2012-2013 Preview: Top 15 Frontcourts

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Throughout the month of October, CollegeBasketballTalk will be rolling out our previews for the 2012-2013 season. Check back at 9 a.m. and just after lunch every day, Monday-Friday, for a new preview item.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To look at the rest of The Lists we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

1. Kentucky:
Bigs: Nerlens Noel, Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress, Kyle Wiltjer

It took me a little while to come to this conclusion, but in the end, I think this is a pretty obvious choice. Everyone knows about Nerlens Noel at this point, and while he may not be the second coming of Anthony Davis, he will be a force defensively. But what a lot of people may not realize is that Alex Poythress may end up being the best front court player for the Wildcats this season. And Will Cauley-Stein? He’s a former high school receiver that stands seven-feet tall. Don’t forget about former top 25 recruit Kyle Wiltjer, either.

2. Indiana:
Bigs: Cody Zeller, Christian Watford, Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Will Sheehey, Jeremy Hollowell, Derek Elston, Peter Jurkin

Regardless of who is on the rest of the roster, the simple fact that Cody Zeller is a Hoosier means that Indiana needs to be up at the top of this list. He’s the Preseason Player of the Year. It only makes sense. But throw in sharp-shooting, stretch-four Christian Watford, veteran energy guy Will Sheehey and a trio of talented and athletic freshmen, and Tom Crean has plenty of front court talent at his disposal.

3. UNLV:
Bigs: Mike Moser, Anthony Bennett, Khem Birch, Carlos Lopez, Quintrell Thomas, Demetrius Morant

You know you have a good front line when there is a legitimate concern about having enough minutes to go around to keep the players happy. How deep are the Rebels? Quintrell Thomas is their fifth big man, and he began his career at Kansas. Mike Moser and Anthony Bennett are potential lottery picks, while Khem Birch was a top ten recruit in the Class of 2011. The key will be if Moser and/or Bennett can make the transition to the perimeter.

4. Louisville:
Bigs: Chane Behanan, Gorgui Dieng, Montrezl Harrell, Luke Hancock, Zach Price

Gorgui Dieng has come a long way in his time on the Louisville campus, to the point that he belongs in the conversation with Jeff Withey when it comes to the nation’s best defensive center. Along side Dieng, the Cards have a pair of big-bodied, athletic power forwards in Chane Behanan and Montrezl Harrell. And don’t forget playmaking small forward Luke Hancock, who will be one of the nation’s best incoming transfers this season.

5. NC State:
Bigs: CJ Leslie, Richard Howell, TJ Warren, Jordan Vandenberg, Thomas de Thaey

There are a lot of people that doubt CJ Leslie, and they aren’t necessarily wrong. But he is an athletic, 6-foot-8 junior that averaged 14.7 points and 7.3 boards as a sophomore, and if things go well, he could end up being an all-american this season. Leslie’s not alone, either, as Richard Howell came very close to averaging a double-double last season and TJ Warren is a versatile scoring machine.

6. Tennessee:
Bigs: Jarnell Stokes, Jeronne Maymon, Kenny Hall, Dwight Miller, Yemi Makanjuola

A lot of this depends on Jeronne Maymon’s health. He’s had two knee surgeries and plays the game with such aggressiveness and intensity, that whenever he suits up, he re-tweaks it. So head coach Cuonzo Martin has decided to hold Maymon out of practice for a while. But when he’s healthy? Maymon and Stokes will make up one of the toughest and most physical front lines in the country.

7. Wisconsin:
Bigs: Jared Berggren, Sam Dekker, Mike Bruesewitz, Ryan Evans, Frank Kaminsky, Zach Bohannon

We know about the kind of player that Jared Berggren is offensively, as he averaged 10.5 points and shot 37.2% from three last season. But Berggren was also one of the most underrated defensive centers in the country a year ago. When combined with Mike Bruesewitz and Ryan Evans, the Badgers have a chance to be as good defensively as they have up front in a long time. And that’s before you mention Sam Dekker, a top 20 recruit whose versatility is perfect for Bo Ryan’s swing offense.

8. Florida:
Bigs: Patric Young, Erik Murphy, Will Yeguete

Patric Young is a physical freak, a 6-foot-7 professional wrestler with the jumping ability of an NFL wide receiver. But two years into his college career, he’s still an athlete and not a basketball player. That should change this year, and it will be helped with Erik Murphy stretching the floor with his shooting ability. Will Yeguete was Florida’s sparkplug a season ago with his ability to defend.

