Dirk Nowitzki

Position Rankings: The Top 20 Power Forwards

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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.

The Top 10

1. Doug McDermott, Creighton: As a freshman, McDermott was one of the nation’s best-kept secrets. As a sophomore, he was the guy you had to see play. As a junior? He’s a first-team all-american, one of the nation’s most efficient players, and the engine that makes the Creighton offense go.

2. Tony Mitchell, North Texas: Mitchell was a top 20 recruit coming out of high school, but due to some academic issues, it took until the middle of his second year as a collegian to suit up. As a sophomore this season, expect Mitchell to put up some enormous numbers for the Mean Green this year.

3. Mike Moser, UNLV: Moser is one of the most interesting players on this list. His skill-set screams ‘collegiate stretch-four’, but his size and length make him more likely to be a three at the next level. With Anthony Bennett and Khem Birch joining the Rebels this season, Moser may have to spend more time at the three this season.

4. James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina: McAdoo was a top ten recruit in the Class of 2011, but when you’re forced to share a front court with Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Harrison Barnes, there really aren’t many minutes — or shots — available. That will change this season, and expect McAdoo to thrive in their absence.

5. Andre Roberson, Colorado: Roberson is a guy that NBA scouts love because of his length, his athleticism and his willingness to do things other than score the ball (11.1 boards, 1.9 blocks, 1.3 steals). With Colorado needing him in a more expanded role offensively this season, if Roberson has worked on being a more well-rounded threat at that end, don’t be shocked to see Roberson compete for the Pac-12 Player of the Year award.

6. CJ Leslie, NC State: Leslie has a chance to become an all-american this season. He’s certainly got the talent, but the question is whether or not he’s got the mentality for it. He’ll be benefited by Lorenzo Brown aiding in a leadership role, but if NC State is going to be a national title contender, Leslie will need to make a push for being higher on this list.

7. Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee: I think Stokes is going to have a huge season. He averaged 9.6 points and 7.4 boards for the Vols last year despite enrolling midway through the season when he was supposed to be a high school senior. Imagine what he’ll do with a full preseason?

8. Elias Harris, Gonzaga: Harris has never quite lived up to those lofty expectations he had after his sensational freshman year, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t evolved into an excellent college power forward. Some of his explosiveness is gone, but he’s become a better defender and rebounder and a much more valuable piece for a very good Gonzaga team.

9. Isaiah Austin, Baylor: Austin may be the single-most difficult player to label a position for in the country. He’s 7-foot-1, which, naturally, would mean he gets slotted as a center. But his game is more suited to being a small forward. So what do you do with a guy built in the mold of Dirk Nowitzki? Slot the sharp-shooter as a power forward.

10. Christian Watford, Indiana: On his own, Watford is probably not a better basketball player than a number of the players behind him on this list, but we decided to slot Watford this high simply because of how perfectly he fits on the Hoosier roster. Watford’s a terrific three-point shooter, which means that Indiana is able to surround Cody Zeller with four guys that cannot be left open from three. Watford is a vital piece to that puzzle.

The Next 10

11. Aaric Murray, West Virginia
12. Anthony Bennett, UNLV
13. Chane Behanan, Louisville
14. Jeronne Maymon, Tennessee
15. Brock Motum, Washington State
16. Laurence Bowers, Missouri
17. Keith Clanton, Central Florida
18. Dennis Tinnon, Marshall
19. Grant Jerrett, Arizona
20. Kenny Kadji, Miami

The Best of the Rest: CJ Aiken (St. Joseph’s), O.D. Anosike (Siena), Brandon Ashley (Arizona), Tarik Black (Memphis), Jackie Carmichael (Illinois State), Will Clyburn (Iowa State), Jake Cohen (Davidson), Robert Covington (Tennessee State), Ed Daniels (Murray State), Perry Ellis (Kansas), Ricardo Gathers (Baylor), Murphy Holloway (Ole Miss), Ian Hummer (Princeton), Javon McCrea (Buffalo), Erik Murphy (Florida), Romero Osby (Oklahoma), Marshawn Powell (Arkansas), Juvonte Reddic (VCU), Keith Rendleman (UNC-Wilmington), Kyle Wiltjer (Kentucky)

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

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.

