This “Big Dance” has started and the sports world seemingly centers around players barely old enough to shave and drive. For a handful of NBA lottery talents, the pressure dials up to a new level. National media members line up before the game ever tips off and a barrage of questions resembling the Spanish Inquisition wears down the prospect. The tea kettle whistles ready to burst with the pressure of draft status on top of the biggest game to date for the player.
Laquinton Ross is playing big for Ohio State.
The superstar is now supposed to lace them up like everyone else and pretend that the distractions just aren’t there. On the first week of the NCAA Tournament, the pressure won against several of these future NBA stars.
Marcus Smart, Otto Porter, Anthony Bennett, Shabazz Muhammad faltered and their teams went home and all were projected at top-ten picks in this June’s NBA Draft.
While Michigan’s Trey Burke and Kansas’ Ben McLemore were less than stellar, their teams survived. They are also projected in the lottery but both have something to prove this week.
Three players who emerged and helped their draft status were:
1) Jeff Withey - Kansas
The Kansas center was dominant on both ends of the court. Good passer, rim defender and showed some athletic ability. Withey is one of four players to have 15 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks in the NCAA Tournament. The other four are all former NBA All-Stars. He helped his potential draft status by showing some good all-around game.
2) LaQuinton Ross - Ohio State
Ross is an intriguing prospect that had been tabbed for superstardom yet has been slow to get there. Might have arrived this first weekend of the tourney, providing offensive firepower to the Buckeye attack. True perimeter threat who may be unlocking NBA first round ability. If he ever wanted to be dominant, he may just be able to play that way.
3) Khalif Wyatt - Temple
Temple’s do-everything senior showed he’s as good a guard as there is in the country. He dropped 31 points on back-to-back tournament games while struggling from the three-point line. Scoring runs through his veins and as these two games have shown, he should receive serious first round attention.
Leigh Klein was formerly on staff at Texas and Rhode Island and now owns Five-Star Basketball Camps, the nation’s top basketball camp. He contributes to 247Sports.com’s coverage of college basketball. Klein can be followed at @LeighAlanKlein