Sam: Top Prospects of the Sweet 16

Sam: Top Prospects of the Sweet 16

Friday, March 25, 2011
Posted: 2:07 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

WithJune's upcoming NBA Draft on the minds of fans of pro teams without ashot to make the playoffs down the stretch of the regular season,here's a look at some of the top remaining pro prospects left in theNCAA Tournament.

Harrison Barnes, 6-foot-8 freshman, North Carolina:Projected as a first-team All-American and the hands-down No. 1 pickbefore the season even started, Barnes endured early struggles, thenbounced back to show the potential--specifically, a sweet shootingstroke, good athleticism, a high overall skill level and solidunderstanding of the game--to restore him back to the draft's lottery.

Jon Diebler, 6-foot-7 senior, Ohio State:One of the most prolific shooters in NCAA history, Diebler has recentlybeen gaining steam as a pro prospect because of his near-unlimitedrange, good size for the wing, savvy game and underrated ball skills.

Jimmer Fredette, 6-foot-2 senior, BYU:There has been much debate about how Fredette, the darling of thiscollege basketball season, will fare in the NBA, but while hisdeficiencies of defense rightfully give teams some pause, hiscreativity and pure shooting stroke should enable him to be at least aninstant-offense guard in the league.

Justin Harper, 6-foot-10 junior, Richmond:A sleeper from a sleeper team, Harper's versatility, length andoutstanding shooting range for his size and position--he appearscapable of transitioning into a face-up power forward in the pros--hasNBA scouts very intrigued as of late.

John Henson, 6-foot-10 sophomore, North Carolina:Henson is far from a finished product, but the ACC defensive player ofthe year's length, shot-blocking prowess, athleticism and mostimportantly, potential somewhat mitigate concerns about how his skinnyframe will fare in the NBA.

Kyrie Irving, 6-foot-2 freshman, Duke:Thought to be the consensus top pick after his hot start to the season,a toe injury sidelined the talented point guard until the start of theNCAA Tournament and while he might not return to form before season'send, his return to health alone, combined with his previous blend ofplaymaking and scoring could return him to his throne in June.

Terrence Jones, 6-foot-8 freshman, Kentucky: Jonesstarted this season with a bang (some thought he could be the top pickin the draft), but despite the versatile forward's inconsistency, thesouthpaw's perimeter skills, rebounding ability, athleticism andoverall versatility still have him projected as a lottery pick.

Enes Kanter, 6-foot-10, Kentucky:Don't blame yourself if you're not familiar with the Turkish bigman--he hasn't suited up all year because of an NCAA suspension forbeing paid to play in Europe--but NBA scouts project him a consensustop-five pick, based on his strength, post-up game and reboundingability, which they viewed prior to this season.

Brandon Knight, 6-foot-3 freshman, Kentucky: The latest in John Calipari's point-guard tree (following Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall),

Kawhi Leonard, 6-foot-7 sophomore, San Diego State:A sleeper coming into this season, Leonard and his team are no longersecrets, especially to NBA teams, who view him as an athletic,versatile swingman with playmaking skills, rebounding prowess,defensive acumen and transition scoring ability worthy of a lotterypick.

Jon Leuer, 6-foot-10 senior, Wisconsin:After creating some buzz with a solid performance while scrimmagingagainst Team USA last summer, Leuer has built upon it with a solidsenior campaign, in which he has carved out a niche as a "stretchfour," a highly-valued role in the NBA.

David Lighty, 6-foot-5 senior, Ohio State:A jack of all trades, but master of none on offense, the fifth-yearsenior (he was a freshman on the Buckeyes' Final Four team with GregOden and Mike Conley) projects as a defensive-oriented wing in the NBA,where there should be a spot for him because of his maturity and highcharacter.

Marcus Morris, 6-foot-8 junior, Kansas:The Big 12's MVP broke out this season to become a true inside-outsideforce as a go-to scorer and rebounder and while pro scouts aren't surewhich forward position he's best suited for (there are questions abouthis speed in the wing and his athleticism inside), he has certainlysolidified himself as a first-round, if not lottery, pick.

Markieff Morris, 6-foot-9 junior, Kansas:"The big twin" (due to his one-inch height advantage and morepost-oriented game) came even further than his brother this season, ashe has developed into a dominant low-post presence, separating him fromhis brother, due to his projected NBA position, power forward, beinghis natural role.

