Jae Crowder, F, Marquette, Sr.
On paper, it was a huge mismatch; the 6-6 Crowder having to go against 6-11, top-five prospect Andre Drummond, or 6-9, first-round prospect Alex Oriakhi. However, Crowder posted a career-high 29 points and 12 boards in leading Marquette to a 15-point win against UConn. The breakout performance generated a lot of buzz on Twitter and even sparked up talk of Crowder as a Big East Player of the Year candidate.
At the college level, Crowder is such a difficult matchup due to his toughness and physicality inside, but also because he can step out and shoot the three ball. Following in the footsteps of former Golden Eagles Wesley Matthews and Jimmy Butler, Crowder is a workhorse who scraps for loose balls and makes the little plays that helps his team win. Yes, he is a tweener at the next level, but there is no question in my mind that he will be drafted in June.
Drew Gordon, PF, New Mexico, Sr.
The Lobos picked up a pair of huge conference victories last week, winning at San Diego State by 10 and whipping UNLV by 20. Gordon had monster performances in both of those games, posting 17 points and 17 boards against SDSU, and 27 and 20 versus the Rebels. He has been a solid second-round prospect in my 2012 NBA Mock Draft all season long, and should be garnering more attention from NBA teams as March rolls around with New Mexico being on pace to win the Mountain West.
Andrew Nicholson, PF, St. Bonaventure, Sr.
The Bonnies' big man has posted some eye-popping numbers in the past couple of weeks. He had 21 points and 23 rebounds versus Duquesne, and 32 and 13 this past weekend against Rhode Island. Nicholson is a physical presence inside and also has a solid face-up game. He has somewhat flown under the radar this season but could work himself into the late first round with solid performances in pre-draft workouts.
2012 NBA Draft Stock: Selling
Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois, Soph.
It can never be seen as a vote of confidence for your NBA Draft future when your college head coach calls out your lack of toughness and poor body language on the floor. That is what happened to Leonard after the Illini's loss at Purdue last week. The seven-footer responded to Bruce Weber with a lackluster performance in a 23-point blow out loss at Nebraska, and then the TV cameras caught Leonard crying on the bench. Throughout the season, Weber has made numerous public comments about Meyers' mental toughness; so this act only reinforces those assessments.
I don't mean to kick the guy when he's down, but from day one, I have not been in love with Leonard's draft prospects for this season. It is possible that he could be a lottery pick based on his size, athleticism and potential, but I cannot see any way where Leonard is making an impact at the next level for at least a couple of years. Weber brought to the forefront what I have been thinking and writing all season long, and that is why Leonard finds himself sliding down draft boards.
Patric Young, PF/C, Florida, Soph.
Young is not ready for the NBA and will be making a mistake if leaves Florida after this season. Right now, he is a 6-9 center who is limited to scoring within five feet of the basket and too often gets himself into foul trouble against college big men (imagine what will happen once he gets to the league.) Young doesn't have any resemblance of a perimeter game and needs to work on that area before leaving college. I truly believe he is a borderline first-round pick if he declares after his sophomore campaign.