November 13, 2007

Mailbag: Ranking the frontcourts

Andrew Skwara is a national college basketball writer for Rivals.com. He will answer your questions every week in his College Hoops Mailbag.

Ask college basketball experts about the nation's top big man, and UNC's Tyler Hansbrough will be a popular answer.

But is the nation's best frontcourt player part of the nation's top frontcourt? Hansbrough lost his main sidekick when power forward Brandan Wright left school early and was taken with the No. 8 pick in the NBA Draft.

We pinpoint the top frontcourts in college basketball, explain why Gardner-Webb was ranked so low in our preseason rankings, put together a preseason mid-major All-American team and explain why Oregon's Bryce Taylor was left off our preseason All-Pac-10 team in this week's mailbag.

ANDREW'S MAILBAG

Fine frontcourts

What teams have the best frontcourts?

-- Gary Mantango from Dix Hills, N.Y.
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I'd give UCLA the slight edge over North Carolina at No. 1.

The Bruins don't have anyone as dominating as Tyler Hansbrough, but 6-foot-10 freshman Kevin Love is a budding star. He had 22 points and 13 rebounds in his debut last week against Portland State. A tremendous rebounder who loves to bang around the basket, Love is a good outside shooter and an extraordinary outlet passer.

Love is surrounded by a deep and far more experienced supporting cast than Hansbrough. Veterans Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Lorenzo Mata-Real and Alfred Aboya have played valuable roles on teams that won deep into the NCAA Tournament. Mbah a Moute can play multiple positions and is quick enough to guard just about anyone other than a point guard. Mata-Real (who changed his name before the season began) and Aboya are solid rebounders and defenders. Plus, when James Keefe returns from a shoulder injury (he probably will be back in early December), the Bruins will have another body to utilize on the inside.

The rest of my top 10, in order, would be Georgetown, Kansas State, North Carolina State, Texas A&M, Louisville, Oregon, Arkansas and Connecticut.

The Hoyas have more than just 7-2 center Roy Hibbert. I believe sophomore forward DaJuan Summers also could wind up being a lottery pick. He has a game similar to former star Jeff Green, the No. 5 pick in the 2007 draft. K-State will dominate the boards with the combination of Michael Beasley (Rivals.com's No.1 prospect from the 2007 class), Bill Walker (five-star recruit) and veteran David Hoskins.

Andrew's all mid-major team

Yo, Andrew, how about some mid-major love? Who would make your mid-major All-American team?

-- Doug from Carbondale, Ill.
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Picking out the guards definitely is the hardest part. I've got Xavier's Drew Lavender, Davidson's Stephen Curry and Nevada's Marcelus Kemp. That leaves off guys such as Butler's Mike Green and A.J. Graves and Virginia Commonwealth's Eric Maynor. All three rank among the best in the nation at their positions.

I'm a big Lavender fan. He is a great distributor who makes few mistakes and also can go on big scoring tears himself. Curry is an incredible outside shooter. In fact, Tennessee's Chris Lofton may be the only player in college basketball better from behind the 3-point line.

I'd also take a pair of big men: UNC-Greensboro's Kyle Hines and Gonzaga's Josh Heytvelt (who is sidelined with a foot injury).

I'm sure Georgia Tech fans won't argue about Hines, the Southern Conference's reigning player of the year scored 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the Spartans' 83-74 upset of the Jackets on Friday.

Under-rated?

I see you have Gardner-Webb ranked at No. 300! How much research did you put into that ranking?

-- Mo Dickens from Kansas City, Mo.
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We have taken a lot of heat for placing Gardner-Webb so low in our preseason ranking of the 340 Division I schools, but I stand by it.

Gardner-Webb won just nine games last season, and there was little reason to believe it would be much better. Only two of the Bulldogs' top five scorers are back.

Sure, maybe we have the Atlantic Sun schools a little too low, but the Bulldogs didn't suddenly transform into a top-25 team in the offseason. They benefited heavily from playing a young team in just their second game with a new coach.

I'd be shocked if Gardner-Webb comes anywhere near winning the A-Sun's regular-season title.

Room for one more?

I think you forgot about Bryce Taylor of Oregon. Why wasn't he on your preseason All Pac-10 team? He will be first or second team and maybe a first-round pick.

-- Larry Hubbard
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There simply wasn't enough room.

California's Ryan Anderson ranked in the top five in the league in scoring and rebounding last season (he was the only player to do so), but wasn't one of the 10 players we selected. Neither was Cal center DeVon Hardin, a possible first-round pick.

We would like to have included Love (who was No. 4 in our list of the nation's top 10 impact freshman), too. You could even make a case for another Oregon player. Malik Hairston ranked among the league's top scorers before dealing with some nagging injuries last season.

No conference is as deep or has a collection of better players than the Pac-10. That translates into a lot of snubs when you put together a preseason all-conference team.

Andrew Skwara is the national college basketball writer for Rivals.com. Click here to send him a question or comment for his Mailbag.




 

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