Top 50 big men
  • experts tab Indiana's Cody Zeller as the best big man in the country. (US Presswire) experts tab Indiana's Cody Zeller as the best big man in the country. (US Presswire)  

A year ago, this list was littered with quality big men all over the place. Anthony Davis, the Carolina duo of John Henson and Tyler Zeller, Thomas Robinson, Jared Sullinger, etc. Just check out the first round of last June’s NBA Draft and you’ll see what we mean.

This year isn’t quite as talented. Sure, there’s Cody Zeller -- but not a lot of other true big men that have already proven themselves. Doug McDermott, Mike Moser and Tony Mitchell are all tweener forwards, Nerlens Noel remains a question mark (especially on the offensive end) and Trevor Mbakwe is coming back from ACL surgery.

While this list may not exactly be front-loaded, one thing it does boast is depth. Just look in the mid 30’s and you’ll find UCLA’s talented, yet often rotund big man Josh Smith -- just in front of the guy who put up a double-double in the national title game two seasons ago, former UConn center Alex Oriakhi.

Here’s how the foursome ranks the best big men in the country. -- Jeff Goodman

2012 Preseason Top 50 big men
1. Cody Zeller, Indiana
Zeller is fundamentally sound and really, really talented. He could be the National Player of the Year, win a national title and be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft just like Anthony Davis. -- Gary Parrish
2. Doug McDermott, Creighton
It's hard not to love this kid. His dad (who is also his coach) didn't even think he was good enough to play for him when he was at Iowa State. Now he's on everyone's All-American team. He's not a big-time athlete, but scores in all sorts of ways and also does a nice job on the glass. -- Jeff Goodman
3. Nerlens Noel, Kentucky
A shot-blocking freak. That's what Noel will bring with him to Lexington. Think of a young Bill Russell in terms of body frame and ability to send shots packing. Noel still has a long ways to go, especially on the offensive end, but he'll be an immediate force on the defensive end. -- J.G.
4. Mike Moser, UNLV
A lock to go for 15 and 10 every night last season, Moser has more help in the frontcourt this season. The former UCLA transfer decided to return to school for his junior season -- and could end up as a first-team All-American. -- Jeff Borzello
5. Tony Mitchell, North Texas
Mitchell was absolutely dominant as a freshman last season in the Sun Belt, posting double-doubles on a nightly basis. He was also one of the more prolific shot-blockers in the country. He'll get more attention from the first practice this time around. -- J.B.
6. James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina
Thomas Robinson waited his turn. McAdoo may follow suit and emerge now that Tyler Zeller and John Henson have left Chapel Hill. McAdoo is a big, strong, athletic forward who has a high-motor. -- J.G.
7. Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota
Mbakwe's return from an ACL injury was huge for the Golden Gophers, but he needs to return to his form of two seasons ago. That's when Mbakwe led the Big Ten in rebounding. If he's not rusty, he's a double-double lock every game. -- J.B.
8. Jeff Withey, Kansas
I was voted down here. If I was making the list, Withey would be No. 5 overall. As it is, get ready for another huge season from a big white guy playing in Lawrence. -- Matt Norlander
9. C.J. Leslie, N.C. State
The Wolfpack have a lot of variables this year. Leslie is ridiculously talented. Will he take command and be the true leader for his team in every sense? Even if that doesn't happen, hard to imagine he won't be an upper-echelon big, as we've slotted him here. -- M.N.
10. Gorgui Dieng, Louisville
I mocked Louisville fans when he became eligible a couple years ago. Now I'm the one who looks like a moron. Dieng has developed into a stud on the defensive end, one of the elite shot-blockers in the nation. -- J.G.
11. Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee
Stokes left high school early, enrolled at Tennessee mid-semester last season and looked great immediately. He's strong and ready to post big SEC numbers. -- G.P.
12. Mason Plumlee, Duke
He would have been a first-round pick in the NBA Draft, but Plumlee returned for one more go-round in Durham. Put up good numbers last season, but has higher expectations for his senior season. Is he ready for the next step? -- J.B.
13. Chane Behanan, Louisville
If Behanan plays like he did in the NCAA tournament, Louisville has a great chance to live up to the preseason hype. The hard-working power forward averaged 13.2 points and 8.0 rebounds in five tourney contests. -- J.B.
14. Alex Poythress, Kentucky
