10 Best Centers in College Basketball

Thad NovakCorrespondent IJanuary 16, 2012

10 Best Centers in College Basketball

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    True centers are becoming fewer and farther between in college basketball. The increasing preeminence of the three-point shot and the lure of the NBA has pulled some of the biggest bodies in college hoops off of the low block.

    In spite of that climate, the center position has enjoyed an impressive resurgence in 2011-12. An outstanding crop of freshman including Andre Drummond—UConn’s 6’11”, 275-pound behemoth—is helping make the pivot relevant again.

    Herein, a closer look at Drummond and the rest of the 10 best centers in the college game today.

10. Robert Sacre, Gonzaga

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    Thursday’s blowout at the hands of St. Mary’s notwithstanding, No. 23 Gonzaga has been one of the nation’s top mid-majors on the season. One of the keys to that effort has been 7'0" senior Robert Sacre.

    After appearing to press at times last season, Sacre has done more with less, averaging 11 points and 6.6 rebounds a night during the Bulldogs’ 14-3 start. He’s also been a steady defensive presence, blocking 1.4 shots a night.

9. Kyle O’Quinn, Norfolk State

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    13-5 Norfolk State isn’t going to climb into the Top 25 anytime soon, but the MEAC leaders have a center who can bang with the best of them.

    6’10” Kyle O’Quinn is scoring 14.4 points and pulling down 9.8 rebounds a game to lead the Spartans (5-0 in conference after Saturday’s double-overtime thriller against Morgan State).

    O’Quinn’s biggest contribution is on the defensive end, where he ranks 12th in the nation with 2.9 blocks a game. He won’t be enough to get Norfolk State past their first game in the NCAAs, but he’s one of the best small-conference players in the nation.

8. Henry Sims, Georgetown

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    Georgetown’s tradition at center is a daunting one to uphold, but Henry Sims is doing his level best.

    The 6’10” senior, who never played more than 14 minutes a game before this year, is averaging 11.8 points and 5.3 rebounds a night for the No. 11 Hoyas.

    Although Sims isn’t a world-class shot-blocker (he’s swatting 1.6 per game), he’s got another talent that makes him especially valuable in John Thompson III’s Princeton offense.

    Sims is one of the best passing big men in the nation, averaging 3.8 assists per game on the season.

7. Andre Drummond, UConn

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    The remarkable thing is not that Andre Drummond has made a splash as a freshman on the defending national champs. The remarkable thing is that he’s only the third best freshman on this list.

    Drummond is a 6’11”, 275-pound bruiser who’s averaging 10.3 points a game while leading the Huskies with 7.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocks a night. The even worse news for the Big East is that he’s getting better by the day.

6. Gorgui Dieng, Louisville

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    Rick Pitino’s teams have earned a reputation for tough perimeter defense, but shot blocking normally isn’t usually a specialty. Gorgui Dieng is changing that image, averaging 3.2 rejections a game (seventh in the country).

    The Senegalese sophomore is also the Cardinals’ leading rebounder at nine boards a game, and he’s scoring 9.9 points a night to boot.

    Big East opponents can’t be excited about the prospect of him filling out his 6’11”, 235-pound frame during his two remaining seasons on campus.

5. Tyler Zeller, North Carolina

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    It’s easy to overlook Tyler Zeller amid the slew of other future pros on the Tar Heel roster, but the 7'0" senior is turning in another outstanding performance in 2011-12.

    He’s second on his own team with 9.2 rebounds a game, but that figure is also good for third in the ACC.

    Zeller is one of three UNC players—the entire starting frontcourt—averaging better than 14 points a game. He’s also blocking 1.2 shots a night, no mean feat playing alongside John Henson and his three rejections per contest.

4. Cody Zeller, Indiana

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    The leader of resurgent Indiana, Cody Zeller has made a major impact in his first year in Bloomington, Ind. The 6’11” freshman, younger brother of UNC’s Tyler, is pacing the Hoosiers with 14.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

    Zeller is also putting his length to good use on the defensive end. He’s not only blocking 1.5 shots a game (another team high), but he’s also recording 1.7 steals a night.

3. Perry Jones III, Baylor

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    After passing up a surefire lottery selection to return to Baylor, Perry Jones III has the Bears 17-0 and ranked No. 4 in the nation.

    The biggest star in one of the nation’s deepest frontcourts, Jones is leading the team with 13.4 points and 7.3 rebounds a game.

    Somewhat surprisingly, Jones’ numbers haven’t improved at all with a year of college experience under his belt, but, in his case, that just makes him likely to be drafted in the top 10 rather than the top three.

    With Jones leading the way, Baylor has become a genuine candidate to make its first Final Four appearance since the Truman administration.

2. Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State

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    The biggest difference between last season’s 17-14 Bulldogs and this year’s 15-3, 20th-ranked squad has been the arrival of star transfer Arnett Moultrie. The 6’11” Moultrie, formerly of UTEP, ranks 11th in the nation with 10.8 rebounds per game.

    In addition to his impressive work on the glass, Moultrie is the team’s second-leading scorer with 15.9 points a night. With the inside-outside combination of Moultrie and point guard Dee Bost, Mississippi State is going to be a serious contender in the SEC.

1. Anthony Davis, Kentucky

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    The gem of an extraordinary class of first-year big men, Anthony Davis has led the Wildcats to the No. 2 ranking in spite of the struggles of incumbent star Terrence Jones.

    The 6’10” Davis is scoring 13.1 points a game and pulling down 10.2 rebounds a night…and that’s not even the most impressive part.

    Davis’ long arms and great instincts have made him the nation’s top shot blocker, turning aside an astonishing 4.6 shots a game.

    If he stays on top of the charts, he’ll become just the second freshman in the last 15 seasons—and the first Wildcat since the statistic became official in 1985-86—to lead the country in that category.