Road to the Final Four at Ford Field: Top Big Men in The Nation

Jameson FlemingSenior Writer IOctober 23, 2008

The guards will shoot the ball from everywhere, the wings will do some shooting and rebounding, but it's the big man who puts his back to the basket and muscles his way in the paint.

He'll take a beating game in and game out in the paint to grab an offensive board, rotate off his man to stop a pick and roll, and sneak behind the 2-3 zone to slam home an alley-oop.

If your team has a pansy in the paint, don't expect to win a lot of games. So without further ado here at the top big man the country. Comprising the list are most power fowards and centers, but a few players who can step in at the three spot on the floor.

1. 6'9'' UNC Senior Tyler Hansbrough

The best team in the nation, has the country's best collegiate player Tyler Hansbrough. Few players have produce the way Psycho T has in the college game. By the time this Tar Heel is done, he'll own practically every career ACC record a big man could own.

Hansbrough is one of the most passionate, hardest working players in college basketball. The game may not see another four year senior like Hansbrough for a very long time.

The All-American uses his solid size, athleticism, and pure grit to finish plays. No matter the angle, the defender, or situtation, Hansbrough seems to always find away to get the ball in the basket.

2. 6'8'' Notre Dame Junior Luke Harangody

If the nine point per game jump in scoring Luke Harangody made from his freshman to sophomore year is any indication of the kind of improvement Harangody will make this year, he'll trump Tyler Hansbrough as the nation's best big man.

'Gody emerged as the Big East Player of the Year last season after hammering Big East opponents to a tune of 20 ppg and 10.6 rbg. Against the toughest competition in the country, the ND forward scored at least 20 points in 14 of 18 Big East games including  40 point performance against one of the best defensive teams in the country, Lousiville.

3. 6'10'' Oklahoma Sophomore Blake Griffin

Most NBA draft experts say Arizona State's James Harden and Oklahoma's Blake Griffin will compete to be the 2009 number one overall pick. Potential success in the pros doesn't always mean the player is is the among the best, but in Blake Griffin's case, he is one of the premiere big man in the land. 

As a freshman, Griffin battled through knee injuries to still post a 14 ppg and 9 rbg average. Against fellow freshman phenom Michael Beasley, Griffin put up 27 points and grabbed 14 boards.

In his sophomore season, Griffin projects to be the Big 12 Player of the Year on a Sooner team that could play its way into the Final Four.

4. 6'7'' Washington Senior Jonathan Brockman

The all unknown, underexposed team has its power forward in Jonathan Brockman. The Huskie is a rebounding machine grabbing 11.6 rbp and had 22 double-doubles in 2008. He's the nation's leading returning rebounder and by far the best big man in the Pac-10.

Brockman also is one of the country's most consistent scorers. The senior scored in double digits in every single one of the game's Brockman played. He'll be the main the reason Washington will have a legitimate chance to get back to the NCAA Tournament.

5. 7'3'' UConn Junior Hasheem Thabeet

Few players get heckled like UConn's Hasheem Thabeet, but the heckling is opposing fans' way of saying, "We're jealous we don't have the most imposing player in the country." Saying he's the most imposing player in the country isn't an understatement either. 

Thabeet isn't an accomplish scorer or tremendous rebounder, but is presence in the paint is unmatched. He blocked 4.5 shots per game last year including 10 against Luke Harangody's Fighting Irish and at least eight blocks on five other occasions.

6. 6'7'' UConn Senior Jeff Adrien

With Hasheem Thabeet right ahead of him in the rankings, Jeff Adrien makes up the second half of the nation's best big man duo. While Thabeet may not be the greatest rebounder because he's patrolling the middle of the court, Adrien more than makes up for Thabeet.

The senior grabs nine boards a game, but also scores at a clip of 14 ppg. Adrien is also a gritty defender, rarely backing down against the multitude of talent bruisers in the Big East.

7. 6'7'' Pittsburgh Sophomore DeJuan Blair

If you have noticed in the guard and wing rankings, and now the big man rankings, the Big East is stacked in experienced, but also youthful talent. The Big East Co-Rookie of the Year DeJuan Blair ranks seventh among the big men, just like his co-winner Jonny Flynn ranked seventh among the guards.

Blair blitzs the boards for nine rebounds per game, but also blocks a shot a game. Blair can score, but he can usually leave that up to superior swingman Sam Young.

8. 6'8'' Duke Sophomore Kyle Singler

One of two players on this list to teeter on the brink of being a wing, Kyle Singler is a threat to score everywhere on the court. A solid finisher near the basket, Singler can score with his back to the basket, but also from three-point territory at a clip of 34 percent.

In his freshman season, the Blue Devil put up almost 14 ppg and 6 rpg. Singler should dominate in an ACC that's a lot more guard oriented than years past.

9. 6'8'' Wake Forest Sophomore James Johnson

Kyle Singler will have a lot of competition in the category of "best inside-outside ACC sophomore power forwards" from Demon Deacon James Johnson. That category may be very specific, but it's point out how similar Johnson and Singler are as players.

