- Chad Ford, ESPN Senior Writer
It's March Madness, baby! It's the big stage for some of college basketball's best players to show off their games. NBA scouts and general managers will be out in force the next few weeks scouting everyone in the Big Dance.
Rightly or wrongly, a great March can really help a player's stock. NBA GMs, the real decision-makers come draft time, are in attendance and tend to be swayed by what they see on the big stage.
Last year, Syracuse's Dion Waiters boosted his stock with a few big tourney performances. In 2011, UConn's Kemba Walker and Arizona's Derrick Williams improved their stocks with great runs. In 2010, Butler's Gordon Hayward, Ekpe Udoh and Jordan Crawford helped their causes with terrific tournament performances. In 2009, Tyreke Evans and Jonny Flynn rode strong tournament performances to high lottery picks. In 2008, Derrick Rose moved past Michael Beasley on most NBA teams' boards with an excellent performance and players such as Russell Westbrook and Brandon Rush helped themselves with strong tournament play, as well.
In years past, Florida's Al Horford and Joakim Noah, LSU's Tyrus Thomas, Illinois' Deron Williams, Syracuse's Carmelo Anthony, Marquette's Dwyane Wade, Maryland's Chris Wilcox, Arizona's Richard Jefferson, Florida's Mike Miller, Miami (Ohio)'s Wally Szczerbiak and Connecticut's Richard Hamilton helped their draft position significantly in March.
Who will take advantage of the national stage in this year's NCAA tournament to supercharge his draft stock?
For the second year in a row, the South Region has an unusually high number of NBA draft prospects in comparison to the other regions. By our count, it has four potential lottery picks and another eight potential first-rounders. In other words, it's loaded.
ESPN.com has talked to multiple NBA scouts and GMs over the course of the season to give you a look at the top NBA prospects they'll be watching in each NCAA region.
Lottery pick: Ben McLemore, SG, Fr.
First-rounder: Jeff Withey, C, Sr.
McLemore currently sits atop our Big Board, but his hold on the top spot has been tenuous. He is an elite shooter and a terrific athlete, but he can disappear for long stretches and doesn't really create well for himself off the dribble. KU's success in the tourney will be, in large part, based on whether Johnson and Naadir Tharpe can get him involved.
Withey isn't a great offensive player, but he'll be a first-rounder based entirely on his defensive ability and size. Johnson and Young are fringe second-round picks, but both could get a boost with a great tournament. A potential round of 32 matchup against North Carolina could put as many as 12 NBA draft prospects in the same game together.
Lottery pick: Otto Porter Jr., SF, So.
Porter has been an unlikely star for Georgetown. He was lightly recruited coming out of high school but has made a name for himself as the most versatile small forward in the country. Porter can do everything: shoot, handle the ball, play lockdown defense. He's probably not a lead guy at the next level, but he has the potential to be a very good No. 2 option for an NBA team.
First-rounder: Patric Young, F/C, Jr.
Young is one of the most frustrating players in the country. He looks like a lottery pick and, on occasion, even plays like one. But he also will just not show up at times, and when he disappears, Florida really struggles. A huge tournament from him could do wonders for his stock.
Stretch 4s are popular in the NBA right now, which gives Murphy a great shot at getting drafted. Undersized combo guards who shoot first at an inefficient rate are not, which means it's likely Boynton isn't going to have a big party on draft night.
Lottery pick: Trey Burke, PG, So.
First-rounder: Glenn Robinson III, F, Fr.
Potential second-rounder: Tim Hardaway Jr., G/F, Jr.
Burke has quietly worked himself into one of the two or three best players in college basketball. He's steady and efficient, can score from anywhere, rarely turns the ball over and shows great poise. If he were a little taller, or a better athlete, he'd be drawing Chris Paul comps right now. Robinson is all about potential. He's an elite athlete who has been inconsistent in a few games. A big tournament could propel him into the lottery. Hardaway has been great this season, but he's still struggling to work his way permanently into the second round.
Potential second-rounder: Juvonte Reddic, PF, Jr.
Wait 'til next year: Treveon Graham, SG, So.
Reddic is a great athlete and finisher around the rim. Graham is VCU's best perimeter scorer. Neither is a likely second-round pick, but if VCU gets hot again, both could really help their draft position.
6. UCLA Bruins
Lottery pick: Shabazz Muhammad, G/F, Fr.
First-rounder: Kyle Anderson, F, Fr.
Muhammad has been a slight disappointment this season. He's clearly a gifted scorer and plays as hard as anyone in the game, but he hasn't dominated the way his talent suggests he can, he struggles to make a shot off the dribble and his ability to make others around him better has been suspect. He's still a top-10 pick, but you just don't hear scouts talking about him as a franchise-changer anymore.
Anderson is the weirdest player on this list. Nicknamed "Slo Mo," he's a big point forward with a very unorthodox game -- but one that has been growing on NBA scouts. Adams was terrific as a freshman, although he's out for the tournament with a broken foot.