Full FanHouse Tournament Coverage
Best NBA Prospect: Ekpe Udoh, 22-years-old, Baylor
Udoh is the prototypical NBA defensive stalwart -- a 6-foot-10 power forward with a tremendous wingspan and excellent leaping ability. During his first season at Baylor, the Michigan transfer broke the all-time single-season block record in the Big 12 with 123, or nearly 3.8 per game, en route to earning conference Newcomer of the Year as well. Udoh, though, isn't some raw athlete inept of scoring the basketball or contributing in other areas of the game. He has a terrific touch around the basket, displaying a consistent and almost unblockable baby hook with his improved footwork and ultra high release. He embraces contact both offensively and defensively, but isn't over aggressive and doesn't reach very often. Instead, he moves his feet really well for such a big kid, and displays a natural prowess to consistently rebound and fight on the glass. A true defensive enforcer, Udoh's draft stock has furiously risen throughout the season, and he appears a safe bet to become a first round draft choice whenever it may be.
Best Match-up: Udoh vs. Omar Samhan
Samhan has been one of the darlings of the tournament thus far (his interviews alone are priceless), and for good reason. During the first two rounds, he completely dominated the painted area while averaging 10 rebounds, proving unstoppable at either block or even working from the high post (31 points). His footwork and touch are unparalleled in the collegiate game, and even though he's an average athlete at best, Samhan is so skilled and refined that it doesn't matter. The question becomes: what will win out here? The proficiency and cleverness of Samhan, or the athleticism and length of Udoh?
Also, keep a keen eye out for how the St. Mary's backcourt, mainly point guard Mickey McConnell, handles the ball pressure and offensive prowess of Baylor's two second-team all-conference performers, Lacedarius Dunn and Tweety Carter. If McConnell can't force feed Samhan down low or properly execute the screen-and-roll, this game could be over in a hurry.
Purdue vs. Duke
Best NBA Prospect: Kyle Singler, 21-years-old, Duke
Singler is just a junior, but his play during the second half of this season has been instrumental to the resurgence of a Duke program that appeared oddly dormant for the past five years. Singler is a similar player to former Blue Devil star Mike Dunleavy Jr., the No. 3 pick in the 2002 draft. He doesn't quite measure up length or size wise (6-foot-7 compared to 6-foot-9), but the perimeter skill level coupled with the flurry of post-ups and interior scoring draw comparison. Much like Dunleavy, Singler won't be an NBA star, but could become an offensive spark off the bench in the right system. As a pro, his dribble penetration won't be as effective, neither will his post-up game, but his expanded outside shooting (39 percent threes) coupled with his decent ball-handling and high basketball IQ will earn him late first- or second-round draft status.
Best Match-up: Chris Kramer vs. Jon Scheyer
The hero of the second round for Purdue is the single most physical point guard I've ever seen in college basketball. The four-time All-Big Ten defender is the type of tough, lock-down defender you love to have on your team, but hate to practice against every day. Scheyer is a real solid kid, though, and not one to back down, this being his senior year. If Kramer is overly aggressive early on, look for Scheyer to use his steady diet of head fakes and step-backs to free himself for open looks. But if Kramer can slow him down, the Boilers -- despite playing without their best player Robbie Hummel -- will give Duke a scare.
The other battle to watch for is in the post with Duke's ever-improving Brian Zoubek and Purdue's JaJuan Johnson. It will be a chess match, a battle of size, wit and speed. While the 7-foot Zoubek will bang and overpower the shorter and far more slender Johnson, he will be out-quicked and forced to step away from the basket given Johnson's ability to knock down jumpers close to the three. Purdue loves to grind it out and wear you down with offensive sets and brutally sound defense, but so does Duke. It'll be a dogfight in Houston.