Lions Around the Dorm: Spring Playoffs Week 1

In this week’s Around the Dorm, the “Ref,” Alex Wolfe, challenges Staff Writer Peter Fiorilla, Staff Writer Mark Barroso and Correspondent Bryan Bellanca to answer questions about who the best NBA prospect is after Anthony Davis, whether the NBA should institute a new draft eligibility rule and who will come out on top of this year’s NHL playoffs.

1. Now that the NCAA tourney is over, all of the college players are either declaring for the draft or staying put. We’ve already seen Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Harrison Barnes, Austin Rivers and others declare. It seems a foregone conclusion that Anthony Davis is the top prospect, so who is the second-best prospect in this year’s class?

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PF: The No. 2 prospect in this year’s draft is small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Davis’ teammate and a real star at the University of Kentucky, who I think is a can’t-miss prospect for his ability on and off the ball. Gilchrist is willing to hustle on defense but has the talent to create plays on offense, is a vocal leader who leads by example and has shown time and time again he can impress under pressure — he was clutch in Kentucky’s Final Four win versus Louisville this year. For example, he scored two big baskets to give Kentucky a late lead and looked far more composed than a lot of 18 year olds would in his position. In short, he’s fundamentally sound and is a potential star in the NBA. If Gilchrist develops a jump shot or a way to become a threat from distance, he will be an invaluable asset for years to come. (Honorary mention: Thomas Robinson of Kansas.)

MB: The second-best prospect in this year’s NBA Draft class is freshman forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (also known as MKG) of the 2012 National Champion Kentucky Wildcats. The 18 year old will be drafted into the NBA at No. 2 in his native state of N.J. on June 28. During the 2011-2012 regular season, Gilchrist, 6’ 7” 232 pounds, averaged 11.8 points per game, 7.6 rebounds per game, two assists per game and shot 49 percent from the field. “MKG” is the one and done total package — he can shoot, pass, rebound, drive to the paint and lead a team. He is versatile and athletic enough to play shooting guard in the NBA, yet physical enough to play small forward by swimming past defenders and making tough layups. In addition to raw basketball talent, MKG possesses the highly valued intangibles of passion, intensity and hustles on both ends of the court. MKG’s large frame takes up space on the wing, and the Wizards or Hornets can use him effectively at the two or three position. MKG is a star devoted to both his spirituality and basketball skills who will not be one to let fame and fortune ruin his NBA career.

BB: While I know a lot of draft analysts have Kidd-Gilchrist as the second-rated prospect after how he performed through the NCAA Tournament, I’m going to go with someone I’ve seen in watching some of his games through the season — Andre Drummond. Anyone who has seen this kid play knows that he is an absolute beast on the defensive side of the ball, and that’s why I think he’s the second-best prospect after Davis. All these kids are going to go through transitions at the next level and from time to time their offensive game is going to struggle, but, much like Davis showed in the Championship game, even if you’re struggling on offense you can still affect the game with your defense. Center is the most sought after position in the NBA because there are so few dominant centers in the league, and Drummond has the chance to be one of those dominant centers. Even though he’ll go through some growing pains in his offensive game, his defensive game will be there from day one.

AW: I like going for the big man with good D, even if his offense isn’t polished yet (à la a young Tyson Chandler). For that reason I give Bryan the 3. Peter gets 2 for saying how Kidd-Gilchrist has the “clutch gene.” Mark gets 1 for stating MKG’s versatility.

2. While we’re on the topic, there’s been rumblings from David Stern and a request from Mark Cuban about possibly instituting an NFL-esque draft rule stating that players must stay through their junior seasons to be eligible for the NBA draft. Would this be a positive thing for the NBA? The NCAA?

PF: Requiring players to spend more time in college would be beneficial for both the NCAA and NBA. It would obviously improve the quality of college hoops teams dramatically, since players would improve over the years and build oft-underappreciated chemistry, and they would have more time and less pressure to develop before entering the NBA draft. In other words, the NBA would be getting more complete products to advertise. But I think the largest beneficiaries of this rule would end up being fans of NCAA basketball. As it is now, it isn’t easy to develop an emotional connection with college teams because of the fast rate of personnel turnover. Favorite players and gripping storylines often cruelly disappear within a year or two of being created. But if the Anthony Davises of the world were forced to stay with their teams until their junior years, college teams would be better, the NBA would get more developed athletes, and fans would be better rewarded for their devotion, ultimately perpetuating growth in college basketball — everybody wins.

