For the past few years, the conventional wisdom in college basketball has been that 3-point shooting is the new hotness and anybody playing a traditional lineup with a power forward and a center was hopelessly behind the times and would inevitably succumb to the stats.
Which should make this an interesting season, because the Top 25 is absolutely dripping with quality big men.
This even applies to schools like No. 7 Wichita State (which added a 7-footer this year), No. 23 Seton Hall (three rotation players between 6-10 and 7-2), and No. 22 St. Marys (added a 7-1 freshman to go with 6-11 star Jock Landale).
The best ones, naturally, have mostly ended up on the best teams. No. 1 Duke signed two big men — Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter — who were ranked in the top 10 of the 2017 class. No. 2 Michigan State got one (6-10 Jaren Jackson, Jr.), No. 3 Arizona got 7-1 DeAndre Ayton. And Texas, though not ranked, deserves mention for landing 7-footer Mohamed Bamba, who was fourth in the class, according to Rivals.com. No. 4 Kansas signed the No. 11 player, 6-10 power forward Billy Preston, but the real big man on campus is 7-0, 280-pound sophomore Udoka Azabuike, who missed most of last season with an injury.
No. 10 USC’s Bennie Boatwright (6-10) and Chimezie Metu (6-11) combined to average 30 points and 12 rebounds last year. No. 24 Baylor has two 7-footers, Jo Lual-Acuil, Jr. and Leonard Allen, to plug into Scott Drew’s zone defense. No. 21 UCLA has a senior 7-footer, Thomas Welsh, who averaged 11 and 9 last year. No. 25 Texas A&M has two 6-10 guys — Tyler Davis and Robert Williams — that averaged a combined 26 points and 15 rebounds last year. And then there’s No. 20 Purdue, which has 7-2 Isaac Haas and 7-3 Matt Haarms, a freshman from Amsterdam, plus 6-10 Jacquil Taylor.
So if you’re not a fan of one of those teams, you might as well start looking ahead to spring football.
That’s a joke, but this is a year in which anybody hoping to compete for a conference or national title is in all likelihood going to run up against multiple quality traditional big men.
I hope it’s obvious that I’m not saying a smallball team can’t win the national championship this year. Some of the teams I’ve already mentioned will still be playing with four-guard lineups much or most of the time. Duke’s best player is still guard Grayson Allen. Kansas’ best player is still guard Devote Graham (until further notice). Wichita State is not about to become 1980s Georgetown. It’s just that whoever does win the title will probably have had to figure out a way to handle a series of big, talented front courts.
And for basketball fans aching to see some good post battles again, this college basketball season might be for you.