Tourney absences may limit exposure

Like it or not, the NCAA tournament has a disproportionate effect on NBA draft stock. Every year there are several players who watch their stock go through the roof thanks to the tournament halo.

For other players, not getting an invitation to the Big Dance can hurt their stock a bit. With so many NBA GMs focusing on the tournament and little else, good players can become afterthoughts as the ultimate decision-makers focus on the players still playing for the next few weeks (and no, the NIT doesn't count ... lower-level scouts are at that tourney).

For the seniors on this list, the next stop, if they're willing, is the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in early April. For the underclassmen, their next appearance in front of a pro scout won't come until April 30 when NBA teams are cleared to begin working out underclassmen who have declared for the draft.

Let's take a quick look at top draft prospects who are either out of the tournament or dangerously close to going home.

Out of the tournament

Ed Davis, PF, Sophomore, North Carolina

Davis' season-ending wrist injury sealed the demise of North Carolina this season. While scouts weren't blown away by Davis' performance this year, every GM I spoke with still has him ranked somewhere between 4 and 10 on their Big Boards. He looks like a lock for the lottery.

Stanley Robinson, F, Senior, UConn

Robinson is an athletic freak who posted the best individual numbers of his career. But with UConn cratering the last month of the season, he'll be unable to get that same big draft stock spike he got last season in the tournament. With so many questions still swirling about Robinson, he probably needed it. Still, Robinson's a potential lottery pick if GMs can get comfortable with his commitment to the game.

Larry Sanders, PF, Junior, VCU

Sanders has been one of the steadiest players on our Big Board. He's been stuck in the mid-first round all year. A disappointing end of the season (a number of scouts were in attendance to see his woeful six-point performance in a losing effort against Old Dominion) hurt his stock a bit. GMs wonder if he's tough enough to make an impact in the league right now.

Willie Warren, G, Sophomore, Oklahoma

No one had his stock drop more rapidly this year than Warren. He began the season as a top-10 prospect and could slip out of the first round now if he declares for the draft. A season-ending ankle injury was the icing on the cake for a guy who was benched, questioned by his coach, battled mono and put up depressing numbers on a shockingly bad Oklahoma team. He really needs to go back to school for his junior year, but it doesn't sound like he and Coach Capel are on the same page.

Craig Brackins, PF, Junior, Iowa State

Brackins isn't far behind Warren in the stock free fall department. Brackins was seen as a potential late lottery pick last season, but struggled to put up the same dominating numbers for Iowa State this year. Now he's stuck on the first-round bubble. Brackins will declare for the draft, but he has some work to do before he can get his stock back firmly in the first.

Klay Thompson, SG, Sophomore, Washington State

Thompson started the season red hot for Washington State, but cooled off considerably in conference play. Teams love his shooting ability and high basketball IQ, but he's not an off-the-charts athlete. He may test the waters. If he does, he has a chance to crack the first round, but most likely he's a second-round pick.

Dominique Jones, SG, Junior, South Florida

Jones won a lot of fans this year with his scoring prowess and his relentless attacking of the basket. If he was a better athlete and a better shooter, he'd probably be a lottery pick. But some scouts see a little Tyreke Evans in him. A long tournament run could've boosted his stock dramatically. Even without it, if he declares, he's got a shot at the first round.