The college hoops offseason is painfully long and we’re stuck in the absolute dead zone right now. There’s almost no commitments, transfers, coaching changes or players leaving programs during the time we are in now. So, let’s have some fun and start ranking and debating the 2015-16 season.
Last week we took a look at the best backcourts in the country, so it makes sense to flip the script this time around. Let’s take a look at the big bruisers across the country, the guys who battle in the paint or protect the rim to help their teams win.
Much like deciding who truly is a guard these days, coming up with the true definition of a frontcourt was challenging thanks to the game moving to be smaller. While that’s the move, it’s obviously still important to have a dominant big man as the Final Four featured Frank Kaminsky, Jahlil Okafor, Branden Dawson and Kentucky’s group.
This list just doesn’t include the starters, but rather the core group of players making up the frontcourts. With the versatility needed to play multiple positions in the frontcourt, it’s vital to have a good balance of depth and talent at these positions. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the teams listed are all expected to be ranked to start the season.
Note: All stats come from ESPN.com
Baylor (Rico Gathers, Taurean Prince, Johnathan Motley)
Xavier (Trevon Bluiett, Jalen Reynolds, James Farr)
Marquette (Luke Fischer, Henry Ellenson, Sandy Cohen, Matt Heldt)
Purdue (Caleb Swanigan, Isaac Haas, A.J. Hammons)
Iowa State (Georges Niang, Jameel McKay)
Key Players: Kyle Wiltjer, Przemek Karnowski, Domas Sabonis)
Gonzaga returns its three-headed frontcourt monster for another season. The beauty of it all is how the three players feed off each other and bring something a little different to the game. Prezemek Karnowski is the ultimate bruiser. Standing at 7’1” 288 pounds, he likes to stay in the paint and finish within five feet, where he shot 70 percent from last season.
Domas Sabonis provides the athleticism that the other two lack. He stands at 6’10” and while he’s a more raw type player offensively than Wiltjer, he does the little things that lets Gonzaga excel. He’s phenomenal at running the floor and constantly battles on the glass. He provides a defensive advantage due to his quickness, where he can switch on pick-and-rolls and challenge guards trying to shoot over him.
Wiltjer should make a run at National Player of the Year this season while Gonzaga will make yet another NCAA Tournament.
Key Players: Diamond Stone, Robert Carter, Jake Layman, Damonte Dodd, Michal Cekovsky
I’m considering Jake Layman a frontcourt player for Maryland because the Terps are significantly better with him playing the four spot than the three. There is more than enough depth on the frontcourt roster for Maryland this season as Damonte Dodd and Michal Cekovsky – two important players from last year – might be relegated to bench duty.
Diamond Stone is a five-star recruit that chose the Terps over homestate Wisconsin in a move that should draw plenty of boos during conference play this year. He’s the No. 6 player in the Class of 2015, according to ESPN. Robert Carter is a transfer from Georgia Tech who was a double-double machine in the ACC as a freshman and should see plenty of playing time at both the power forward and center spot.
Key Players: Perry Ellis, Landen Lucas, Carlton Bragg, Cheick Diallo, Jamari Traylor
Perry Ellis is entering roughly his 20th year in college as he will be the leader of this dominant frontcourt group. Ellis played nearly 29 minutes per game last year putting up 14 points and seven rebounds. He has the ability to step out and hit 15-footers which is key in the hi-low system Bill Self likes to run.
Joining him are two big time recruits in Carlton Bragg and Cheick Diallo. Last year five-star freshman Cliff Alexander was supposed to team up with Ellis to form a great duo, which never panned out. This year Self has two five-stars to fill that void and both are more than capable. Diallo won MVP of the McDonald’s All-American Game with 18 points and 10 rebounds and then followed up by winning MVP of the East Team at the Jordan Brand Classic with 26 points and 11 rebounds.
More importantly, his defense is off the charts, which fits right in line with Self’s style of coaching.
- North Carolina
Key Players: Kennedy Meeks, Theo Pinson, Isaiah Hicks, Brice Johnson, Joel James, Justin Jackson
Not too many teams can say they are returning the entire roster from last season, but that’s what North Carolina’s frontcourt is doing. If Justin Jackson can continue the growth we saw from the end of last season he can become an extremely special player for the Tar Heels. Jackson averaged over 10 points per game last season but scored in double digits in 12 of the last 13 games. Kennedy Meeks finally showed why he was a top recruit averaging over 11 point and seven rebounds as a sophomore, which should continue to go up this year.
Expect a lot of the same shared minutes as what Roy Williams did last season with this group. The one nice thing is they never have to worry about foul trouble with six guys who can step in and play.
Key Players: Skal Labissiere, Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee, Charles Matthews
Forgive if me if you’ve heard this before, but the Wildcats have the projected No. 1 NBA Draft pick again. This time it’s Skal Labissiere, who is one of the biggest recruits in the class of 2015. His game is that of which basketball is trending right now. He stands at 7’0” but can step out and calmly hit shots from behind the arc. He’s not going to kill you with his physical play in the post, but he’ll beat you with moves off the dribble and a wide array of post moves to get himself open. Defensively, he’s an excellent shot-blocker, which bodes well in Kentucky’s system. Joining him is Alex Poythress, who is coming off a torn ACL but still one of the most versatile players in the SEC and the country. His athleticism allows Kentucky to switch and pick and rolls, while also protecting the rim.