Chandler Parsons, 6-foot-9 senior, Florida:The SEC's MVP is a big wing with finesse--range on his jumper, superbballhandling skills for his size--and underrated athleticism, but thereare persistent questions about his toughness, although his high skilllevel should earn him an opportunity, at the very least.

Mason Plumlee, 6-foot-10 sophomore, Duke:Some believe Duke's style of play inhibits the monster athlete, whileothers think he's simply not developed enough to be productiveconsistently, but regardless of which opinion is correct, hisrebounding, shot-blocking and agility have NBA scouts drooling,regardless of his current readiness for the pro game.

Thomas Robinson, 6-foot-8 sophomore, Kansas:The only non-starter on this list, Robinson's off-the-chartsathleticism, rebounding prowess and high-energy style make him asleeper among NBA personnel types, some of whom view him as theJayhawks' best NBA prospect, although his game still needs polishing onoffense.

Josh Selby, 6-foot-3 freshman, Kansas:After coming into the season as a projected lottery pick, then missingearly action because of an NCAA-mandated suspension, the athletic comboguard started his career with a bang, then dropped off to the pointwhere he fell out of Bill Self's rotation, almost ensuring he'll beback in a Jayhawks uniform next season to deliver on his potential.

Kyle Singler, 6-foot-9 senior, Duke:Some might question his decision to return to school after winning atitle last season, but while his stock took a slight dip because of aprolonged shooting slump, his polish, versatility, intangibles andwinning background make a coveted piece for NBA teams looking to add alow-maintenance young player.

Chris Singleton, 6-foot-9 junior, Florida State:One of the most versatile defenders in the country, his late-seasoninjury woes could push him back to Tallahassee, but if thesuper-athletic forward does leave school early, he has prototype lengthfor the wing in the NBA and adequate enough scoring ability to succeedas a rotation player.

Nolan Smith, 6-foot-2 senior, Duke:Throughout his career, Smith's talents were nit-picked by observers,but his improved all-around game and point-guard skills in Irving'sabsence showed he'll at least be able to function as a versatile andvaluable combo guard, particularly if he ends up sliding in the draftand getting picked by a playoff team.

Jared Sullinger, 6-foot-8 freshman, Ohio State:Although the freshman sensation is a tad undersized, not the mostexplosive player and could stand to improve his conditioning, hismassive frame, savvy beyond his years and dominance on the glass andwith his back to the basket justify his projections as a top-five pick.

Kemba Walker, 6-foot-1 junior, Connecticut:Probably a few inches shorter than his listed size, Walker's yeomanscoring efforts, shot-making ability, exciting ballhandling, nerves ofsteel and unbelievable heart have overshadowed his tough defense andplaymaking ability--prior to this season, he functioned as a pass-firstfloor general--which should allow him to be an effective NBA scoringpoint guard.

Derrick Williams, 6-foot-8 sophomore, Arizona:The Pac-10's MVP blend of solid athleticism, emerging perimeter skillsand a rugged low-post game has made believers of many, especiallycoupled with his ability to rise to the occasion in big situations,which has elevated him to a potential top-five pick.

Tyler Zeller, 7-foot junior, North Carolina:The rail-thin big man had been plagued by injuries prior to thisbreakout season, but his ability to run the floor, polished post moves,underrated toughness inside, soft touch and clutch play as of late hasopened eyes and have him pegged as an agile, high-energy, pick-and-popspecialist on the next level.

Honorable Mention:Kevin Anderson, Richmond; Jimmy Butler, Marquette; Matt Howard, Butler;Doron Lamb, Kentucky; Jeremy Lamb, Connecticut; Shelvin Mack, Butler;Vernon Macklin, Florida; Roscoe Smith, Connecticut; Jordan Taylor,Wisconsin; Patric Young, Florida.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

White Sox crush four homers to support Jose Quintana in win over Mariners

White Sox crush four homers to support Jose Quintana in win over Mariners

Fireworks Night started early for the White Sox on Saturday night.

The White Sox homered four times to support Jose Quintana in their 9-3 win over the Seattle Mariners at U.S. Cellular Field in front of 27,318 fans. Quintana, who set a career high in season wins last week, notched his 11th victory of the season.

"This year is special for me," Quintana said. "Now we have momentum. (We have to) try to keep (it) going to get more for my team. It’s really good. I’m trying to do my job."

Quintana was on point again right from the get-go. After allowing a double to the first batter of the game, the 27-year-old southpaw retired the next 11 batters.

