The 2012 NBA draft is going to be loaded with big men, from presumptive No. 1 pick Anthony Davis on down.
Even with this exodus of talent, fans of the college game will still have a few choice post players of their own to root for in 2012-13, especially when it comes to players who can dominate the boards.
One of the biggest names (and biggest bodies) returning to the college ranks is Duke’s Mason Plumlee. The 6’10”, 235-pounder will lead Duke’s effort to bounce back from last season’s disastrous finish, and his ability to control the glass for Coach K's perennially perimeter-heavy offense will be one of the keys to the Blue Devils' hopes.
Read on for a closer look at Plumlee and the rest of the 15 best returning rebounders in college hoops in 2012-13.
It’s not uncommon to see a struggling freshman transfer to a school closer to home.
Josh Davis flipped that model around, transferring away from his hometown school of NC State and blossoming into the best player on the Tulane roster last season.
Davis averaged 9.3 boards a game for a dreadful Green Wave team that went 3-13 in Conference USA.
Fortunately for Davis, being joined by four other returning starters next year should give him a chance to collect a few more wins along with his rebounds.
Playing for a last-place team in the already-overlooked Southern Conference isn’t exactly the best way to attract attention.
Even accounting for the level of competition, though, Mike Groselle’s performance last season was one that deserved some notice.
The 6’8” Groselle led the Bulldogs in both scoring (16.7 points per game) and rebounding (9.6 boards a night) as a junior.
He doesn’t have a lot of talent around him (and still won’t, considering that no one else on the roster managed more than 8.1 points or 3.5 rebounds a contest), but don’t expect Groselle to slow down in his final year of college ball.
When Tim Abromaitis went down with a season-ending knee injury in November, Notre Dame could easily have folded.
That the Fighting Irish survived the Big East gauntlet to make the NCAA tournament owed a great deal to the emergence of junior Jack Cooley.
Cooley, a bruising 6’9”, 248-pound PF, was the hero of Notre Dame’s signature win of the season: a home upset of Fab Melo-less Syracuse in which Cooley notched 17 points and 10 rebounds.
For the year, he finished fifth in the Big East (second among returning players) with nine rebounds per game.
In 2011-12, Wichita State parlayed a balanced, battle-tested roster into a regular-season Missouri Valley title and a No. 5 seed.
If you’re looking for a candidate to follow a similar script next season, Jackie Carmichael and Illinois State have a lot in their favor.
Behind Carmichael’s team-high 13.8 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, Illinois State quietly went 9-9 in MVC play to tie for third in the conference behind Wichita State and Creighton.
The Redbirds didn’t lose a single player from last season's roster, so look for rising senior Carmichael to turn in his best performance yet and lead his team to its first NCAA tournament berth in 15 years.
One of the few genuine contenders for first-round-pick status who opted to return to school, rising senior Mason Plumlee will help make Duke a preseason favorite (as usual) in the ACC.
The 6’10” power forward’s return leaves Duke’s Plumlee count at two, with younger brother Marshall also back in Durham but older brother Miles having graduated.
Mason, for his part, pulled in 9.1 rebounds a game last season while facing a disproportionate number of the country’s elite big men—a group that included Thomas Robinson, Jared Sullinger and two meetings with Tyler Zeller.
It will be a surprise if Plumlee doesn’t break 10 rebounds per game in next year’s ACC, where he’ll be one of the few top-tier post presences.
The remarkable thing about Chris Gaston’s junior year was not that he pulled in 9.9 boards per game. It was that 2011-12 was actually the worst rebounding season of Gaston’s career.
The 6’7” forward had averaged better than 11 rebounds a night in each of his first two seasons, and a return to that level of performance is hardly out of the question for his finale at Fordham.
If the Rams could just give him more help—after Gaston’s 17.1 points a night, only one other Fordham player scored in double figures—they’d have at least a glimmer of hope of escaping the Atlantic 10 cellar for the first time since 2008.
One of many standout role players who keyed Louisville’s surprise Final Four run, Gorgui Dieng was most visible as a defensive stopper.
In addition to his 3.2 blocks per game, the Senegalese sophomore also did impressive work on the glass.
The 6’11” Dieng grabbed 9.1 rebounds per game, best among returning Big East players.
With plenty of talent returning for Rick Pitino’s team, Dieng should be in a good position to improve even on those impressive numbers next season.