There is some talk that Poythress could make the biggest impact of any of the Kentucky freshmen. With his inside-outside offensive ability and relentlessness on the backboards, that could end up being true. A truly superb talent. -- J.B.
15. Andre Roberson, Colorado
Future pro plays in a bit of obscurity out in Boulder. He'll be key in getting Colorado back to the NCAAs. Roberson is a double-double machine and rebound/defensive specialist. Can guard every position and is probalby the Pac-12's best defender. -- M.N.
16. Elias Harris, Gonzaga
I think we can all admit Harris has not turned out to be the player we expected, but that doesn't mean he's still not one of the better big men in the greater picture of college hoops. I'm actually expecting big things this year. Harris can score inside and out and will probably continue to facilitate both aspects of his offensive game on a Gonzaga team filled with talent.-- M.N.
17. Christian Watford, Indiana
I'm hearing things that he may finally fulfill that potential, but I'm still skeptical. He's got loads of talent, but he needs to display consistency -- and a high motor. Could be the key to the Hoosiers Final Four -- and even national title -- hopes. -- J.G.
18. Aaric Murray, West Virginia
Didn't mesh well at La Salle, but Bob Huggins has dealt with plenty of guys like Murray over his career: Talented, but needs to learn to bring it every possession. Should step in and fill production of Kevin Jones on the Mountaineers frontline. -- J.G.
19. Patric Young, Florida
I've dubbed him "Voltron," but it seems the machine only wants to fully form part of the time. Young is one of the most impressive off-the-bus players in the sport but he needs to find a mean streak and better hands if his play is to match his physique. -- M.N.
20. Alex Len, Maryland
The 7-foot-1 Ukrainian could be one of the biggest breakout players of the season. He has great athleticism for someone his size, and showed some flashes last season. The Terrapins will contend for an upper-division finish if Len lives up to the hype. -- J.B.
21. Isaiah Austin, Baylor
He's tough to figure. So long and athletic and talented, but how much will he actually produce in Waco? The NBA folks salivate over his skill-set and potential, but Scott Drew will have to find a way to get him to get things done rather than just look good in the layup lines. -- J.G.
22. Steven Adams, Pittsburgh
Adams has NBA types drooling, and he's ready to show his potential on a consistent basis. Will have to bring effort on a nightly basis in the Big East; if he does, Adams has the tools to make a major impact during his freshman season. -- J.B.
23. Anthony Bennett, UNLV
A sleeper candidate for Freshman of the Year, Bennett will get a chance to start immediately for Dave Rice. He is multi-skilled and can score in a variety of ways. Found ways to consistently improved his game during his high school career. -- J.B.
24. Jack Cooley, Notre Dame
Mike Brey is on record saying he's been amazed by the development and maturity Cooley has shown this preseason. If that's right, this might be low. -- G.P.
25. Brandon Davies, BYU
Davies is no longer just the guy who violated BYU's honor code and screwed up Jimmer's senior year. He's now one of the very best bigs in the country. -- G.P.
26. Reggie Johnson, Miami
Johnson will be healthy from Day 1, which will be different from last season. He'll be different -- and by different, I mean better -- than last season, too. -- G.P.
27. Jeronne Maymon, Tennessee
Maymon's presence here means Cuonzo Martin has two top-30 bigs. That's why he's going to the NCAA tournament. -- G.P.
28. Erik Murphy, Florida
Nearly left Gainesville due to a lack of playing time over his first two seasons, but the skilled four-man emerged last season. I dare you to find a better shooter his size in the country. -- J.G.
29. Brock Motum, Washington State
Name sounds like a superhero villain. He'll have to play like one in 2012-13, because Wazzu is depleted after all-league point guard Reggie Moore was kicked off the team a few weeks ago. Motum is a guarantee on the block, offensively, but needs a little more brut in his low-post D. -- M.N.
30. Jackie Carmichael, Illinois State
I saw Carmichael live last season at the MVC tournament. Loved him. He's a high-major talent at Illinois State. -- G.P.
31. Mike Muscala, Bucknell
Very impressive player from the Patriot League that you'll unfortunately not get to see enough of this season. Needs to put on some more weight but his willowy frame lends itself to his dynamic game. -- M.N.
32. Keith Clanton, Central Florida
