10 NCAA Basketball Players Who Will Be Dominant Rebounders in 2013-14 Season
As the Indiana Pacers demonstrated against the Miami Heat for most of the Eastern Conference Finals, excellent rebounding can keep a basketball team in a game or series regardless of the strength of the opponent.
Nobody trying to grab rebounds at the collegiate level in the 2013-14 season will have to deal with LeBron James, though, which is probably for the best.
In all likelihood, those teams that most efficiently control the glass will be around late into March. The best way for a squad to dominate the rebounding margin is to have individual players who can rise above the opposition and grab the loose balls.
Read on to see 10 players who will do just that this year.
Indiana is losing a ton of talent from last year’s Sweet 16 team, including its top three rebounders: Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo and Christian Watford.
If the Hoosiers hope to remain a mainstay atop the Big Ten standings and deep into the NCAA tournament, they will need their impressive freshman class to deliver. Noah Vonleh is the crown jewel of that group for Tom Crean, and his rebounding prowess is one of the many aspects that make him one of the best recruits in the entire nation.
Vonleh combines incredible athleticism and deceptive length to clean up on the glass. His quickness and versatility will certainly help him adapt to the college game, and on the low block, in the Big Ten.
Look for Vonleh to lead Indiana in rebounding this season, and possibly challenge some of the conference’s top glass eaters as well.
Louisville featured one of the best rebounders in the entire nation last year in Gorgui Dieng on the way to the national title, but he will no longer be suiting up for Rick Pitino.
That leaves Chane Behanan as the next man up for the Cardinals. It’s not as if Behanan isn’t an established rebounder of his own. He was second on the squad with 6.5 a night in 2012-13 (Dieng grabbed nearly 10 a game), and demonstrated how much of a force he is down low in the last three rounds of the NCAA tournament.
Behanan grabbed 12 boards in the national title game after snagging nine in the Final Four and eight in the Elite Eight. In fact, he grabbed 18 rebounds last year in a game against Samford, and 15 against Notre Dame.
With no more Dieng down low to grab any loose ball within range, Behanan will see his rebounding numbers spike dramatically.
While the rest of the nation salivates over uber-prospects Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, Kentucky will be more than content to feature potential low-post superstar Julius Randle alongside a number of other McDonald’s All-Americans.
Randle isn’t the tallest big man to come the way of Lexington in recent years, but he may be the strongest. He is a physical force who will control the paint on both ends of the floor, including on the glass.
Randle is also fairly athletic for his stout size, which will help him absorb the contact and wear that comes with an entire college basketball season in the lane. He may not be the flashiest freshman suiting up for the Wildcats in 2013-14, but Randle will dominate on the boards from day one.
Syracuse will be one of the better teams in the country next year, but it is going to have its hands full in year one in the loaded ACC.
Fortunately for the Orange, they will have C.J. Fair down low to battle with the Dukes and North Carolinas of the world. Fair led the team in rebounding in 2012-13 with seven a night (he was also the top scorer at 14.5), and there is no reason those numbers won’t be even higher with an extra year of experience under his belt.
Fair’s impressive athleticism and lengthy wingspan help him clean up on the glass (as well as swat shots away when opponents challenge him in the lane). He will be one of the most dynamic players in the country this season, and will help Syracuse control the boards from the anchor spot of the 2-3 zone.
Patric Young didn’t exactly put up earth-shattering numbers during the 2012-13 season, but he (along with a handful of talented freshmen) will be the main attraction in Gainesville this year.
Mike Rosario, Kenny Boynton and Erik Murphy—the Gators’ top three scorers—all graduated, which leaves Young as the next man up. In terms of rebounding, he grabbed 6.3 a night last year, which was good enough to lead Florida but won’t be enough to cut it this season.
Murphy was a talented rebounder as well, and now that he is gone those boards are going to be spread out to other players. Many will go to Young and Will Yeguete. Florida is going to feature one of the strongest frontcourts in the nation, and a primary reason why is that Young will dominate on the boards.
There may not have been a team in the entire country with a more disappointing postseason last season than New Mexico.
The Lobos had one of their best years in program history and were a dark horse to emerge from a wide-open bracket and make the Final Four. However, a first-game loss to Harvard ended those dreams.
The good news for New Mexico fans is that Alex Kirk will likely be back on campus in 2013-14 after potential transfer drama following Steve Alford’s departure. The big man snagged better than eight boards a game last season as a sophomore, and will likely make a leap to better things as he enters the realms of the upperclassmen.
Kirk posted 10 double-digit rebounding games last year, but he will make that a much more common occurrence this season.
Isaiah Austin surprised many scouts when he elected to stay in school this year instead of bolting for the greener pastures of the NBA.
His decision is Baylor’s gain as the Bears look to bounce back from a tournament-less 2012-13 campaign without superstar point guard Pierre Jackson. Enter the 7’1” Austin, who led the team in rebounding with 8.3 a night and swatted nearly two shots a contest.
Austin will take on an increased role for a loaded Baylor frontcourt, which will lead to more minutes and rebounds every game. He showed the nation how dominant he can be on the glass when he snagged 20 against Oklahoma last year in a losing effort.
NBA scouts will be looking for the big man to play above the rim and consistently dominate on the glass this year. He will do just that.
Mitch McGary’s 2012-13 season was somewhat of a roller coaster.
He was a much-hyped prospect coming out of high school but didn’t exactly establish himself as a low-post threat for much of the regular season thanks in part to split time with Jordan Morgan. However, he showed flashes of brilliance at times and then put it all together in the NCAA tournament.
Michigan’s run to the national title game could not have been accomplished without McGary’s dominance down low, and NBA scouts took notice. However, he elected to stay in school and forego a chance at the lottery.
If McGary picks up where he left off in March, the Wolverines will have one of the best rebounders in the entire Big Ten, and in the country. He led the team in boards last year (6.3 a night) despite playing fewer than 20 minutes a game.
With more minutes and consistent production in 2013-14 McGary will be an absolute force on the glass.
Adreian Payne was part of a two-man wrecking crew down low for Michigan State, but with the departure of Derrick Nix it is Payne’s time to shoulder the load.
Payne averaged 7.6 boards a night last year for Tom Izzo (which was tops on his team) and often controlled the tempo and flow of the game with his athleticism and physicality inside. In fact, Payne is the rare mix of a big man who is comfortable playing at an up-and-down tempo or banging around down low, which helps him rebound every night against any type of opponent.
The Spartans will have a number of pieces in place to help replace Nix and his rebounding efforts, but Payne will be the centerpiece of the defense and offense when it comes to hitting the glass. Look for his rebounding production to increase dramatically in 2013-14.
There was a time when Jerrelle Benimon was going to be the next great rebounder for Georgetown, but he never established himself as more than a role player off the bench and transferred to Towson.
Benimon dominated play down low for the Tigers in 2012-13 and is now the leading returning rebounder in the entire nation. He grabbed 11.2 boards a night last year to go along with his 17.1 points, 2.5 assists and 1.9 blocks a game.
It’s easy to fly under the radar when you play for Towson, but Benimon grabbed 21 rebounds in an upset victory over Oregon State last season, which earned him some recognition. If he can continue to put up performances like that as a senior, there is no reason he can’t lead the country in boards.
Follow college basketball writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.