Skip to content

The NCAA tournament’s best big men

Mar 20, 2013, 1:00 PM EST

Cody Zeller AP

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.

source:  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.

Latest Posts
  1. Late Night Snacks: Minnesota wins at Michigan State, No. 7 Arizona and No. 13 Utah roll

    Feb 27, 2015, 1:31 AM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Michigan State fouled three-point shooters on two separate occasions late in regulation, and it set the stage for an overtime loss at home.

  2. Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings apologizes for postgame outburst directed at freshman guard Wade Baldwin IV

    Feb 26, 2015, 11:47 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    The Vandy freshman taunted a Tennessee player as time expired in the Commodores’ win, and his head coach read him the riot act in the handshake line.

  3. Bubble Banter: Just how safe is Michigan State, and did Ohio State punch a ticket?

    Feb 26, 2015, 10:29 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Who were the winners and the losers on the bubble on Thursday?

  4. Jae’Sean Tate produces another quality performance as Ohio State blows out Nebraska

    Feb 26, 2015, 9:17 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Tate scored a career-high 22 points Thursday night, and his move into the starting lineup has helped Ohio State.

  5. West Virginia announces addition of five year-old to basketball program (VIDEO)

    Feb 26, 2015, 8:35 PM EST

    Bob Huggins Bob Huggins

    Five year-old Nicholas Wince spent the entire day with West Virginia prior to their win over Texas, signing a National Letter of Intent as well.

  6. Shoulder injuries to sideline USC freshman point guard for remainder of season

    Feb 26, 2015, 5:54 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Without Jordan McLaughlin, USC will have to rely on Julian Jacobs at the point in their final two regular season games.

  7. Alabama junior guard to miss remainder of season due to foot, knee injuries

    Feb 26, 2015, 4:50 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    In addition to a ruptured plantar fascia suffered in a loss to Florida in late-January, Ricky Tarrant also needs to undergo a procedure on his left knee.

  8. Jim Boeheim: ‘I wish I had another solution’ to the postseason ban

    Feb 26, 2015, 4:00 PM EST

    Jim Boeheim AP

    Boeheim doesn’t seem pleased about the ruling.

  9. adidas releases new NCAA Tournament uniforms

    Feb 26, 2015, 11:19 AM EST

    @adidashoops @adidashoops

    These are more understated than recent adidas uniforms.

  10. Report: Former Louisville guard Chris Jones charged with rape, sodomy

    Feb 26, 2015, 8:26 AM EST

    AP Photo AP

    Chris Jones was dismissed from the team on Sunday.

  11. Wednesday’s Snacks: No. 1 Kentucky moves to 28-0, Northwestern knocks off Indiana

    Feb 26, 2015, 12:38 AM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    And No. 2 Virginia limited Wake Forest to 21.8% shooting without two starters.

  12. Duke’s defense once again an issue as they get taken to overtime by Virginia Tech

    Feb 26, 2015, 12:07 AM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    The Duke defense is the biggest red flag on any true contender.

  13. Three-point barrage leads to No. 19 Baylor’s first-ever win at Iowa State

    Feb 25, 2015, 11:33 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Scott Drew’s Bears went on an 18-4 second half run to take control of the game, hitting six three-pointers.

  14. Bubble Banter: Wild night in the Atlantic 10, Indiana in trouble?

    Feb 25, 2015, 9:57 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Here are Wednesday’s bubble winners and losers.

  15. Big 12 reprimands Kansas State for security issues following Monday’s win over Kansas

    Feb 25, 2015, 7:10 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby also notes that the conference is having conversations regarding possible protocols for situations in which fans rush the court.