Clanton's decision to the return to the Knights after exploring a transfer means Donnie Jones and co. will be a factor this season. He's a productive offensive player, but is better at absorbing contact and grabbing rebounds. Can he dominate? -- J.B.
33. Richard Howell, N.C. State
Wolfpack big man can run the floor and is a real problem for zone defenses. He'll not get a lot of headlines, but if there's a distinction between a star player and someone above being a glue guy, Howell's it. -- M.N.
34. Josh Smith, UCLA
If he can just lose weight. However, that's easier said than done. The skilled and rotund Bruins big man is now a junior and it hasn't happened yet. If it does, watch out. He is unstoppable deep in the post. -- M.N.
35. Alex Oriakhi, Missouri
Now that Jim Calhoun isn't yelling and screaming at the athletic big man, will he get back to what he was -- one of the top big men in the country. Frank Haith will make an effort to get Oriakhi the ball in the post, but even if he doesn't score much, he'll be a force on the defensive end. -- J.G.
36. Javon McCrea, Buffalo
I can see the future, and it says Javon McCrea will be the MAC Player of the Year after essentially carrying Buffalo to an above-.500 record. Bulls' big man packs a lot of power and needs to unleash it this season. -- M.N.
37. Adreian Payne, Michigan State
If the light comes on for Payne, he can be as good as almost any power forward in the nation. He's been blessed with so much raw talent, but it's all about confidence for Payne. He is long, athletic and skilled. Could emerge under Tom Izzo this year. -- J.G.
38. Laurence Bowers, Missouri
The Memphis native missed last season with an injury suffered in the preseason. But now he's back and healthy, and he could help the Tigers to an SEC title. -- G.P.
39. Zeke Marshall, Akron
One of the biggest recruits in MAC history, Marshall is still not yet completely played up to the hype. But I really like him. He can block shots at a great rate and stays at home, in the color, to be an effective scorer. - M.N.
40. Brandon Ashley, Arizona
Ashley is supremely talented, and has the ability to be an absolute matchup nightmare for opponents. He runs the floor with a purpose, and finishes effectively around the basket. Will he be the one Arizona freshman to break out this season? -- J.B.
41. Marshawn Powell, Arkansas
Hopefully Powell can pick up where he left off before suffering a knee injury last season. He hasn't been completely healthy since 2009-10, but has the potential to be an all-conference-caliber player if he can stay on the court. -- J.B.
42. Alec Brown, Green Bay
He's a 7-footer that few know about beyond the Horizon, but the NBA guys love his length and skill level. He averaged 13.8 points, 8.2 boards and 3.0 blocks per game last season and is still developing -- quickly. -- J.G.
43. Cameron Ridley, Texas
Don't be shocked if the Longhorns big man averages a double-double this season. There's a need for a legit center in Austin -- and Ridley knows what he is: a big, strong, low-post presence who doesn't stray away from the paint. -- J.G.
44. Kyle Wiltjer, Kentucky
Wiltjer is the only relevant holdover from last season's title team. He'll get major minutes this season and post nice numbers, particularly from the 3-point arc. -- G.P.
45. Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse
Fab Melo emerged last season. Now it's Christmas' turn. He may not be a big-time scorer, but he'll be a force in Jim Boeheim's 2-3 zone. And he'll score enough. -- J.G.
46. Khem Birch, UNLV
Which Khem Birch will show up in Vegas? The shot-blocking big man who can run the floor and makes plays in transition -- or the one who essentially walked out on his teammates at Pittsburgh? Could be a season-changer for the Rebels. -- J.B.
47. Jake Cohen, Davidson
Incredibly diverse big man who is European-like in the way he gets his game on. Will score on you from one foot away for 22. Great vision. The more I think about it, the more I realize college basketball's got no problem with big men if Cohen's listed all the way down here at 47. - M.N.
48. Tarik Black, Memphis
Black is good and still developing, but he really needs to rebound the ball better to prove he belongs on this list. He'll have that opportunity this season playing beside Shaq Goodwin. -- G.P.
49. Mouphtaou Yarou, Villanova
Yarou has improved slightly every season, but he's still more of a prospect than player. Jay Wright needs him to tap into that potential this season. -- G.P.
50. Grant Jerrett, Arizona
Arizona has no shortage of talented big men and Jarrett is one of them. He's skilled enough to shoot it from deep and score in the post. He's can also pass, rebound and just knows how to play. Those in Tucson will love him. -- J.G.

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