Oriakhi was UConn's best interior defender during its surprise run to the 2011 NCAA title. Although he had a junior slump in Storrs, there's reason to believe that the fresh start with the Tigers will help him return to his old form.
2 of 16Bill Frakes/SI
The point man of the Cavaliers' stingy Pack-Line Defense, Evans applies intense pressure on opposing ballhandlers and is known as one of the toughest guards to screen in the ACC. His D last season helped the Cavaliers make their first trip to the NCAA tournament since 2007.
3 of 16Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
In the Rams' "HAVOC" press, Weber is the most havoc-creating guard. The quick, spidery freshman stole the ball 77 times last season, creating takeaways on 7.0 percent of opponents' possessions -- the highest rate of anyone in the nation.
4 of 16Robin Alam/Icon SMI
Cooper was the chief thief (4.2 steal percentage) on the team with the second-highest turnover percentage in the nation. He's also a savvy pick-and-roll defender who helped hold Michigan's Trey Burke to 5-of-15 shooting in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
5 of 16Matt A. Brown/Icon SMI
Jett is one of the nation's best pick-and-roll defenders -- and it doesn't hurt that he's built like a linebacker, at 6-1 and 215 pounds. His perimeter D has helped the Billikens severely limit opponents' three-point attempts and emerge as one of the Atlantic 10's best teams.
6 of 16John W. McDonough/SI
While Kansas' Thomas Robinson was running away with Big 12 Player of the Year honors, Roberson was defensive rebounding at a rate nearly equal to Robinson's -- 29.6 percent, which was the second-best in the country. The Buffs' diamond in the rough also blocked 6.8 percent of opponents' shots.
7 of 16John W. McDonough/SI
Neither Berggren nor his frontcourt mate Ryan Evans get much national attention, but they were the keys to controlling the interior -- and the defensive glass -- for the country's fifth-ranked defense. The Badgers allowed opponents to shoot just 42.0 percent from inside the arc last season.
8 of 16John W. McDonough/SI
Moser contributed everywhere on D in his first season after transferring from UCLA, leading the Rebels in rebounds (369), steals (68) and blocks (35). He also finished ninth in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage (28.1).
9 of 16John Bazemore/AP
The classic example of an impact defender on a mediocre team, Miller's interior D was one of the few bright spots for the Yellow Jackets as they went 11-20 last season. He allowed just 0.532 points per possession in the post, according to Synergy, and he blocked 9.3 percent of opponents' shots.
10 of 16Steve Cannon/AP
Synergy Sports' logs rated Snaer the best pick-and-roll defender on a major-conference team last season. He allowed just 0.391 points per possession to ballhandlers in those situations, and served as an all-around lockdown defender for the country's No. 15-ranked D.
11 of 16Robin Alam/Icon SMI
This is a speculative pick, as Austin has yet to play a college game, but he's an athletic, 7-1 center who's a projected top-10 pick in the 2013 draft, and scouts already like his defensive instincts. He'll be a formidable presence in the middle of the Bears' 2-3 zone.
12 of 16Jeff Moreland/Icon SMI
The 6-10 freshman is being hailed as the best shot-blocker to arrive in college basketball since, well, Anthony Davis, who led the Wildcats to a national title in March. Noel is not even close to Davis' level as an all-around player -- he might not even be an all-SEC first-teamer -- but he should change enough shots to keep UK's defense elite.
13 of 16Porter Binks/SI
Dieng is a slightly less-dominant version of Kansas' Jeff Withey. The Cardinals' Senegalese big man blocked 10.4 percent of opponents' shots last season and served as the centerpiece of the country's stingiest defense.
14 of 16Patrick Green/Icon SMI
Mitchell was the only Division I player in '11-12 to rank in the top 20 in defensive rebounding percentage (28.8, fourth) and block percentage (11.0, 15th) -- and that was as a freshman who couldn't start practicing with the Mean Green until December. His sophomore-year numbers are expected to be even further off the charts.
15 of 16Damian Strohmeyer/SI
SI.com's Craft Turnometer (TM) calculated that the Buckeyes' point guard created turnovers on 7.56 percent of opponents' possessions. Trust us: That means he's immensely disruptive, and the biggest reason why Ohio State ranked No. 2 nationally in defensive efficiency.
16 of 16Greg Nelson/SI
The Jayhawks couldn't have reached the national title game without Withey, the shot-swatting key to their elite defense. He blocked a higher percentage of opponents' attempts (15.3) than Anthony Davis did (13.8) last season, while also rebounding at a high level. As important as Craft is to Ohio State's D, there's nothing more valuable than a dominant shot-changer in the paint -- and there's no better one than Withey.
You May Like
More College Basketball
Sign Up for our Newsletter
Don't get stuck on the sidelines! Sign up to get exclusives, daily highlights, analysis and more—delivered right to your inbox!