#2 Kentucky Wildcats-Carolina's main threat due to the sheer amount of pure talent.
-Anthony Davis, Freshman F/C. 6-10, 220. The potential #1 pick, Davis is a very intriguing prospect as a former 6'3 guard who sprouted 7 inches after his junior year of high school. His athleticism, skill, and new found length give him to the potential to be the next Kevin Garnett. This is especially true with his motor on the defensive end that can truly have a huge impact on a game. He still needs to add strength, but his perimeter skills for a big man are for real. You can even compare him to Kevin Durant in some regards.
-Terrance Jones, Sophomore SF/PF. 6-8, 244: Last year I wrote
I’m a big fan of Jones, a strong, lefty hybrid forward who is a great ball handler and passer with a lot of athleticism. Think of somewhere between Josh Smith and Lamar Odom. He could thrive as the main interior threat with Enes Kanter being ruled ineligible.That description still stands as true, and although his effort sometimes wanes, his intensity when locked in is contagious. I think he's better off as a 4 because he has enough size to defend that position while still posing a mismatch offensively with his perimeter game.
-Marquis Teague, Freshman PG. 6-2, 172: Like his older brother Jeff, Teague is a quick, penetrating guard. He has better point guard skills than his brother, but he needs to make better decisions running a half-court offense and limit the turnovers. He is perfect for this dribble-drive offense, however, and can really push the pace with this team's athletes on the break.
-Doron Lamb, Sophomore SG. 6-4, 195: Lamb isn't as highly touted a prospect as his teammates, but he serves a crucial role on this team, nonetheless. He is likely their most reliable outside shooter (always a weakness for Coach Cal's teams) and is the backup ball-handler behind Teague. Despite being more of a late first round prospect due to a lack of size, Lamb will be a game changer for Kentucky the whole season.
#3 Ohio State-Lost senior leadership hurts, but they're always a threat with the big man in the middle.
-Jared Sullinger, Sophomore F/C. 6-9, 280: Sullinger is said to have slimmed down and improved his perimeter game this offseason, so you can expect to see a Kevin Love-type player but without the extraordinary passing. His lack of elite athleticism hurts his upside, but he is plenty productive as a below-the-rim player and National Player of the Year contender.
-William Buford, Senior SG. 6-5, 205: A very accomplished scorer, you pretty much know what you're getting from Buford. He's a great shooter who can attack off the dribble, as well, but he doesn't get to the charity stripe enough. Another strong year could secure him a spot at the end of the first round.
-Aaron Craft, Sophomore PG. 6-2, 195: Craft is a solid passer and great on-ball defender. His sub par athleticism and shooting ability limits his pro potential, however.
#4 Connecticut-The defending champs' chances improved greatly with a late freshman addition.
-Andre Drummond, Freshman F/C. 6-11, 270: Drummond was looking to be the #1 pick in the 2013 draft after another year at prep school, but he decided in August to join the Huskies this year. He'll have a huge impact right away with an NBA body, great athleticism, and elite ball skills. He draws all kinds of comparisons, with Amare Stoudemire being the most common. However, I think if he can gain some consistency he could be like Blake Griffin with better defense.
|Lamb is off to a strong start this season.|
#5 Syracuse-An experienced bunch with solid collective talent, no standout talent.
-Rakeem Christmas, Freshman PF. 6-9, 222: Christmas' pro potential is limited because he's old for his class and undersized for his true position of center. However, he's a great defender with a 7-2 wingspan making him a shot-blocking threat. He's a bit raw offensively, but he is a good passer out of the post.
-Kris Joseph, Senior SF. 6-7, 210: Joseph isn't a standout at any particular thing, but he's experienced and plays hard. His athleticism helps him defend well and score in transition, and although he's an average outside shooter, he has a nice mid-range game.
-Fab Melo, Sophomore C. 7-0, 274: The big man has really worked on his body and is ready to use that size to become a defensive force in the middle. Offensively, he'll get easy buckets from offensive rebounds and not much else, but his defensive impact alone is very valuable.
#6 Duke-Overrated in the rankings with big names, but Coach K always makes the most of his talent.
-Austin Rivers, Freshman SG. 6-4, 195: The son of Coach Doc Rivers is ironically not a great team player. He's ball stopper on offense and limited by his average athleticism and size on defense. He reminds me of Monta Ellis in that sense, as he can score in all kinds of ways with great ball handling and shooting ability. I do think, however, that Coach K is the perfect coach for him to improve on these flaws.
-Mason Plumlee, Junior PF. 6-10, 230: The Plumlee brothers are tantalizing with their size and athleticism, and Mason is the best of the bunch, but they lack refined moves and fluidity to their games. Mason is a good shot-blocker, ball handler, and passer but struggles to create for himself and can get lost on defense.
-Seth Curry, Junior PG/SG. 6-3, 180: Shooting runs in the family for Del's son and Steph's brother, as he possesses deep, deep range. He's taking over the full time reigns as point guard this year, but he's not as proficient at creating in the lane through the pick-and-roll as he is a pure shooter. His lack of athleticism hurts him on the defensive end, but he possesses a high basketball IQ.
