Skip to content

Position Rankings: The Top 20 Centers

Nov 2, 2012, 12:00 PM EDT

NCAA Basketball Tournament - Indiana  v Kentucky Getty Images

Throughout the month of October, CollegeBasketballTalk will be rolling out our previews for the 2012-2013 season. Check back at 9 a.m. and just after lunch every day, Monday-Friday, for a new preview item.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To look at the rest of The Lists we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

The Top 10

1. Cody Zeller, Indiana: Zeller is the best player in the country, so it would only make sense that he tops a list of best centers. He’s amazing to watch on the offensive end of the floor, particularly when he runs the court in transition, but he’ll make the jump to elite when he improves on the defensive end of the floor.

2. Jeff Withey, Kansas: Withey is the best defensive center in the country. Period. He led the nation — including Anthony Davis — in block percentage last year, and could very well do the same this season. He’ll anchor what should once again be an elite defense for the Jayhawks.

3. Gorgui Dieng, Louisville: Like Withey, Dieng is the anchor for what should be one of the best defensive teams in the country. He’s a terrific rebounder and shotblocker, but he needs to continue to develop his offensive repertoire to be more than a catch-and-dunk threat.

4. Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota: Mbakwe is an interesting case. He averaged a double-double in 2010-2011, and was doing the same last season before he tore his ACL. This offseason, he’s been dealing with a bunch of legal issues, and while they have all apparently been settled, that’s a lot of distraction for a college student to deal with.

5. Nerlens Noel, Kentucky: Noel is the x-factor in these rankings. He could very well end up being the best center in the country if everything falls into place, but there are a couple of issues I think could inhibit that. He’s not as offensively gifted as Anthony Davis. He has another center that he’ll be sharing front court minutes with in Willie Cauley-Stein. And I’m still curious how Kentucky’s roster eventually comes together. But John Calipari’s last three center recruits have gone on to be top five picks, so we’ll see.

6. Mason Plumlee, Duke: I think Plumlee puts it together this season, maybe not to the point that he’s a lottery pick, but enough so that he can anchor Duke’s front line. He was a very good — albeit it somewhat inconsistent — rebounder and shotblocker last year, so if his offense comes around, he could end up being elite.

7. Patric Young, Florida: An overwhelming physical presence, Young has yet to turn those God-given gifts into consistent production; he averaged just 10 points and six boards a season ago. Is this the year that he finally lives up to that potential?

8. Jared Berggren, Wisconsin: There may not be a more underrated big man that Jared Berggren. He’s sneaky-good defensively and a pick-and-pop threat that is a perfect fit for Wisconsin’s swing offense. Here’s the question for Berggren this year: how much of his success on the offensive end last season was the result of playing with Jordan Taylor? Because with Taylor gone and Josh Gasser injured, Wisconsin is going to need someone to step up offensively.

9. Jack Cooley, Notre Dame: The kid that looks like Luke Harangody‘s little brother has a chance to be the Big East Player of the Year this season. Cooley is a big-bodied center that is excellent playing his role as space-eater, rebounder, and picker-and-roller in Notre Dame’s ‘Burn’ offense.

10. Steven Adams, Pitt: There are some folks that think Adams is still a year or two away from being a real contributor for the Panthers, but I think Adams will end up being quite good for Jamie Dixon’s club. With Tray Woodall and Trey Ziegler in the back court, the Panthers will have enough scoring. All they need out of Adams is effort; defensively, on the glass, cutting to the rim. You don’t need to have your skills developed to play hard.

The Next 10

11. Khem Birch, UNLV
12. Reggie Johnson, Miami
13. Alex Oriakhi, Missouri
14. Alex Len, Maryland
15. Brandon Davies, BYU
16. Mike Muscala, Bucknell
17. Richard Howell, NC State
18. Kaleb Tarczewski, Arizona
19. Gregory Echenique, Creighton
20. Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky)

The Best of the Rest: Julian Boyd (LIU-Brooklyn), Alec Brown (Green Bay), Rakeem Christmas (Syracuse), DaJuan Coleman (Syracuse), Erik Copes (George Mason), Jamelle Hagins (Delaware), Jordan Henriquez (Kansas State), Colton Iverson (Colorado State), Vander Joaquim (Hawaii), Przemek Karnowski (Gonzaga), Deniz Kilicli (West Virginia), Alex Kirk (New Mexico), Zeke Marshall (Akron), Derrick Nix (Michigan State), Adreian Payne (Michigan State), Cameron Ridley (Texas), Andrew Smith (Butler), Josh Smith (UCLA), Brad Waldow (St. Mary’s), Mouph Yarou (Villanova)

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Top Oregon recruit denied admission to school

    Jul 30, 2014, 11:02 AM EDT

    Dana Altman AP

    Oregon is now left with just nine scholarship players, only two of whom saw significant minutes last season.