The Morning Mix

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Power has returned to the Nation’s capital, which means The Morning Mix has as well. Seriously, you wouldn’t have wanted a Mix yesterday. I get cranky when I don’t have air conditioning.

– Mike Huguenin tries to explain the best method to determine the top conference in the country

– Jason King does his best to explain how top programs will replace  2012 lottery picks

– When he’s not making delicious (and cost-effective) bourbon whiskey, Evan Williams is breaking down the list of players who left school too soon and too late

– Yesterday was the day that Maryland finally had to cut seven athletic programs

– The Boston Celtics think Fab Melo’s academic career was a joke

– Boston University is leaving the America East in 2014. But we all knew that. What we didn’t know is that the Terriers won’t be allowed to compete in the A-East Tournament next season. This is a growing trend among conferences to ban “quitters” from participating in the post-season tournament

– Less than a week after getting drafted No.1 in the NBA draft, Anthony Davis sprained his ankle and will no longer be considered a candidate to join Team USA at the Olympics

– Ohio State guard Aaron Craft underwent ankle surgery and is still tougher than all of us

– Georgia Tech recruit Corey Heyward, the son of a former NFL running back, tore his ACL and will miss the entire season

– Kentucky set a record by getting six players drafted in the 2012 draft. While six may be a long shot in 2013, the Wildcats are likely to dominate the draft again

A bunch of summer league notes about guys who didn’t get drafted

– Speaking of which, Evan Jacoby bids farewell to the long list of talent seniors who did not get drafted

Matt Norlander debunks the myth that older college players don’t get drafted as much any more

– The Atlantic-10 continues to be on the up-and-up. Andy Katz explains why the Saint Louis Billikens may be the team to beat in 2012-2013

– UConn-transfer Michael Bradley was denied a hardship waiver to play at Western Kentucky, so he will attend Indiana junior college Vincennes University 

Gilles Dierickx. Welcome to the All-Name-Team, brother

– Highly touted sharpshooter Jaren Sina has decided to take his talents to Northwestern

– I feel like this article made the rounds last summer, but it involves Charles Barkley, so, why not? Did Sir Charles commit a recruiting violation trying to get Dirk Nowitzki to join him in college

Texas A&M welcomes itself to the SEC. Anybody else think A&M’s president looks like Martin Mull? Is that a “Brown Down” reference? I told you all “Brow Down” was more marketable than “Fear the Brow”.

– A couple of Purdue guards made a trick shot video

– How on Earth did I miss this: The 2012 Nintendo NBA Draft (I totally forgot how awesome the bike theme music for “Mike Tyson’s Punch Out” was”)

Troy Machir is the managing editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @TroyMachir.

Charles Barkley, Dirk Nowitzki, and an attempted recruiting violation?

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At a charity softball game over the weekend, Charles Barkley got on camera and told a story about the first time that he ever saw Dirk Nowitzki play.

Dirk was 18 years old (or 16 or 19 depending on which part of Chuck’s story you listen to) when he torched Team USA and Scottie Pippen for 50-something points playing for Germany. I’ll let Chuck take it from here:

I said “Dude, who the hell are you?” He starts talking, he’s like 18 or 19. “Where you goin’ play at?” He says “I have to go in the army.” I said “dude, you can’t go in the army playing like that.” I said “I’ll tell you what.” So I called Nike, I said “Find out about this kid, tell him I’ll give him anything he wants to go to Auburn.” Just tell him, “Anything he wants, we’ll get it done.”

It gets better. Just watch the video:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlz01nBrl4s]

Chuck goes on to say that “we take care of you in the SEC”, that SMU would have fit in in the SEC, and that the $200,000 that Auburn gave Cam Newton was a “good damn investment”, the kind of deal that he wishes his accountant would be able to pull off.

Barkley is hilarious. I wonder if the folks at Auburn feel the same way.

