It’s that day. Across the country, thousands of people have called in “sick” to work, scheduled two day vacations, or if they were really thinking ahead, conspired to knock their wife up ten months ago so they could use FMLA in order to fully concentrate on the most basketball packed days of the year. (edit. Speaking of the FMLA joke, if this post reads entirely like gibberish and is loaded with typos, I’m blaming the five hours of sleep I have racked up over the last two nights and the fact that I’m letting Clark, JrJr type this for me.) March Madness begins!
For most NBA fans, and probably far too many league executives, this is also the time of the year where the bulk of college scouting is done. If a player has a couple of good games, and in some cases just one great game, fans will clamor for that guy to wind up on their team’s NBA roster. On the flip side, if a guaranteed lottery pick lays an egg while on national television, his stock could really slip.
So, for all of the amateur scouts who are watching college basketball that does not involve the Cowboys or Sooners for the first time this year, I have provided some viewing tips that could help you get an initial look at who Sam Presti and the rest of the staff might target. First, though, let’s outline what the Thunder will be seeking.
Remember, they have two first round picks in the upcoming draft, but both will probably be in the latter part of the middle portion. I’d project they’ll both be in the lower twenties. Assuming they can’t package the two picks to move into the lottery, a scenario which is nearly impossible, they will not be in the mix for any of the biggest names. That means, watching Kentucky with uber talented stars like John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins won’t really help anyone figure out who the Thunder should target. Also, thanks to the great long term planning the Oklahoma City’s GM, the team is pretty well set with young talent across the board. That means, we don’t have to focus our energy seeking a player at a certain position to fill a team need.
That addressed, here’s my advice on where you should direct your March Madness on Demand viewer:
Early Games Thursday
(Considering this article won’t be online until 1:00, this section could also be titled “What to Watch Using Your Time Machine”)
OPTIONS: Florida/BYU, Notre Dame/Old Dominion, Villanova/Robert Morris
MY ADVICE: Notre Dame/Old Dominion
WHY: Process of elimination. This first slate is pretty weak when it comes to NBA-talent. Nova probably has the best prospect overall in former OU commitment Scottie Reynolds. However, with Russell Westbrook and Eric Maynor both in the Thunder’s long term plans, point guard is the one position that I cannot see Sam Presti even considering the use of another draft pick on.
So, that leaves Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody. While he probably won’t be a first round pick, he probably should be considered. He is definitely not going to be a league superstar, but he is the kind of low risk player who always has moderate success when given an opportunity. He will be one of those garbage man type players who does all the dirty work. The Thunder could consider him as a low cost replacement for Nick Collison, long term.
OPTIONS: Murray State/Vanderbilt, Kansas State/North Texas, Baylor/Sam Houston, Richmond/Saint Mary’s
MY ADVICE: Richmond/Saint Mary’s
WHY: Omar Samhan. The Gaels’ center isn’t a big name, and isn’t a likely first round pick. However, he has put up huge stats for Saint Mary’s and a good showing could get the 6’11” big man with scoring ability and great rebounding ability some buzz. But, if you would prefer to spend your time watching the Big 12 teams, including former Edmond Santa Fe big man and likely lottery pick Ekpe Udoh at Baylor, I would understand you ignoring my advice.
On a sidenote, Butler plays at 3:45 and they feature Gordon Heyward who could be a candidate to join the Thunder. You should watch for that reason. However, since theirs is the only game on at that time, I didn’t include them in the mix to discuss.
PRIME TIME THURSDAY
OPTIONS: UNLV/Northern Iowa, Kentucky/East Tennessee State, Marquette/Washington, Georgetown/Ohio
MY ADVICE: Georgetown/Ohio
WHY: I’m always going to suggest watching Greg Monroe. Behind James Anderson at my alma mater, Monroe is my favorite college player. Every opportunity I have had to seen him play, he has been all over the floor and clearly the best player in the game. Along with his ideal height and athletic ability, I cannot fathom him being any less than a top-5 pick. But I read a lot about how he has a “questionable motor” and some well informed draft sites say he could slip out of the lottery. I’d love to see him slide to the Thunder.
Quincy Pondexter of Washington is another player that should probably be watched. I know I will since I haven’t seen him play. He is a small forward (a position for which the Thunder have no true back up) and he’s projected in the range the Thunder could snap him up.
LATE NIGHT THURSDAY
OPTIONS: Kansas/Lehigh, Texas/Wake Forest, New Mexico/Montana, Tennessee/San Diego State
MY ADVICE: New Mexico/Montana
WHY: New Mexico features Darington Hobson another small forward in the Thunder’s range. He is the kind of versatile player that tends to catch Sam Presti’s eye.
The Texas game will also feature Damion James, who is the type of player the Thunder could probably use. He plays small forward, but really plays like a power forward because of his great rebounding abilities. You could also watch Avery Bradley, a shooting guard, in that game. He is probably going to be selected before the Thunder pick, but if he slides they could give him a look.
OPTIONS: West Virgina/Morgan State, Xavier/Minnesota, Temple/Cornell
MY ADVICE: West Virginia/Morgan State
WHY: Devin Ebanks, for some reason, is projected as a first round pick. He’s the only player in this slate of games who has the potential to have that status, and despite his lack of production, scouts seem to think he has NBA qualities. Personally, all the times I have seen him play, all I have noticed is the lack of production and his ability to disappear completely. Maybe you will see something different.
OPTIONS: Purdue/Siena, Clemson/Missouri, Pittsburgh/Oakland, Wisconsin/Wofford
MY ADVICE: Clemson/Missouri
WHY: Trevor Booker of Clemson is going to be a defensive specialist at power forward who will be a high-efficiency/low output scorer.
OPTIONS: Gonzaga/Florida State, Oklahoma State/Georgia Tech, Michigan State/New Mexico State, Duke/Arkansas-Pine Bluff
MY ADVICE: Gonzaga/Florida State
WHY: This has been, by far, the toughest decision, and I am not going to take my own advice in the end. I will be watching James Anderson (who, by the way, should be considered by the Thunder if his stock doesn’t rise to the lottery) and my Cowboys. Then, Duke has Kyle Singler and one of the Plumlees who might be considered…but they should probably be around in round 2 to watch. From a Thunder draft perspective, though, the Gonzaga/FSU game might be the most important.
Florida State boasts project center Solomon Alabi who could be the defense minded center Oklahoma City has been seeking. Then Gonzaga has Elias Harris, the sharp shooting bench scorer, and depth at small forward, the Thunder needs.
LATE NIGHT FRIDAY
OPTIONS: Syracuse/Vermont, Ohio State/UC-Santa Barbara, Maryland/Houston, California/Louisville
MY ADVICE: Maryland/Houston
WHY: This group of games has guys who will be invited to the Green Room (OSU’s Evan Turner and Syracuse’s Wesley Johnson) and second rounders who will be fighting for D-League invites. When it comes to late first rounders, though, there is nothing. So, if you want to see some players the Thunder could snag with their second rounders, the game between Maryland and Houston is the game to watch. Grevis Vasquez is a combo-guard for Maryland who does a lot of everything well. Houston has Aubrey Coleman a volume scorer who has carried the Cougars. Neither really seems like a real fit, so maybe you can fall in love with Andy Rautins at Syracuse, or Jerome Randle at California who are both three point snipers without much NBA upside.