The 16 games yesterday yielded a few upsets and a few more spankings by the No. 1 seeds. Derrick Williams, John Henson and Tristan Thompson continue to show why they belong at the top of the 2011 NBA Draft, while others like Kyrie Irving and Chris Singleton had mixed results in their debut from injuries.
Let's start off with whose hot:
Kyrie Irving, Duke
Potential: No. 1 overall pick
At first, we weren't sure. He was hesitant to get mixed into the game. He was clearly favoring his previously-injured right foot, he looked a bit rusty in his first game in three months and he had to get over the nerves over not only his much-anticipated return, but the NCAA tournament as well. The electrifying point guard put on a show after he got the butterflies out. He possesses elite-level quickness, blowing by the Hampton defenders to get into the lane at will. Once the Pirates realized they couldn't contain Irving or do very much to slow down his drives at the least, they played off of him, in which case Irving knocked down 3s on consecutive possessions.
Derrick Williams, Arizona
Potential: Top 5 pick
Although Williams failed to make much of an impact on the defensive end for 39+ minutes, routinely providing little assistance as an interior defender, Williams made his mark on that end in the closing seconds when he blocked the potential game-tying shot. The Tigers of Memphis ran up-and-down on Arizona and it looked like we might not get to see Williams play again in a Wildcats uniform, but Williams' defensive play ensured we would. He scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for his 12th double-double of the season. He showed his versatility off by scoring both inside and out, including his one three point attempt (36-of-59, 61 percent on the season).
Tristan Thompson, Texas
As an "undersized" power forward at 6'8", Thompson uses his tremendous length and wingspan of about 7'2" to make up for his lack of size, especially against the Golden Grizzlies. He possesses a high motor and level of energy to crash the offensive glass to not only create second-chance put-backs for himself, but kick the ball out to re-start the offense as well. Thompson had five offensive boards against Oakland and another five on the defensive glass. His interior defense was extremely impressive on an underrated Oakland front court featuring a 2011 NBA draft pick in Keith Benson; he collected a career-high seven blocks, while altering several more in Texas' win.
Mason Plumlee, Duke
Potential: Late-lottery - mid-round pick
No players has benefitted from the play of Kyrie Irving more so than the younger Plumlee. His athleticism is best used with a play-making point guard like Irving and the duo seemed to click from the beginning. Plumlee is now averaging 11 points (on 61.5 percent shooting from the floor) with the freshman point guard and only 6 points without him (. He has been the recipient of quite a number of alley-oops and open dunks with Irving drawing the attention of the defense with his quickness, but still maintains the ability to find Plumlee when the big man can finish around the rim.
Keith Benson, Oakland
Potential: Second round
The lengthy, 6'11" Benson was thought of by some as a late-first round pick in June's draft, and his game against Texas didn't do much to raise his stock, more likely pushing him down some slots instead. Tristan Thompson, Texas' aforementioned lottery-bound big man, dominated the taller Benson at times, beating him for three offensive rebounds on Texas' first three possessions. In fact, Benson found it difficult to make his impact on the game in the up-and-down style, but finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds in the end. He was just 6-of-15 shooting on the game.
Mike Davis, Illinois
Davis is probably the fourth or fifth best pro prospect on his Illinois team, but the 6'9" perimeter-oriented power forward put forth one of his best career efforts in front of scouts in attendance. The athletic senior had never been much of a banger inside, but inside plays well in the high-low game with 7-foot center Mike Tisdale and plays off the guards' penetration and kick outs. Davis knocked down his patented 12-15 foot jumper over and over to tie a season high 22 points with 9 rebounds and 5 assists.
Harrison Barnes, North Carolina
Potential: Top 4 pick
The former consensus best player in the 2011 class has had himself a heck of a second-half of the season. He's turned things on in ACC play, scoring the basketball at a high rate and getting mixed in on the boards as well. While scouts love his size, athleticism and mid-range game, Barnes hasn't shown much improvement in his deep-perimeter shooting. He continues to show off his streakiness from beyond the arc, where he had a few open looks against the LIU defense was unable to convert. All things aside, he had himself a solid game- 24 points, career-high 16 rebounds, 3 assists.
Will Barton, Memphis
Potential: Second Round - Undrafted
Barton is still at least a year away as he desperately needs to fill out his lanky 6'5", 170-pound frame, but he still came away pretty impressive against Arizona in Memphis' lone tournament game. Even though he was 0-for-4 from behind the arc, Barton slashed through the Arizona defense with ease and came up with a few acrobatic dunks of his own. He has the ability to put the ball on the floor and create his own shot, which just hasn't been falling this season, especially in the last few games; 3-for-20 in the last five.
Less Than Impressive:
Chris Singleton, Florida State
Potential: Early second round
The 6'9" junior struggled mightily in his return from a broken right foot, finishing with five points and four fouls. Coach Leonard Hamilton wanted to wean Singleton into the lineup, so maybe it wasn't the most picture-perfect 16 minutes of action, but the Seminoles are hoping it was enough to knock off some of the rust in time for Sunday's matchup with No. 2 Notre Dame.
Singleton didn't do much to dispel scouts' problems with his game- his two buckets were a mid-range jumper and a 3-pointer from the win. Even at 6'9", causing matchup problems galore, Singleton doesn't do much scoring in the paint, nor is he a consistent shooter from the mid-range.
Tu Holloway, Xavier
The undersized point guard that had some scouts raving in the past few weeks didn't put up much of a performance against a solid Marquette team, finishing 1-of-8 from the floor for 5 points, 5 assists and 5 turnovers. There's no doubt he needs to return for his senior season now.
His quick first step looked very pedestrian against the guard-oriented Golden Eagles as he wasn't able to get into the lane and penetrate to set up his shot or his teammates. Without that, he relied on his jump shot, which wasn't falling and hasn't been falling for the A-10 Player of the Year.
Corey Stokes, Villanova
Stokes has the size and sweet-shooting stroke to earn his way into the draft, but after a 4-for-15 shooting performance against George Mason, the senior guard may be looking elsewhere for a job. He's yet to develop more than his perimeter shooting- he still isn't great at putting the ball on the deck to create his own shot, instead relying on the likes of Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns to find him for open looks. His defense, as well as the rest of the Wildcats, was underwhelming at times as he seemed uninterested about defended and he would continually go under the Patriots screens and slack off, which eventually led to the defeat of Villanova.