9. Missouri:
Bigs: Alex Oriakhi, Laurence Bowers, Earnest Ross, Ryan Rosburg, Stefan Jankovic

For my money, Alex Oriakhi is the most important transfer in the country. He was the best defensive big man in the country for a solid month when UConn won their 2011 national title, and I think that he’ll revert back to that form and become the anchor for this Missouri team. If Laurence Bowers is healthy, he becomes Missouri’s most versatile player and their best NBA prospect.

10. Kansas:
Bigs: Jeff Withey, Perry Ellis, Kevin Young, Justin Wesley, Jamari Traylor, Landen Lucas, Zach Peters

Jeff Withey was the best defensive center in the country last season, and that includes Anthony Davis. Hopefully, he’s added a bit to his offensive repertoire this year. It will be interesting to see who starts alongside him. Kevin Young is an active rebounder, but he’s too up and down. Perry Ellis is the best of four talented freshmen bigs on the roster.

11. Baylor:
Bigs: Isaiah Austin, Ricardo Gathers, Cory Jefferson, J’Mison Morgan, Chad Rykhoek

Here’s the question that may end up determining Baylor’s season: is Isaiah Austin the second coming of Perry Jones III, or is he cut from the same cloth as a guy like Dirk Nowitzki? Because with Gathers and Jefferson on the roster to beat up opposing front court players, Austin can stretch the floor on the offensive end while providing a shot blocking presence on defense.

12. Creighton:
Bigs: Doug McDermott, Gregory Echenique, Ethan Wragge

Everyone knows Doug McDermott is an all-american, and he’s the perfect fit for the Bluejays offensive system. He can score on the block and he’s a knock-down shooter when he’s left open on the perimeter. But people may not know how important Gregory Echenique is in the paint. He’s a shot blocker and a rebounder for a team that needs all the shot blocking and rebounding it can get.

13. Duke:
Bigs: Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, Alex Murphy, Marshall Plumlee

Mason Plumlee has always had potential, but he hasn’t quite figured out how to use it yet. He was a good rebounder and defender for stretches last season, but he also had some bouts of inconsistency. Can he become a force in the paint, on both ends of the floor, this year? The combination of Alex Murphy and Ryan Kelly will give Coach K some versatility along the front line.

14. Syracuse:
Bigs: CJ Fair, James Southerland, Rakeem Christmas, Baye Keita, Jerami Grant, DaJuan Coleman

Right now, Syracuse looks like their front line will end up being better on the defensive end of the floor than on the offensive end of the floor. But CJ Fair has all kinds of promise and James Southerland can shoot the lights out. Can DaJuan Coleman be an offensive threat in the paint?

15. Miami:
Bigs: Reggie Johnson, Kenny Kadji, Julian Gamble, Erik Swoope, Garrius Adams

Reggie Johnson is a double-double waiting to happen, and that’s before he dropped down to — seriously, down to — 290 pounds and starting hitting threes. And don’t forget about Kenny Kadji, a stretch-four that really came on midway through last season.

Best of the Rest: Arizona, Davidson, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Texas, Ohio State, Stanford, West Virginia

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Five-star 2018 recruit Anfernee Simons could test NBA Draft process

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Five-star Class of 2018 guard Anfernee Simons is interested in potentially entering the 2018 NBA Draft.

According to a report from Jonathan Givony of ESPN, the former Louisville commit will likely be eligible to jump to the NBA straight out of high school since he graduated high school last year while turning 19 next June. The 6-foot-4 Simons, considered the No. 16 overall prospect in the Rivals’ Class of 2018 national rankings, is playing a post-grad season at IMG Academy for 2017-18 after reclassifying as a sophomore.

If Simons opts to go pro than college basketball loses a potential star as he’s been shooting up the national rankings over the past year. Simons was committed to the Cardinals since the beginning of his junior year but he opened things up once former head coach Rick Pitino lost his job in a fallout from the FBI investigation on college basketball.

Simons started his season at the National Prep Showcase this weekend as six NBA teams sent people to watch him play, according to Givony’s report.

