The Connecticut Huskies pulled off a 60-54 victory over the Kentucky Wildcats in the NCAA Championship game, ending one of the most entertaining and crazy NCAA Tournaments in memory.
The tournament runs for the two teams in the Championship raises questions for players on either side; did Kentucky jelling at the right time bump any of the youngsters up in NBA draft boards? Does Shabazz Napier's Championship secure him a 1st Round selection?
Certainly, no NBA team will draft a player based only on his tournament run. There's history showing that players won't become a top selection just because of a dominant tournament run (see Chambers, Mario) and it's also been shown that terrible tournament performances won't kill established draft stocks, either (see Harden, James). NCAA Tournament performances are (hopefully) just more pieces of the puzzles for team scouts, but it doesn't hurt when a player shines on the biggest stage.
Let's take a look at some of the Players from the Final Four-click on a player's name and you'll open their DraftExpress profile, which has all of their basic information.
PF Julius Randle, Kentucky
14.8 PPG, 9.8 RPG in the Tournament
Randle was slowed in the last two games by cramps, and while he still played well, he wasn't the same force he'd been earlier in the tournament.
Randle was already a lock for a top six selection before the tournament, but does Kentucky's excellent run (in which he was the teams' best player) give him another notch against Australian guard Dante Exum or Arizona's Aaron Gordon?
Randle isn't on the same draft tier as Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid or Jabari Parker, but he may be the leader of the next tier after that. He fulfilled all his preseason hype in the tournament.
SF James Young, Kentucky
13.6 PPG, 5 RPG in the Tournament
Young broke out in the final two games, emerging as the Wildcats' best offensive weapon with Randle hobbled. He had 17 points on 5-11 shooting against Wisconsin, and then had 20 points on 5-13 shooting against Connecticut.
Young has the potential to be a fantastic all-around player; He can shoot, he isn't afraid to attack the basket, he's a good rebounder for his size and he's already an above-average defender. He's also an insane athlete, and had the best dunk of the tournament against the Huskies.
When I watch Young, I see a raw player with loads of talent, but I expect he'll be mostly invisible his first few years in the league. Most mocks had him projected as a late lottery/mid-teens selection, but perhaps his impressive tournament run might bump him up a few picks.
PG Shabazz Napier, UConn
20.1 PPG, 4.5 APG in the Tournament
Does winning a Championship and the Tournament's Most Outstanding Player award snag Napier a 1st Round selection?
He's an undersized shooting guard, and his primary instinct is to score, but he has worked hard on becoming more of a floor leader. He didn't have his best game against Kentucky (his 22 points were marred by more than his average number of bad shots and sloppy turnovers), but he still hit big buckets when UConn's offense sputtered.
If he dominates in workouts, he may snag a very late 1st/early 2nd Round selection, and I expect he'll prove to be an solid enough bench sparkplug in the future.
SG Aaron Harrison, Kentucky
13.3 PPG, 42% FG in the Tournament
Harrison was in the mid-to-late lottery on many mocks earlier in the preseason, but Kentucky's rocky season seemed to knock him off that tier. He was one of the Wildcat players who exemplified the team's late turnaround, and he gained attention for his clutch shots in the tournament after he hit three straight game winners. I'd peg him as a late 1st Round selection.
- Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein missed Kentucky's final three games with an ankle injury. The Wildcats could have used another rim protector late in the Championship game, but Cauley-Stein is still likely a mid-1st Round selection due to his size and potential.
- UConn's DeAndre Daniels had a very quiet performance in the Championship with just eight points on 4-14 shooting, but the 6'8 junior had an otherwise excellent tournament run (he averaged 16 points and 48% shooting in the six games). If he enters this year's draft, he'll be in a very crowded group on the fringe of the 1st/2nd Round, but he could return to UConn and chase another Championship.
- With Napier off to the NBA, the consensus is that Ryan Boatright will return to lead UConn next season. Like Napier, he's an undersized shooting guard, and while he's a capable scorer he needs to stay for his senior year if he hopes to get drafted.
- Aaron's brother, Andrew Harrison, also crashed down draft boards after a rocky season. While he played better during the tournament and ran a much improved Kentucky offense, he didn't recover like his brother did. If he gets taken in the 1st Round, it'll be because a team loves his size, strength and future potential-but the most interesting wrinkle would be if the twins returned to Kentucky, looking to secure lottery selections next season.
- Seven footers with range like Wisconsin junior Frank Kaminsky are pretty dang rare. He's stiff and doesn't have the strength or speed to guard all NBA big men, but he proved in the tournament that he can shoot as well as anyone his size in college.
- Two years ago when he entered college, Kentucky forward Alex Poythress was hailed as an early lottery selection in the 2013 Draft Class-now he's likely a mid-to-late 2nd Round selection. He's athletic, but he's still very raw at all aspects of the game.