Luke Harangody, Cole Aldrich Top the List of Best Big Men in the Nation
The two most important positions bookend a basketball court. The point guard runs the offense while the center is the defense's last line of defense. For Kansas and Kentucky, they have two of the best point guards in the game, Sherron Collins and John Wall, but also two of the best big men, Cole Aldrich and Patrick Patterson.
While Aldrich and especially Patterson aren't necessarily centers, they are the most dominant force on the inside for their teams and they are the difference makers on both ends of the floor.
Aldrich and Patterson excel because the talent around them takes pressure off of them to carry the load.
The nation's other premier big man, Luke Harangody, doesn't have that luxury. He's got a serviceable role players around him, but no stars to lessen the burden on him. The Notre Dame senior struggled with shot selection and conditioning last season as he was one of the most used offensive pieces in the country and typically played more minutes than he was capable to play.
Patterson and Aldrich will go on to compete for a national title while Harangody, perhaps the most dominant player in college basketball will be struggling to finish higher than seventh in the Big East.
Here's a look at the top big men from around the nation:
Luke Harangody, Notre Dame
He's the favorite to win the conference's player of the year award and will like be a front-runner for the Naismith Trophy at the end of the season. Harangody will need to shoulder the load once again as the supporting cast around him is different, but not much better than last year. Frequent 35 points and 15 rebound games will pop up on 'Gody's game-log all season.
Greg Monroe, Georgetown
The Georgetown sophomore couldn't have picked a better system to play in when he chose to play for John Thompson III. Monroe is an excellent passer that fits extremely well into Thompson's methodical, efficient offense. The sophomore is a solid defender and smart basketball player that should emerge as a challenger for Big East Player of the Year honors.
Samardo Samuels, Louisville
The Cardinals sophomore came into the Big East almost as highly touted as Monroe, and finished last season almost as well as Monroe. Now, Samuels will likely emerge as a player almost up to Monroe's caliber and should be the dominant force on a new look Louisville squad.
Others to watch in the Big East: Syracuse's Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson, Connecticut's Stanley Robinson and Alex Oriakhi, Villanova's Mouphtauo Yarou, and DePaul's Mac Koswal
Robbie Hummel, Purdue
One third of the Boilermakers' outstanding trio, Hummel brings great three-point shooting and rebounding to Purdue's frontline. Hummel battled back problems all of last season which slowed him down quite a bit, but the junior should be back to his freshman form when he shot much, much better from the field.
JaJuan Johnson, Purdue
Purdue has an inside-outside combination with just its post player. Hummel provides the outside pop, Johnson is a back to the basket player and outstanding shot blocker. Johnson and Hummel form one of the most formidable frontcourt tandems in the country.
DeShawn Sims, Michigan
Manny Harris received much of the publicity for the Wolverines last year, but DeShawn Sims frequently dominated Michigan's opponents as well. Sims improved his shot selection immensely as last year and became an extremely efficient offensive player. He fits into John Beilein's system well as he can step out and knock down the occasional long ball.
Others to Watch in the Big Ten: Illinois's Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale, Northwestern's Kevin Coble, and Michigan State's Raymar Morgan
Ed Davis, North Carolina
The Tar Heels lost a lot of weapons in the offseason, but under utilized center Ed Davis will be the top option for Roy Williams this season. Davis has incredibly polished low post moves, and he effectively times his shot blocking attempts. He was dangerous on the weak-side blocks last season, but will have a starring role playing inside paint in 2010.
Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech
The ACC is have a bit of a youth movement in the paint. Davis as a sophomore and Favors as a freshman could end up being the league's most dominant players in March. Favors, like Davis, is a force on both ends of the court and will likely make his presence known on defense before offense as he adjusts to the college game.
Trevor Booker, Clemson
The Tigers should really refer to Booker as the "Dunker Heard Around the World." Booker is an athletic freak that typically enlivens Clemson's uptempo style with thunderous dunks and high energy plays. Booker has slowly improved his three years under Oliver Purnell and will be of the conference's most exciting players in 2010.
Others to watch in the ACC: Virginia Tech's Jeff Allen, Boston College's Joe Trapani, Florida State's Soloman Alabi, North Carolina's John Henson, Georgia Tech's Gani Lawal
Patrick Patterson, Kentucky
Every returning Wildcat, but one dropped about five spots in the rotation with the influx of outstanding recruits. That one is Patrick Patterson who will likely maintain his role as dominating complement to a top-notch guard.
