Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - This year's NCAA Championship tournament has not been kind to most of the biggest names projected for greatness come NBA Draft time.
(It was also not good for me. Darn you, Creighton!)
The tournament shines the brightest light on these youngsters who are preordained for greatness at the highest levels imaginable. Nowhere is the pressure higher on these children than it is in the field of 68.
The casual observer uses the tournament as a barometer to measure how far an individual player can carry a team. After all, if a team is considering taking one of these studs, fans and basketball wise guys want to be soothed in the notion that this new player can do just that.
The hype surrounding this year's draft class hasn't helped these tots, either. Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle were anointed as "can't miss" from the jump. Joel Embiid joined the fray and Randle is the only one whose team is still in the hunt for a championship.
Should teams, or even fan bases, be scared off by the mediocre to poor performances of some of the top prospects in the tourney?
To an extent, yes, because of the reason mentioned before. If a player can almost single-handedly carry his school to a title or a deep run in the tournament, that's impressive.
If a player isn't able to achieve that, it shouldn't be held against him. That's a tall chore for even the best player in the world, let alone an 18- year-old kid.
NBA evaluators have largely made their minds up about these players long before their 35th games of the season. And really, despite the significance of the NCAA Championship, how could one reasonably articulate an informed opinion based on one or two games?
Problem is, the performances of the top players was a certainly underwhelming. Not the kind of underwhelming that stops general managers from plucking them in the draft, but underwhelming enough to remember.
Embiid didn't even play in Kansas' two games because of a back injury. Know what talent evaluators in professional sports love seeing? A kid with a back problem. According to most, Embiid would've played had Kansas beaten Stanford, but the Jayhawks didn't and is it fair to question his heart if he could play on Thursday but not on Sunday?
Wiggins appears to have fallen the most in people's eyes after his uneventful performance in the third round against the Cardinal. Wiggins scored four points on 1-for-6 field-goal shooting in the loss to Stanford and therefore, he should not be selected No. 1.
Did you know Wiggins averaged 19.7 ppg the previous 13? Or that he averaged 20 ppg in Kansas' 10 games against ranked opponents? Or that Wiggins is almost already an elite defender?
Yes, Wiggins' horrible performance in the third round exacerbated one of his biggest warts - he disappears. He's not the type to take a game by the throat and call it his own. That's a pretty substantial problem for a guy who was billed as a transcendent talent, but I promise you one thing, no NBA team is passing on Wiggins because of his subpar afternoon against Stanford.
Same goes for Parker. His Duke Blue Devils got bounced by Mercer in the first round (I know it's the second, but to me, it's not). Parker doesn't want to leave on a loss. Everyone wants to stay in March. Talk to me in April. Parker is guaranteed to be a top-three pick in this draft.
But for those who don't like what they saw in Parker, you're right. He was 4- for-14 from the floor for 14 points, but his deficiency that was magnified against Mercer was his defense. Parker couldn't stop a pre-K kid from getting to the basket, but again, no talent evaluator would hesitate on Parker. He's the most NBA-ready offensive player in the draft class and will be a big-time matchup problem.
These three caused the most desperation because they had the longest to fall. All three will be high picks in the draft, although, between you and me, I think Embiid might slide a bit.
Doug McDermott's Creighton team got beat by 100. Tyler Ennis took two questionable shots down the stretch in Syracuse's third-round loss. Rodney Hood went 2-for-10 from the floor in Duke's loss to Mercer.
These things happen. Smart coaches build game plans around stopping star players. Good college teams, which have been together for years, can overcome a kid who'll be in a Nike commercial one day.
That's not an indictment on the stud prospect. It's fact and reality sometimes is tough to embrace. No one is staying in school because he underachieved in the tournament. No team is going to pass on one of these kids because he underachieved in the tournament.
Everyone should stop worrying about one or two games. Worry about not being able to predict the future - that should be more troubling - not a bad evening against Mercer.
- What can you say about the Philadelphia 76ers at this point? No sense in getting up in arms. It's not an NBA team. Michael Carter-Williams and Thaddeus Young are only true professional-level players on the team. Saturday is high noon for the Sixers. If they don't beat Detroit at home, losing out from January is a possibility.
- Derrick Rose is a guy who seems to get everyone's opinion about what he should do with his professional life. So, here's one more - don't play for USA Basketball this summer. I think he owes it to the Chicago Bulls to come back for them and not risk any possible injury ... unless it happens in a Bulls uniform.
- Movie moment - I hope "Noah" does as well as expected at the box office. Could give a much-needed shot in the arm for the ark industry.
- TV moment - I used to watch "How I Met Your Mother" but I stopped because I intensely dislike the Ted character. I understand it has been on CBS for a while, but "Seinfeld" didn't get this kind of send-off. The show's highest finish for a season was 42nd in the Nielsen ratings. Good luck to everyone, but "I Love Lucy" isn't going off the air here.