It’ll be fascinating to see what happens in this situation as Simons hasn’t done much with the recruiting process over the last several months. Now that NBA teams are already watching him play, Simons could follow in Thon Maker’s footsteps and turn pro right away.

LaVar Ball on Trump’s involvement in bringing son home: ‘Who?’

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The war of words none of us wanted is now upon us.

LaVar Ball downplayed the impact that Donald Trump had in ensuring that his son, LiAngelo, along with two other UCLA players were released from custody and returned to the United States following a shoplifting incident on the team’s trip to China.

“Who?” the eldest Ball told ESPN on Friday night when asked about Trump’s involvement. “What was he over there for? Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.”

When the players arrived back in Los Angeles, and before they had a chance to speak publicly, Trump had already taken to twitter to complain about the fact that the trio had not yet thanked him. Trump happened to be in China at the same time and, in a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, he reportedly asked for his counterpart’s help in assuring an expedited legal process.

Trump got the thank you that he so desperately needed when UCLA held a press conference announcing that the three players would be suspended indefinitely, but LaVar was not going to let the President have the last word. And you can bet that Trump is not going to let this be the end of it, either, which means that two men that have risen to prominence through their willingness to say the audacious whenever the spotlight is on them will have the floor.

And unless someone has managed to change the passcode on Trump’s cellphone, you can rest assured that this will not be the end of it.

Bridges perfect from 3, No. 5 Villanova blows out Lafayette

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ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Mikal Bridges set a school record by hitting all six of his 3-point shots and scored a career-high 24 points in No. 5 Villanova’s 104-57 rout of Lafayette on Friday night.

Jalen Brunson added 22 points and hit 4 of 6 3s in another dominant performance by the Wildcats (3-0), who made 16 of 30 from long range.

Three nights after setting a school record with 13 blocked shots in a blowout of Nicholls, the versatile and deep Wildcats showed another strength and overwhelmed the Leopards (0-3).

Led by Bridges’ 4 of 4 long-distance shooting, Villanova hit 11 of its first 14 3s in racing to a 39-16 lead. The Wildcats had a stretch of nine straight baskets being 3s en route to a 56-23 halftime lead.

Matt Klinewski had 16 points and six rebounds for Lafayette, which was 7 of 29 from 3-point range.

Bridges finished 9 of 10 from the field before he sat out the final 10 minutes. The junior bested his previous career-high by one point set Tuesday.

While it was a Villanova home game, it was played about 50 miles from campus at the PPL Center, home of minor league hockey’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms. It was a 20-mile drive for Lafayette, but the Wildcats sure seemed at home.

Villanova spent much of the second half going inside to score. Omari Spellman had 15 points and nine rebounds and Eric Paschall had 14 points and eight boards.

BIG PICTURE

Lafayette: Try as a Patriot League school squaring off against one of the best teams in the nation and watching the opponent shoot like that, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon’s alma mater never had a chance.

Villanova: The Wildcats have perimeter shooting, depth inside and play good defense. They’ve been dominant against inferior competition, and will finally get tested next week.

SO MANY 3-POINTERS

Bridges surpassed Doug West in 1988 and John Celestand in 1999, each of whom went 5 of 5 from long range. Villanova finished one shy of the school record of 17 3s set against Lehigh on Nov. 27, 2005.

NO LUCK

Lafayette coach Fran O’Hanlon fell to 0-6 against his alma mater. O’Hanlon still holds the Villanova record for assists in a game with 16 set against Toledo on Feb. 24, 1970.

Only six Division I coaches have been at their schools longer than O’Hanlon, in his 23rd season.

UP NEXT

Lafayette visits Princeton on Wednesday.

Villanova faces Western Kentucky on Wednesday in the first of three games at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. No. 19 Purdue and No. 3 Arizona are possible opponents the following two days.

Mykhailiuk helps No. 4 Kansas rout South Dakota State, 98-64

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — Svi Mykhailiuk scored a career-high 27 points, Lagerald Vick finished with 22 and fourth-ranked Kansas routed Summit League favorite South Dakota State 98-64 on Friday night.

Udoka Azubuike added 17 points and Malik Newman had 13 for the Jayhawks (3-0), who shot 60 percent from the field and didn’t commit a turnover until midway through the second half.

By that point, the Jackrabbits (3-1) were staring at a 30-point deficit.

