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Tracking This Year’s NBA Draft: A Sweet 16 Edition

Each Wednesday, we’ll be assessing how the top prospects of the 2013 NBA Draft are faring in college and overseas. Stick with us each week for assorted thoughts, including the biggest risers and fallers, the standouts, the sleepers and what we know and don’t know about the next NBA Draft class…

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Instead of calling this No. 17, it may be more time appropriate to reference this as the Sweet 16 And-1. At this point in the process for the 2013 NBA Draft, there are only 15 total games left before the season is over and we get into the combines leading up to the event. How Sweet are the matchups in the Sixteen?

Here is the NBA Draft Fast Five.

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ONE: What Game Has The Most Future NBA Talent?
The entire slate of games on Friday are appointment viewing — from Cinderella stories to coaching icons facing off to NBA prospects galore.

In terms of the biggest game with the most future NBA talent, it is hard to argue with Kansas/Michigan in the East Region. That game in particular features Ben McLemore (No. 2 rated prospect), Trey Burke (6), Glenn Robinson III (15), Jeff Withey (25), Tim Hardaway Jr. (41), Mitch McGary and Elijah Johnson.

As of late, every name mentioned has shot up draft boards with the way they have been playing.

Withey and Hardaway Jr. have been playing at a very high level, especially Hardaway Jr. Statistically, it may not be his best stretch of games during his three-year career, but he is playing with more confidence than ever. Withey is a shotblocking machine, and in the tournament he has put his length, activity and overall defensive efforts on full display.

There are three potential lottery picks in this game and maybe even three top 10 picks if everything falls down accordingly. There’s no question this game will feature a handful of future stars.

TWO: The Other Games?
One of the funny things about parity in college basketball is that the teams at the top were not consistently great, but they are all, for the most part, in the Sweet 16. Along with that, the top talent is spread out as well. Of the top 40 prospects, there are still 13 remaining in the tournament, 22 in the top 60 and 24 in the top 75.

THREE: Who Is The Prospect To Watch?
The key to the success of Michigan this postseason has been the play of Glenn Robinson III. He has taken his game to the next level offensively and that his teammates are recognizing it. All season, it has felt like GR3 was waiting to break out, but with Hardaway Jr. and Burke dominating the offense, he has had to wait in the wings. Now he has opened up his game playing along the baseline, hitting three-point shots, and getting out in transition. The full package is on display.

FOUR: Which Prospect Has The Most To Lose?
Moving through the tournament, Deshaun Thomas has been playing great basketball as Ohio State’s leading scorer and go-to guy on the offensive end. He is a player capable of catching fire and winning two more games to get his team to the Final Four.

He has a tough matchup against an Arizona team with a handful of athletic defenders that can throw him out of his comfort zone. A bad performance against quality athletic defenders will bring up the same concerns scouts have had about Thomas for three years now.

Hit page 2 for a look at the top five prospects still left in March Madness…

FIVE: NBA Scout’s Take
The NCAA Tournament is fun and exciting for fans, but more of a test for NBA scouts to fight the temptation of losing sight of all the work they put in all year. As one scout told me this week, “you have to take it in within reason” and that “you still have to look at the overall package” when evaluating a prospect.

March puts the bright lights on a prospect and tests their mental toughness, but does not define them as a basketball player.

Very few (if any) players have come into March playing poorly or average, only to dominate a handful of games to vault themselves into the lottery. How often has that happened? This time of year is great for the mental test and to see how these players react to big situations they will likely see at the next level.

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Top 5 Prospects Left In The Madness

1. Ben McLemore: 6-5, 185 pounds – Fresh., Kansas
Tourney Stats: 6.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, 14.2 percent FG (2-14)
In two games, McLemore has seemed hesitant and a bit standoffish while the offense has struggled without him. Scouts still value what McLemore can do, but he is not running away with the No. 1 spot.

2. Cody Zeller: 6-11, 240 pounds – Soph., Indiana
Tourney Stats: 13.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 2.0 APG, 53.3 percent FG
Defensively Zeller has struggled, but he is the player he is, which is an efficient scorer that can get out in transition.

3. Victor Oladipo: 6-5, 214 pounds – Junior, Indiana
Tourney Stats: 13.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.0 APG, 52.6 percent FG
Despite being torched by Khalif Wyatt (great offense always trumps great defense), Oladipo was able to have a very good game. Keep an eye on him as a No. 1 pick option if Indiana makes a run.

4. Michael Carter-Williams: 6-6, 185 pounds – Soph., Syracuse
Tourney Stats: 8.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 6.0 APG, 2.0 SPG, 54.5 percent FG
The do-it-all point guard had a poor ending to the regular season, but has seemed to cut back on the mistakes and therefore, the Orange have moved on to this point.

5. Mason Plumlee: 6-10, 235 pounds – Senior, Duke
Tourney Stats: 16.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.0 BPG, 72.2 percent FG
Steady and consistent. That is what Plumlee has become and in the tournament, he has been arguably the best overall player.

How much should teams weigh NCAA Tournament performances when evaluating players?

Follow Kristofer on Twitter at @NBADraftInsider.

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