Louisville doesn't pass the NBA test
One way to forecast Monday’s NCAA title game is to run it through the “NBA Test.”
This is an ongoing personal observation. Starting in the late 1990s, when every decent college player started turning pro early, the tournament champ more often than not has an edge in future NBA talent.
Sometimes, that means having one dominant player (Syracuse 2003: Carmelo Anthony). More often it’s having the better collection of futures pros (North Carolina 2009: Ty Lawson, Tyler Hansbrough, Ed Davis, Danny Green, Wayne Ellington).
Based on this theory, it’s been odd to see Louisville pegged as a favorite since the tournament began. Check the NBA Draft sites and there’s only one Louisville player projected as a late first-rounder, center Gorgui Deng.
Maybe guard Russ Smith will turn out to be a decent NBA player, but right now he’s billed as a second-rounder.
Compare that to Michigan, where Trey Burke is looking like a top-10 pick, Mitch McGarry is climbing toward the lottery and scouts seem to like Glenn Robinson’s size and athleticism, even if he’s not always productive.
So while Louisville is the favorite, Michigan appears to be the more talented team, based on NBA potential.
This theory has been steady since 1999, but the one time it really blew apart was 2010.
That was the year Kentucky had five first-round draft picks and lost to West Virginia in the regional final. The only first-round draft pick in the entire Final Four was Butler’s Gordon Hayward and he couldn’t lift his team past Duke in the title game.
I could argue that Duke’s Kyle Singler was extremely undervalued by NBA scouts. (Edit) He was a second-round pick in 2011 and is now starting for the Pistons, but that’s a long way from matching Kentucky’s failed five. Four of those players -- John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson and Eric Bledsoe – have played fairly well in the NBA, which makes it tougher to figure out.
Another interesting case study is 2008. Memphis had the best player (Derrick Rose) and could have easily won the title game against Kansas. But the Jayhawks could hold their own in the NBA Test, turning out three decent pros that year -- Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers and Darrell Arthur.