The Midwest regional kicks off Thursday evening with games in Oklahoma City and Providence. Championship favorite Kansas faces Patriot League champs Lehigh, while UNLV meets Northern Iowa. The Hoyas of Georgetown draw Ohio, with the winner waiting for the victor of Tennessee-San Diego State. While the Jayhawks are the obvious NBA scouting draw in today's Midwest action, the regional features a few potential first-rounders from the smaller schools, a few NBA roleplayers from Tennessee, and one big honking prospect from Georgetown.
Greg Monroe, C, Georgetown
19 years old, 6'11, 240 lbs., Sophomore
Looking for this season's Roe v. Wade of big men in the NBA draft? It's Monroe, a player half will call future NBA genius and half will call Softy McSofterson. Monroe is a brilliant passer -- perhaps the most skilled passing pivot to come out of college since Andrew Bogut. But he has a reputation as a lackluster rebounder, finisher and defender. But observers will find that Monroe has improved his rebounding greatly -- he's not Ewing or Mutombo, but he's better than predecessor Roy Hibbert in that facet. He's also defending well enough for it not to be an NBA red flag. If you gave up on Monroe a year ago, I implore you to give him another chance. -- T.Z.
Cole Aldrich, C, Kansas
21 years old, 6'11, 250 lbs., Junior
Aldrich will be a popular name come Draft Time, so we'll have plenty of time to talk about him. Watching him match up against a small Patriot League lineup in Lehigh -- with exactly one rotation player taller than 6'7 -- won't be particularly insightful. -- T.Z.
Kawhi Leonard, PF, San Diego State
18 years old, 6'7, 225 lbs., Freshman
The MVP of the Mountain West Conference Tournament is one of the most underrated freshmen in the nation. The 6-7, 225 lb Leonard averages 10 rebounds per game to go along with his 13 points and leads a scary Aztec squad that loves to get up and down the floor into a winnable game against 6-seeded Tennessee. -- Jordan Schultz
Xavier Henry, SG, Kansas
19 years old, 6'6, 210 lbs., Freshman
X would have been the prototype H.S.-to-pros player if not for the Kwame Brown Rule. Henry's game is clearly built for the NBA, not college ball. But Bill Self is a pragmatic soul, and X actually figured it out as the season wore on, and I think we'll see his talent translate as the tournament wears on. -- T.Z.
C.J. McCollum, SG, Lehigh
18 years old, 6'3, 165 lbs., Freshman
The virtually unknown McCollum became the first player in Patriot League history to win Player of the Year as a freshman, and he did it by scoring his tail off. The natural shooter with NBA range averaged 19 points a game this season, and more than 23/game in league play. He's ultra-efficient, and a surprisingly good foul-drawer and rebounder (for his size). A matchup with Kansas obviously means trouble -- the Jayhawks don't figure to be the first No. 1 seed to fall -- but if any Mountain Hawk will catch NBA scouts' eyes, it will be McCollum. -- T.Z.
Scotty Hopson, SG, Tennessee
20 years old, 6'6, 195 lbs., Sophomore
NBA fans may not get a good look at future big-leaguer Hopson, the young Vol scorer. Hopson had an awful SEC tournament (averaging six points a game over three contests, shooting just 20 percent). But the overall picture is much better: Hopson is a fearless shooter, a great athlete, and his size will be a boon to NBA scouts. But he'll probably need one more season at Tennessee to get the NBA really excited. -- T.Z.
Wayne Chism, PF, Tennessee
22 years old, 6'9, 245 lbs., Senior
Thanks in large part to the dismissal of All-SEC forward Tyler Smith in January, this is not the high-flying, pressing Bruce Pearl team we've grown accustomed to seeing in year's past. Chism though, has stepped into a larger offensive role for the Vols, performing admirably, earning All-SEC honors and becoming the clear-cut leader of this unit. The forward doesn't wow you with his numbers (13 and 7), but it's his will and leadership ability that will. -- J.S.
And Four More ...
Tyshawn Taylor, PG, Kansas -- Taylor desparately needs Sherron Collins to go to the NBA and be successful, but not only will that open up opportunity for the freshman, but it will allow Taylor to show how much more talented than Collins he is. Speaking of which ...
Sherron Collins, PG, Kansas -- As an NBA fan, I'm quite tired of these eternal teases. Who do you think you are, Sherron, Mustafa Shakur? Joakim Noah? Staying in school is smart and wholesome, but to folks who scout you intently, always thinking you'll be declaring for the draft, it makes you seem 47 years old.
Tre'Von Willis, SG, UNLV -- The vital component to Lon Kruger's team thwarting Northern Iowa is guard Tre'Von Willis. The Rebels leading scorer at 17.3 points and second-leading assists man has struggled of late. If he continues this trend, it's one-and-done for Vegas. -- J.S.
Jordan Eglseder, C, Northern Iowa -- An impressive rebounder and scorer, Eglseder could make a summer league roster, provided his senior season DUI doesn't deflate his already limited NBA interest. -- T.Z.