The Wake forward had slightly better numbers, but coach Dino Gaudio needed more production from Johnson, than Mike Krzyzewski needed from Singler

10. 6'9'' USC Junior Taj Gibson

Few players are as dominant defenders as Taj Gibson and Gibson does it as an undersized center in a conference dominated by big man the past two seasons. But after a massive drain in talent Gibson is ready to step up and be an All-Conference performer.

The USC junior should break the school record for blocks during his junior season if he can keep up his 2.5 bpg average. Gibson may have to cheap in a little more on the scoreboard than his 10.8 scoring average last year if the Trojans are going to challenge UCLA for conference supremacy.

11. 7'0'' Ohio State Freshman B.J. Mullens

Greg Oden. Kosta Koufus. B.J. Mullens. Three straight freshmen have entered Ohio State as prized recruits and all three will leave as the Big 10's best center. Mullens could end up as the best of the three in terms of collegiate dominance.

The Buckeye is a solid rebounder and defender like Oden, but also has an extensive shooting range like Koufus.

12. 6'7'' Texas Junior Damion James

Overshadowed by Longhorn stars Kevin Durant and then D.J. Augustine, Damion James is ready to star. James took a major step forward during his sophomore season, turning into one of the most impressive big men in the Big 12.

James developed a three-point shot last year, drilling 38 three-pointers; in contrast, his rebounding totals show how versatile the junior is. James grabbed over ten boards a game last year.

13.  6'11'' Vanderbilt Sophomore A.J. Ogilvy

Australia has produced an incredible inside-outside tandem in Saint Mary's guard Patty Mills and Vanderbilt center A.J. Ogilvy. The Aussie is a gifted scorer who tore opponents up in the non-conference schedule. The sophomore didn't quite see the same success in SEC play, but over Ogilvy average 17 and 7.

He's an average rebounder, but at the same time he defends pretty well. Ogilvy will be the second Aussie by the name of Andrew to make the NBA this decade.

14. 6'8'' Kentucky Sophomore Patrick Patterson

Like Ogilvy, Kentucky's stud sophomore Patrick Patterson saw his numbers take a hit in SEC play. Patterson was still a dominant force under the basket and will compete with Olgivy and UT's Tyler Smith for the SEC Player of the Year award.

Patterson's season ended in February because of a broken leg, but Patterson is supposed to be ready to play and excel in the Wildcat frontcourt.

15. 7'2'' Utah Senior Luke Nevil

A.J. Ogilvy also has a connection with another center to make the list of top big men. Utah's Luke Nevil is a fellow Australian and should also find his way into the NBA. Nevil has stood out in the Mountain West the past three ways.

The Ute is already a 1,000 point score, ending last year with 1,300 points. If Nevil returns to his 2007 form when he shot 63.7 percent from the field, Nevil could score at a high enough rate to cross the 2,000 point plateau.

16. 6'8'' Louisville Junior Earl Clark

With forwards David Padgett and Derek Caracter gone, Rick Pitino has one of the most athletic teams in the country. Forward Earl Clark is one of the big reasons why. The junior stuffs the stat sheet with 11 points, eight rebounds, almost two blocks, and a steal a game.

Clark improved dramatically from his freshman year and should once again show marked improvement in 2009. He's got an outside shot of squeaking onto the Big East's All-Conference team with a breakout year.

17a. 6'11'' Georgetown Freshman Greg Monroe

An incoming freshman might remind Hoya Paranoia faithful of a current NBA forward. Greg Monroe is described as a bigger, but as athletic version of Jeff Green. Monroe can put the ball on the floor as well as score from 15-18 feet with no problems.

On Big East media day, the freshman was selected as the Preseason Co-Rookie of the Year.

17b. 6'9'' Louisville Freshman Samardo Samuels

The other freshman to be selected as the Big East's Preseason Co-Rookie of the Year was Louisville's Samardo Samuels. The Cardinal is another very athletic forward who will play the middle of Rick Pitino's 2-3 Zone that he sometimes uses.

Samuels is the opposite of Greg Monroe, he'll do a lot of his scoring with his back to the basket three to five feet from the basket.

18. 6'7'' Michigan State Junior Raymar Morgan

Now that Drew Neitzel who seemed like he was in school since the turn of the century is gone, the Spartans are Raymar Morgan's team. The Second Team All-Big 10 forward will be Tom Izzo's number one scoring option. Raymar Morgan shouldn't have a problem handling the load.

The MSU forward is the sixth leading returning scorer in the conference and shot an efficient 56 percent from the floor. More looks means Morgan should see a significant boost in his scoring.

19. 6'9'' Arizona State Senior Jeff Pendergraph

The nation's best wing, James Harden has one of the nation's best centers in Jeff Pendergraph. The ASU man in the middle enters his final year in Tempe as a 1,000 point scorer.

Pendergraph has never put up flashy numbers, but has the ability to absolutely take over games. Every time Pendergraph put up at least 20 points the Sun Devils were winners.

20. 6'10'' Arizona Junior Jordan Hill

If the Wildcats want to get back to the NCAA Tournament after legendary coach Lute Olsen stepped down before Arizona played its first game, the strong core of players that return to Tuscon must really step up. For junior Jordan Hill that's not a problem.

The Wildcat center is extremely efficient from the field (62 percent) and a bruiser beneath the basket. Hill averaged eight rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game last year.



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