The Big East might be a beast of a college basketball conference, but typically it doesn't have a major effect on the NBA draft.
This season the Big East has a chance to do even better. Even though the Big East's main producer of NBA prospects -- UConn -- is in rebuilding mode, a number of teams including Syracuse, Georgetown, Louisville and Pittsburgh have future NBA players on their rosters. If the NCAA had ruled Providence's Ricardo Ledo eligible, the Big East could have had as many as eight first-rounders this season.
(Click here to see the top 100 prospects for the 2013 draft.)
I spoke with a number of NBA scouts to get a take on five players they'll be scouting closely this season. Here's the breakdown:
1. Steven Adams, C, Fr., Pittsburgh
Top 100 Rank: 8
Adams remains an enigma for most NBA scouts. He's ranked this high primarily on an eye-opening performance from the summer of 2011 at the adidas Nations camp.
Adams' strength and athleticism translate into a fierce defensive presence. His brief play in the U.S. at prep school was met with mixed reviews, and now he shows up at Pittsburgh as a huge question mark.
Can the New Zealand native make the leap to Big East basketball? He's got a pretty huge learning curve ahead of him. Will coach Jamie Dixon give him serious playing time? In the past, he's been reluctant to play top freshmen, but then again, I'm not sure he's had a prospect this good.
Everyone thinks he has the physical tools to be an NBA lottery pick some day. The question really is, will it be in 2013?
2. Otto Porter, F, So., Georgetown
Top 100 Rank: 12
Porter surprised a lot of scouts in 2011-12 with a very solid freshman season at Georgetown. It's hard to peg any one thing that Porter does spectacularly well, but he's the proverbial "basketball player" who always seems to be at the right place at the right time.
He wowed scouts at the LeBron camp this summer. His motor, his work ethic and a game with very few holes all bode well for him. As summer turned to fall, a few scouts have backed away a bit from huge Porter expectations -- especially in John Thompson III's more structured offense. But a few scouts I really trust see him as a potential lottery pick in what looks like a down year. I think they might just be right.
3. Michael Carter-Williams, SG, So., Syracuse
Top 100 Rank: 18
Carter-Williams waited patiently in the wings all season as Dion Waiters did his thing at Syracuse. With Waiters off to the NBA, Carter-Williams should be the focal point of the offense this season.
Carter-Williams reminds me a bit of a young Rip Hamilton -- a lithe scoring machine who uses screens effectively and who has a developed midrange game. He also is a better 3-point shooter than Hamilton was at the same age, and showed promise as a primary ball handler and passer as a freshman. With his offensive skills, he could be a big-time producer for Syracuse this season.
4. Gorgui Dieng, C, Jr., Louisville
Top 100 Rank: 19
I hesitate to put Dieng here. Every year scouts fall in love with long, athletic shot-blockers, and this year it appears Dieng is emerging as a favorite. He was solid as a sophomore, and over the summer the buzz really started to grow. He improved his body over the summer and was playing with some much-needed aggression in the adidas Nations camp.
Dieng's biggest issue is offensive polish and age. He can finish above the rim, but that's about the extent of his offensive game. His shooting percentage for someone of his size and athletic ability was pretty weak last season. In addition, he's old for his class (he turns 23 in January), and history has shown that older players who start dominating college don't duplicate the feat in the NBA.
5. Wayne Blackshear, SG, So., Louisville
Top 100 Rank: 24
Blackshear is a power athlete who knows how to get to the basket and finish. He already has an NBA body and NBA explosiveness. If he could hit a jump shot consistently, he'd be much higher on this list.
Scouts loved his performance in the NCAA tournament against Kentucky, and the expectations are high that he can be a dominant scorer for one of the best teams in the NCAA in 2013. If he has a breakout season, he could go very high. Few guards have his physical tools.
Others to watch: C.J. Fair, F, Jr., Syracuse; Rakeem Christmas, PF, So., Syracuse; Jerian Grant, G/F, Jr., Notre Dame; Peyton Siva, PG, Sr., Louisville; Mouphtaou Yarou, F/C, Sr., Villanova; DaJuan Coleman, F/C, Fr., Syracuse; Chane Behanan, PF, So., Louisville; Sean Kilpatrick, G, Jr., Cincinnati; DeAndre Daniels, F, So., UConn; Vander Blue, G, Jr., Marquette; Cleveland Melvin, PF, Jr., DePaul.