What a fantastic way to end the college basketball season, huh? For draftniks, it was not a thrilling season, nor a great tournament, but as always, it had its moments.
Specifically, Trey Burke had his moments. So many moments. Tons of moments.
But let's talk about the champs first:
Gorgui Dieng: Outside of Burke, no player in the tournament helped his stock more than Dieng. Dieng showed just about everything you want to see of a big man prospect. Size, strength, a soft touch around the rim, blocking shots, making plays, the monster dunks, the whole package, at least for a traditional big man.
Dieng's not a superfreak athletically nor is he 7-0, but his play might have boosted him anywhere between 12 and 18 when he was targeted more between 18 and 25 coming in. He looks like a quality pick with a good, long-term career in his future.
The Suns or Celtics are two teams in the middle of the first round who might be a good fit for the big man. But he can't raise much higher than that due to his age (23). There's not as much time for the NBA team who drafts him to mold him, even with the fact that big men develop later in the NBA.
Peyton Siva: Your prototypical college player. Looks great and there will be all sort of talk about how he can play in the NBA. But there are some major problems. Siva was 1-for-8 against the Shockers, and just as it was for most of this season, in the Final Four and Championship game, he struggled with shooting off the pick and roll. Siva had 18 points on 15 shots in the championship game, but most were attacks at the rim or transition shots. In pick and roll situations, Siva scored four points on nine possessions against Michigan. Siva has a great game for college where players can slither to the rack and get scores over wild-eyed, inconsistent small dudes.
Not happening in the NBA. There's a reason Siva has yet to appear in a first-round mock from the major projectors this season.
Russ Smith: Smith played considerably better than his backcourt counterpart, scoring 21 points on 17 shots against Wichita State. In the championship game he had nine points on 16 shots with three turnovers, but did look like more of a leader, despite his struggles from the field.
Smith suffers from some of the same problems as Siva, as neither guard is particularly fast or athletic, they just have that uncanny college-ball knack of geting to the rim.
But Smith showed enough of a perimeter shot in the tournament and leadership abilities to make himself a late first-round pick if a GM is just outright sold on him in terms of mental toughness and production. GMs, particularly former players, like champions, and Smith is one. Smith has indicated he will declare for the draft.
Trey Burke: No one's stock rose more than Burke. Foul trouble in the championship game was the only thing that really slowed Burke down and allowed Louisville to win the title. Without Burke's NBA-level ball-handling against the press, the Wolverines melted.
Burke has great speed and athleticism, can shoot the lights out from NBA range, and constantly responded with scores when Michigan needed it. He was the Wolverines' go-to guy in the tournament and in the championship game, where he scored 24 points on just 11 shots.
Burke has likely moved himself closer to the top 5.
I'm a little bit against the grain, as I think he's got the NBA tools you want. He explodes to the rim, has good size at 6-6 and showed it against the tiny backcourt of Louisvile as he constantly got to the rim with power. But his outside shooting provides a big concern for whether he can spreda the floor enough as a wing in the NBA.
Hardaway's decision to go or return, and where he lands in the projections will be worth keeping an eye on. Hardaway finished with 12 points on 13 shots and four assists in the championship game.
Glen Robinson III: Another mystery, Robinson is all over the place in projections. Our own Jeff Goodman has him at 22, while others have him firmly in the lottery. A 6-7 freshman who bullied his way through the tournament, the question is if he's quick enough or developed enough right now to make it in the NBA.
If Robinson were to return for 2014, he could definitely play his way into the high lottery. He showed a lot in the tournament. Returning to build on it might be the best option, even as loaded as next year's draft is.