College Basketball’s Best Big Men

Reagan Lunn/Duke Athletics
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There are a number of really, really talented big men in college basketball this season.

Probably more than we have seen in recent years.

Of the three college guys currently in the mix for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, two of them – Marvin Bagley III and Deandre Ayton – are bigs. Another big man is a potential top five pick, as well as a trio of players that you’ll find listed as first-team all-americans at some point during the preseason.

In a sport that has routinely been dominated by terrific lead guards in an era where small-ball and floor-spacing has become the most important part of the game, there are going to be some teams with some throw-back front courts this year. 

And that certainly isn’t a bad thing.

Before we dive into the top 20 big men in college basketball, a quick disclaimer: We used four positions to rank players – lead guards, off guards, wings and big men. If your favorite player isn’t on this list, he’s probably slotted in a different position.

RELATED: Top 100 Players | Top Backcourts | Top Frontcourts | Top Lead Guards
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1. Marvin Bagley, Duke

A potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Bagley’s August decision to reclassify and attend Duke was the biggest roster news of the offseason. By adding Bagley, the Blue Devils are getting a double-double machine who is one of the most fluid and athletic big men of the last decade.

And that doesn’t even go into Bagley’s skill level with the ball in his hands or how hard he plays. The lefty can take a rebound at above rim level in traffic and run like a guard down the floor, delivering passes or finishing with long and fluid strides to the rim. If there is one big question mark with Bagley it is consistent perimeter shooting as Bagley has a workable jumper but it doesn’t always fall. Even with an inconsistent jumper, Bagley has a chance to be a major force for the Blue Devils this season.

2. Angel Delgado, Seton Hall

Arguably college basketball’s most productive big man last season, the 6-foot-10 Delgado put it all together for an All-American caliber junior season. Putting up 27 double-doubles and back-to-back 20-20 games in Big East play, Delgado averaged 15.2 points and 13.1 rebounds per contest.

An absolute warrior on the glass who makes an impact with putbacks, Delgado also improved his overall skill level and became a much better passer last season, nearly garnering a triple-double in the Big East tournament. With a veteran team around him that has played many games together, Delgado and Seton Hall could have a huge year.

Final Four Sleepers | Louisville | Villanova | West Virginia | USC | Wichita State | Miami
Ethan Happ (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

3. Ethan Happ, Wisconsin

The 6-foot-10 junior continues to be one of the most important players in the country and now Wisconsin needs Happ more than ever. With most of the senior core now gone, Happ is the team’s only returning starter after nearly averaging a double-double last season while leading the Badgers in both blocks and steals.

Happ’s summer project became re-working his jumper and proving that he can score outside of the paint — something he’s rarely done at the college level. Although Happ’s jumper looked okay during the summer at the Under Armour All-America Camp, Wisconsin big men have also shown dramatic increases in skill as their careers have gone on. Seeing if Happ can expand his range will be something to watch for.

4. Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame

He’s only 6-foot-5 but there is no doubting that Colson is one of the best in the country at playing inside. Putting up 17.8 points and 10.1 rebounds per game while shooting 43 percent from three-point range, Colson has become a versatile player for the Irish the last few seasons.

Capable of playing against bigger post players because of his natural timing and 7-foot-0 wingspan, Colson is also a lot quicker than some of his larger counterparts and his range allows him to take them outside. One of the winningest players in program history, Colson has been on two Elite Eight teams and a team that made the Round of 32 last season.

5. Deandre Ayton, Arizona

It’ll be interesting to see how this five-star freshman fits in at Arizona in what will likely be his only season. The Wildcats return a ton of talent around Ayton, including another double-double threat in Dusan Ristic, and guards like Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins can get shot-happy at times. Arizona would be wise to keep Ayton active and engaged during the season because college hoops hasn’t seen many 7-footers like Ayton in recent memory.

Gifted with outstanding athleticism and the touch of a wing, Ayton is quick enough to guard smaller wings while being big enough to wall up at the rim. Ayton can easily soar above the rim and he’s also capable of stretching the floor for three-pointers.

CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky | Kansas | Arizona | Michigan State | Duke
Deandre Ayton (Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
Final Four Sleepers | Louisville | Villanova | West Virginia | USC | Wichita State | Miami

6. Mo Bamba, Texas

The most fascinating player to watch on this list could be this 7-foot-0 freshman with an absurd 7-foot-9 wingspan. Bamba might be a little bit raw in certain areas of his game this season, but the New York native can make up for it by erasing almost everything on the defensive end.

For a player with an elite standing reach, Bamba’s lateral quickness and ability to switch might be his best attributes. Still skinny and needing to add weight as he increases his level, Bamba is going to be bullied by some but he might be long and athletic enough to make up for it.

