Hurry and submit your bracket into Planet BBall’s March Madness competition at ESPN for a chance to win cool prizes!
Once again, the NCAA Tournament has arrived, signifying the busiest time of the year for NBA scouts. And every tournament there are players that surprise everyone and shoot up the draft board and those that free fall out of sight. Take last year for example: before March Madness began, Gordon Hayward wasn’t expected to be a first round selection, much less a lottery pick. After Butler’s Championship Game run? The Jazz selected him at #9. However, Villanova’s disappointing second-round exit sealed Scottie Reynolds’ fate as the first AP All-American in 25 years to go undrafted.
So who will shine in the national spotlight in 2011? Watch out for these three projected first-rounders:
1. JaJuan Johnson, Purdue – After Robbie Hummel’s season-ending injury before last year’s tournament, Johnson led the all-but-forgotten Boilermakers to the sweet sixteen before losing to the eventual champion Duke. He’s continued that leadership through the 2010-11 season, helping his team earn a 3-seed. Look for Purdue to go deep into the bracket, and watch JaJuan jump from the upper first round into lottery territory.
2. Jimmer Fredette, BYU – Anyone in the country who has heard of college basketball has heard of Jimmer by now. The nation’s leading scorer has had 20 or more points in his last 19 games, including four outings over 40 points and one over 50. BYU has plenty of doubters right now after losing their leading rebounder and only effective big man, Brandon Davies, but they are still poised to make a run. Their games start in Denver, only a few hours from Provo, which is sure to draw plenty of fans, and the 2-seed in their bracket is Florida (arguably the weakest #2 this year), leaving #1 Pitt as their only major challenge. Rumor has it that the Jazz insisted on getting the Nets’ first rounder in the trade for William’s so they would have two lottery picks to snag Fredette and keep him in Utah, but they better hope the ping-pong balls bounce their way – if they don’t land one of the top 7 picks, Jimmer will likely be gone.
3. Harrison Barnes, UNC – Although he doesn’t have much room to move up (he’s projected in the top five right now), this 6’8” freshmen has shown he has the game and the heart to play at the next level. He almost single-handedly defeated Clemson to bring his team to the ACC Championship game, scoring 14 of his 40 points in overtime. After dropping from #9 in the preseason to not-ranked in week four, the Tar Heels have climbed back into the top ten and a 2-seed. Pay attention as Barnes continues to lead them deep into March, solidifying his place near the top of the 2011 NBA Draft.
Don’t forget to submit your bracket into Planet BBall’s March Madness competition and win cool prizes!
This article was originally posted by me on Slam Dunk Central.