In order to win a championship, everyone thinks guard play is necessary. That is true, but a team won't win without a solid frontcourt. If you have a post player that will get you a basket with the clock winding down, it gives you an advantage over smaller, guard-laden clubs. Rebounding and defensive stops down low will come easier if you have a good group of players in the paint. The best backcourts in the country will falter early in March without a solid duo or trio on the baseline. Who has the best frontcourts headed into the season? Starters in italics
1. North Carolina (Ed Davis, Deon Thompson, John Henson, David Wear, Travis Wear, Tyler Zeller): Despite losing two starters from the previous group, the Tar Heels have the best frontcourt in the country for the second season in a row. Davis is going to be a star, while Henson leads a talented group of freshmen ready to make an impact. This group is outrageously big and deep.
2. Texas (Damion James, Jordan Hamilton, Dexter Pittman, Gary Johnson, Alexis Wangmene, Shawn Williams): Another deep and talented group that could have difficulty divvying up minutes. James and Hamilton might be the most difficult forward tandem forward to defend, while Pittman is a monster down low with his size.
3. Kentucky (DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Daniel Orton, Perry Stevenson): Again, the Wildcats will have to depend heavily on newcomers. Cousins and Orton were both five-star recruits, with Cousins ready to make an immediate impact. Oh, and Patterson is arguably the best power forward in the country.
4. West Virginia (Da'Sean Butler, Devin Ebanks, Wellington Smith, Kevin Jones, John Flowers, Dan Jennings, Deniz Kilici): Butler and Ebanks are arguably the best frontcourt duo in the country, with capable of huge games on any given night. The Mountaineers also have plenty of capable role players.
5. Purdue (Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson, Patrick Bade, Sandi Marcius): The Boilermakers don't have the deepest frontcourt around, but Hummel and Johnson are second to none as a tandem. If Hummel stays healthy and Johnson improves his rebounding, the Boilermakers will be tough.
6. Kansas (Cole Aldrich, Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Thomas Robinson, Jeff Withey): If you switch freshman phenom Xavier Henry to the frontcourt, this group is even higher. As it stands, Aldrich is the best center in the country and the Morris twins are solid. Thomas Robinson is a versatile freshman and Withey came over from Arizona.
7. Georgia Tech (Gani Lawal, Derrick Favors, Zach Peacock, Daniel Miller): The Lawal-Favors duo is the key to getting the Yellow Jackets back to the NCAA Tournament. Lawal is a 15-10 lock every night out, while Favors could be the best freshman big man coming into college basketball. Both are capable of dominating.
8. Butler (Matt Howard, Gordon Hayward, Willie Veasley, Avery Jukes): One of the few mid-majors who will rely on their frontcourt play, Butler boasts two of the best players in the country at their respective positions in Howard and Hayward. Veasley is undersized but always seems to produce.
9. Tennessee (Tyler Smith, Wayne Chism, Brian Williams, Royce Woolridge, Kenny Hall): The Volunteers might be a couple of spots higher if not for Emmanuel Negedu's season -- and possible career -- ending heart problem. Smith is a versatile forward and Chism is an inside-outside option down low.
10. Mississippi State (Jarvis Varnado, Renardo Sidney, John Riek, Kodi Augustus, Romero Osby): If Sidney is cleared to play and Riek is ever healthy enough to play, this group could be scary good. Varnado is the best interior defender in the country, and is improving everyday offensively. Varnado and Sidney would be dominant down low.
11. Syracuse (Arinze Onuaku, Kris Joseph, Wesley Johnson, Rick Jackson, Mookie Jones): One of very few teams to have a player ranked at each frontcourt position, the Orange are versatile and talented up front. Iowa State transfer Johnson has plenty of hype to live up to, and Onuaku and Jackson are good down low.
12. Vanderbilt (Jeffery Taylor, A.J. Ogilvy, Lance Goulbourne, Festus Ezeli, Andre Walker, Darshawn McClellan, Steve Tchiengang): An underrated group, Taylor and Ogilvy are an excellent tandem. Goulbourne leads a host of role players who will all see playing time and will all contribute significantly throughout the season.
Others to Watch:
Duke: Kyle Singler will have to move to the three to make room for freshmen Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee.
Connecticut: The Huskies will have to rely on newcomers, but returnee Stanley Robinson is primed for a huge year as the go-to-guy.
Florida State: If Chris Singleton and Solomon Alabi progress as expected, the Seminoles could have an outstanding frontcourt.
UCLA: The Bruins are young but talented up front. Nikola Dragovic is the only returnee who saw significant time a year ago.
Minnesota: Freshmen studs Royce White and Rodney Williams join a deep and talented Golden Gophers frontcourt.
Michigan State: Raymar Morgan is tough to defend, while Delvon Roe has talent and Draymond Green came on strong late.
Clemson: Trevor Booker is one of the most productive big men around, but freshman Milton Jennings has people excited.
Wake Forest: Based purely on talent, this group would be higher. Al-Farouq Aminu and Chas McFarland lead the way up front.
Illinois: Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale form one of the more underrated big men duos in the Big Ten, and in the country.
Louisville: Samardo Samuels and Terrence Jennings need to take big strides forward as sophomores if the Cardinals are to be successful.
Florida: Alex Tyus and Dan Werner lead a deep group that will be bolstered by Georgetown transfer Vernon Macklin and several freshmen.
Radford: A very deep sleeper. Art Parakhouski is a beast down low, while Joey Lynch-Flohr is productive. Lazar Trifunovic adds size.