2012 NBA Draft Projections: Pitt Has Three In ESPN.com's Top 100

So after Pitt was shut out of the 2011 NBA Draft, is it too early to talk about 2012? Nah, course not.

Even though Pitt didn't produce a draft pick in 2011, that should change for next year.

ESPN.com's Chad Ford doesn't think it's too early for 2012 and has an early list of his top 100 prospects. Pitt doesn't produce any stars early in what appears to be a pretty star-studded list, but unlike this year, they do have several players in that top 100.

Because this is an Insider-only article, I'm not going to list the exact rankings for Pitt's three players.

But Khem Birch kicks things off for Pitt and is the highest-touted recruit on the list, being called a bubble first-rounder. Dante Taylor and Ashton Gibbs are also much further down the line, near the very end of the list. That would project them out to late second-round to undrafted status.

We know that barring a major injury, Gibbs will be gone. Even if Birch doesn't have a great year, assuming it's not on the level of what Fab Melo did this year, he could be gone as well. Taylor's a bit different, however. Sure, there was talk of him leaving early as he was a McDonald's All-American, but now that scouts have had two (soon to be three) years to digest his game, I don't know if someone would spend a draft pick based on potential if he doesn't show significant improvement.

Taylor leaving would not be like Birch leaving. Without a big season, Birch still has the label of 'potential' on his side. Not that Taylor at 21 wouldn't to a degree, but say he doesn't improve all that much this season. Scouts could be somewhat put off by him if they don't see much improvement from his play last year to this year. That might mean he needs another year of development.

And here's a thought. What if Taylor sees Birch decide to leave after one season even if he (Birch) doesn't have a big year? Would he then somehow feel the need to go rather than stick around for a senior season? That may sound like a bit of a reach at first, but athletes are, by nature, competitive. To think that competition doesn't translate into stuff like getting drafted isprobably short-sighted - after all, Isaiah Epps once said he wanted to be a one-and-done player and he took a redshirt last season. Think that wasn't a little humbling?

The fact is that Taylor could probably feel a bit rushed if he sees Birch try to go immediately. If he wasn't ready, I do think common sense would win out, but I'd be shocked if the thought didn't at least cross his mind.

Either way, there's a much bigger chance that we see a Pitt player drafted in 2012. Even if Birch and Taylor stay, Gibbs' chances still rate higher than any of Pitt's three seniors this season.

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