Big men are making a comeback in college basketball this season. For years, guard play and versatile wings grabbed the headlines across the nation. This season, though, we have seen the re-emergence of big men controlling things in the paint. A dominant post presence can alter a game on both ends of the court. Scoring at the rim and demanding double teams often frees up teammates for open looks and can dictate an opponent’s game plan. On the other end, rim protection and rebounding can solidify a team’s defense. Guards can be more aggressive in pressuring the ball when they know they have a shot eraser behind them.
College Basketball Seniors Providing Post Presence
The Baby Bigs
As is the case over the last few years, the star freshmen seem to get most of the hype and praise because of their NBA potential. There are a handful of extremely talented freshmen big men whom will no doubt be high drafts picks in the summer. There is Duke’s pairing of Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr., both of whom are putting up massive numbers on a nightly basis. DeAndre Ayton of Arizona is drawing comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson because of his unique combination of size and skill. Mohamed Bamba of Texas is averaging a double-double and nearly five blocks per game. The current production and long-term potential of these star freshmen certainly warrants all the attention they garner. However, there are some seniors whose post presence cannot be overlooked.
Angel Delgado – Seton Hall Pirates
14.4 points, 11.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists per game
Angel Delgado has been a double-double machine in his time at Seton Hall. Added depth in the Pirates’ front-court has caused his numbers to dip slightly this season, but he is still a major post presence. His hands and footwork immediately stand out when watching him play. The 6’10” senior swallows up rebounds on both ends of the floor and is sure-handed when his teammates pass him the ball. His strong frame allows him to absorb contact and still finish consistently around the rim. Delgado also possess good vision and passing ability when teams try to double team him in the post. For his career, he has 1,374 points and 1,252 rebounds.
Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. – Baylor Bears
15.8 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.2 blocks per game
Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. is having a standout season in Waco for the Bears. He already had a game with 31 points and 20 rebounds, and he has eight double-doubles on the season. The seven-footer from Melbourne, Australia, has developed into quite a shot blocker in his time at Baylor. He has 120 blocks in 51 career games, making him a legitimate defensive presence. Lual-Acuil Jr. has also expanded his game on the offensive end. He is a 33 percent shooter from beyond the arc, making him dangerous in the pick-and-pop offense. His best spot is the top of the key, and his size makes contesting his shot difficult. He also uses his length to attack the rim and runs the floor well in transition.
Johnathan Williams – Gonzaga Bulldogs
14.5 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.1 BPG
Johnathan Williams was an integral part of Gonzaga’s first ever Final Four trip last season. The 6’9” lefty is coming off a 30-point, 11-rebound performance in a win over Loyola Marymount last weekend. Williams’ length and athleticism allow him to be a factor on both ends of the court. He finishes well around the rim and can step out and make jumpers when needed. His quick hands and leaping ability make him a force blocking shots and deflecting passes. Williams had a career-high 39 points in an overtime loss to Florida on Nov. 24. He has a varied offensive skill set, with the ability to post up and attack on the dribble drive.
Yante Maten – Georgia Bulldogs
19.3 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 1.2 BPG
This senior from Pontiac, MI, has added a little more to his game each off-season. Now, Yante Maten is performing at an All-American level and should make a good case for SEC Player of the Year. The 6’9”, 240-pound forward has averaged over 16.5 points in each of the last three seasons. His game has expanded from an offensive rebounder with good post presence, to a great post scorer with developing range, to a legitimate star player. He can score from almost anywhere. His strength and footwork make him a match-up nightmare in the paint, and he has increased his range each season in Athens. Whether he is in the pick-and-pop role or trailing on the fast break, Maten’s three-pointer from the top of the key has become a dangerous weapon.
Isaac Haas – Purdue Boilermakers
14.8 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.2 BPG
Isaac Haas towers over everyone on the court. Even in basketball, where seven-footers can be a common sight, Haas is the biggest man on the court. It’s not just his height, but his overall size, as his broad shoulders make him tough to move. Haas is also exceptionally light on his feet for a man a large as he is (7’2″, 297 pounds). His footwork and agility stand out because it is so unusual seeing a man of his size move the way he does. The big man has nice touch as well, evident by his 78 percent shooting from the foul line. He sank the game-winning free throw to beat Michigan earlier this week. Haas is a constant post presence for Purdue, and one of the main reasons that the Boilermakers have climbed to No. 5 in the country.
These seniors will try to carry their teams on their broad shoulders as conference play heats up. Everyone knows how important guard play is in March, but having a dominant post presence can make life easier on everyone else. Having an experienced big man protecting the paint, securing rebounds, and scoring in the post eases the burden on everyone else.
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