Luke Winn's Top 16 Frontcourts
Harris, a 6-8 junior from Germany, could be a frontrunner for West Coast Conference Player of the Year honors, and Sacre is a rare, impact 7-footer in a mid-major league. Dower and Olynyk were high-productivity forwards in reserve last season, and could be ready to take on bigger roles.
Taylor, a 6-foot-9 junior who should move into the starting lineup this season, is one of the best offensive rebounders (17.0 OR%) in the Big East. Birch, a 6-9 Canadian freshman, is a McDonald's All-American and the highest-ranked recruit to join the Panthers in 24 years.
Despite the fact that Robinson came off the bench behind the Morris Twins as a sophomore, he's thought to be a real contender for Big 12 Player of the Year -- and even All-America -- honors if he produces at the same rate he did as a reserve. The future first-rounder should be a double-double machine and KU's clear star in 2011-12.
The versatile Middleton (14.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg) is one of the best players most of the country doesn't know about; expect him to have a monster junior season. New coach Billy Kennedy also inherits the luxury of three 6-8-or-bigger role players on his front line in Loubeau, Roberson and Turner.
The Gophers collapsed last season -- losing 10 of their final 11 games, after losing key members of their backcourt -- but Mbakwe proved himself as one of the country's best power forwards by averaging a double-double (13.9 ppg, 10.5 rpg). As a unit, their frontcourt ranked fourth nationally in block percentage at 16.7.
The Orange won't be the same without workhouse power forward Rick Jackson manning the paint, but at least they're replacing him with a McDonald's All-American in Christmas, a 6-foot-9 prospect from the Virgin Islands by way of Philadelphia. Joseph is a Wooden Award candidate while Fair could have a breakout season after playing effectively in limited minutes as a freshman.
Ezeli, a 6-11 senior from Nigeria, took huge strides last season to become one of the most productive big men in the SEC. He shot 58.8 percent from the field while averaging 13.0 points, and on the defensive end, blocked 2.6 shots per game. He and Taylor could be first-round draft picks in 2012 if the 'Dores have a big season.
The Seminoles' frontcout is here because of its D; this crew, anchored by the 6-foot-10 James, contributed to the 'Noles being the nation's most efficient defense last season, and held opponents to a national-low 40.0 percent shooting inside the arc.
The Tide's dynamic duo is heavily underrated on the national scene, due partly to the fact that they missed the NCAA tournament last season. That shouldn't happen again; led by Green (15.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg), this should be their breakthrough year under coach Anthony Grant.
The Blue Devils don't have a clear star on their front line, but the Brothers Plumlee do a fine job of controlling the glass, and Kelly's play on their exhibition tour of China suggested he could grow into a scoring force as a junior.
As a freshman last season, Smith had the best offensive rebounding percentage of anyone not named Kenneth Faried, and the Seattle-area giant is primed for a monster sophomore year. Nelson is an extensively tattooed, double-double machine who should contend for Pac-10 Player of the Year honors.
Perry Jones is a projected top-three pick in the next NBA Draft; Acy is a freak athlete who's one of the college game's best dunkers; and Miller is an instant-impact, 6-9 freshman who's as comfortable on the perimeter as he is in the paint.
Oriakhi and Smith started at the 3-4 spots during the national title game and were huge defensive assets. Now they're joined at the five by Drummond, who was ranked the No. 1 center prospect in the Class of 2012 before he opted to reclassify in August.
Opponents had a miserable time trying to stop Sullinger during his freshman year; he spent the whole offseason shedding body fat, which means he'll be far less likely to tire late in games. Beware: Thomas, who had limited minutes off the bench as a freshman, should assume a big scoring role.
It wouldn't be a stretch to see a more mature version of Jones contend for the Wooden/Naismith Awards -- unless, that is, he's outshined by Davis, a 6-10 freshman who could very well be the first pick in the 2012 NBA draft. The tenacious Kidd-Gilchirst is expected to be one of UK's best wing defenders from Day 1.
The Tar Heels' front line has everything: A national player of the year candidate in the versatile Barnes, a defensive stopper in Henson, a running 7-footer in Zeller, and a freshman phenom in McAdoo. It could go down as one of the best frontcourts of the past decade, if they fulfill their potential and win a national championship.