#7 Vanderbilt-A deep, experienced group who can beat you in a bunch of ways.
John Jenkins, Jeffery Taylor, and Festus Ezeli are each upperclassmen who will be taken in the later stages of the first round, but I haven't had the opportunity to see them live much. From what I've seen, Jenkins is an outstanding scorer with a great jumper, but he's undersized for the off-guard position at the next level. Taylor has the best pro prospects as an athletic wing defender who can get to the rim but lacks a reliable jumper. Ezeli is a strong interior defender with great size and some offensive talent, but he still needs to improve in that area and build on his consistency.
#8 Florida-Threatening on offensive with a lot of weapons but needs strong contributions from the few big men.
-Bradley Beal, Freshman SG. 6-4, 190. Beal has been compared to Ray Allen, and while he isn't THAT good of a shooter, he is a complete guard. He has average size but a 6-8 wingspan to compensate, and scouts love his intangibles. His ball-handling, passing, and leadership make him a very attractive option early in the lottery as a dependable pick.
-Patric Young, Sophomore F/C. 6-9, 245: Comparisons to Dwight Howard aren't outlandish, but Young still has a ways to go. He's a touch short for his ideal position, but he has an NBA-ready body with great strength and defensive instincts. His offensive game is raw, but if it can continue to develop as it did at the U-19, he'll land firmly in the top 10.
-Kenny Boynton, Erving Walker, and Mike Rosario are the other guards with good experience and talent, but they are undersized and tend to dominate the ball and shoot a bit too much. Perimeter defense and spreading the wealth around on offensive will be the key to their Final Four chances.
#9 Memphis-the trademark athleticism will shine with a number of talented young prospects.
-Adonis Thomas, Freshman F. 6-7, 217: Thomas is coming off the bench for the Tigers as he's a freshman adjusting his game from a power forward to his ideal 3 position based on his size. He's a superb athlete with a lot of energy who isn't afraid to get dirty in the paint. He has a nice jumper, and his perimeter game is emerging, but he still needs time to transition his game.
-Will Barton, Sophomore SG. 6-5, 165: Barton is a pure scorer with a good jump shot, especially in the midrange game. He's extremely dangerous when he's attacking off the dribble looking for his shot, but he sometimes lacks discipline in his shot selection and needs to add strength to his long frame.
-Joe Jackson, Sophomore PG. 6-0, 180: Jackson is your typical quick, scoring point guard. He really struggled in trying to lead Team USA in the U-19 competition over the summer as his game doesn't translate well to the international game. If he can lead Memphis as an actual point guard instead of making every contest look like an AAU game, then the Tigers could do some serious damage this year.
#10 Baylor: Scott Drew is doing a great job of bringing in talented players, and his program is on the rise as they mature.
|The Big 12 is there for Jones and Baylor to take.|
-Quincy Miller, Freshman F. 6-9, 210: A tweener forward who has pro prospects as both a 3 and a 4, Miller is coming off a lost senior season from a torn ACL. He seems to be fully recovered with his athleticism intact, and his jumper looks as good as ever. He has the length and motor to work inside, but he needs to add strength and improve his rebounding if he doesn't want to remain on the perimeter.
-Deuce Bello, Freshman SG. 6-4, 170: Bello isn't a one and done prospect, but he definitely has talent. He's a bit undersized and lacks the ideal range on his shot for a shooting guard, but he is very athletic and can be a lockdown defender. It'll be interesting to see his development over the next couple of years.
Outside of this top 10, I want to point out Thomas Robinson of #14 Kansas, who is going to be a breakout star this year with the departure of the Morris twins. He is a touch undersized inside, but he has a huge motor as a rebounder and shot blocker who can finish strong at the rim. He has emerging perimeter skills as he can spot up from the mid-range or attack off the dribble, but he still needs to work on them.
Lastly, I can't go without mentioning Orlando Johnson, the star player on my campus who is being touted as a Pre-season Third Team All-American. He's a versatile wing who can score inside and out and has become a talented defender. He's led UCSB to the NCAA Tournament in back to back years, taking home the Big West Tournament MVP each time. After initially declaring for this past draft before withdrawing, he garnered a lot of attention at the LeBron James Skills academy over the summer and on Team USA for the World University Games, where he was given the honor of being the flag-bearer. Even more impressive is his family back story, as described in his feature in Dime Magazine. Furthermore, I've met him a couple of times, such as after Kobe Bryant's visit, and he is a funny, down-to-earth guy who will be a welcome addition to any team.
Johnson's main competition for his second Big West Player of the Year award is last year's recipient, Casper Ware, whose Long Beach State team is also the Gauchos' biggest competition to make it back to the NCAA tournament. Ware is receiving a lot of love from scouts and has already led a huge upset AT perennial national powerhouse Pittsburgh. Game on.