- Chad Ford, ESPN Senior Writer
The East Region of the 2012 NCAA tournament has a lot of talent but not many NBA draft lottery prospects. While the South and Midwest Regions have as many as 12 potential lottery picks and a few other potential first-rounders, this group really only has one or two.
ESPN.com has talked to multiple NBA scouts and GMs over the course of the season to give you a look at the top 5 NBA prospects we'll be watching in each NCAA region.
East Region NBA Prospects
1. Jared Sullinger, PF, So., Ohio State
The Good: Sullinger is one of the few true low-post scorers in the game. He uses his wide base to clear out space around the basket. He has a soft touch and is skilled, with a great basketball IQ. Excellent rebounder with long arms and great hands.
The Bad: He's undersized for his position and he generally plays below the rim. He can really struggle when pitted against bigger, more athletic front lines.
The Upside: There is a major debate among NBA scouts about Sullinger's pro potential. Some see a Zach Randolph-type player at the next level. Others think Glen Davis might be more like his upside. Sullinger isn't going to win this debate one way or the other in the tournament. He's one guy whose stock has remained remarkably stable since the moment he played his first game at Ohio State. He is what he is and is rarely more or less.
2. Jeff Taylor, G/F, Sr., Vanderbilt
The Good: Taylor is one of the best athletes in the game. He's an explosive leaper who excels out in transition. He has dramatically improved his jump shot over the past four years.
The Bad: He still struggles to dominate offensively at times and his aggression level can vary depending on the matchup. He's already 22 years old, which hurts his stock a little.
The Upside: Taylor finally had the breakout year NBA scouts were hoping for as a senior. His athletic ability alone makes him a legitimate first-round prospect. If he were to land on the right team, he could have a great pro career. He's wilted a bit in big games over the past few years. If he can take over in the tournament, he could take one more big step up the draft board.
3. Dion Waiters, SG, So., Syracuse
The Good: Waiters is one of the most athletic guards in the country. He uses his explosive power to force his way to the basket. When he gets going, he's very hard to stop. He's constantly in attack mode on the offensive end and creates havoc on the defensive end.
The Bad: Waiters is still an inconsistent jump shooter and sometimes struggles to create his shot because of it. He's a bit undersized for his position (though his long arms make up for some of that). He has had a history of not always being a team player.
The Upside: He's another player who can really split scouts. A few teams have him on their boards as a lottery pick, thanks to his strength and ability to score. They see in him some Tyreke Evans. Others are concerned that his shortcomings could pose problems at the next level. A big tournament for Waiters (like the one he had in the Big East tournament) and Syracuse could really help him win over the skeptics. He's in the early 20s on our Big Board, but his ceiling is much higher than that.
4. Myck Kabongo, PG, Fr., Texas
The Good: Kabongo is a pure playmaker who can make everyone around him better. He's quick and he has a pretty nice jump shot.
The Bad: Pure point guards need talent around them. Kabongo had a black hole -- J'Covan Brown and little else. He struggled in virtually every area as a freshman.
The Upside: Kabongo is a much better prospect than he showed as a freshman at Texas. It just wasn't a great fit for him this year after most of Texas' talent left for the NBA. His stock has slid considerably because of it, but it wouldn't take him long to rebuild faith in his skills. This is a very weak point guard draft, and Kabongo is one of the few point guards in the NCAA with the ability to make an impact at the next level.
5. Fab Melo, C, So., Syracuse
The Good: Melo has size, mobility and the ability to change things on the defensive end for Syracuse. He's an excellent shot-blocker and a decent rebounder. He has a better perimeter game than you'd think. He's made huge strides from his freshman year.
The Bad: He's still very raw. He can disappear for long stretches. He's struggled to stay in shape in the past.
The Upside: When Melo plays well, NBA scouts drool. He's never going to be an NBA superstar, but teams are in desperate need of big men who can run the floor, block shots and play defense. With Melo running into academic problems this year, he might just test the waters. A great tournament run could seal his position as a potential first-round pick.
Editor's Note: Since this blog was posted Fab Melo has been declared ineligible for the NCAA tournament.
Sleeper: Andrew Nicholson, PF, Sr., St. Bonaventure
The Good: A long, physical forward who tries to dunk everything around the rim, he's been an effective low post scorer in the NCAA since his sophomore season and seems to get better every year.
The Bad: Scouts have questioned his toughness and commitment over the years. He's been a bit of an indifferent rebounder and defender in the past.
The Upside: Nicholson shut up many of his detractors this season, posting one of the best PERs in college basketball and going on to dominate the Atlantic 10 the last month of the season. His performance in the Atlantic 10 tournament showed that he's tough and committed. If he plays like that in the NCAA tournament, Nicholson looks like he'll finally get a serious look at being a first-round pick.
Others to watch: Festus Ezeli, C, Vanderbilt; John Jenkins, SG, Vanderbilt; Kevin Jones, F, West Virginia; Deshaun Thomas, G/F, Ohio State; William Buford, SG, Ohio State; J'Covan Brown, G, Texas; Yancy Gates, PF, Cincinnati; C.J. Fair, F, Syracuse; Michael Snaer, G, Florida State; Elias Harris, F, Gonzaga; Jordan Taylor, PG, Wisconsin; Kris Joseph, F, Syracuse; Robert Sacre, C, Gonzaga; Rakeem Christmas, F, Syracuse; Aaron Craft, PG, Ohio State; Bernard James, F/C, Florida State; Xavier Gibson, F, Florida State
The spotlight is on the NCAA tournament, and here are the top 5 NBA prospects in its East Region.