Skip to content

Position Rankings: The Top 20 Centers

Nov 2, 2012, 12:00 PM EST

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. Late Night Snacks: Bubble teams Pittsburgh, LSU and Tulsa suffer home losses

    Mar 5, 2015, 1:22 AM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Neither the Panthers nor the Tigers did themselves any favors Wednesday night, with Pittsburgh’s home loss being the costlier of the two defeats.

  2. Bubble Banter: Why LSU losing is bad news for Texas A&M

    Mar 4, 2015, 11:59 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    All of Wednesday’s relevant bubble info can be found right here.

  3. Joe O’Shea’s off-balance three-pointer forces overtime in Bryant’s double OT win over Sacred Heart (VIDEO)

    Mar 4, 2015, 11:34 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Thanks to O’Shea the Bulldogs advanced to the NEC semifinals, where they’ll take on Robert Morris.

  4. Bonzie Colson continues hot streak as No. 12 Notre Dame wins at No. 16 Louisville

    Mar 4, 2015, 9:38 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Colson and Demetrius Jackson scored 11 second-half points apiece in Notre Dame’s win at Louisville.

  5. Defense turns into instant offense for Ohio State’s Sam Thompson (VIDEO)

    Mar 4, 2015, 9:03 PM EST

    Ohio State v Michigan State Ohio State v Michigan State

    D’Angelo Russell scored 28 to lead the Buckeyes, but none of his points were wilder than the two scored by Thompson on this play.

  6. Semifinalists for Naismith Coach of the Year trophy announced

    Mar 4, 2015, 5:59 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Kentucky head coach John Calipari is one of 15 coaches still in contention for this honor.

  7. Frank Kaminsky, Jahlil Okafor among ten semifinalists for Naismith Award

    Mar 4, 2015, 5:13 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Kaminsky is one of five seniors on the list, and Gonzaga is the only program with two representatives.

  8. ‘First four out’ to receive one-seeds in Postseason NIT

    Mar 4, 2015, 4:20 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    With the higher seeds hosting in the first three rounds of the Postseason NIT, the four one-seeds could potentially not leave campus before the semifinals at Madison Square Garden.

  9. Updated NCAA tournament odds

    Mar 4, 2015, 3:40 PM EST

    Trey Lyles Trey Lyles

    The most recent title odds from Bovada.

  10. Potential Cinderellas you want to win their automatic bid

    Mar 4, 2015, 1:26 PM EST

    Cam Payne (AP Photo) Cam Payne (AP Photo)

    These are the small league favorites that can win a game in the NCAA tournament.

  11. Today is the 25-year anniversary of Hank Gathers’ death

    Mar 4, 2015, 11:51 AM EST

    spt-120203-kimble Getty Images

    Hank Gathers died on the court during the WCC tournament.

  12. Bill Self says Perry Ellis sprained knee, back in ‘a week or so’

    Mar 4, 2015, 10:42 AM EST

    (AP) AP

    Perry Ellis suffered a nasty looking knee injury last night.

  13. Virginia’s Justin Anderson could return as early as Saturday

    Mar 4, 2015, 9:41 AM EST

    Justin Anderson (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Justin Anderson has been out for more than three weeks after fracturing a finger.

  14. Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

    Mar 4, 2015, 9:00 AM EST

    uni Getty Images

    Two strong teams enter the Valley Conference Tournament with numerous others trying to enter the frame.

  15. Karl Towns takes over, No. 1 Kentucky moves to 30-0

    Mar 4, 2015, 12:26 AM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Kentucky is learning how to win games when they don’t play well. That’s scary.

  16. No. 9 Kansas rallies to beat No. 20 West Virginia in OT but injury to Perry Ellis is major concern

    Mar 3, 2015, 11:58 PM EST

    (AP) AP

    No. 9 Kansas topped No. 20 West Virginia but now the Jayhawks must worry about the health of Perry Ellis.