The top prospects in Thursday's Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament action.
Posted by Matt Moore
By the end of the weekend, there will be four NCAA tournament teams left. For whatever reason, four teams remaining is a big deal in college basketball, and not in the NBA (how many Western Conference Finalists get remembered by the average NBA fan after four or five years?). And at the end of this weekend, some young men will have some interesting decisions to make regarding their futures with their tournament and possibly college careers over.
With that, here's a look at the players to watch in Thursday night's Sweet 16 action.
Jimmer Fredette, PG, BYU: We've talked about Fredette at length, you should know the book on him by now. He's small. He's unathletic. He's not good defensively. But he's a scorer, and a brilliant one at that. Thursday night is a good opportunity to see how Fredette does against a defense that will gear specifically to stop him. The person across the floor from him will be Kenny Boynton, who's similarly sized. Florida coach Billy Donovan says that the Gators aren't just gameplanning for Fredette, but he has to be considering sending help at the superstar. If so, this gives us a good idea of how Fredette will handle more aggressive schemes from better defenses, which gets closer to what he'll see in the NBA.
Derrick Williams, F, Arizona: You no doubt have the book on the other gents on this list. But Derrick Williams is the guy who made the biggest impact the first weekend of the tournament. Those two huge blocks he made are the kind of defensive plays that get coaches, scouts, and GM's excited, far more than dropping 30-plus through 35-foot threes. Williams also has the ability to work in the post and his touch around the basket also wowed evaluators. Against Duke, Williams will be working against a formidable frontline of the Plumlees, and should he put up a similar performance on both sides of the ball, he could move from top-five to the top overall pick if things go right. But against Duke, that's a pretty tall order.
Kemba Walker, G, UConn: Walker keeps putting up huge performances, and the questions remain about his ability to do so against NBA competition. Walker could go a long way to improving his stock by being more of a playmaker and less of a pure scorer against San Diego State.
Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke: Irving looked like the same player who's topped draft lists for months before his injury. He distributed well, saw the floor, hit from the perimeter, nailed the runner, the works. But against Arizona, he'll face a much stiffer test, and his conditioning will likely play a bigger impact in his third and fourth games back. If he continues to dazzle, his return to Duke will become less and less sure, despite comments this week that he intends to return next season.