Juco transfers are always a bit of a gamble, but Marshall came up aces with Dennis Tinnon last season.
The 6’8” forward averaged 9.9 rebounds a game in his first season of Division I ball.
The bad news for the Thundering Herd last year was that Tinnon very nearly averaged more rebounds than points (10.2 per contest for the season).
If he can become more of an offensive factor as a senior, Tinnon could help his team reach a loftier postseason perch than 2012's No. 5 seed in the NIT.
Although high-scoring teammate C.J. Leslie got more headlines for surprise Sweet 16 entrant NC State, it was Richard Howell who provided the muscle inside.
The hulking 6’8”, 250-pound junior powered his way to 9.3 rebounds a game last season.
Howell played some of his best games against the toughest competition, grabbing 12 boards against North Carolina in the ACC tournament and an astounding 16 against Thomas Robinson and Kansas in the Big Dance.
The Wolfpack isn't going to sneak up on anybody next year, and if the team is going to prove that last year’s postseason run wasn’t a fluke, Howell will need to play even tougher in 2012-13.
Most of UNC-Wilmington’s team statistics last season—64.9 points per game, 11.9 assists a night—left the Seahawks buried deep in the 200s in the national rankings.
In rebounding, though, UNCW climbed all the way to 59th in the country, primarily on the back of 6’7” swingman Keith Rendleman.
Rendleman, also the team’s leading scorer at 15.3 points per contest, racked up 10 boards a game last season.
He may even get a chance to improve on that performance as a senior, considering that last year’s massively inexperienced roster (eight freshmen) now has a bit of seasoning.
Over the last three seasons, Rice has climbed from 1-15 to 8-8 in Conference USA play. At the heart of that turnaround has been Iranian power forward Arsalan Kazemi.
The 6’7” Kazemi has been one of Division I’s leading rebounders for three years running, grabbing 10.3 boards a game last season to place 15th overall.
He’s also stepped up his defensive performance, posting a career-best 2.1 steals per game in 2011-12.
The Colonial Athletic Association has risen to the top echelon of mid-majors over the last decade, but last year, the league outdid itself when it came to rebounding.
Of the 22 players nationally who grabbed 10 or more rebounds per game, four came from the CAA—twice as many as any other conference.
The leader of that impressive group was 6’8” Delaware junior Jamelle Hagins, who amassed 11.3 rebounds a night to rank third in the country.
Even after his team posted a solid 12-6 record in conference play, Hagins will still need plenty of help if he hopes to lead the Fightin' Blue Hens to their first NCAA tournament since 1999.
Mike Moser is coming off of one of the more spectacular breakout performances in recent memory as a UNLV sophomore.
The UCLA transfer led the nation in rebounding in the early season before dropping to a “mere” 10th, and his 16 points and 18 boards helped the Rebels pull one of the biggest upsets of the season, handing mighty North Carolina its first loss of the year.
Moser’s going to have a lot more competition for rebounds next year, with ballyhooed freshman Anthony Bennett and Pitt transfer Khem Birch joining the UNLV frontcourt.
Even if he doesn’t quite match the 10.6 boards a game he hauled in last year, Moser has a great chance to help his team improve on the No. 6 seed and second-round NCAA loss it recorded in 2011-12.
For the first time since Paul Millsap in 2005-06, the nation’s leading rebounder is returning to the college game.
Standing at 6'8", Siena junior O.D. Anosike grabbed 12.5 rebounds a night last season, making him one of the few bright spots in a disappointing 14-17 campaign.
However, the odds of Anosike repeating his magnificent showing next year are slim at best.
Siena leaned on a tight seven-man rotation last year, and three of those players are graduating, leaving Anosike with minimal help for his final season on campus.
In a season filled with surprising conference tournament results, no major conference went to a less likely champion than Colorado, a team saddled with a No. 11 seed in spite of its Pac-12 tournament title.
The hero of the Buffaloes’ unexpected late-season run was 6’7” forward Andre Roberson, the nation’s fifth-leading rebounder on the year.
Roberson’s 11.1 boards a night helped keep the guard-heavy Colorado lineup competitive against bigger opposition.
He’ll face even more pressure next season: Austin Dufault's graduation leaves 6'5" Spencer Dinwiddie and his 3.6 boards per game as the second-best rebounder on the roster.