College Basketball Teams with Scary Frontcourts in the 2014-15 Season
Good frontcourt play can go a long way.
The ability to throw the ball inside and create offense, while also being able to rely on those players for staunch defense on the other end, is a luxury every college basketball team wishes they could afford. Sadly, it's a frill only a select few teams possess.
Looking ahead to the 2014-15 season, there are six teams who have taken the notion of a solid frontcourt and blown it out of the water. These aren't just good groups, they're phenomenal ones.
Some might call them scary how good these teams should be at the forward and center positions next year.
Take a look at these frightening frontcourts, but be warned: if you scare easily, you might want to cover your eyes.
Pieces to the puzzle: Brandon Ashley (junior), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (sophomore), Stanley Johnson (freshman), Kaleb Tarczewski (junior), Craig Victor (freshman)
Arizona had one of the most imposing front lines in the country last season in the 7-foot Kaleb Tarczewski, 6'10" Aaron Gordon and 6'8" Brandon Ashley, a group that helped the Wildcats start 21-0. And it was the loss of Ashley to a season-ending foot injury in early February that caused them to have to adjust their offensive approach.
Ashley is expected back at full strength for the fall, with Tarczewski also returning and poised to have a breakout year after showing much improvement as a sophomore. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, a 6'7" ball of energy, will again provide energy and ferocious play on both ends of the floor, while the addition of 5-star recruit Stanley Johnson, a 6'7" wing, will give Arizona yet another guy who can tangle inside with the big boys.
Another freshman forward, 6'8" Craig Victor, will help Arizona avoid the depth issues that occurred after Ashley's injury last season.
Pieces to the puzzle: Cliff Alexander (freshman), Perry Ellis (junior), Kelly Oubre (freshman), Jamari Traylor (junior)
Kansas' frontcourt was a force in 2013-14, but even with the early departures of Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins the Jayhawks should be fine in that area. In fact, they'll be more than fine thanks to the arrival of two more highly touted forwards.
Cliff Alexander is a beast of a man at 6'9" and 240 pounds, and the 5-star prospect will bang with the best of them. Fellow recruit Kelly Oubre, though listed as a shooting guard, can play inside at 6'7" and will also add a nice outside game to the one he'll bring to the frontcourt.
And let's not forget the holdovers in 6'8" forwards Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor, both of whom were underutilized in 2013-14 but should both play a big role in Kansas' attempt for an amazing 11th straight Big 12 regular season title.
Pieces to the puzzle: Willie Cauley-Stein (junior), Dakari Johnson (sophomore), Marcus Lee (sophomore), Trey Lyles (freshman), Alex Poythress (junior), Karl Towns Jr. (freshman)
It almost doesn't seem fair, does it? Kentucky has so many talented players who can log time at the forward or center positions it's like they won't know what to do with them all. That actually could be a problem, as John Calipari will have to find time for a sextet who all could start (and star) anywhere else.
First there are the two veterans in 7'0" Willie Cauley-Stein and 6'8" Alex Poythress, followed by a pair of talented sophomores (7'0" Dakari Johnson and 6'9" Marcus Lee) who showed flashes of greatness during last season's NCAA tournament but otherwise didn't get many opportunities. Then Kentucky adds two of the nation's top frontcourt recruits in 7'1" Karl Towns Jr. and 6'9" Trey Lyles.
The Wildcats have the capability of playing three 7-footers at the same time, as scary a notion in college basketball as there is.
San Diego State Aztecs
Pieces to the puzzle: Angelo Chol (junior), J.J. O'Brien (junior), Dwayne Polee II (senior), Malik Pope (freshman), Winston Shepard (junior), Skylar Spencer (sophomore)
San Diego State loses its most dynamic scorer in Xavier Thames, but the Aztecs have more than enough to vie for another Mountain West title and another strong run into the NCAA tournament thanks to a wealth of bodies to shuffle through in the paint.
Dwayne Polee II played far bigger than his 6'7" frame during the second half of last season, while 6'8" Winston Shepard is just starting to scratch the surface of his potential. The same goes for 6'7" J.J. O'Brien and 6'10" Skylar Spencer, both of whom should be more involved in the offense this season with the need to replace Thames' production.
SDSU will also get the services of former Arizona forward Angelo Chol, a 6'9" power forward who sat out last season due to transfer rules, while the best recruiting class in school history is highlighted by 6'8" small forward Malik Pope.
Pieces to the puzzle: Jonathan Holmes (junior), Prince Ibeh (junior), Connor Lammert (junior), Cameron Ridley (junior), Myles Turner (freshman)
Texas was one of the big surprises of the 2013-14 season, a team with low expectations at the start of the year that competed well in the Big 12 and then made it to the third round of the NCAA tournament before its inexperience caught up. But all of that talent is back, and the already impressive frontcourt just picked up a pretty significant slab of ability.
Myles Turner, who signed with the Longhorns on May 1, was the last big recruit from the 2015 class to commit to a school. At 6'11" he'll be the team's tallest player, but he's far from the only imposing inside player they'll have available in 2014-15.
Returning to the frontcourt is the leading scorer, 6'8" Jonathan Holmes, and the leading rebounder, 6'9" Cameron Ridley, while sizable reserves in 6'10" Prince Ibeh and 6'9" Connor Lammert will allow Texas to rotate bodies in and out throughout the game.
Pieces to the puzzle: Sam Dekker (junior), Nigel Hayes (sophomore), Frank Kaminsky (senior)
Though Wisconsin's frontcourt rotation doesn't consist of nearly as many players as the other teams on this list, its group might be the most versatile for what it provides.
Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky are both solid inside players who, at 6'8" and 7'0", respectively, can match up well with most opponents in the paint. But where they get their real advantage is in their ability to take their games outside, thus either creating matchup nightmares for perimeter defenders or drawing big men away from the basket where they're less comfortable.
When the Badgers want to bang inside, though, they can bring Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year Nigel Hayes off the bench. The 6'7" forward is a solid 250 pounds, and uses every ounce of it when he's posting up.
Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.
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