|Jared Cunningham puts pressure on offenses and buys into being a great defender. (Getty Images)|
It's an area that often gets overlooked, but defense is just as important as scoring.
After talking to coaches, NBA guys and also watching plenty of tape on Synergy over the last month or so, here are 20 guys who are among the elite defensive players in the country.
We've split them up into perimeter defenders and interior defenders:
|Best perimeter defenders|
Aaron Craft, 6-2, 190, PG, Soph., Ohio State -- Great lateral quickness, toughness and strength. Just gets after it on this end and is committed on every possession.
Jared Cunningham, 6-4, 194, G, Jr., Oregon State -- Fast, athletic and has an understanding of angles. Puts pressure on the offense and buys into concept of being a great defender.
Jeffery Taylor , 6-7, 225, SG-SF, Sr., Vanderbilt -- Plays with energy, is athletic and brings toughness and tenacity to the table.
Kent Bazemore, 6-5, 195, SG/SF, Sr., Old Dominion -- He's physical, mobile and long. He has good foot speed, does a nice job anticipating and gets his hands on the ball.
Ronald Nored, 6-0, 177, PG, Sr., Butler -- Despite his frame, he's physical and is the best perimeter defender that Brad Stevens says he's ever coached.
Kelsey Barlow, 6-5, 200, SG, Jr., Purdue -- Has size, athleticism and stamina to guard multiple positions. He can pressure the ball and also disrupt off the ball.
Anthony Marshall, 6-3, 200, G, Jr., UNLV -- Long and athletic, he can guard multiple positions and can really guard the ball.
Antwaine Wiggins, 6-7, 185, F, Sr., College of Charleston -- Quick feet and is versatile enough to guard anyone from the 1 to the 4. Has length and quickness.
Tu Holloway, 6-0, 190, PG, Sr., Xavier -- Not the most athletic guy around, but has excellent footwork, IQ and toughness.
Will Cherry, 6-1, 177, G, Jr., Montana -- He is a great team and on-ball defender. Does a nice job guarding a shooter running off screens and containing a slasher. Is quick, athletic and anticipates well.
Shabazz Napier, 6-1, 170, PG, Soph., UConn -- He never really guarded in high school, but now he's quickly become a lock-down guy. He pressures the ball, has the toughness and also the quickness to stay in front of opposing guards.
|Best interior defenders|
John Henson, 6-11, 220, PF/C, Jr., North Carolina -- Ultra-long and athletic, Henson is a big-time shot-blocker and also alters many of those he doesn't get his hands on.
Bernard James, 6-10, 240, PF, Sr., Florida State -- Terrific timing -- especially at the rim -- and also does a nice job denying low-post catches.
Festus Ezeli, 6-11, 255, Sr., C, Vanderbilt -- He's long, athletic and physical.
Darius Garrett, 6-9, 210, PF/C, Sr., Richmond -- Impeccable timing, great positioning and a terrific sense for the game.
Dewayne Dedmon, 7-0, 255, RS Soph., PF, USC -- Quick feet, quick off the ground and has a high motor. Tries to block everything and could be dominant on the defensive end.
William Mosley, 6-7, 220, C, Sr., Northwestern State -- A tremendous shot-blocker who is quick off the floor and possesses terrific timing.
David Foster, 7-3, 243, C, Sr., Utah -- Huge, but is athletic and has a nice sense of timing to go along with his size.
Nasir Robinson, 6-5, 225, F, Sr., Pittsburgh -- Versatile enough to guard a perimeter guy -- and also able to defend post players. He's tough, brings energy, communicates and plays hard.
C.J. Aiken, 6-9, 190, C, Soph., Saint Joseph's -- Quick jumper who has the instincts and could lead the nation in blocks this season.
Anthony Davis, 6-10, 220, PF, Kentucky -- I know he hasn't played a game, but he's so long and versatile that he can be a major problem for opponents on the defensive end.
|2011-12 Season Preview|
|Oct. 13||Preseason Top 25 (and one)||Nov. 1||Top freshmen|
|Projected NCAA tournament field||Nov. 2||Top transfers|
|Goodman and Parrish bracket picks||Nov. 3||Under the radar players|
|Oct. 14||Team profiles: 'Cuse | UConn | UK | UNC||Nov. 4||Breakout players|
|Oct. 17||Preseason All-Americans||Nov. 5||Best shooters|
|Oct. 18||Top 100 players||Nov. 6||Best defensive players|
|Oct. 19||Positional rankings: Point guards||Nov. 7||68 things ...|
|Oct. 20||Positional rankings: Wing men||Nov. 8||Ranking the preseason tourneys|
|Oct. 21||Positional rankings: Big men||Nov. 9||50 can't miss games|
|Nov. 10||Coaches on the Hot Seat|