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: No. 22 SMU, No. 23 Syracuse fall

    Nov 21, 2014, 1:39 AM EST

    James Blackmon Jr., Stanford Robinson James Blackmon Jr., Stanford Robinson

    There was also a double-overtime game in Charleston, and a buzzer-beating tip-in in Puerto Rico.

  2. California takes a step forward in comfortable win over No. 23 Syracuse

    Nov 21, 2014, 12:36 AM EST

    Cuonzo Martin, David Kravish Cuonzo Martin, David Kravish

    One impressive stretch of perimeter shooting may stand out, but Cal’s execution against the Syracuse zone was good for most of the night.

  3. Perimeter shooting remains an issue as No. 12 Villanova squeaks past Bucknell

    Nov 20, 2014, 11:15 PM EST

    Jay Wright, Dylan Ennis, Jay Wright, Dylan Ennis,

    Through three games Villanova’s shooting 26.3% from three, but they’ve been able to make up for it in other areas.

  4. James Blackmon Jr. stars as Indiana rains threes on No. 22 SMU

    Nov 20, 2014, 10:37 PM EST

    Yogi Ferrell (Getty Images) Yogi Ferrell (Getty Images)

    I don’t know how much they’ll win, but Indiana is going to be a lot of fun to watch this season.

  5. 2015 Gildan Charleston Classic field includes reigning ACC champions

    Nov 20, 2014, 9:29 PM EST

    Tony Bennett Tony Bennett

    2015 participants George Mason (2010) and Seton Hall (2011) will play in the Gildan Charleston Classic for the second time in the history of the event.

  6. Caris LeVert’s all-around impact helps No. 24 Michigan hold off Detroit

    Nov 20, 2014, 8:36 PM EST

    Caris LeVert, Lucas Grose Caris LeVert, Lucas Grose

    Caris LeVert led the way with 21 points and nine rebounds, and Michigan held Juwan Howard Jr. without a point over the final 5:39.

  7. Hand injury sidelines Tennessee sophomore forward for home opener

    Nov 20, 2014, 6:59 PM EST

    Veterans Classic Tennesse vs Virginia Commonwealth Getty Images

    Dominic Woodson injured his left hand in practice Sunday.

  8. Inclement weather leads to postponement of Montana State’s game at Buffalo

    Nov 20, 2014, 6:04 PM EST

    Record Snowstorm Pummels Buffalo Getty Images

    More than sixty inches of snow have fallen in western New York this week, so it makes little sense to attempt to play a sporting event as scheduled.

  9. Arizona, Michigan State headline 2015 Wooden Legacy field

    Nov 20, 2014, 4:58 PM EST

    Tom Izzo Tom Izzo

    Arizona, Michigan State and Providence all reached last season’s NCAA tournament.

  10. Burning Questions: Who gets the last shot?

    Nov 20, 2014, 3:32 PM EST

    marcus paige Getty Images

    Who is the most clutch player in the country?

  11. Throwback Thursday: Jeff Brassow beats Arizona in Maui in 1993 (VIDEO)

    Nov 20, 2014, 2:37 PM EST

    jeff_brassow

    The 2014 Maui Invitational kicks off on Monday.

  12. Poll: 54 percent of people think Kentucky beats the 76ers, 54 percent of people are dumb

    Nov 20, 2014, 1:57 PM EST

    @Sportsnation @Sportsnation

    I cannot respect your intelligence if you think Kentucky beats Philly. I just can’t do it.

  13. Burning Questions: Will we get another surprise Final Four team this year?

    Nov 20, 2014, 1:29 PM EST

    Aaron White, Nathan Hawkins AP

    The last two years, Wichita State, UConn and Kentucky have all made the Final Four as teams seeded outside the top six.

  14. Jerry Tarkanian is back in the hospital

    Nov 20, 2014, 12:30 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Sad: One of the sport’s most notorious coaches is struggling with his health.

  15. Assigned Reading: The Tao of Shaka

    Nov 20, 2014, 11:05 AM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    There’s more to Shaka Smart than meets the eye.

  16. Report: Colleagues don’t expect Brandon Miller to return to coaching

    Nov 20, 2014, 10:32 AM EST

    Brandon Miller Brandon Miller

    Will we ever see Butler’s head coach on the sideline again?

  17. Late Night Snacks: Creighton, Gonzaga make statement in wins

    Nov 20, 2014, 1:05 AM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    It was a quiet night on the college hoops front, but one ranked team went down.