Quintana pitched 7.2 innings with eight strikeouts and two runs on five hits and a walk. He lowered his ERA to 2.77 on the year.

"He's pretty consistent," said manager Robin Ventura. "I think that's the biggest thing for him. Mentality wise and just focus, just his attitude and everything that goes with him is pretty consistent. You're never going to really tell what's going on with him on the game.

"He's had so many games that were close or tied or even behind that he never changes. I think that's what endears him to a lot of guys. He's consistent."

While Quintana has been consistent all year, the offense hasn't been. But on Saturday, the team gave their starter a healthy dose of run support.

"What was really impressive was the offense tonight was really good for us and for me," Quintana said. "It’s fun when you’re throwing when a lot of runs are scored."

The Mariners opened up the scoring with a sac fly from Robinson Cano in the first. But the White Sox answered back right away.

Melky Cabrera drove in Tim Anderson, who tripled in the previous at-bat, with a sac fly. The next batter, Jose Abreu, crushed his 18th homer of the year to put the White Sox in front. Cabrera was the only White Sox who didn’t record a hit in the game.

The White Sox offense began to heat up in the fourth after a quiet second and third from both sides.

After the first two batters of the inning were retired, the next four White Sox got on. It cleared the path for Tyler Saladino’s RBI single, which put the Sox up 3-1. Saladino finished the night with one homer and three RBI.

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The White Sox added four more in the fifth inning.

The scoring started with an RBI triple from Justin Morneau — the team’s second three-bagger of the night.

Back-to-back homers from Avisail Garcia and Alex Avila made it 7-1. It was the fifth time the White Sox hit two consecutive homers this season.

"I think Q's probably the happiest guy of anybody. He was great," Ventura said. "Any time you swing the bat as well as we did tonight and you get some add ons with the homers, you like seeing that kind of offense and you like seeing balls over the fence.

"Guys had a good night of just being patient and being able to cash in."

The Mariners added a run in the sixth from an RBI single by Guillermo Heredia and a sac-fly Franklin Gutierrez in the ninth.

Avila went 1-for-3 with a solo homer and walk in his first game since July 5.

Garcia, who had five extra base hits in June and July, had three on Friday night.

Preview: Cubs-Dodgers Sunday on CSN

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Preview: Cubs-Dodgers Sunday on CSN

The Cubs take on the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 2:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

CSN will also carry the live audio call of Los Angeles Dodgers broadcasting legend Vin Scully during Sunday's game as the SportsNet LA audio feed will be featured during the third inning.

Sunday’s starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester vs. Kenta Maeda

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Cubs Pulse.

Defensive mistakes, red card cost Fire in ugly loss at D.C.

Defensive mistakes, red card cost Fire in ugly loss at D.C.

RFK Stadium hosted one of the stranger games of the Chicago Fire’s season on Saturday.

It also may end up being a killer blow to the Fire’s playoff hopes.

The Fire lost 6-2 to the host D.C. United, falling nine points out of the playoffs with nine matches remaining.

Patrick Mullins had a hat trick and former Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko played a role in three of D.C.’s goals. The six goals were the most the Fire have allowed this season.

Fire midfielder Khaly Thiam received a red card in the 34th minute in a match-changing moment. Thiam fouled Nyarko then argued with the ref and dropped the ball on Nyarko’s face while Nyarko was still on the ground.

Nyarko keyed the opening goal in the 25th minute with a backheel in the box to Marcelo, whose low cross was finished off by Mullins.

Michael de Leeuw answered for the Fire (5-12-8, 23 points) by tucking away a big rebound from goalkeeper Bill Hamid after Matt Polster hit a half-volley at Hamid. The relief was short-lived for the Fire because Thiam was sent off a few minutes later.

Nyarko set up Mullins for a goal in the 40th minute and then Luciano Acosta did the same for Mullins in first half added time to make it 3-1 D.C. (7-8-11, 32 points). Razvan Cocis got the Fire back within one on the final kick of the half with a long shot that took a big deflection, lofting the ball perfectly over Hamid and into the net.

However, Nyarko quickly restored D.C.’s two-goal lead out of halftime with a goal in the 51st minute. Mullins finished off his hat trick in the 76th minute and Nick DeLeon finished the scoring in the 89th.

David Accam, who was favoring and icing his left leg after Wednesday’s draw with LA, did not start the match. He subbed on at halftime. He and David Arshakyan, who made his Fire debut off the bench, will both leave for international duty and miss next weekend’s match against Philadelphia.