College Basketball Preview: Top 10 frontcourts in the country

With Julius Randle (center) and Willie Cauley-Stein (right) leading the way, UK is loaded up front. (USATSI)
With Julius Randle (center) and Willie Cauley-Stein (right) leading the way, Kentucky is loaded up front. (USATSI)

More College Basketball: Season preview | Top 25 (And One) | Conference predictions

While college basketball is indeed a guard’s game these days, teams can’t be one-dimensional and get to the Final Four. Just look at last season’s title game. Russ Smith and Peyton Siva led Louisville, but Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan came up big when it mattered. Michigan had Trey Burke, but didn’t make its championship game run without Mitch McGary’s NCAA tournament performances.

On Thursday, we looked at the best backcourts in the country. Now it’s time to break down the nation’s top frontcourts. Remember, our backcourt rankings didn’t include small forwards and other perimeter-based frontcourt guys – so you’ll see the Jabari Parkers and Andrews Wigginses (Wigginses?) and Rodney Hoods over here.

1. Kentucky

Players: Julius Randle, Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, Derek Willis

Comment: With possibly five future first-round picks in this lot, it’s tough to pick against the Wildcats. Randle is an All-American, while Cauley-Stein is ready to become a dominant big man. Poythress and Johnson could be huge assets if they buy into being role players.

2. Kansas

Players: Andrew Wiggins, Perry Ellis, Joel Embiid, Tarik Black, Jamari Traylor, Landen Lucas

Comment: By the end of the year, this could be the best group in the land. We’ve talked enough about Wiggins, and Ellis might be the No. 1 breakout player in the country. Throw in lottery pick Embiid and experience with Black, and Bill Self has all the ingredients for a stud frontcourt.

3. Arizona

Players: Aaron Gordon, Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Matt Korcheck

Comment: If Grant Jerrett had not transferred, this group would be in the mix for No. 1. As it stands, the Wildcats will have to settle for No. 3. Gordon is a matchup nightmare, and Ashley and Tarczewski will battle to see who can be a bigger breakout star. Hollis-Jefferson is fun to watch.

4. Duke

Players: Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, Amile Jefferson, Josh Hairston, Semi Ojeleye, Alex Murphy, Marshall Plumlee

Comment: The Blue Devils might play four perimeter players most of the time, but with Hood and Parker representing the frontcourt, they won’t be missing anything in the paint. Those two could be All-Americans by the end of the year, while Jefferson leads a rotation of post players.

5. Michigan

Players: Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, Jordan Morgan, Jon Horford, Mark Donnal

Comment: It obviously starts with McGary and Robinson, two players who could have gone to the NBA last spring and been first-round draft picks. Can Robinson III be a full-time small forward? Can McGary be consistent? If the answer is “yes” to both, the Wolverines are loaded up front.

6. Baylor

Players: Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson, Royce O’Neale, Ricardo Gathers, Ishmail Wainright, Taurean Prince

Comment: In terms of pure talent and depth, this ranking might be a bit low in a few months. Austin and Jefferson were both ranked among our top 40 players, and both players could be better this year. Getting O’Neale cleared to play immediately was a huge coup for the Bears.

7. Louisville

Players: Luke Hancock, Wayne Blackshear, Chane Behanan, Montrezl Harrell, Stephan Van Treese, Mangok Mathiang

Comment: Obviously, this ranking hinges on whether Behanan is available for the majority of the season. If he comes back in December, it will be entirely justified. If not, well, the Cardinals could struggle down low. Harrell is ready for a big season, while Hancock and Blackshear form a terrific wing duo.

8. Syracuse

Players: C.J. Fair, Jerami Grant, Rakeem Christmas, Baye Keita, DaJuan Coleman, Tyler Roberson

Comment: There’s an All-American candidate in Fair, a breakout prospect in Grant – and tons and tons of depth. That’s certainly a recipe to be one of the 10 best frontcourts in the country. Jim Boeheim will need one of the returning big men to step up, but Roberson will contribute too.

9. Florida

Players: Patric Young, Dorian Finney-Smith, Will Yeguete, Damontre Harris, Chris Walker

Comment: There are plenty of questions about Florida’s roster heading into the year, but this group at full strength could be top five in terms of talent. We know what we’re getting with Young, but Finney-Smith and Harris are quality transfers. Getting Walker at the semester break could be huge.

10. Virginia

Players: Justin Anderson, Akil Mitchell, Mike Tobey, Anthony Gill, Evan Nolte, Darion Atkins

Comment: This one might be under-the-radar, but I’m huge on the Cavaliers’ bandwagon this season. Tobey is ready for a huge year, Gill could be a pro, while Anderson and Mitchell were both very good a season ago. Nolte and Atkins provide terrific depth for Tony Bennett.

Others: Tennessee, New Mexico, Michigan State, Marquette, Iowa, Colorado, UCLA, North Carolina

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