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Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Updated: March 19, 10:46 AM ET
Who to watch in West Regional

By Chad Ford
ESPN.com

Hasheem Thabeet
A good tournament ride could help Hasheem Thabeet's draft stock.

ESPN.com has talked with multiple NBA scouts and general managers over the course of the season to give you a look at the top five NBA prospects they'll be watching in each NCAA tournament regional.

West Regional NBA Prospects

The West is the weakest of the four regionals as far as NBA draft prospects go, but there is some interesting talent to keep an eye on.

1. Hasheem Thabeet, C, Jr., Connecticut

The Good: You can't teach 7-foot-3. Thabeet is an elite shot-blocker and has better-than-average athleticism for a big man. He also has improved his rebounding numbers this season and slowly but surely is adding a few things to his offensive repertoire.

The Bad: He still is very raw and tends to disappear in big games against other dominant big men.

The Upside: NBA teams love big guys with potential, and you can see Thabeet's appeal. However, short of his exceptional shot-blocking skills, it's hard to see how his game will translate to the NBA. But if players like DeSagana Diop have a place in the league, so will Thabeet. A huge tournament could help boost his stock from the mid- to early lottery, but it's doubtful he'll become a superstar.



2. Tyreke Evans, G, Fr., Memphis

The Good: One of the best freshmen in the country, Evans is an excellent scorer who excels at taking the ball to the basket. Since he was moved to point guard, Memphis hasn't lost a game.

The Bad: Evans is a streaky shooter at best, and his decision-making skills are pretty questionable. He is in score-first mode most of the time.

The Upside: NBA teams like the physical package, but there's concern about how effective he'll be in the NBA without a solid jump shot. He probably is a mid-to-late first-round pick, but a big tournament could boost him into the lottery.



3. Jarvis Varnado, PF, Jr., Mississippi State

The Good: One of the best shot-blockers in the country, Varnado is very athletic, long and active on both ends of the floor. He also has been solid, although not spectacular, as a rebounder.

The Bad: He is pretty raw offensively, getting most of his points on putbacks and dunks. He also needs to add strength to his frame.

The Upside: He reminds some teams of Tyrus Thomas -- he flies up and down the floor and can be fun to watch. Still, will he play a big role in the NBA? There aren't a lot of power forwards in the league who make a living on shot-blocking alone. A big tournament could help his cause; however, Mississippi State is likely to be gone after the first round.



4. Lee Cummard, F, Sr., BYU

The Good: Cummard is one of the most complete players in the country. He's an excellent shooter from midrange and deep, he's an excellent passer, he has a solid handle and he makes great decisions with the ball.

The Bad: He lacks strength, is old for his class and isn't an explosive athlete.

The Upside: He might not be a starter in the NBA, but scouts think he has a shot at being a really good role player. His basketball IQ, size and shooting skill make him a potential second-round pick. And if he plays well on the big stage, he could sneak into the first round.



5. Greivis Vasquez, G, Jr., Maryland

The Good: Vasquez is an interesting combo guard who can thrive both by running a team and scoring. He excels at getting the ball to the basket and plays with great passion.

The Bad: He is a very streaky shooter and isn't a great athlete. And it's unclear what position he would play in the pros.

The Upside: Vasquez has been hot of late, and scouts always have been intrigued by his talent. He's announced he's in the draft, so everyone will be watching closely. If he has a great tournament, he could push himself into the late first round. Right now, he's on the bubble.

Others to watch: Jerel McNeal, G, Sr., Marquette; Kemba Walker, PG, Fr., UConn; A.J. Price, PG, Sr., UConn; Jeff Adrien, PF, Sr., UConn; DeMarre Carroll, F, Sr., Missouri; Leo Lyons, PF, Sr., Missouri; Robbie Hummel, F, So., Purdue; JaJuan Johnson, F, So., Purdue; Robert Dozier, F, Sr., Memphis; Antonio Anderson, G, Sr., Memphis; Wesley Matthews, G/F, Sr., Marquette; Josh Carter, G, Sr., Texas A&M; Jon Brockman, F/C, Sr., Washington; Jerome Randle, PG, So., Cal

Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.