Top Pac-10 frontcourts

Now that the guard play has been discussed, it's time to move closer to the hoop and talk about the best big men. Generally speaking, up front is where the Pac-10 suffered their biggest losses; the departures of the Lopez twins, Kevin Love and Ryan Anderson will definitely be felt this year.

In their absence, the experience and depth of Washington's front court should help them as they try and compete for a league crown

1) Washington. For the Huskies, it begins and ends with bruising All America candidate, Jon Brockman. Brockman averaged 17.8 points and 11.6 rebounds a game last season – numbers that should only improve against a smaller Pac-10 conference. Forward Quincy Pondexter holds one of the keys to unlocking the Huskies potential, spending the offseason in the weight room in anticipation of becoming a focal point of the offense. The Huskies should see a significant boost with Mathew Bryan-Amaning, the 6-foot-9 post from London. Amaning is exceptionally talented with a multitude of moves down low, as his 41-point outburst against the Czech Republic at the European U20 championships demonstrated, and he should thrive in the carnage created by Brockman. Last year's starter, Artem Wallace is a physical brute and will provide the Huskies with an experienced post rotation. Athletic redshirt freshman Darnell Gant and 7-footer Joe Wolfinger - the team's best three point shooter - add depth and match-up versatility. But all of that depth and talent will go for naught if they can't improve on their miserable free throw shooting. Between the five, their combined FT average was .517 (202-390)

2) USC. Taj Gibson is one of the most talented forwards in the country and his skills will be front and center now that OJ Mayo is gone. The 6-foot-9 junior forward took a back seat to Mayo and the Trojans' perimeter-focused offense last season, but will now assume a more central role as one of the team's primary scorers. The Trojans' biggest impact newcomer has yet to be approved to play this season; North Carolina transfer Alex Stepheson spent two seasons in Chapel Hill backing up Tyler Hansbrough, deciding to transfer home to be closer to an ailing family member. He will make his presence felt immediately if he is declared eligible for this upcoming season. Several talented but relatively unknown players are expected to make their mark on the Trojans' post rotation as well. 7-foot center Mamadou Diarra, now recovered from a nagging hernia injury that cost him most of his freshman season, will see significant time in the post. Leonard Washington is a versatile forward in the vein of Davon Jefferson and will give the Trojans a big lift from the bench as long as he can avoid injury. 6-foot-10 Serbian Nikola Vucevic is just 17, but will bring a highly-polished European flavor to the team. Sophomore Kasey Cunningham showed significant potential, averaging 15 minutes a game before being felled by a knee injury last season.

3) Arizona. The Wildcats' strength will be up front this upcoming season. Chase Budinger will be the focal point of the offense and can score from anywhere on the court, but must adjust to his new leadership role. Big things are expected of junior Jordan Hill, who should see sizeable increases on his 13.2 points and 7.9 rebounds a game average, provided he can avoid foul trouble. Forward Jamelle Horne struggled to click last year with Kevin O'Neal's slower offense and should show significant improvement as the Wildcats return to Lute Olson's up-tempo style of play. Skilled 6-foot-10 freshman Jeff Withey will see plenty of minutes in the post, though his impact will be limited until he toughens up and dedicates significant time to the weight room. Redshirt freshmen Alex Jacobsen will also provide some much-needed depth.

4) Arizona State. The Sun Devils success this season basically boils down to two players and forward Jeff Pendergraph is one them. The 6-foot-10 post from California is a reliable double-double threat every night, maintaining a constant defensive presence while patrolling the paint. Pendergraph's achilles' heel is that he can also be counted on to play most of the second half in foul trouble, something he'll need to work on if Arizona State is to find its way into the upper echelon of Pac-10 teams. Duke transfer Eric Boateng never got comfortable in his first season under Herb Sendek, and the Sun Devils are expecting the former McDonald's All American to ease some of the pressure put on Pendergraph. It is hoped that off guard Rihards Kuksiks will become more comfortable around the basket and add much-needed depth to a front court that offers few reliable alternatives to Pendergraph and Boateng.

5) Washington State. Aron Baynes is one of the toughest big men in the country. He's strong as an ox and at 6-foot-10 and 275 pounds is an immovable object in the post. He's also surprisingly skilled with soft hands around the basket, but the Australia native also has a temper, and to take his game to the next level he will need to eliminate his penchant for reactive fouls. Daven Harmeling is a potent three-point shooter who should start next to Baynes. Though limited athletically, Harmeling's job will be to drag his defender outside with his range, thus keeping opponents from doubling down on Baynes. Senior forward Caleb Forrest will play a similar role as Harmeling. The Cougars will also debut 6-foot-11 German center Fabian Boeke, a skilled post who missed last season due to NCAA ineligibility rules regarding his participation in a couple of pro games in his home country. Spokane native and Washington State Prep Player of the Year DeAngelo Casto brings his athletic game to the Cougars and will add insurance off the bench.

