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Chris Dortch

Bradley Beal raised his Draft stock during the Gators' run in the NCAA Tournament.
Jim Burgess

Making some noise in the tournament will pay off come June

Posted Mar 27 2012 9:19AM

One of the interesting sidelights of the NCAA Tournament is watching good players use it to boost their NBA Draft stock. There's no better litmus test than the Big Dance.

Here are a handful of players who have expanded their games as the season has progressed and are proving themselves during the heat of March Madness.

Bradley Beal, Florida

Like so many young players, Beal came to college defined by his scoring prowess.

"Oh boy, can he shoot it," Florida coach Billy Donovan told Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook last September. "He can really shoot it."

Donovan is usually loathe to provide such preseason billing for an unproven freshman, so it was a bit surprising Beal hasn't been a consistent 3-point shooter this season. At times, Beal's game was affected when his shot wasn't falling.

That's not true now.

Beal has learned he can provide so much more than scoring. How many shooting guards lead their team in rebounding? Beal is averaging 6.7 boards, an average fattened by the 33 he corralled in the tournament, against Virginia (11), Norfolk State (nine), Marquette (six) and Louisville (seven).

Beal's defense has improved markedly, too, and teammates are at a loss to remember the last time he had a bad game.

Beal was already a lottery pick, but some mock drafts have anointed him a top-five selection because of his all-around game.

Royce White, Iowa State

White didn't waste time. Three days after Iowa State's season ended with a third-round loss to Kentucky, he declared for the NBA Draft. In two NCAA games, the 6-foot-8, 270-pound sophomore showed he could fill out a boxscore: 15 points, 13 rebounds, two assists and a blocked shots against Connecticut and 23 points, nine boards, four assists, three steals and a block against Kentucky.

There aren't many players who can lead their team in rebounding and assists. White did. He's a legitimate point forward because the Cyclones' offense runs through him. White handed out 170 assists this season.

"He's good," Kentucky coach John Calipari said "He's also unselfish. Here's a kid that would rather pass and get 15 assists than score a basket. It's amazing. And he plays tough, and he's got huge hands. So you'd better grab the ball with two because he'll grab it with one."

White needs to work on his free-throw shooting (.498, 102 of 205), and he has anxiety issues when it comes to flying, not good for an NBA player. But scouts have been impressed with his multi-faceted game.

"In conversations I've had with NBA personnel, Royce's unique skill set and big-time performances versus elite competition have positioned him to realize his professional dreams," Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. "His ball-skill abilities coupled with his strength and size is a rare combination."

Draymond Green, Michigan State

Speaking of rare combinations, Green is another versatile player who can facilitate offense through the forward position. He developed guard skills at an early age.

"It first started with my elementary school coach, which was my uncle," Green said. "I was always bigger than everyone. He had me play point guard. I used to ask him, 'Why do I have to play point guard, I'm bigger than everybody, I can score.' He told me, 'Some day you're going to stop growing, and we don't know how tall you're going to be, so you always need to have guard skills.'

"I really didn't understand it then. But as I kept growing I understood it more and more."

Green demonstrated his all-around abilities in the Spartans' second-round NCAA game against Long Island, scoring 24 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and handing out 10 assists. He's the first player to rack up two triple-doubles in the NCAA Tournament since another Spartan -- Magic Johnson.

"I'm not sure what his position is," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "If they need somebody to run a pick-and-roll, if they need a post up, he posts up. If they need a guy to go off the bounce, he does that. He's about the most complete player in college basketball in terms of all phases of the game."

Marquis Teague, Kentucky

Teague has taken his place alongside the other great point guards to play for Calipari the last five years. He's no John Wall or Derrick Rose, but he's proven that he can make the right decision at the right time.

Teague needed to score a lot in high school. It took him a while to realize that wasn't the case at Kentucky.

Not that Teague can't score, as he proved with a career-high 24 points in a third-round NCAA Tournament game against Iowa State. The Cyclones chose to double-team the Wildcats' post players and dare Teague to beat them from the perimeter. He made 10 of 14 shots. He also handed out seven assists against just two turnovers.

"I had Tyreke Evans score 40 a game in high school. I had to make him a point guard," Calipari said. "John Wall scored 26 a game in high school, and you try to make him a point guard. That's a hard deal for those guys. They're used to scoring. That's the first thing. They're got to get out of that mode. And [Teague] has."

Chris Dortch is the editor of the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook.

You can email him here, follow him on Twitter and listen to the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Hour.

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