Who are the toughest, most ruthless players in college basketball today?
Who are the guys who aren't afraid to get their nose dirty, cause some ruckus and commit a hard foul every now and then?
When thinking about the most ruthless players of all time, names like Karl Malone, Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman and the artist formerly known as Ron Artest come to mind. But "ruthless" as a definition is subjective. What some may say is tough, others will say is dirty.
I'm talking about players who lay down the law without crossing the line (hi there, Yancy Gates). They don't have to be the biggest or baddest, but they make their presence known either on the defensive end or when jockeying for position on a rebound.
When it comes down to it, it is all about being crafty. And just a hint, the two players you see above are both on the list.
This 6'3" senior guard is pound for pound the toughest player in college basketball.
Parker remains one of the stalwarts of Cincinnati's basketball program. He played a pivotal role in the Bearcats' unexpected march to the Sweet 16 last season. Early on, the season was thought to be marred because of a brawl that occurred between Cincinnati and Xavier. Multi-game suspensions were handed to numerous players from both sides.
Parker was unaffected by the suspensions levied by the NCAA, but instead used his tough demeanor to lead the Bearcats to the NCAA Tournament.
Parker played multiple positions last season, and although undersized, he was never overmatched. Parker was forced to play power forward at times for Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin last year, and despite his underwhelming size for the four spot, he had a breakout year playing out of position.
He has one year of eligibility left, so Parker will return defending the perimeter. He'll pair with hard-nosed Cashmere Wright and Sean Kilpatrick to give Cronin the best backcourt he’s had as a head coach.
If there is a word to describe the Cincinnati Bearcats for the upcoming 2012-2013 season, it would be tenacious.
Crafty (no pun intended) is the best way to describe this rosy-cheeked guard from Ohio State.
Aaron Craft is an absolute menace to opposing point guards, as his on-ball defense is one of the best in the nation and has become a must-watch every time Ohio State hits the floor. He is relentless on every second of every possession and utilizes his two biggest weapons every game, his heart and his hustle.
You want toughness?
Craft has played with a bone spur in his ankle for more than two years! The guard decided against surgery, thinking it would hinder him and negatively affect the team. But he finally gave in and had it done in June. The doctors found that the chip caused three bone spurs in his tibia, causing him to limp on occasion.
I always thought that was his swagger talking.
Craft is a player all coaches crave. He has heart and fire on defense, along with determination and drive on offense. He's an all-around hard-nosed bulldog.
Junior Cadougan is not the best player on Marquette, nor is he the best defender. But like Liam Neeson, he has a particular set of skills, skills that he has acquired through years of practice and training.
He is the floor general for a Marquette team that has made it to the Sweet 16 in consecutive years. At 6'1", 205 pounds,, Cadougan uses his fullback-built body to push past defenders, giving him daylight to either dish it off or go up for a layup.
Cadougan led the team in assists. He is the type of intangibles guy that drives opponents crazy. He uses his wits to out-think and out-position players and is often seen tugging on opponents shorts or poking them in the gut to get under their skin.
You can't teach that.
Watch out for him and a young Marquette team this year.
At 6'9", 270 pounds, it is hard to miss Echenique. Ask former UNC standout Tyler Zeller how he feels about him.
Echenique laid a brutal blow on Zeller when coming in for a rebound during the first half of a NCAA Tournament game last year. Somehow there was no foul called on the play.
The play should have been an obvious flagrant foul call, while some even argue he should have been thrown out of the game. Sure, Zeller took a bit of a flop, perhaps practicing for his big movie role called "The NBA," but the hit was still made.
And that wasn't Echenique's first time roughhousing. He has established himself as a fixture at center for the Bluejays, doling out the pain by starting 59 of his 65 games at Creighton. Pain has become his trademark after leaving Rutgers two years ago.
Well, that and his pink shoes. At least they are for a good cause.
So, let me put a disclaimer on this one. I'm not sure if DeAndre Kane is ruthless or just plain angry.
Kane has led the NCAA in technical fouls for two straight years and looks to antagonize not only his opponents, but the referees as well.
Fueled by emotion, opposing players grow tired off his constant flopping, poking and prodding.
You name it and Kane does it: he hits, jukes, bumps, jumps and crashes, almost instinctively. That doesn't make him a dirty player by any means...it makes him a smart one. Until he gets T'd, that is.
Kane led the team in scoring, steals and minutes per game last season, but his attitude has apparently worn thin when dealing with not only Conference USA officials, but the NCAA as well.
Channeling his inner Dikembe Mutombo and perhaps the Most Interesting Man in the World, he has yet to foul a player, as he objects to every call, insisting every ref in the country has the call wrong.
Not only that, his attitude-issues hit a new high last year, as he spit on a fan after Marshall's game at Central Florida:
Kane is an unbelievable talent, but he has to control his emotions before he can really excel and make it big.
And as you can see, "ruthless" has many shapes and definitions. From hard-nosed defenders to hard-headed stars, each of these players possesses something that not every player has: passion for the game.
I can respect that.