Until the second round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, the Mountain West appeared to be one of the strongest conferences in the nation. However, after losing four out of represented by Mountain West teams — New Mexico, Boise State, UNLV, San Diego State all lost, while Colorado State fell in the third round to eventual champion Louisville — the strength of the conference was put into question.
So, how does the Mountain West’s demise affect its departing draft prospects?
UNLV freshman forward Anthony Bennett declared himself eligible for the draft after the Rebels’ second-round upset loss to 12th seeded California. With much of the team returning next season, it can be assumed that Bennett would have considered playing another season in Las Vegas if not for UNLV’s immediate exit from the tournament.
At 6-foot-7, Bennett has the agility to play both the small and power forward positions for his next team, and he will most likely be selected in the third to sixth pick range. Bennett makes sense for nearly every lottery team looking to build around the block. Indiana‘s Victor Oladipo and Georgetown‘s Otto Porter Jr. are the two most valued wing players on most mock draft boards, but Bennett’s ceiling exceeds both 2013 Naismith Player of the Year candidates.
In the end, Bennett serves as possibly the most dependable top five pick for any struggling franchise. Kentucky center Nerlens Noel is the clear No. 1 pick, despite the season ending injury he suffered, and Kansas guard Ben McLemore looks to be a good pure scorer at the next level. However, Bennett remains as the only player in the top five picks who will continue to improve once he reaches the NBA.
John Engel is a Pac-12 basketball writer for Rant Sports. Follow John on Twitter: @engelsportsguy.