Tar Heels outshine ’Cats in future NBA talent
Published 1:00 pm Saturday, April 4, 2009
By By DAN GELSTON, AP Sports Writer
DETROIT — North Carolina’s roster is dotted with players likely to see each other in the NBA.
Villanova doesn’t even boast an all Big East first-team selection.
The Wildcats’ projected NBA futures are dim, and three-quarters of the winningest senior class in program history will watch the NBA draft on TV instead of waiting for their names to be called.
The individual talent gap in tonight’s Final Four game between Villanova and North Carolina seems about as wide as Ford Field.
The Wildcats (30-7) don’t care if Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington are considered surefire first-rounders. They advanced to their first Final Four in 24 years on the strength of good old-fashioned teamwork. No big stars, no huge egos, and no horde of scouts heading to Villanova to report back to NBA general managers.
Tyler Hansbrough and Danny Green should join teammates Lawson and Ellington next season in the NBA, and talented freshman big man Ed Davis, who earns comparisons to UConn’s Hasheem Thabeet, is a likely lottery pick if he declares for the draft.
On the other side of the scorer’s table, only Villanova senior forward Dante Cunningham is an NBA hopeful. He’s considered a mid second-rounder, at best, and his 6-foot-8, 230-pound frame could hinder him at the next level.
Junior guard Scottie Reynolds flirted with declaring for the draft after his freshman season, but is a streaky shooter and not enough of a complete point guard (only 3.3 assists per game) to make scouts believe his stock is high enough to bolt Villanova early.
His popularity, if not his draft potential, is soaring at Villanova after his game-winning basket against Pittsburgh propelled the Wildcats to Detroit.
Reynolds said pro prospects don’t matter much this time of year.
The Wildcats, the lowest-seeded team left in the tournament, have only two double-digit scorers in their starting lineup while North Carolina has all five starters averaging at least 10 points.
No one is doubting the Wildcats are a talented group, especially after finishing fourth in a rugged Big East, then knocking off UCLA, Duke and the top-seeded Panthers in the NCAA tournament.
Cunningham is the solid inside force the Wildcats lacked in their four previous tournaments under coach Jay Wright. Villanova’s pesky guard combination of Reynolds, and top reserves Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes might create a matchup problem.
Villanova assistant coach Doug West was watching film on his laptop Friday in the locker room, looking for any kind of edge for Saturday’s game. West, a former Villanova star who spent 12 years in the NBA before joining the staff last season, believes more of this year’s Wildcats could be NBA-bound if they stay all four years.
The Wildcats are used to overcoming odds to win in the NCAA tournament. No team in tournament history has more wins as the lower seeded team (15) and Villanova will have to work some magic again to pull off the upset against the top-seeded Tar Heels.