  2. Report: Air Force transfer Tre Coggins finds a landing spot

    Jul 30, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Coggins will be heading back closer to his Southern California home

  3. Duncan Robinson, of D-III Williams College, considering transfer to Michigan, Davidson

    Jul 30, 2014, 9:25 AM EDT

    AP AP

    Rising sophomore forward Duncan Robinson played his freshman year at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, but could be on the move for next season.

  4. A flooded Pauley Pavilion reopened in 2012 after $136 million in renovations

    Jul 29, 2014, 10:14 PM EDT

    Pauley Pavilion

    UCLA reopened Pauley Pavilion in 2012 after $136 million worth of renovations.

  5. Coach K: ‘I do not see an end of my road in my college coaching’

    Jul 29, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT

    Mike Krzyzewski AP

    Mike Krzyzewski is entering his 40th season as a head coach.

  6. Doug Wojcik’s attorney releases video of player assault allegations

    Jul 29, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Doug Wojcik has been investigated twice by the College of Charleston.

  7. John Calipari’s return to Kentucky ‘solely’ due to loyalty to his players

    Jul 29, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Cal told The Sporting News that he couldn’t leave behind the guys that decided to return to school. Do you buy it?

  8. Willie Cauley-Stein sheds light on injury he suffered in NCAA tournament

    Jul 29, 2014, 5:22 PM EDT

    AP AP

    A former UK coach gave his listeners some new details about Willie Cauley-Stein’s injury.

  9. Another mixtape for Malik Monk, the most exciting player in HS (VIDEO)

    Jul 29, 2014, 4:27 PM EDT

    NikeEYB NikeEYB

    Malik Monk is a dream come true for the mixtape makers.

  10. Report: SMU sold nearly $350,000 worth of booze at basketball games

    Jul 29, 2014, 3:46 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    And now they’re considering selling it at football games.

  11. UCLA announces what appears to be a solid non-conference slate

    Jul 29, 2014, 1:50 PM EDT

    alford Getty Images

    The Bruins will be tested by the time Pac-12 play rolls around.

  12. UAB’s leading scorer will not be returning to the program

    Jul 29, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Chad Frazier was arrested back in April.

  13. USA Basketball announces the final cuts to their U17 team

    Jul 29, 2014, 11:34 AM EDT

    USABasketballlogo

    Another surprise cut was made at the point guard spot

  14. The other side of the July live period: Recruits continue to strive for attention and offers

    Jul 29, 2014, 10:12 AM EDT

    Trevon Mollison (Drew Ebanks/OnPointBasketball) Trevon Mollison (Drew Ebanks/OnPointBasketball)

    Beyond the glitz and glamour of the highest levels of AAU basketball are kids fighting to land one of a few coveted scholarships.

  15. Louisville’s Akoy Agau out indefinitely after surgery on Tuesday

    Jul 29, 2014, 9:31 AM EDT

    @Akoy22 @Akoy22

    The procedure wasn’t know until Agau took to social media.

  16. Wisconsin receives Final Four rings (PHOTOS)

    Jul 28, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT

    Bo Ryan AP

    Wisconsin got some pretty cool rings for making the Final Four.

  17. Five-star 2016 forward Harry Giles looks healthy after knee injury (VIDEO)

    Jul 28, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT

    Harry Giles

    After tearing his ACL less than a year ago, Harry Giles looks healthy and prepared to battle for No. 1 in the Class of 2016.

  18. Northwestern head coach Chris Collins will coach USA Basketball Select Team

    Jul 28, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT

    Chris Collins AP

    Northwestern head coach Chris Collins will be working with pros this summer.