Skip to content

The NCAA tournament’s best big men

Mar 20, 2013, 1:00 PM EDT

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. Rick Barnes is considering an offer from Tennessee

    Mar 31, 2015, 1:47 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Barnes spent the last 17 seasons at Texas.

  2. UConn, Notre Dame, South Carolina and Maryland, all No. 1 seeds, advance to women’s Final Four

    Mar 30, 2015, 11:10 PM EDT

    Brianna Turner AP

    UConn, Notre Dame, South Carolina and Maryland make up the 2015 women’s Final Four.

  3. Sources: Johnathan Williams III expected to transfer from Missouri

    Mar 30, 2015, 10:24 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Williams was the leading scorer and rebounder for the Tigers this season.

  4. Nebraska forward giving up basketball for senior season

    Mar 30, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Nebraska forward Walter Pitchford is giving up basketball for his senior season.

  5. Xavier sophomore guard will transfer

    Mar 30, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT

    Parker Wentz, Brandon Randolph AP

    Xavier is losing a reserve guard to transfer.

  6. Reports: Chris Mullin is the new head coach at St. John’s

    Mar 30, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Chris Mullin will get a chance to restore glory at St. John’s.

  7. George Mason hires Bucknell head coach Dave Paulsen

    Mar 30, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    George Mason makes a move to hire a new head coach.

  8. 2015 NCAA Tournament All-Second Weekend Team

    Mar 30, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Who were the best players in the second-weekend of the NCAA tournament?

  9. Dan Patrick Show: Tom Izzo talks Final Four, facing Coach K

    Mar 30, 2015, 3:07 PM EDT

    Michigan State earned its Final Four spot Sunday (AP Photo) Michigan State earned its Final Four spot Sunday (AP Photo)

    Izzo became the first coach to lead three teams seeded No. 5 or lower to the Final Four.

  10. Damion Lee to graduate, transfer from Drexel

    Mar 30, 2015, 2:41 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Lee will be a priority target during the offseason.

  11. While a major question remains unanswered, No. 4 North Carolina can be special in 2015-16

    Mar 30, 2015, 2:22 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    The Tar Heels should return every piece to its rotation next season, but what happens with the NCAA inquiry will have an impact as well.

  12. Dan Patrick Show: Sam Dekker talks Wisconsin’s return to Final Four

    Mar 30, 2015, 1:50 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Dekker was the best player in the second weekend of the event.

  13. The AP released their All-American teams on Monday

    Mar 30, 2015, 12:42 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    There isn’t anything all that wrong with the AP’s list. The first team is perfect.

  14. 2015 NCAA Tournament: Final Four betting lines, Vegas odds

    Mar 30, 2015, 12:19 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    If you need to place a bet, here are the lines you’ll be working with.

  15. Reports: Jeff Neubauer hired as next Fordham head coach

    Mar 30, 2015, 10:46 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Neubauer was with Eastern Kentucky for 10 years and John Beilein for nine seasons before that.

  16. Tournament darling R.J. Hunter is heading to the NBA

    Mar 30, 2015, 10:05 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    R.J. Hunter and his father/coach became a sensation during the tournament.