Throughout the course of the year, ESPN, Yahoo, and CBS would all have you believe that the best big men in the country are either Hasheem Thabeet, Blake Griffin, or Tyler Hansbrough.
The question is, are they really? The answer is no.
There's a man who's a beast that plays in the blocks for Pittsburgh. His name is DeJuan Blair. Now, Blair is only a sophomore, and he's already shown that he is the best big man in college basketball.
Blair is the best big man that the NCAA has in a long time. A player not seen like this in years. A player that just doesn't rely on athleticism but actually by the fundamentals of the game. Pete Newell, if he was alive today, would be proud of Blair.
Newell's quoted as saying "players today have increased physical skills, but basketball skills have diminished."
Now let's look at the stats:
Blake Griffin: 22.7 points per game, 14.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.2 blocks, and shot 65.1 percent from the field and 58.9 percent from the line.
Hasheem Thabeet: 13.5 points per game, 10.9 rebounds, .5 assists, .6 steals, 4.3 blocks, on 64.9 percent field goal percentage, and 62.4 percent from the free throw line .
Tyler Hansbrough: 21.3 points per game, 8.1 rebounds, .9 assists, 1.2 steals, .4 blocks, 52.5 percent field goal percentage, and 84.9 percent from the line.
DeJuan Blair: 15.7 points per game, 12.3 rebounds per game, 1.2 assists, 1.5 steals, 1 block on 59.3 percent shooting and 60.5 percent from the free throw line.
Now just looking at the stats it's an easy argument to state that Blake Griffin of course is the best big man in college basketball. Especially with the highlights of his dunks almost every game.
Griffin is a solid player and is a top player in the country, but the problem is Griffin relies too much on his athleticism. There's a reason why Griffin averages 3.3 turnovers per game.
He hasn't developed the necessary skills to make him a dominating force on the block, which is where he will be when he goes to the NBA.
NBA comparison for Blake Griffin is a stronger Brandan Wright. Both players are extremely athletic. With Wright already he's shown that he has a difficult time against the bigger NBA power forwards.
Griffin will more than likely have the same kind of problem in the NBA as Wright. Even though Griffin is physically stronger than Wright he's going to have the same problems and that is believing that they can block or get to any rebound with their athleticism, which will most of the time not work and result in a foul.
Thabeet is a solid defensive player if he can stay near the paint. Unfortunately for him, when he's playing anyone with strength he has no way of defending them and gets into foul trouble.
For example when UConnn faced Pitt, Blair responded to playing Thabeet by putting up 22 points and 23 rebounds while going 10-for-17 from the field and 2-for-4 from the line.
Thabeet five poinst and four rebounds and he fouled out.
Offensively Thabeet has no game whatsoever except to hope for a offensive rebounder. There's many draft experts putting Thabeet as a lottery pick. I have no clue why, except that he's 7'3". Yet, he'll be a project throughout his career.
NBA comparison a poor man's version of Roy Hibbert.
Tyler Hansbrough: He's got the grit, determination, and heart to be a great college player. Unfortunately, it's not going to amount too much in the NBA because he's undersized for the NBA.
He could be possibly a second round pick, but will be a role player throughout his career. He does the little things to his team win.
NBA comparison would be Malik Rose and undersized player who plays with determination, heart, and provides a winning attitude to a team. Will not light up the box score but will be there when called upon the most.
DeJuan Blair only a sophomore and he is the one likely to be staying in college. Griffin is more than likely going to declare for the NBA draft this year because its a weak draft and he's the number one pick.
Blair on the other hand has something that none of these other players have and that is brute strength. He maybe the shortest one out of this group, but with his body and his strength he's got the best chance to do damage in the NBA.
Blair might have the best inside game in the country. He has the ability to move his feet like no one else and he knows how to use that body of his to grab rebounds and he's got excellent vision on the court.
In the game against Villanova, a Pittsburgh player missed a free throw and by using his footwork he easily got a putback on a free throw. That normally doesn't happen, but his footwork was so good it allowed him to get into position before the Villanova player knew what happened.
Blair's NBA comparison to me is Danny Fortson. What I mean is they both were relatively short for a power forward, but each could use their strength and bodies to get rebounds and do damage on the offensive end.
Three out of the four players in the group do need to work on one thing and that is free throw percentage. Hansbrough wins on that he is someone who teams will not like to foul.
All-around though if I were to pick a program to build a big man with it would be DeJuan Blair. He doesn't have the athletic ability but it is his fundamentals that makes him such a great player and a fundamental player will have a longer stay than a more athletic player does because once that is gone there's not much else they can do.
The answer to the question of who is the best big man in the country? It's DeJuan Blair of Pittsburgh.
If I were to rank them in order from 1-4, it would go like this:
1. DeJuan Blair
2. Blake Griffin
3. Tyler Hansbrough
4. Hasheem Thabeet
Lastly, I believe that any matchup Blair had with Griffin, Hansbrough, and Thabeet Blair would dominate them based on his raw strength. Their athleticism may help them a little, but once Blair gets down low he's hard to stop.