Burlison says Cards duo one of nation's best

Assuming they recover from foot injuries, David Padgett and Juan Palacios will give Louisville coach Rick Pitino a formidable inside presence. But which teams could have even better post combinations than the Cardinals? If you follow college hoops closely at all, you should already have a pretty good notion.

David Padgett and Juan Palacios will make up one of the most effective 1-2 post punches in college basketball.

They will, that is, assuming they're both healthy before too deep into Louisville's 2005-06 season.

Padgett suffered a broken bone in his right foot during an on-campus pickup game Monday and the Kansas transfer, who red-shirted last season, is expected to be sidelined for six-to-eight weeks.

Palacios hit the injured list first when his right foot (must be contagious) was banged up in a pickup game in mid-July and he isn't expected to return to active duty until November.

When healthy and functioning as a unit, Padgett and Palacios will give Coach Rick Pitino the most skilled, and effective, pair of post players he's had at Louisville, and a combo that will rival the best of those he had when he was coaching in Lexington.

Each of the players can operate just as effectively from the high post or along the baseline as he can from the low post.

I rate the Padgett-Palacios pairing as the fourth best set of posts this season.

Who makes up the remainder of my top half-dozen? Here goes:

6. J.P. Batista and Sean Mallon (Gonzaga): Coach Mark Few has the best collection of post talent of any program in the West. With the departure of Ronny Turiaf, Batista and Mallon are both capable of being all-West Coast Conference selections in March.

But red-shirt freshman Josh Heytvelt, a teammate of Atlanta Hawks rookie Marvin Williams for a couple of memorable springs and summers on the Seattle Rotary traveling team and now listed at 6-foot-11, 217 pounds by the school, could end up cutting into Batista and Mallon's minutes before too long.

And, should Few elect to slide All-America wing Adam Morrison inside for a stretch, how many post guys on the college level can check him straight up?

5. Brad Buckman and LaMarcus Aldridge (Texas): The latter didn't even scuff his potential in a freshman season (9.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game) that was limited to 16 games because of a hip injury. "Upside" is the most overused word (not "misused"; just overused; "character" is the most misused word) in basketball today. But his talent reservoir runs deep.

Buckman (12.5 ppg and 8.3 rpg) is among the most underappreciated seniors in the country. As is the case with Gonzaga and Morrison, Texas has another power source inside when forward P.J. Tucker positions himself into either post spot.

3. Chuck Davis and Jermareo Davidson (Alabama): If Coach Mark Gottfried can find enough perimeter offense to keep opposing defenses from collapsing within a 12-foot radius of the rim, the Crimson Tide should pack much offensive punch in the lane and along the baseline.

Davis is as sound a low-post player as there is in the Southeastern Conference and Davidson came very close to staying in the NBA draft pool last spring.

That being said . . . will Richard Hendrix, the most heavily recruited freshman in the SEC, ultimately snag as much time on the floor as Davis and Davidson?

2. Josh Boone and Hilton Armstrong (Connecticut): Options, options . . . they are seemingly endless for Jim Calhoun when it will come to doling out playing time in the post this season.

Boone (12.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg and 2.9 blocks per game) will get 30-plus minutes per game – that's a given. We'll give the long and fluid Armstrong the slight edge for a starting nod right now. But one-time ACC Rookie of the Year Ed Nelson could also wrestle his way into the lineup and a freshman, Jeff Adrien, may be the most underrated newcomer in the Big East.

Of course, Calhoun also has another option: Moving sophomore Rudy Gay from a wing into a post position, with Boone, gives the Huskies an inside combo second to none . . . including the duo we're tabbing No. 1.

1. Shelden Williams and Josh McRoberts (Duke): If the Blue Devils don't return to the Final Four this spring, don't look for much or any blame to fall on these fellows' shoulders.

A strong summer, both with USA Basketball in Turkey and as a counselor at the Nike All-America Camp in Indianapolis, enhanced Williams' already considerable status as a national Player of the Year frontrunner.

And McRoberts would have likely joined fellow McDonald's All-Americas Martell Webster and Andrew Bynum as lottery selections in the NBA draft if he had elected to bypass his freshman season in Durham.

An April inductee into the USBWA Hall of Fame, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's National Basketball Expert and is also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at frank.burlison@presstelegram.com. Read more of Burlison's pieces at www.FrankHoops.com


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