The NCAA Tournament kicks off in full on Thursday, so I will just give some thoughts on some prospects from each region before each weekend. These are not meant to be scouting reports or evaluations, just some thoughts on how the play of certain pro prospects can affect their team’s ability to advance.
I’ll start things out in the Midwest where Louisville is the top seed.
While Smith is not the only, or best, pro prospect on the #1 seed Louisville squad, his ability to create chaos on the defensive end is often the impetus to many Cardinal runs. The key for Smith is going to be trying to avoid creating the same chaos on the offensive end. Smith has great speed, is fearless going to the basket, and is capable of knocking down open jumpers. With some tough defenses scattered throughout the bracket, Louisville is going to need Smith to somehow still be “Russ Smith” but much more controlled.
The Colorado State senior performed admirably in a semi-final loss to UNLV in the Mountain West Tournament, scoring 24 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. A first round date with Missouri and Alex Oriahki is coming, and Iverson can set the tone for the Rams’ tournament hopes on how he goes after Oriahki in the paint and rebounds against a strong rebounding team.
While Nash showed more of the athleticism and explosiveness that was expected last season, the addition of Marcus Smart has boosted his confidence and given him someone who knows how to get him the ball. Nash’s issue is he still seems to disappear for long stretches of play, and often those coincide with things going badly for the Cowboys. In an elimination scenario, Oklahoma State is going to need Nash to bring all of his abilities out and do whatever the team needs for wins.
See Le’Bryan Nash
In a stretch of 3 losses to Indiana, Ohio State, and Michigan, Appling played some of the worst games of his college career. With the NCAA Tournament being a lot about controlling the floor and the tempo, Appling will be shouldered with leading the charge for the Spartans on both ends of the floor. Michigan State’s offense relies on getting into sets quickly and finding the gaps. Appling has had trouble with both this season and he will need to fix this for Michigan State to make a real deep run.
We all know the ways that McDermott can score, which is pretty much all of them, but with a potential Duke matchup on the horizon, McDermott is going to need to step up his defensive game while keeping his offense at the same high level. Defense is going to be the next step in McDermott’s development any way, may as well let the tournament show what he can do.
Plumlee’s 1st half of the season was among, if not the best, of any player in college basketball, but the injury to Ryan Kelly suddenly closed the court on Plumlee and he found it difficult to operate. Kelly is back, but we have yet to really see the early season Plumlee. I expect Duke to go to Plumlee early in these tournament games to establish the inside game. If Plumlee doesn’t get it done, the perimeter game may suffer as a result.
Check back as we go through each region leading up to Thursday, and after each weekend's games.
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