NCAA Eye for the NBA Guy: Sweet 16, West Region
Kansas State vs. Xavier
Best NBA Prospect: Wally Judge, 19-years-old, Kansas State
A 6-foot-9 freshman with length, range and terrific athleticism always intrigues NBA scouts. Judge fits the bill to a tee. His progression this year on a deep K-State team has been overwhelmingly impressive. Judge's offensive game is still raw, especially when operating from the high post. Defensively he seems to improve every game with better awareness and position. He projects as more of a power forward and needs to put on more bulk, but with another season or two in college, he could climb the draft ladder very easily.
Best Match-up: Xavier guards vs. K-State guards
Jacob Pullen was outstanding against BYU at both ends of the floor. His shut-down defense against scorer extraordinaire Jimmer Fredette was key, as was his aptitude to knock down monster three-pointers, hitting seven in all. Denis Clemente is a dynamic playmaker with excellent quickness. He is a deadly three-point shooter who like Pullen, thrives on clutch situations. Combined, the two average a healthy 35 points and 9 assists for Frank Martin's club.
Xavier, however, has a pair of very good guards itself in Jordan Crawford -- who is averaging 20 points to lead the Musketeers -- and Terrell Holloway. You may recall Crawford was the kid who shook the sports world when he dunked on LeBron James last summer. Holloway is the leader of this team, and they go as he goes. He isn't the offensive weapon as Fredette, but he is a much better defender who won't be as bothered as BYU was to the pestering Wildcat defense. Holloway's ability to get into gaps and distribute the basketball to both Crawford and center Jason Love will be crucial to Xavier's upset bid.
Butler vs. Syracuse
Best NBA Prospect: Wesley Johnson, 22-years-old, Syracuse
The Big East Player of the Year is playing the finest basketball of his career, and is far and away the best player in this region. Johnson blends a wonderful mix of perimeter jumpers, pull-ups and rim rattling dunks into his repertoire. He projects as an NBA small forward, but is versatile enough to play the two spot, and even a little bit of four, where Jim Boeheim likes to plug him in at times. His ball handling and shot-creating still need work, but Johnson is a special prospect with his tremendous athleticism and high upside that appears lottery bound should he declare for the draft as a fourth-year junior (transferred from Iowa State). The Orange will go as far as Johnson can take them.
Best Match-up: Matt Howard vs. Rick Jackson
The biggest storyline of this game is 'Cuse going to battle without their star big man, Arinze Onuaku. But the Orange had no troubles trouncing Gonzaga in his absence, as 6-foot-9 Jackson stepped up to snatch nine boards off the glass, lead the team with four assists, and provide a physical presence on defensive end. He'll match up against Howard, a highly skilled, highly effective college player who fits in perfectly with an undersized, but very scrappy Butler team. They both have struggled mightily keeping out of foul trouble (Howard was limited in the second round when he had four fouls and played just 18 minutes; Jackson picked up his third foul after just 13 minutes and played only 25 against the Zags), so the center most capable of staying in the game and away from fouls will play a vital role.
Wesley Johnson and Gordon Hayward will also provide us with a scintillating battle on the wing. Hayward presents the type of length and dexterity similar to Johnson. If he can limit the Orange's star, the Bulldogs could win their 23rd straight.