Sprung: A Statistical Look Inside The 2014 Sweet 16

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ncaaAs it often does, the NCAA Tournament provided a wild first weekend.

Mercer saved Warren Buffett $1 billion, Dayton won the state of Ohio and reached the Sweet 16 for the first time in 30 years, Stanford sent Andrew Wiggins and Kansas packing, and the young Kentucky Wildcats ended Wichita State’s dream season.

So out of the 32 second and third-round games won by the 16 teams still in contention for the national championship, what statistical trends and insights can we gain from looking back at what the successful teams did to reach this point?

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Tweet of the Night: Michigan v. Notre Dame Dominates NBA Conversation

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College football, it seems, is in a realm unto itself among sports. It evokes pride and intense passion—particularly among fans.

The passion for college football is evident in sheer numbers.

Don’t believe me? Let the attendance of the big game between Michigan and Notre Dame tell the tale.

Eisenberg: What are Trey Burke’s chances of succeeding in the NBA

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Let’s preface this scouting report with some harsh realities for Trey Burke:

A point guard renaissance has taken over the NBA. The point guards whom we typically think of as “league average,” and who probably would have been considered league average several years ago, are actually something quite different these days.

Take a player like Jrue Holiday as a prime example of how deep the position has become.

I wrote a raving column about Holiday’s development in late March and prematurely anointed him as an elite point guard. 280px-Jrue_Holliday_dribbling

Now, just three months later, I’m not even sure Holiday fits in my top-10 any more. Sure, he was an All-Star and averaged nearly 18 points and 8 assists. Regardless, it’s hard to say for certain whether Holiday is actually better than Ty Lawson, Mike Conley, or John Wall.

Players one notch below those aforementioned fringe All-Stars (think Kyle Lowry, Jeff Teague, Raymond Felton, and George Hill) can’t all be average or above-average starting point guards in the league. It’s just not mathematically possible. There are only fourteen spots for the “above average” designation. By my estimation, all fourteen of those spots are filled by players who will be All-Star candidates at the start of next season.

Burke is expected to be the first point guard taken in the 2013 draft. Rest assured: whichever team picks Burke will be doing so under the assumption that he can immediately take the reigns of the franchise and become an above average starter in the league.

Does this mean Trey Burke is doomed from the start?

A pessimist will happily point to three recent instances and say yes:

1. Kendall Marshall was in Burke’s shoes last season as a top point guard in the draft. Just one year later, the Suns are already considering taking a point guard in the lottery to replace Marshall. Marshall’s inability to shoot simply prevents Phoenix from ever playing him serious minutes behind Goran Dragic.Brandon Knight

2. The Pistons used the eighth pick in 2011 on Brandon Knight. Now, Detroit is realizing that he will probably never develop into the above-average point guard they were hoping for. In 2013-2014, they will try to reinvent him as a shooting guard.

3. Kemba Walker was a superstar in college and has shown flashes of stardom in the NBA. And while it may be too early to say for sure, few executives consider him to be a legitimate cornerstone point guard of the future. He might be better suited for a career as a super scorer off the bench.

Clearly, the cards are stacked against Burke as he will face lofty expectations from day one. Regardless, I believe he has the best chance of any point guard in this class to reach the above-average (aka potential All-Star) level.

To properly assess Burke’s credentials and candidacy, I made two extensive Excel spreadsheets and analyzed how Burke compares out of college to some of the league’s best point guards from the past 10 drafts. 

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Bauman: Three Projected First-Round Picks Who Need The Right Situation

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nbadraft13_300x250_3 (1)When it comes to the NBA draft, sometimes it’s the team, not the player.

Take Thomas Robinson, for example. He was a consensus All-American as a junior and led Kansas to the national title game. By virtually all accounts, he was projected as a solid NBA player.

But Robinson, a power forward, was drafted by the Sacramento Kings, who already had DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson and Chuck Hayes manning their big positions.

So Robinson languished on the bench for half a season before being dealt to the Houston Rockets – who already had three rookie power forwards. He didn’t get the opportunity he needed with either team and was labeled a disappointment.

Now word out of Houston is that GM Daryl Morey is looking to move Robinson without taking any salary in return to clear the cap space needed to max out Dwight Howard. So Robinson likely is headed to a third team before his third-year option is even picked up.

There are a handful of players in the 2013 draft whose futures will be impacted by the team selecting them. Some will be perfect fits for open slots; others will be buried on a bench behind established veterans and never get the chance to show their abilities.

Here’s a look at three whose fortunes could depend on which team drafts them.

CodyZellerCody Zeller, 7-0 1/2, PF-C, Sophomore, IndianaIndiana Hoosiers

Coming into his sophomore 2012-13 campaign, the big man was supposed to have a banner year – literally – for the Hoosiers.

Zeller didn’t quite meet those expectations this season, but he certainly had his moments and showed flashes of brilliance while in Bloomington.

Does he have to work on using his length, strength, lower body and shoulders to finish even better? Sure, but he ran the floor hard, finished in the paint and proved he has a nice touch on his shots as well.

One of the biggest adjustments to the NBA for Zeller likely will be in pick-and-pop situations in space. Zeller has playmaker skills that weren’t always evident at Indiana; he should be an above-average playmaker for a big man at the next level.

Moreover, Zeller has a better touch on his jump shot than I believe most people care to realize, which will be a valuable tool playing with an NBA level point guard – as long as he’s willing to shoot it.

“It wasn’t in our game plan for me to shoot outside as much,” Zeller told me recently at the NBA Draft combine in Chicago. “But I have that ability and I think I’ll be able to show that ability in the workouts with the NBA teams and I’ll be doing a lot more of that at the next level.”

There are also questions regarding whether Zeller can bang in the paint on a nightly basis. While this is an area that has yet to be determined, the game has been leaning more and more toward big men who can step out to the perimeter to shoot. Zeller will fit in just well if he’s not too passive.

Zeller’s excellent combine numbers only help his cause. People weren’t sure how athletic Zeller was, but by posting the highest standing vertical at the combine he has proven he is an athlete.

RELATED: WHY THE 2014 DRAFT WILL OVERWHELM THE 2013 DRAFT

Zeller figures to go late in the lottery, where Philadelphia, Oklahoma City and Dallas all are looking for frontcourt depth for various reasons and would be good landing spots. Bad fits would be Minnesota and Detroit, but he does not look as if he will go that high.

san diego state aztecs 146 logoJamaal Franklin, 6-5 1/4, G-F, Junior, San Diego StateJamaal Franklin

When asked to explain his game, the versatile swingman said, “A person who goes hard every possession. Take no plays off. I’m not out there to look pretty. I’m out there to win. If the ball is on the floor, I’m gonna get on the ground, do whatever it takes. I just want to be a winner. I’m a real competitor and I hate losing.”

This year, Franklin led the Aztecs in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks while guarding multiple positions at a high level.

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Bauman: A 44-inch vertical, plus other notes from NBA pre-draft camp

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13NBA_Draft_StateFarm_LogosheetCHICAGO — It was not a make or break situation, but when you walked into the gym for the NBA pre-draft camp on Chicago’s west side - filled with scouts, general managers, coaches, media and everyone in between – you could feel the intensity in the air.

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