So the NCAA Tournament, and the CBI, CIT and NIT also, begin this week for our Canadian men I figured that I’d do a Can Ball Report preview of who’s playing in the various tournaments. Just joking kids! I think everyone else that has suddenly found their love for all things maple leaf roundball is about to do that. Instead, I’ll take a different path. I’ll be doing three simple sections with what I think are important storylines that I want to see develop in the next few weeks. They may not look or seem like storylines but believe me they are. Check out what I think is worth you keeping your eye one for our Canuck men right there …
The Pro Auditions
Anthony Bennett, UNLV
Make no mistake, this is UNLV run in the NCAAs is Anthony Bennett’s final chance to play college ball. With that in mind he’ll need to treat this as his pro audition. He’ll need to show the monster that was in the running for player of the year and not the one that showed inconsistent play in the last month of the season. He’s going to be a lottery selection in June based purely on his current talent level and his unlocked potential, you can bet in that. But how far up the ladder he goes (and the amount of his first contract) will partly hinge on how he performs here in the next week or three.
Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga
The Olynyk camp is mum on whether he’ll forego his senior season and jump right into the NBA Draft. Either way, he’ll need to play huge in the tournament. Being the best player on a number one seed will have all eyes trained on him and a good number of them will be NBA scouts. The various player of the year awards are also up for grabs right now and a strong set of performances from Kelly will mean a better shot at getting one. All this will mean resume padding for whenever he declares for the Draft and if he can lead the Zags to the second and third weekends it could very well be this year.
Junior Cadougan, Marquette
Junior Cadougan had come back from a serious knee injury to become one of the better PGs in the NCAAs. He’s not projecting to be a Draft pick right now but he could be a guy that can get a summer league or free agent camp invite to an NBA squad or even a lucrative European contract. Putting it that way this will be an important set of games for him. If he can show that he can lead his team deep in the Tourney, he could find his way onto a pro team by the summer.
Others To Lookout For: Marc Trasolini, Santa Clara; Jason Calliste, Detroit; Nik Cochran, Davidson; Sim Bhullar, New Mexico St
The Show Me Mores
Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga
Pangos has played every bit his part for the Zags as their heady floor general. To a tee you might say. But in the NCAA Tournament, he’s too good a player to sit back and be passive. With teams looking to stop teammate Kelly Olynyk, Pangos should be the one to step into the spotlight and be the playmaker he is. Olynyk and to a degree Elias Harris will be the focus but it will be Pangos that will need to play bigger than he already plays for Gonzaga to get deep.
Khem Birch, UNLV
Birch was named Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Excellent because D is his forte but he’s going to need to do two things for the Rebels to win games: stay out of foul trouble and show more on offense. If he can do a little more of both he’s adding another dimension for the opposing team to overcome.
Jordan Bachynski, Arizona St
Bachynski is probably among the most impressive 7-footers in the college game right now. He can score, he plays great defense and can block shots in (college) David Robinson like numbers. All he has to do is show more of it by staying out of foul trouble and staying on the floor. Bachynski is already a guy with a bright future at Arizona St but his inconsistent minutes due to fouls or match up issues will keep him from truly blossoming. If he can show that he belongs on the floor all tournament long I think that’s a major accomplishment.
Others to Lookout For: Nik Stauskas, Michigan; Melvin Ejim, Iowa St; Bryson Johnson, Bucknell; Dwight Powell, Stanford; Manny Arop, Indiana St
The Show Me Somethings
Kyle Wiltjer, Kentucky
Wiltjer is the one heck of a talented ball player. Unfortunately he’s one a team that features some of the most athletically gifted of the athletically gifted. He more refined skill set is what keeps him on the team but his lack of athleticism relative to his teammates keeps him off the floor. I would have thought that with Nerlens Noel going down that his minutes, and overall production, would have gone up but there was not such result. Since Feb. 16, when Noel went down with his knee injury, he’s scored in double digits only three times and was held below eight points in five. He wasn’t turning the ball over but he wasn’t doing much else averaging 3.8 boards, 1 assist and totalling 3 blocks and 1 steal. Wiltjer will need to show that the guy that was looked at to be a big role player heading into the season is still around or he could face reduced role syndrome next year.
Brady Heslip, Baylor
Heslip had a few things going for him last season which led to his breakout year – mainly Perry Jones III, Quincy Miller and Quincy Acy. Those three players, coupled with slashing PG Pierre Jackson, meant open threes. This year without PJ3, Miller and Acy, teams have been keener to stick with Heslip on the perimeter and that’s really affected his effectiveness on the court. Add to that him having surgery in-season to remove his appendix and Heslip has had some consistency issues. He’s only scored more than 15 points three times this season and with his shooting numbers down he’s not be helping much anywhere else. We know he’s an elite level shooter, everyone in the NCAAs does but he’ll need to show that he’s still able to play like Brady of yesteryear or risk being a distant memory.
Myck Kabongo, Texas
Kabongo was coming off that NCAA suspension just in time to finish the Big 12 season and play in the conference tournament. In what many were predicting to be his true breakout season, Myck was left to play catch up when everyone one else was already in full stride. Despite it all, he did put up some big games including a 31 point, 8 rebound, 6 assist, 4 steal game in a 92-86 OT win over Oklahoma Feb. 27. There’s no doubt in my mind that if he played all season he would have been all be guaranteed to bolt for the NBA Draft. Now, with the not so glamorous College Basketball Invitational his last chance to show his game you can bet he’ll need to show the magic that had him as a first rounder last year.
Others to lookout for: Laurent Rivard, Harvard; Jahenns Manigat, Creighton