6) UCLA. If it's surprising to see UCLA ranked this low, it's not for lack of talent. After losing the finest post player in the country in Kevin Love, the team's best defender Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and team workhorse Lorenzo Mata-Real, the Bruins' frontcourt is woefully short on inexperience. And unfortunately for the UCLA faithful, there isn't a Kevin Love waiting in the wings in this year's freshmen class. Senior Alfred Aboya is a role player who averaged 15 minutes per game last season and returns to the Bruins as their most experienced post. Junior forward James Keefe will see his role expand as much as anyone on the Bruins' roster for the coming season. Keefe showed occasional glimpses of why he was named a McDonald's All American, including an 18-point, 12-rebound performance against Western Kentucky in the NCAA tournament, but otherwise was inconsistent at best last year. Two freshmen, J'mison Morgan and Drew Gordon, are raw but ooze potential and will likely see their roles grow throughout the course of the season as they adjust to life at the college level, though expectations for a breakout season are a year away.

7) Stanford. No team was hit harder by NBA defections than the Stanford Cardinal, and the departure of Brook and Robin Lopez leaves the Cardinal painfully undermanned beyond senior Lawrence Hill. Hill took a step backwards last year, deferring to the Lopez twins, averaging just 8.6 points and 4.8 rebounds a game. That isn't the real Lawrence Hill. A return to the 15.7 and 6 rebounds a game of his sophomore year is to be expected. Hill at his best is an asset anywhere on the court. A 40 percent three-point shooter who is just as at home on the perimeter as well as under the basket, the 6-foot-8, Glendale, Ariz. native is one of the more versatile players in the conference, and will demand Ryan Anderson-like attention from defenders. After Hill things go south pretty quickly. Josh Owens is another versatile post who was relegated to garbage time behind the twins. He's an athletic scorer with a solid mid-range game and will immediately be thrown into the fire. Will Paul and Elliott Bullock are young players that will both see time off the bench.

8) Oregon. The Ducks' hopes lie in the future, as this season promises to be filled with ups and downs. Lost in the frontcourt were four-year stalwarts Maarty Leunen and Malik Hairston, as well as verteran contributors Mitch Platt and Ray Schafer. Chicago native Michael Dunigan arrives to much fanfare as a raw but explosively athletic center in the mold of Shawn Kemp and will start immediately. He will be flanked by undersized forward Joevan Catron, who silenced critics with his quiet efficiency despite being vertically challenged for a center (listed at 6-foot-6, but closer to 6-foot-4). Senior Frantz Dorsainvil is a tank down low (6-7, 270) and freshmen Josh Crittle and Drew Wiley will provide depth to a team that often ran four-guard sets last season and will likely do so again during their 2008-09 campaign.

9) Oregon State. The good news is that most of the malcontents who unraveled during the Beavers' season last year were thrown out with the wash during OSU's spring and summer housecleaning. The bad news is that their departures have left the Beavers undermanned in the post for the coming year. Junior G/F Seth Tarver and sophomore forward Omari Johnson are the most talented of the bunch and should continue to blossom with increased playing time. Roeland Schaftenaar is a prototypical Euro-post who has disappointed during his first two seasons, lacking the toughness or determination to bang underneath. Junior Calvin Hampton and Utah transfer Daniel Deane round out the Beavers' frontcourt rotation.

10) California. Ryan Anderson is gone, and there's no way to sugarcoat his loss. He was the conference's most outstanding offensive force and his departure leaves a gaping hole in the Bears' lineup; one made worse by the graduation of oft-injured Devon Hardin - the team's most disruptive defensive presence - and solid journeyman forward Eric Vierneisel. That leaves Jordan Wilkes, Jamal Boykin and Harper Kamp as the team's only experienced post options. Wilkes hasn't evolved beyond his height but could play a role if he makes a dramatic leap forward during the offseason. Boykin and Kamp both stand on the losing end of 6-foot-8. Help could come in the re-emergence of 6-foot-6 forward Theo Robertson, an exceptional athlete recovering from a hip surgery after missing all of last season. Forward Omondi Amoke and 7-foot-2 Max Zhang - the tallest player in California basketball history - redshirted in 2007.


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