By Dan Bernstein–
I will be the first person to agree that the NCAA tournament isn’t what it used to be, with lesser overall talent on the floor and fewer compelling NBA prospects to watch.
So I have to also give credit where due, and last night’s slate of four games actually made for worthwhile viewing — reminiscent of those seasons when the floor was filled with players who were more than just gritty kids, hustling for their One Shining Moment before managing a car dealership or coaching at a small high school.
Using NBADraft.net and DraftExpress.com as references, I cross-checked my own feelings about some of the players to get an idea of just how much potential pro talent was on display last night as we watched Duke, Arizona, UConn, San Diego State, BYU, Florida, Wisconsin and Butler.
My point has nothing to do with who won the games, or whom you wanted to win. Please keep that in mind, especially if you are a typically-unhinged, college sports crazy person, prone to threats of bodily harm toward the source of any perceived slight.
First, data from the two sites tells us we saw six consensus first-round NBA draft picks last night: Arizona’s Derrick Williams (NBADraft.net’s #1 overall in 2011, #6 in DraftExpress), Duke’s Kyrie Irving (#3/#1), and Nolan Smith (#26/#22), Kemba Walker of Connecticut (#18/#8), BYU gunner Jimmer Fredette (#10/#17) and San Diego State forward Kawhi Leonard (#14/#13).
What’s more, there was another group of first-rounders that pops up on projections for the 2012 draft. NBADraft.net’s mock board has Jeremy Lamb of Connecticut at #8 and Butler guard Shelvin Mack at #29, while Duke forward Mason Plumlee is the tenth overall pick that year per DraftExpress.
Rounding out the list are Duke’s Kyle Singler (#30/#36 for 2011), Jon Leuer of Wisconsin (#24/#47) and Florida senior swingman Chandler Parsons (#35 at NBADraft.net).
Beyond the objective – if arbitrarily selected – criteria to legitimize the action, consider the eye-test performances of the top prospects:
— Williams is clearly an above-the-rim player, ready to compete in the NBA right now. His 32 points included five three-pointers and a soaring dunk that all made scouts’ hearts palpitate. He shot 11-17 from the floor and had 13 boards against a top defensive team. It was his night.
— Irving scored 28, and showed professional strength, quickness and body control. If he returns to school next year he should have his head examined.
— Walker continued the improbable run up the draft boards that began in the EA Sports Maui Invitational and was bolstered by his domination of the Big East tournament. He played all 40 minutes and scored 36.
For a night, at least, the college game felt like something that mattered, with star players doing big things that we’ll remember as we follow them in the years to come when they play bigger, faster, better basketball.
Though some fans are fond of the quaint phrase “It’s not the name on the back of the jersey that matters, it’s the name on the front,” I tend to disagree.
Both names matter. The ones on the front are a helluva lot more interesting and significant when I care about some on the back.
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein’s blogs here. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.
Listen to The Boers and Bernstein Show podcasts >>