Mike Daum led South Dakota State with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Tevin King contributed 12 points and David Jenkins Jr. scored 10 off the bench.

Once again without heralded freshman Billy Preston, the Jayhawks were forced to use the same reduced rotation that managed to top seventh-ranked Kentucky on Tuesday night. But their perilous lack of depth became crippling in the first half when Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot picked up two fouls each.

That forced coach Bill Self to use walk-on Clay Young in the post.

The 6-foot-5 senior turned out to be a bright spot, too, keeping the ball moving on offense and handling the 6-9 Daum inside. The Jackrabbits’ leading scorer at more than 21 points per game had eight on 2-for-8 shooting in the first half, when Young spent a good chunk of time covering him.

Nobody could cover Mykhailiuk, though.

The senior from the Ukraine hit his first three shots — the Jayhawks made eight of their first nine — while getting into an easy rhythm. Even on the seemingly rare occasion that his jumper didn’t splash the net, it often rattled around the rim and dropped through to a thunderous ovation.

Several of his baskets came on feeds from Devonte Graham, who didn’t hit a field goal until deep in the second half. He finished with eight points but also had 11 assists and five boards.

PRESTON SITS

Preston went through early warmups but remained on the bench as Kansas investigates an on-campus incident that raised questions about the “financial picture” of the car he was driving. Self declined to discuss the situation other than to say “we’re definitely going to hold him out until we get to the bottom of this.” Self did say he expects a resolution soon.

BIG PICTURE

South Dakota State can recover from its thumping in paradise with a trip to the Cayman Islands Classic up next. But their next trip to the Sunflower State figures to be just as tough: They visit No. 6 Wichita State on Dec. 5.

Kansas cruised despite a shortened lineup again, and help is only a month away. Arizona State transfer Sam Cunliffe becomes eligible for a trip to Nebraska on Dec. 16, and there is a chance five-star prospect Silvio De Sousa from Florida’s IMG Academy enrolls at the semester break.

UP NEXT

South Dakota State plays Wyoming on Monday in George Town, Cayman Islands.

Kansas continues a four-game home stand against Texas Southern on Tuesday night.

No. 18 Louisville hangs on over Omaha 87-78

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Ray Spalding had a career-high 19 points and 11 rebounds, Deng Adel had a game-high 21 points and Anas Mahmoud had eight of his team’s 15 blocked shots as No. 18 Louisville outlasted Omaha 87-78 on Friday night.

Spalding scored 14 points after halftime, and Adel made 7 of 8 shots from both the field and the free-throw line to pace the offense for the Cardinals (2-0), who led by 20 early in the second half but didn’t make a field for the last 4:36 of the game.

Omaha (0-4) was competitive in facing its highest-ranked opponent since becoming an NCAA Division I program in the 2011-12 season. The Mavericks hung around with a 12-0 second-half run and got within 71-64 on KJ Robinson’s 3-pointer with 5:45 left, but Louisville answered with seven straight points to keep the lead large enough to stay unbeaten under interim coach David Padgett.

Louisville’s three primary big men — Spalding (6-foot-10), Mahmoud (7-0) and Malik Williams (6-11) — bothered Omaha with their length around the rim. Mahmoud flirted with a triple-double, posting 10 points and eight rebounds to go with his blocks. Williams, a former five-star recruit who made his first career start in place of Mahmoud, had eight points, four rebounds and three blocks. Spalding blocked three shots, too.

Daniel Norl led five Omaha scorers in double figures with 16 points and eight rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Omaha: The Mavericks averaged 83.9 points in their first three games but dug a hole in the first half when they shot only 24.4 percent to go down 40-25 at halftime. Louisville finished the first half on an 18-7 run, and Omaha made only one of its final nine shots before the break.

Louisville: Adel, who scored 20 points in the season-opening win over George Mason, continues to impress with his slicing drives and up-tempo play and shapes up as one of the top wings in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He made his first seven shots and added eight rebounds.

UP NEXT

Omaha plays at TCU on Monday as part of the Emerald Coast Classic, the fourth of seven straight games away from home to start the season while the Mavericks’ home arena hosts the U.S. Olympic Curling Trials.

Louisville has home games against Southern Illinois on Tuesday and Saint Francis next Friday before traveling to Purdue on Nov. 28 for the Big 10/ACC Challenge.