Fortunately for Grant, he has a chance to shine in the national spotlight come the Big East Tournament.

    Grant has the size to play 2-guard at the NBA level. He also has the court vision and facilitating abilities to work as a sixth man or combo guard.

    His stock may be low now, but Grant could become a player that shows up on NBA radars if he and the Irish fare well.

Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati Bearcats

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    Position: Shooting Guard

    Age: 23

    Class: Junior

    2012-13 Season Averages

    21.62 PER, 17.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.3 SPG

    Sean Kilpatrick of the Cincinnati Bearcats is one of the more intriguing prospects in the Big East.

    Kilpatrick is a strong player with an NBA body at 6'4" and 221 pounds. He knows how to utilize his strength off of the dribble and is a much better shooter than his percentages suggest.

    Come the Big East Tournament, Kilpatrick will have a chance to put that on display.

    As a 23-year-old junior, Kilpatrick's stock is bound to take a hit. If he can step up as a scorer and propel the Bearcats to at least one victory, he could boost his stock.

    Look for the New York native to shine in a virtual homecoming at Madison Square Garden.

    In turn, expect to hear his name on many draft boards in the coming weeks.

Shabazz Napier, Connecticut Huskies

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    Position: Point Guard

    Age: 21

    Class: Junior

    2012-13 Season Averages

    23.99 PER, 17.1 PPG, 4.6 APG, 4.3 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 40.7% 3PT

    Contrary to popular belief, it wasn't Jeremy Lamb who stepped up in late-game situations for the Connecticut Huskies in the 2012 Big East Tournament—it was Shabazz Napier.

    As Lamb set up shop along the perimeter, Napier went into attack mode with the ball in his hands. That's been a trend we've seen continue during the 2012-13 season.

    Shockingly, an additional level of responsibility has led to a significant increase in efficiency.

    In 2011-12, Napier averaged 13.0 points on a slash line of .389/.355/.743. In 2012-13, Napier is averaging 17.1 points on a slash line of .448/.407/.826.

    With the rise of the up-tempo offense, the 6'1" combo guard could have a place in the NBA. Scouts will take notice if Napier, once again, dominates the Big East Tournament.

    History is in Napier's favor.