Four gargantuan steps

By and large, our final Class of 2014 rankings closely resemble the version we released last August. That speaks to consistent evaluations as well as the extensive exposure that today's top prospects receive.

But that trend didn't hold across the board. Four players, in particular, markedly enhanced their national stock as seniors.

Karl Towns leapt from No. 11 to No. 4. A seven-spot jump may not appear that significant, but a prospect moving from outside the top 10 into the top five at this late stage is rare. The difference in expectations between No. 4 and No. 11 vastly exceeds the difference for players ranked, for example, No. 40 and No. 62.

Towns played well during the high school season but truly stepped it up during the postseason. At the McDonald's All-American's practices in late Match, he showed up with much more spring and athletic fluidity than he had demonstrated previously. Big guys frequently need more time to grow into their bodies, and Towns has done exactly that.

Now that he's able to hold his own physically — at the minimum — against other elites, his skill set becomes all the more impressive. Towns always has been able to score both with his back to the basket and facing, but now the Kentucky-bound big man creates his shot more effectively in traffic and when matched versus shotblockers. He could become a star for the Wildcats, even in their outrageously loaded frontcourt.

Face-up forward and Florida signee Devin Robinson didn't do his damage at any one place, but over time his talent has become increasingly obvious and the risk has diminished while the potential reward has escalated.

Robinson didn't ascend from No. 24 to No. 16 based on track record as much as he did by showcasing tantalizing ability. He could be too high or low here, and only time will tell.

Another big man, UCLA signee Thomas Welsh, made a remarkable jump from No. 45 to No. 17. The slender center solidified his place in the top 20 during a sterling senior campaign. He played well in postseason sessions, too, but we've known for months that he needed to rise substantially.

Welsh has established now that he can tangle with players such as No. 1 senior Jahlil Okafor and give nearly as well as he takes. He needs to get stronger and to continue improving his mobility, but he wields an ultra-smooth turnaround jump shot with a high release that should pay off early for the Bruins.

Meanwhile, shooting guard Grayson Allen — who moved from No. 36 to No. 22 — followed Welsh's model. A Duke signee, Allen performed in stirring fashion at national tournaments this past season and followed that up with strong work in McDonald's practices.

He had been highly inconsistent on the 2013 travel circuit, but he reversed the streakiness (although he remains a hot and cold jump shooter) and began to assert himself as a slasher against blue-chip foes.

Others within the top 25 who made significant upward moves were Rashad Vaughn (No. 13 to No. 8), Theo Pinson (No. 27 to No. 19) and Tyler Ulis (No. 29 to No. 20).

Scout Hoops Top Stories