A solid frontcourt is a must-have component of a national championship team. Good rebounding gives a team second and third chances to score on offense and eliminates those chances on defense. Shot blocking can take the wind out of the opponents sail. Versatility is a must as is the ability to the run the floor. Scoring inside the paint adds another dimension when the shooters go cold. To sum it up, the men down low and on the wing are huge difference makers for their team, offensively and defensively. Watch for these five teams to be contenders in March because of their great frontcourt play:
1. North Carolina
The Tar Heels sport three well-proven frontcourt players: Tyler Hansbrough, Marcus Ginyard and Danny Green. All three return for their senior seasons and have secured roles in the Carolina offense with Hansbrough and Ginyard returning as starters. Junior power forward Deon Thompson is the wild card. He has the makings of one of the best 4/5 guys in the country, but has always been overshadowed by Hansbrough. He was fifth in the conference in blocks last season and will continue to be tested defensively & offensively as teams focus on the best player in the country. Five-star recruits Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller will also see time off the bench, and are the main reasons why Carolina is considered the deepest team in the country.
Many consider the tandem of junior Hasheem Thabeet and senior Jeff Adrien to be the best center-power forward combo in the country. Thabeet was head and shoulders above everyone else in the Big East with 4.5 blocks per game last season, good for second overall in the country. The tenacious Adrien was the perfect compliment to Thabeet, and top five in rebounds in the conference with 9.1 per game. The expulsion of much-hyped recruit Nate Miles was a blow, but the return of starter Stanley Robinson from academic problems in December will help. While Robinson sits, Gavin Edwards will be forced into extended minutes.
All of the Cardinals key losses in the off-season were forwards (Caracter, Padgett, and Palacios), yet this group is considered to be even better than last season's. The main reason why is top five recruit Samardo Samuels, who replaces longtime fan favorite David Padgett in the low-post. Samuels' expected impact in the Big East has already been acknowledged, as he's been tabbed as the conference's preseason co-Rookie of the Year. Samuels will join Earl Clark and Terrence Williams, two of the nation's most versatile forwards. Both could have declared for the NBA early but chose to stay at Louisville for their junior and senior seasons respectively. Clark can do it all and do it all well. The team's top rebounder also tied Williams as the Cards' top scorer (11.1 ppg).
4. Wake Forest
If you're looking for a young unit that is going to turn some heads this year, look no further than the Demon Deacons. Sophomore power forward James Johnson, a preseason candidate for the Wooden Award, is coming off a freshman season that saw him average 14.6 points and 8.1 rebounds a game. Junior and true center Chase McFarland ranked second in the ACC with 1.6 blocks per game. But the real focus is on Al-Farouq Aminu, the ACC Preseason Rookie of the Year, who is the most touted prospect the Deacons have had in more than a decade. The Deacons sport two other impact-freshmen in centers Tony Woods and Ty Walker. Walker is referred to on Wake's athletics site as, "one of the most prolific shot blockers ever to play high school basketball." Let's not get too nuts though. For coach Dino Gaudio, the biggest issue will be deciding how to split minutes among a number of talented frontcourt players.
DeJuan Blair will try to improve on a monstrous freshman season that saw him average a team-best 9.1 rebounds and 11.6 points per game. But the physical 6'7" Blair also led the team in steals with 62, earning him co-Big East Rookie of the Year honors. Senior Sam Young is the team's main scoring threat, however, and has finally emerged as a superstar for the Panthers. Both men are extremely athletic and are the backbone of the Panthers' defense. 6'8" senior Tyrell Biggs is expected to be a regular starter for the first time in his collegiate career. He will be a consistent role player who can eat up minutes and is capable of being a leader on a relatively young team.
Just missed the cut
Michigan State: Junior forward Raymar Morgan leads the best frontcourt in the Big Ten. Senior Marquise Gray finally gets his chance to breakout as a full-time starter, and highly touted Delvon Roe joins the mix.
Oklahoma: All-American sophomore Blake Griffin is the Sooners only returning starter in the frontcourt while a trio of junior college transfers, one UCLA transfer (Ryan Wright), and Griffin's brother Taylor, gives the unit an entirely new and improved look.
Notre Dame: Senior Zach Hillesland will take pressure off Big East Player of the Year Luke Harangody. Along with Luke Zeller, they'll try and make Fighting Irish faithful forget about the always-trusty Rob Kurz.
Arizona: It's the Chase Budinger show in Tucson, but 6'10" junior Jordan Hill can be counted on for at least ten points, seven rebounds, and a couple block shots a night.
Texas: Damion James could possibly be the best rebounder in the nation and is complimented perfectly by ever-improving senior Connor Atchley.