Outlook: The power forward spot is the first position where there are clear mismatches for the two best players. Terrence Jones and Matt Howard are just that much better than anyone that VCU or UConn can put on them. Jones and Howard also happen to be polar opposites despite having very similar playing styles.
Ranking the PFs:
1) Terrence Jones, Kentucky
Jones is, without a doubt, the most talented of the power forward crop. Its not even close. He is a 6’9″ power forward with the strength and the post moves to play on the block. But he is also quick and athletic enough to play on the perimeter. Throw in the fact that he has three point range and the handle to put the ball on the floor and drive to the rim, and its no wonder that NBA teams are salivating over him. The problem with Jones, however, is that he appears to be somewhat in John Calipari’s dog house. He’s not producing in the tournament like he did during the season, and he’s be visibly (and audibly) ripped by Cal during games. Which Terrence Jones shows up?
2) Matt Howard, Butler
Howard is Butler basketball. He’s a gritty, hard-working power forward that is terrific in the paint and around the rim. He takes charges, he dives on the floor for loose balls, and he’s never taken a play off. Howard has also added a three point shot this season, making him that much more dangerous of scorer. The issue for Howard is on the defensive end. How will he match up against teams and players with overpowering front lines? Remember, he was part of the group that allowed Vernon Macklin to score 25 points in the Elite 8.
3) Roscoe Smith and Tyler Olander, UConn
Smith and Olander and going to be very good one day. Right now, however, they are both probably better classified as “not bad for freshmen”. Smith is more of a combo-forward than a power forward. He’s got some perimeter skills and can knock down a three pointer. Olander is a face-up four. He can knock down a pick-and-pop jumper, but most of his impact is felt defensively and on the glass. When UConn has their bet lineup on the floor, however, its Smith that is playing the four alongside Alex Oriakhi.
4) Toby Veal, DJ Haley, and Juvonte Reddic, VCU
When VCU has their best lineup on the floor, Brad Burgess is generally going to be playing the four with three guards. But that doesn’t mean that these three don’t contribute when they do see time. They crash the offensive glass and get some easy buckets, they defend, and they provide a total of 15 fouls in the paint.
Future Pros: Whenever Terrence Jones decides to leave school (which will probably be after this year), he will be a lottery pick. Players that are 6’9″ will his skill set and athleticism don’t come around that often. It will be interesting to see what happens with the rest of this group. I’m not sure Matt Howard has the athleticism to be an NBA player, but he can definitely make a living in Europe. Roscoe Smith has the skill set to one day blossom into an NBA player. Hell, even DJ Haley has drawn some comparisons to former VCU star Larry Sanders.
Essential to winning a title?: For Kentucky and Butler, yes. I know that Kentucky has made it this far into the tournament without getting the Terrence Jones we all expected to see this season, but can they keep on winning that way? Don’t get me wrong, I’m on the Kentucky bandwagon. I believe. I think that DeAndre Liggins and Darius Miller have been terrific late in the season and in the tournament, and I am a huge fan of Josh Harrellson. But how many teams have won a national title with their second leading scorer and leading rebounder struggling?
As far as Howard is concerned, he’s the leader for Butler on the floor. He’s the consummate glue guy that so happens to be very talented and extremely hard working.