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NBA Rookie Prospect Report: March Madness Has Been Tough on Prospects

Fred Katz

Fred Katz

Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in 5th grade, but he maintains that his per 36 minutes numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work at ProBasketballDraft.com or on ESPN's TrueHoop Network. Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.

It doesn't matter what else happened this weekend. Maybe you lost multiple Final Four teams in your bracket. Maybe your school lost in tragic fashion. Maybe you just had a really depressing Saturday night after your friends ditched you at a bar and you had to go home alone. Why is everyone looking at me? But regardless of what your weekend was like, didn't Florida Gulf Coast put you in a great mood?

A 15 seed beating a 2 seed is always exciting. We know that because it's happened seven times and each time, there has been a media and fan uproar alike. But a 15 seed beating a 7 seed? Until yesterday, we could assume that would be thrilling - how could it not be? But we had never actually seen it before. Turns out, it's more electrifying than we ever could've imagined. Dunking, running, leaping, and chicken dancing is more entertaining from a 15 seed than we ever could've imagined.

But if the story of the weekend was Florida Gulf Coast, then the next biggest headline is what's happening to seemingly every top prospect in the upcoming NBA Draft: They're falling apart.

At this point, the big winner from the NCAA Tournament isn't someone who's actually played in it. In fact, it's not someone who's playing anywhere. It's Kentucky's injured center Nerlens Noel, one of the only top prospects out there who hasn't had the chance to hurt his draft stock. Right now, Noel and Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart are probably pretty comfortably penciled into the No. 1 and No. 2 slots in the upcoming draft in some order. (Keep in mind that they're penciled in, not yet penned in. Don't use your sharpie just yet.)

Ben McLeMore is 2-for-14 in two tourney games, including 0-for-8 from three, and Kansas has looked generally awful. Otto Porter went 5-for-17 and seemed clueless in a Georgetown loss to a 15 seed that outran and out-jumped the Hoyas. Anthony Bennett was absent and putting on a disappearing act as UNLV fell to 12-seed California. Shabazz Muhammad's poor performance led to another upset when his 6-seed Bruins went down against Minnesota after Muhammad aged a full year overnight. Those four players, who are all supposed to be top-10 picks, combined to shoot 17-for-60 (28.3 percent) over the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. They're plummeting and this draft class looks dreadful because of that.

The players who have looked all right tend to be the Indiana kids - Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo. But something we should have learned about both of those guys a long time ago is that they may both be better collegiate players than they are NBA prospects. Zeller isn't a fixture of athleticism and often doesn't use his size as well as he should. Oladipo is a tremendous defender, both on and off the ball, but his offensive game - even with his vast improvement this year - needs work if he wants to be as effective at the NBA level. At times, he struggles to create his own shot off the dribble. The vast majority of his jump shot attempts come in catch-and-shoot situations, which is fine for efficiency purposes. But all that said, a player who is a great perimeter defender and makes catch-and-shoot jumpers is closer to Thabo Sefolosha or Tony Allen than you'd like a top-five pick to be.

This year's draft is weak. There are still guys that have a chance to improve their stock during the tourney. Those Indiana guys are still there. Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams has a chance to make a bigger name for himself if he takes his team on a run. So do the Michigan kids - Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Glenn Robinson III - if the Wolverines can pull an upset over Kansas in the Sweet 16. Even someone like Jeff Withey could make a jump if he takes the Jayhawks on a run. If Cole Aldrich could be a lottery pick in a draft that was perceived to be stronger at the time than this one, then Withey could surely work his way into the top 15 with a strong finish this year. But for now, that's all speculation. Projecting this draft is a disaster. It's not about which player is going to take the first pick, but which player is going to fall out of being in the top five. For now, it looks like most inadequate class we've seen since 2000.

Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in 5th grade, but he maintains that his per 36 minutes numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work at ProBasketballDraft.com or on ESPN's TrueHoop Network at ClipperBlog.com and KnickerBlogger.net. Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.

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