Best NBA Prospect: Quincy Pondexter, 22 years old, Washington
We alluded to Pondexter last week as a guy to watch closely because of how multi-dimensional and naturally gifted he is. This is a Husky team that lives on a hellish, up-and-down pace, and Pondexter's relentless desire to run is the main reason why. If you like all-around, polished players, then "Q" is your guy. The Huskies senior excels in UW's transition attack, where he combines his size (6-7) and nimbleness to finish at the rim. But don't let his high-flying attack fool you. Pondexter can score from all over the floor, particularly from the 14-16 foot range where he loves to face up, use one quick move and rise over defenders. He is an example of a kid who tested NBA waters early on, realized he needed more time to develop and used his four years of college to become a fundamentally sound, great basketball player. Look out for him come lottery time in June.
Best Match-up: Pondexter vs. Da'Sean Butler
Butler is to West Virginia what Pondexter is to Washington: a senior leader who flat out gets it done. While Pondexter has a more diverse skill set, Butler is a fiercer, tougher competitor who spent four years going against rugged Big East competition. At 6-6, he will be able to match-up size wise with his counterpart, and will use his superior strength to try and bully Pondexter in the paint. Butler is very apt at stepping away from the basket and creating off the dribble as well. Not the quickest or most explosive, he is the most determined. When he needs to get to his spot to elevate, he gets there. Devin Ebanks is the real wildcard here though. The enigmatic sophomore for Bob Huggins has had an up-and-down season after talk of the lottery last summer. He too can create a major issue for Washington with his ability to take Pondexter or Justin Holiday away from the basket and potentially force them into foul trouble.
Cornell vs. Kentucky
Best NBA Prospect: ...
Oh, how about "Everyone on Kentucky." There's no secret this is the most supremely talented basketball team in America. You know about John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Patrick Patterson, so let's give you another prospect to consider.
Daniel Orton, 19 years old, Kentucky
Orton is not as decorated as the trio of aforementioned freshmen, but at 6-10, 260 lbs., he better be on your radar. Orton has been overshadowed during his freshmen campaign, but with Patterson, Cousins, and Wall all expected to enter the draft, he will be a name to know very soon. Like Cousins, Orton is a banger, in the truest sense. He is a great offensive rebounder who uses a set of improving hands and very long arms to snatch rebounds away from either shorter or more athletic players. And like Cousins, the question looming around him is maturity, which is why he needs to stay in school under the tutelage of John Calipari (not the most mature either, but a fine developer of talent). Orton doesn't have quite the dexterity or upside of Cousins, so he must refine his skills to become a more attractive player to potential NBA suitors. Orton is an intriguing prospect who should shoot up the draft boards as he continues the progression of his physical and emotional growth.
Best Match-up: Wall vs. Louis Dale
Once again, there are a lot of good ones here: Jeff Foote vs. Cousins and Patterson, Ryan Wittman vs. Bledsoe, but as is the case come tournament time, the key is guard play, particularly point guard play. Wall may be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, but Louis Dale of Cornell will give him everything he could want in this battle of elite points. Dale was virtually un-recruited coming out of high school in Alabama -- a region rich in basketball bloodlines -- so much so that he had to send his own highlight video to the Cornell coaching staff in hope of a roster slot. Let's just say Steve Donahue and company is glad he chose to do so. Dale doesn't have the blazing speed, explosiveness, or even athleticism of Wall -- who does? -- but the senior has become a superb decision maker (2.18 assists-turnover ratio), well-rounded passer (5 assists) and clutch scorer (20 points per game in last five). If he can slow down Wall and force Kentucky to initiate its offense in the half-court as opposed to the fast break, the Ivy League champs have a serious shot at pulling the shocker.