(h/t Mike Rutherford)

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

Dallas owner Mark Cuban weighs in on NBA draft age limit debate

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The debate about the NBA draft age restriction seems to be the flavor of the week, as far as hot arguments go, and now Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has chimed in.

Whereas David Stern wants the league to add another year to the already existing “one-and-done” rule that the NBA has in place, Cuban wants to add two years, keeping players in college through their junior years.

“I just think there’s a lot more kids that get ruined coming out early or going to school trying to be developed to come out early than actually make it,” Cuban told ESPNDallas.com. “For every Kobe (Bryant) or (Kevin) Garnett or Carmelo (Anthony) or LeBron (James), there’s 100 Lenny Cookes.”

Lenny Cooke, you’ll remember, had a famous duel with LeBron James in high school, before their paths went separate ways, with LeBron where he is today and Cooke never having played a minute in the NBA.

“I just think there’s every good reason to do it, which is obviously why we didn’t do it,” Cuban went on to say, sarcastically.

An interesting point to make, though, is to look at the composition of Cuban’s championship team last season and how many stand at odds with Cuban’s new idea for the draft. Remember, he believes players should stay three years after their high school class has graduated.

Tyson Chandler, the anchor in the center, came to the NBA straight out of high school. Solid contributor DeShawn Stevenson went that route as well.

Jason Kidd, the veteran point guard, played two years at California before getting drafted. Caron Butler, though injured for the stretch run of last season, played two years at Connecticut before turning pro.

Dirk Nowitzki was a few days shy of his 20th birthday when he was drafted in 1998.

Peja Stojakovic had just turned 19 when he went pro.

To be fair, Cuban made a point that players should be able to develop in the D-League or head to Europe, as Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings did, before heading to the NBA.

But, with a roster so based on players who didn’t stay for three years in college, it would seem to steer Cuban’s argument toward the business side of the game. It’s better for the NBA business to have players who have developed, weeded out in college, so owners can make better drafting decisions.

This, of course, does not take into consideration the view of the players, who some believe should have the right to play, regardless of their age, so long as an NBA team wants their services.

And the debate goes on.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

How fair is criticism of Perry Jones III, Baylor?

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Nothing epitomizes Perry Jones III like his performance against No. 1 Kentucky as the third-seeded Bears were eliminated from the NCAA tournament with an 82-70 loss just one win away from the Final Four.

Jones had just two first half points, as he struggled to establish himself during a 37-12 surge by the Wildcats to take a 42-22 lead heading into halftime. At that point, the game was, for all intents and purposes, all-but over. Beating Kentucky is difficult enough. Doing so while digging out of a 20 point hole is nearly impossible.

But in the second half, Jones looked like a different player. He was more aggressive and assertive on both ends of the floor, finishing the game with 17 points and eight rebounds. If you at the box score, you would think that Jones had played pretty well.

And he did. In the second half. As Baylor trimmed a 20 point lead down to ten.

That right there is the issue with PJ3. Consistency. The kid has all the talent in the world, and he showcased it for 15 minutes in the second half before he fouled out of the game. He’s good enough to be some combination of Blake Griffin, Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki, yet there are elongated stretches of time where he is nonexistent. For every play that leaves you in awe, there is a point where you say to yourself, “wait, Jones is on the floor right now?”

It is a frustrating thing to watch. But is it fair to hold that against him?

PJ3 is a good kid. He’s overcome a lot in his life. He goes to class and he gets good grades and he’s proud of the fact that he gets good grades the same way he’s proud of the fact that he played on a team that made the Elite Eight. Isn’t that what we are always looking for at this level? Would we embrace the fact that Jones is a true “student-athlete” more if he was having more success on the “athlete” side?

For that matter, can’t we say the same about the Baylor program as a whole? For all the criticism that Scott Drew gets, he just took Baylor — Baylor! — to their second Elite Eight in three years. He’s coached a senior class that not only second a record for career wins, but they set a record for career GPA.

Did Baylor underachieve this season? Probably. Has PJ3 played up to his ability this year? Not on a consistent basis.

But did they deserve the amount of heat they got this season?

I’ll put it like this: and you wonder why big time college coaches put on-court success over academics.

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