Patterson was under utilized last season, and will like see that same fate with the offense likely to revolve around new point guard John Wall. Of course that's not a bad thing, Patterson still average almost 18 points per game last season.
Jarvis Varnado, Mississippi State
The nation's best walk-on is also the nation's best shot blocker. When the Bulldogs were one scholarship short this season, Varnado gave his up knowing professional ball is in his future. His ridiculous wingspan makes him the most feared shot blocker in the game as the senior has recorded triple-doubles by reaching double-digits in points, rebounds, and blocks .
A.J. Ogilvy, Vanderbilt
The Commodores center took a slight step back last season as a sophomore, but with great returning talent around him, Ogilvy just needs to maintain his game for Vandy to be successful this season. Ogilvy dropped 17 per game as a freshman and over 15 as a sophomore as the Aussie is a truck in the paint.
Others to watch in the SEC: Michael Washington Arkansas, JaMychal Green Alabama, Alex Tyus Florida, and Wayne Chism Tennessee.
Cole Aldrich, Kansas
Sherron Collins and Aldrich have followed similar paths in Lawrence. Both were role players when KU won the title two years ago, emerged as stars last year, and should be All-American Candidates this year when the Jayhawks make another run at a title.
Aldrich has always been known as a difference maker on both ends of the floor, but his real coming out party came when he dominated Dayton in the NCAA Tournament.
Craig Brackins, Iowa State
One of the most unknown skilled players in the conference finds a home in Ames. Craig Brackins should get the publicity of a Luke Harangody or Cole Aldrich, but instead finds himself in the land of obscurity known as Iowa. The Cyclones forward finally has enough help to potentially get ISU back to the NCAA Tournament.
Dexter Pittman, Texas
The old saying goes, "Everything is bigger in Texas." On the Longhorn's basketball court, the same adage applies. Dexter Pittman has toned down his 300+ pound frame, but the Longhorn center is still one of the largest post players in the country. Being in better shape should help Pittman play more minutes and remain his same dominant self.
Others to watch in the Big 12: Texas Tech's Mike Singletary, Kansas State's Wally Judge, Oklahoma's Keith "Tiny" Gallon.
Roeland Schaftenaar, Oregon State
It says something about the Pac-10 when the best forward in the league is a player few outside the conference know anything about. Like Greg Monroe and Georgetown, Schaftenaar is a perfect fit for Oregon State's offense as Schaftenaar is a tremendous passer out of the low post. The senior center led last year's CBI championship team in assists.
Michael Dunigan, Oregon
If the Ducks are going to rebound this season and Ernie Kent wants to save his job, Michael Dunigan needs to live up to the hype. The sophomore was highly touted last year, but didn't produce up to expectations. Dunigan should emerge as Oregon's second option offensively behind the tiny 5'6'' guard Tajuan Porter.
Alex Stephenson, Southern California
It will be an interesting year in sunny Southern Cal with the departures of so many key players and coach Tim Floyd. One player that should be immediately inserted into the spotlight will be North Carolina transfer Alex Stephenson. If he was good enough to play for Roy Williams, he ought to be good enough to start immediately for the Trojans.
Others to watch in the Pac-10: Arizona's Kyryl Natyazhko, UCLA's Niko Dragovic, and Washington's Matthew Bryan-Amaning.
Marqus Blakely, Vermont: Two-time defending American East Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year lacks a supporting cast this season.
Kenny Frease, Xavier: The Musketeer sophomore should step up as the A-10's most dominant post player.
Dan Geriot, Richmond: Despite a year off from knee-surgery, Geriot should return as an all-league performer in the Atlantic 10.
Art Parakhouski, Radford: The Big South's best player will also be a pro-prospect when he's done with his senior season for the Highlanders.
Larry Sanders, VCU: Sanders should ride the coattails of Eric Maynor and will keep the Rams in the national spotlight.
Adam Koch, Northern Iowa: Best player on the best team in the Missouri Valley Conference should get some Naismith consideration.
Kenneth Faried, Morehead State: Outstanding rebounder should lead Morehead State back to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season.
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