Mar 20, 2013, 1:00 PM EDT
Yesterday, our Eric Angevine highlighted the nation’s most prominent back court studs. But you’re not going to win the NCAA tournament without big uglies in the paint anchoring the front court. Here are the best of the bigs that you need to know:
(CLICK HERE: To browse through the rest of our 2013 NCAA Tournament Previews)
Anthony Bennett, UNLV: There aren’t many players in the country more exciting than Anthony Bennett. The 6-foot-7 combo-forward can soar, using his physical frame to throw down some of the most impressive dunks that we’ve seen this season. Oh, and he has also been known to hit three or four threes in a row, and if that’s not enough, he has good enough handle to cross you over and get to the rim. It’s a matter of effort and consistency with Bennett, which is why he’s such a scary talent. What happens if he puts it all together for three weeks?
Jake Cohen and De’Mon Brooks, Davidson: I have Davidson knocking off Marquette in the opening round of the tournament, and the biggest reason is the combination of Cohen and Brooks up front. Both are versatile scorers up that can score with their back to the basket or facing up, which will create matchup problems for Buzz Williams’ team.
Gorgui Dieng, Louisville: Dieng’s presence around the rim is one of the biggest reasons that Louisville’s defense is so tough. The Cardinal guards would be out pressuring on the perimeter whether or not Dieng was camped out under the rim, but it sure makes it easier to gamble for a steal when you know that getting beat only means someone has to finish over Dieng.
Colton Iverson, Colorado State: The reason the Rams are as good as they are this season? Rebounding. They’re the best in the country when it comes to hitting the glass, and Iverson is the anchor, averaging a double-double. He can also score in the paint, which should make him tough for teams to matchup with.
Alex Kirk, New Mexico: Kirk is the x-factor for the Lobos. He can score with his back to the basket and step out and hit a three. His emergence on the offensive end of the floor is one of the reasons that New Mexico went from being atrocious on that end of the floor to respectable. He’s also legitimately seven-feet tall, which gives the Lobos an anchor to matchup with the biggest of the big men.
CJ Leslie, NC State: Leslie is the x-factor for NC State. He’s by far their most talented player, but he’s also the most enigmatic member of the Wolfpack. He hasn’t even been the best post player this year, as that title falls to Richard Howell. NC State has the talent to make the Sweet 16, but they are going to need a pair of great games out of Leslie.
Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota: Mbakwe has the ability to dominate the paint when he wants to, and he’ll have the opportunity to do just that against a UCLA team that is allergic to rebounding. When Minnesota upset Indiana last month, it was Mbakwe that set the tone from the tip. He’ll have to do the same this month for the Gophers to turnaround their fortunes.
Doug McDermott, Creighton: The nation’s most versatile and efficient scorer. He moves without the ball, he can hit threes, he can score in the post, he can beat you off the dribble, he is as good as anyone in the country at holding position in the paint. Good luck, Cincinnati.
Muke Muscala, Bucknell: Muscala’s a throw-back big man, a 6-foot-11 center that can score with his back to the basket by going over either shoulder. He’ll be matched up with Butler’s Andrew Smith in the opening round of the tournament, so he’ll have his work cut out for him.
Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris, Gonzaga: The best front court in the country. Olynyk is brutally efficient offensively while Harris has redefined himself since a terrific freshman season, becoming a role-player, defender and leader. Oh, and how can you argue against the hair?
Mason Plumlee, Duke: Plumlee should be thanking Ryan Kelly’s foot for getting healthy by tournament time. Without Kelly on the floor, the Duke center will now have a chance to go one-on-one on the block on every touch. If he gets doubled, he simply will need to find one of Duke’s four knock-down shooters that has been left open.
Otto Porter, Georgetown: What makes Porter so dangerous is that there are so many things that he’s able to do with the ball. He can drive and get to the rim. He can pull-up and hit an NBA-range three. He’s a very good passer. He can score in the post. You want the ball in his hands because you know he’s not only going to take advantage of what the defense is giving him, but he’s going to make the right decision with the ball.
Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State: Thomas is one of the toughest players to matchup with in this tournament. He plays the four for the Buckeyes, and he’s even been playing the five-spot of late as Thad Matta is experimenting with a smaller lineup. That’s dangerous before Thomas is such a good scorer. He can hit threes, he can face-up from 15 feet, he can get all the way to the rim.
Jeff Withey, Kansas: Withey can dominate a game on the defensive end of the floor. He’s that good of a shotblocker, and with the number of big, athletic wings that Kansas has on the perimeter, it makes the Jayhawks a very good defensive team.
Cody Zeller, Indiana: Zeller is simply the best low-post scorer in the country. Indiana has made more of an effort to pound the ball inside to him late in the season, which is a good thing for the Hoosiers. The more touches that Zeller gets, the better chance Indiana is going to have of winning the national title. He needs to be their go-to guy.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
Sep 2, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT
Malik Beasley had a great summer as a high-scoring guard.
Sep 2, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT
SMU is quickly building a big home-court advantage.
Sep 2, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT
Former Duke point guard gets a better contract at Buffalo.
Sep 2, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
The Hoyas are getting some more former players to donate.
Sep 2, 2014, 6:49 PM EDT
The College of Charleston finally has its man.
Sep 2, 2014, 5:32 PM EDT
Oregon State picked up a big commitment on Tuesday afternoon.
Sep 2, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
News and notes from around the world of college basketball recruiting.
Sep 2, 2014, 4:09 PM EDT
And it will be on the best day in the college hoops calendar? Make. This. Happen. Please.
Sep 2, 2014, 2:51 PM EDT
Did Tony Bennett just land London Perrantes, version 2.0?
Sep 2, 2014, 2:21 PM EDT
Four college players were in action on Tuesday.
Sep 2, 2014, 12:39 PM EDT
It’s the second time this year that cancer has come too close to home for the Hawkeyes.
Sep 2, 2014, 10:54 AM EDT
Smith is a high-flying guard in the same mold as a John Wall or Derrick Rose.
Sep 2, 2014, 9:25 AM EDT
Avery is undergoing chemo to battle leukemia for the third time.
Sep 1, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT
Kwe Parker is one of the best dunkers in all of basketball and he shows why in this new mixtape.
Sep 1, 2014, 8:20 PM EDT
Arizona State has given head coach Herb Sendek an extension.
Sep 1, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT
East Carolina is on the board in 2015.
Sep 1, 2014, 5:28 PM EDT
A five-star 2015 forward cut his list to five schools on Monday.
Sep 1, 2014, 4:20 PM EDT
Indiana will have to remain patient with a freshman that is currently battling an ankle injury.
Sep 1, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT
You need a very understanding wife to get away with this.
Sep 1, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT
Tennessee has one scholarship left available for 2015.
- Oregon State nabs a trio of top 150 commitments in the 2015 class 0
- College Basketball Talk’s Recruiting Roundup 0
- Latest mixtape for Dennis Smith Jr. shows how talented he is (VIDEO) 0
- Five-star 2015 forward cuts his list to five schools 0
- Top talent in 2016 announces a top ten 2
- North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham comments on Rashad McCants situation 1
- College Basketball Talk’s Recruiting Roundup 0
- Tom Izzo calls PGA Tour caddie after wife passes away (4)
- DePaul’s Purnell loses fifth recruit that signed letter of intent (3)
- Will Bill Self and Kansas play small-ball this season? (2)
- Top talent in 2016 announces a top ten (2)
- A Christian Laettner 30-for-30 on Selection Sunday? May we be so lucky (2)