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Insider

Top NBA prospects in West Region

3/19/2013

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?

West Region

This year, there is a dearth of elite prospects in the West Region. Only one player is considered a potential lottery pick and one other looks like a lock for the first round. Still, there are hidden gems in this region if you look hard enough.

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.

1. Gonzaga Bulldogs

Lottery pick: Kelly Olynyk, C, Jr.

Potential second- rounder: Elias Harris, F, Sr.

Wait 'til next year: Przemek Karnowski, C, Fr.; Kevin Pangos, PG, So.

All eyes will be on Olynyk. He has risen from obscurity to a potential lottery pick with his play this season. He has dominated the West Coast Conference, but the real test will come against elite talent from other conferences. His first true challenge could come against Pitt in the second round (assuming both teams make it there). Steven Adams is raw, but he's a tough, physical defender.

Harris is another player to watch closely. Scouts saw him as a potential first-round pick as a freshman. Now he's a borderline second-round pick.


2. Ohio State Buckeyes

Potential second-rounders: Deshaun Thomas, G/F, Jr; Aaron Craft, PG, Jr.

Wait 'til next year: LaQuinton Ross, SF, So.

This Ohio State team isn't loaded with NBA talent. Thomas is one of the best scorers in college basketball, but his lack of elite athleticism and his porous defense have kept him mired in the second round. Scouts love Craft's defensive toughness, but does he bring enough on the offensive end to justify drafting him? Ross has the prototypical physical tools to be an NBA prospect, but his production has been spotty this season.


3. New Mexico Lobos

Potential second-rounders: Kendall Williams, PG, Jr.; Tony Snell, G/F, Jr.

Williams won the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year Award and had a huge 46-point game against Colorado State last month. He has great size for his position but needs to tighten up his handle. Snell has been on fire the past five games. If he shoots as he has been doing recently in the tournament, he is going to turn a lot of scouts' heads.


4. Kansas State Wildcats

Potential second-rounder: Rodney McGruder, SG, Sr.

The Wildcats don't have great pro talent. McGruder is their best player and a warrior, but he lacks the ideal size or athletic ability scouts are looking for in their 2s.


5. Wisconsin Badgers

Potential second-rounder: Jared Berggren, PF, Sr.

Wait 'til next year: Sam Dekker, F, Fr.

Berggren is the guy scouts will be looking at this year. He comes in the same mold as Brian Butch and a plethora of hulky Wisconsin power forwards and is a potential second-round pick. But the real prize is Dekker. He's not ready yet, but his versatility and size draw comparisons to a young Gordon Hayward. Next year, he could be a potential first-round pick.


6. Arizona Wildcats

Potential second-rounder: Solomon Hill, F, Sr.

Wait 'til next year: Kaleb Tarczewski, C, Fr.; Brandon Ashley, F, Fr.; Grant Jerrett, F, Fr.; Nick Johnson, SG, So.

Hill is having another solid season and will get a few looks from scouts as a second-round pick or summer league invite. But the real action is with the Wildcats' three freshmen -- Tarczewski, Ashley and Jerrett. All three could be first-round picks in 2014. Of the three, Ashley has had the best season. He's an elite athlete learning how to play small forward. Tarczewski has the most upside as a big, athletic center who can run the floor, rebound and block shots. Jerrett is a stretch 4 in the mold of Ryan Anderson.


7. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Potential second-rounders: Jack Cooley, F/C, Sr.; Jerian Grant, G/F, Jr.; Eric Atkins, PG, Jr.

Cooley has been one of the most efficient players in the country and is an elite rebounder, but his lack of elite size or athleticism hurts his draft stock. Grant has the athletic ability to shine in the league, but he must improve that jumper.


8. Pittsburgh Panthers

First-rounder: Steven Adams, C, Fr.

Potential second-rounder: Talib Zanna, PF, Jr.

Wait 'til next year: James Robinson, G, Fr.

Adams is raw, but he has all the physical tools NBA scouts look for in a big. He's tough, he rebounds, and he moves his feet well. He's still pretty lost on offense and likely will stay another season, but when you watch him, you see the upside. Zanna is a favorite of stat geeks and can be a beast on the offensive boards.


9. Wichita State Shockers

Potential second-rounder: Carl Hall, PF, Sr.

The Shockers aren't loaded with NBA talent, but a few scouts had Hall on their lists thanks to offensive rebounding percentage. He's not going to wow you with big stats, but he's a tough, tough player in the paint.


10. Iowa State Cyclones

Potential second-rounders: Will Clyburn, SG, Sr.; Tyrus McGee, SG, Sr.

Wait 'til next year: Georges Niang, F, Fr.

Clyburn gets the most press, but the truth is he actually had a better season at Utah before he transferred. McGee is one of the two or three best shooters in all of college basketball and clocks in with the eighth-best offensive rating in the country. But his lack of size really hurts his stock. Niang has taken over the role Royce White played last year at Iowa State. He's not a great athlete, but his versatility, ballhandling and floor vision make him an intriguing prospect down the road.


11. Belmont Bruins

Potential second-rounder: Ian Clark, SG, Sr.

Clark is one of the most underrated players in the country. If he were a few inches taller, he'd be getting a lot more praise. As it stands, he's been a lights-out shooter (46 percent from 3-point range this season) and a lockdown defender.


12. Ole Miss Rebels

Potential second-rounder: Marshall Henderson, SG, Jr.

Henderson has gotten plenty of press, but the question really is whether NBA teams will be willing to put up with the show. He's clearly talented, and can score from anywhere on the floor, but it's hard to find an NBA scout who is really dying to have him on his team.


13. Boise State Broncos

Wait 'til next year: Derrick Marks, G, So.

Marks is a sleeper. He's a combo guard who can score a variety of ways, averages nearly four assists per game, shoots a high percentage from beyond the 3-point line and at the free throw line, and plays defense. Several scouts I trust think the tournament could be a coming-out party for him.


13. La Salle Explorers

Wait 'til next year: Jerrell Wright, PF, So.

This productive forward has shined since the moment he stepped on the floor for La Salle. If he were a couple of inches taller, he'd be getting a lot more love from scouts. Still, this is a chance for him to break onto a larger stage.


14. Harvard Crimson

Wait 'til next year: Siyani Chambers, PG, Fr.

He's not Jeremy Lin, but Chambers has been awesome as a freshman. He plays nearly 38 minutes and averages 13 points and 5.8 assists per game. Chambers also hits 44 percent of his 3-point shots.


15. Iona Gaels

Potential second-rounder: Lamont Jones, PG, Sr.

Lamont "Momo" Jones, a transfer from Arizona, has been lighting it up this year at Iona. He can shoot the 3 and get to the line. Jones is streaky, but when he's on, he's one of the elite scorers in the country. The question is, at his size and age, will anyone in the NBA really take a flier on him?


16. Southern University Jaguars

Potential second-rounder: Malcolm Miller

A No. 1 seed has never lost to a No. 16 seed, and it's doubtful this is the season when it'll happen. But if it does, Miller could be a culprit. He's shooting better than 46 percent from 3-point range this season despite taking nearly six attempts a game.