MB: I support David Stern’s and Mark Cuban’s proposals for the “three and free” rule because it both prepares student athletes for the real world and gives them a chance enter the NBA early. The three-year rule would be positive for both the NBA and NCAA because the NBA would have more mature, quality players enter the draft and the NCAA would have higher graduation rates and television ratings. The NBA would become a competition between teams with players that are used to mainstream media exposure, paying bills, and the nightlife of being a household name in athletics. College student athletes who experience only their freshman year are missing out on the time during their sophomore and junior years that can be spent evaluating the good, bad and ugly of their freshman years and learning from their mistakes. Since many majors can be completed in three years, the NCAA would benefit from the three year rule because more student athletes would graduate. The lure of the NCAA would be to see if star players want to repeat as National Champions, avenge a Final Four loss by trying to win the championship as a senior, and see just how good players are before they enter the NBA.

BB: I’ve been hoping for a new NBA draft rule for the past couple of years. Now, I don’t think it’s necessary to require players to be juniors like football, because in football the majority of players get redshirted their freshman year, so most of the players getting drafted have only played for two years. College basketball doesn’t really use redshirting, and if it is used it’s on a player who’s not going to make it to the NBA anyway. So that’s why I believe requiring players to stay two years would be perfect for both the NBA and NCAA. For the NBA — a league that’s already filled with a ton of star power — waiting another year for these superstars wouldn’t hurt them. For NCAA the level of competition would be awesome and March Madness would be even crazier because teams are that much deeper, which would result in more upsets since everyone would be better.

AW: Bryan gets 3 because I like the point about redshirts and how that should affect the NBA rule vs. the NFL’s. Peter gets 2 for stating how the fans lose when players leave so soon. Mark gets 1 for saying how players would be more mature and used to the media.

3. The NHL playoffs are getting started and it seems like a pretty deep playoff field this year. Who do you think will come out of each conference, and who wins the cup this year?

AP Photo

PF: I’ve said in Around the Dorm before that the Stanley Cup is the New York Rangers’ to lose. I just like something about New York’s blue-collar, defense-first squad which boasts the best defense in the East (the only team to allow under 200 goals), one of the best goaltenders in the game (a hot King Henrik force his way to a Cup) and high-priced offensive players who are finally producing at an intimidating level (Marion Gaborik, Brad Richards). Keep in mind, all of this has been achieved despite playing in the hypercompetitive Atlantic Division. So the Rangers should be able to give their long-suffering fans a trophy after taking the Stanley Cup finals, where I predict they will face the Vancouver Canucks. I’ll admit it’s lame to pick two No. 1’s, but with the best goal difference (+48) and second-stingiest defense (198 GA) in the West, Stanley Cup experience from last season and Swedish wizard Henrik Sedin (67 assists), I think they’ll be able to force their way back to the Finals this year — just not past the Rangers.

MB: The Pittsburgh Penguins will come out of the Eastern Conference and win the 2012 Stanley Cup. The fourth-seeded Penguins will knock off the rival Flyers in the first round, keep winning, and defeat the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Canucks will be the runner-up for the second straight year after beating the Sharks in the first round and advancing to the Finals with their talented goaltending duo. Canucks goalie Cory Schneider is fourth in the league in save percentage with .937 and second in goals against average with 1.96. Roberto Luongo will build his reputation as an elite goaltender by stepping up his game in the postseason. Penguins center Evgeni Malkin won the Art Ross Trophy by capping the season with a league-leading 109 points and is a formidable candidate for MVP. Malkin scored the second most goals in the league with 50 and is second in the league in points per game with 1.45 in 75 games. Sidney Crosby closed the season with 1.67 goals in the 21 games he played. The Penguins end the season with the most goals per game with 3.32 and if Crosby stays healthy they will hold up the Cup in June.

BB: This year playoff hockey should be just as great as always, as the difference between the teams at the top of each conference and the bottom is not that much. Unfortunately I’m going to pick the Shitsburgh Penguins to win the Eastern Conference. As much as it pains me to pick them, they’re just too hot right now and are getting healthy at just the right time. Plus, Fleury has been playing amazing over the last month and the playoffs are all about goaltending. That’s why in the West I’m going to pick the Vancouver Canucks. They’re also entering the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the NHL, and the emergence of young goaltender Cory Schneider gives them an amazing backup for when Luongo chokes in the first round like he always does. Alas, Crosby willed be forced to cry again as he comes up short due to the power of the Sedin twins.

AW: Peter gets 3 for sticking to his guns and making a nice case for the Rangers. Bryan gets 2 for bringing up that goaltending wins championships. Mark gets 1 for bringing up the dominance of Crosby and Malkin.

Bryan wins Week 1 of the AtD Playoffs, 8 – 7 – 3.

“Let’s go Rangers!!! We want the Cup!” — Bryan