I am a sports and music fanatic from Farmington, CT, currently attending Saint Joseph's University in Connecticut. I am mainly interested in College Basketball, CIAC High School Basketball, and Major League Baseball, though I follow just about all sports closely.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

These guys have some decisions to make...

Last nights NCAA championship game was an instant classic, there's absolutely no denying that. It was just about as well played of a basketball game as I've seen in a long time, and as crazy as the tournament's been this season, it was obvious that the two teams in the championship both deserved to be there.

In an age of one and done's dominating college basketball, the thing that made this match-up so intriguing was that there is most likely not a single future lottery pick in the NBA draft on either roster. While the top of this year's draft is clogged with Kentucky, Kansas, and Syracuse players, neither Duke or Butler has a player ranked that high. They were able to advance by playing good defense and smart basketball, proving that good team-oriented basketball hasn't quite died yet. It was truly an encouraging sight for the game.

That being said, if you were to ask an NBA scout who they believe are the best NBA prospects that played in the championship game this year, most likely three names are going to come up. All three are underclassman who may or may not return to campus for the 2010-2011 season, in which both Duke and Butler may be national players again. Those three players are Kyle Singler, Gordon Hayward and Nolan Smith.

Kyle Singler proved throughout the course of the tournament that he is an incredibly versatile player, who at 6'9" can do so many things well. He makes up for his somewhat limited athletic ability with an off the charts intangible package and basketball IQ, as well as his good size for the small forward position. He can play multiple positions, and most likely could become a very good spot up three-point shooter in the NBA. ESPN compares his skill set to former Duke great Mike Dunleavy Jr., with a little bit of Adam Morrison, and projects him as a late first-round or early second-round pick in the draft. Kyle hasn't really said much about what he's going to do so far, and after winning a championship he may be ready to leap to the next level. But if he's not going to be a guaranteed first-rounder, it's quite possible he will return to lead Duke to their 2nd straight.

His teammate Nolan Smith has already said he's staying, though his draft stock skyrocketed during the tournament in which he showed exactly how dynamic of a scorer he is. Nolan still lacks the ideal size for a two-guard in the NBA, which is probably factoring into his decision to stay. But if he has a chance to go in the 1st round, and Singler decides to leave could Nolan follow him out the door? We'll see.

Despite losing three key veteran leaders in Jon Scheyer, Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek, Duke will come into next season as a top 5 team if Singler and Smith stay. With the Plumlee brothers adding a year of experience, and the arrival of the best point guard to come to Durham since Jay Williams in Kyrie Irving, there is no doubt that Duke could repeat next year. But without Singler it's going to be very hard for this Blue Devils team to repeat.

In the eyes of most scouts, though, the best NBA prospect in this game was probably Butler sophomore Gordon Hayward. Hayward is a 6'9" shooting guard with an incredibly versatile skill set. He's been mentioned as even a possible lottery pick by many after his excellent NCAA tournament. But as seen from many of the post-game interviews, Hayward is obviously a very competitive young man, and it wouldn't surprise me if he decides to come back to try and win a Championship next season. With Shelvin Mack, Matt Howard, and Ronald Nored all returning as well, it's not out of the question that they will once again be even better than this year.

All I can guarantee about these three young men is that they will end up making the right decisions. Unlike Tommy Mason-Griffin, Eric Devendorf, or Paul Harris, these guys should be able to properly gauge their draft status and make an educated decision. All three of these guys are phenomenal young people, and are great for the college game. When they decide to take it to the next level, they will be great for the NBA as well.

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