Offensively, Bamba is fast and able to make an impact on the offensive glass and on lobs but he has to show a more consistent jumper than he has displayed in the past. The sky is the limit for Bamba’s basketball future but will we see a ton of positive flashes in the likely few months he’s in Austin?

RELATED: Why did Big Bob Williams return to school for his sophomore year?

7. Robert Williams, Texas A&M

One of the most fascinating returning players in the country this season will be Big Bob Williams as his freakish displays of athleticism earned him plenty of admirers last season. The SEC’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Williams is capable of playing well above the rim on both ends of the floor and he has some of the best natural timing in the country for putbacks and blocks.

The key for the 6-foot-10 Williams this season (and for his NBA Draft stock) is to expand his skill level and show some more range on offense. There is no doubting that Williams can make impact plays thanks to his one-percent athleticism but he’ll also need to expand his game as jumps up some levels.

CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky | Kansas | Arizona | Michigan State | Duke
Chimezie Metu (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

8. Chimezie Metu, USC

USC needed the 6-foot-11 Metu to step up in a major way last season and he became the Pac-12’s Most Improved Player. Another freak athlete who can easily play at 11 or 12 feet, Metu can put up big numbers. The scary thing about Metu is that he has personal room to grow with his game and the Trojans have the kind of talent around him to make a serious run.

Metu put up a lot of big numbers last season while Bennie Boatwright was injured, and now that Boatwright is back, it could mean that defenses don’t have enough to stop a loaded frontcourt.

9. Yante Maten, Georgia

Quietly one of the best two-way big men in the country last season, the 6-foot-8 Maten can put up points in multiple ways while also being a solid defender and rebounder. Averaging 18.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game, Maten can make impact plays on both ends of the floor.

Although he needs to improve as a defensive rebounder, Maten is strong on the offensive glass and also skilled enough to stretch the floor from three-point range. A sleeper SEC Player of the Year pick, Maten is hoping to lead the Bulldogs back to the NCAA tournament.

10. Tyler Davis, Texas A&M

Davis only shot 61 percent last season as a sophomore after the massive 6-foot-10 Davis was at 65 percent as a freshman. One of the nation’s best post scorers, Davis owns a soft set of hands, developing post moves and the size that makes him very tough to defend one-on-one.

The key for Davis will be continuing to improve his agility and mobility as he’s done a great job of improving his conditioning throughout his college career. Also watch for the spacing the Aggies are able to put around Davis. With a frontcourt-heavy team last season, there were times when it got too clogged for Davis to be at his best. Now with more point guard options this season, Davis might have some easier touches.

CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky | Kansas | Arizona | Michigan State | Duke
Tyler Davis (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
  • 11. Wendell Carter, Duke: The other five-star freshman in the Blue Devil frontcourt, Carter also has a chance to be a top pick with a big year. Big and skilled, Carter is a tenacious rebounder with a surprising amount of touch and vision.
  • 12. Jaren Jackson Jr., Michigan State: The Spartans have a wealth of bigs this season but this five-star freshman might be a lottery pick. At 6-foot-10, Jackson can knock down threes at 40 percent or defend the rim with his 7-foot-4 wingspan.
  • 13. Reid Travis, Stanford: The Pac-12’s returning leader in points and rebounds per game last season, Travis has become a force to reckon with now that he can stay healthy and on the floor. The Cardinal will run more offense through Travis this season.
  • 14. Mike Daum, South Dakota State: The 6-foot-9 junior plays in a one-bid league but he’s also a one-man show. Capable of 50-point games and huge numbers across the board, Daum is a must-watch for diehard college hoops fans.
  • 15. Jock Landale, Saint Mary’s: Improving immensely from sophomore to junior year, the 6-foot-11 Landale just missed averaging a double-double last season. One of the nation’s most efficient players, Landale is also a solid passer.
Nick Ward (Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
  • 16. Nick Ward, Michigan State: Others in Michigan State’s recruiting class were more highly-touted but Ward’s production in just under 20 minutes a game was huge for the Spartans making the NCAA tournament.
  • 17. Mo Wagner, Michigan: Wagner improved in every way during his sophomore season as he’s a three-level shooter who became more comfortable off the bounce. Defense and rebounding are areas Wagner can improve but he shows potential in both.
  • 18. Gary Clark, Cincinnati: A former AAC Defensive Player of the Year, Clark can lockdown multiple spots on the floor while also being a double-double threat. If Clark’s perimeter touch improves then watch out.
  • 19. Ben Lammers, Georgia Tech: One of the nation’s most improved players last season, Lammers became a force on both ends for the Yellow Jackets. He’s one of the best bigs in the country at playing from the elbows.
  • 20. Kyle Washington, Cincinnati: Washington thrived with the Bearcats last season following his transfer from N.C. State. The bouncy big man is a solid rim protector while being skilled enough to shoot 35 percent from three.