Mitch McGary's postseason run puts him near top of list
The SEC won’t be the nation’s best basketball league, but one thing’s for sure: It’s going to be tough to bang around in the paint.
The SEC is home to four of Athlon Sports’ top 10 post players for 2013-14 in our ongoing list of college basketball superlatives. Kentucky alone has two in freshman Julius Randle and sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein. Our top 10 does not include Florida’s Patric Young, who enters his final season with much to prove, but he’ll have plenty of opportunities to do so against Kentucky’s duo plus LSU’s Johnny O’Bryant III and Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes.
Meanwhile, the two teams that played for last year’s national title will hope two key players will take their postseason momentum into this season. Mitch McGary carried Michigan to the championship game, and Montrezl Harrell emerged late last season for the title-winning Cardinals.
Randle, though, is the second freshman to top one of our superlatives list with Kansas' Andrew Wiggins topping our countdown of the top 10 slashers.
Our list of the nation’s best post players players is the one in a series of superlatives to prepare you for the 2013-14 season. Each list and more can be found in the the Athlon Sports College Basketball 2013-14 Preseason Annual . The magazine hits newsstands this week with previews for every team in every conference, plus exclusive Q&As with Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, Louisville’s Russ Smith and UCLA’s Kyle Anderson.
|2013-14 Superlatives: Top Post Players|
|1.||Julius Randle, Kentucky|
Randle could give Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins a run for top freshman honors, though Randle may have a more complete supporting cast around him. John Calipari has described him as a “beast” who reminds him of the gritty Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
|2.||Mitch McGary, Michigan|
McGary was a revelation during the Wolverines’ run to the national championship game. Now, Michigan will see if those numbers can hold up through the course of a full season. With national player of the year Trey Burke gone, McGary will need to maintain his postseason form.
|3.||Johnny O’Bryant III, LSU|
O’Bryant will be one of the key cogs in what LSU hopes is its first NCAA Tournament team since 2009. O’Bryant was one of the SEC’s most dominant players in the paint on both ends of the court, averaging 13.6 points and 8.7 rebounds.
|4.||James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina|
McAdoo appeared destined for superstardom last season, but like North Carolina’s ACC aspirations, those hopes didn’t materialize. McAdoo put up respectable numbers (14.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg), but he shot only 44.5 percent from the floor. He’ll aim to improve his efficiency as a junior.
|5.||Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee|
Stokes battled through double teams last season to average 12.4 points and 9.6 rebounds, but the Volunteers forward improved down the stretch as he adjusted. He’s been one of the SEC’s elite players in the post, but the return of Jeronne Maymon may help him reach another level.
|6.||Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky|
Cauley-Stein flourished late in the season, even before the season-ending injury to Nerlens Noel. Cauley-Stein returned from a midseason injury to average 10.1 points and 7.1 rebounds in the final 12 games. He’ll be a defensive force for the Wildcats as a full-timer.
|7.||Isaiah Austin, Baylor|
Austin may have been disappointed that a shoulder injury prevented him from entering the NBA Draft after one season. If Austin plays with an edge, Baylor cold have one of the top frontcourts in the country.
|8.||Montrezl Harrell, Louisville|
Harrell was one of a handful of Cardinals who broke out during Louisville’s title run, starting with 20 points and seven rebound against Syracuse in the Big East tournament championship game. Louisville is moving him to center to replace Gorgui Dieng. Will it hold for the full season?
|9.||Alex Kirk, New Mexico|
Kirk returned from back surgery to be one of the keys of New Mexico’s Mountain West championship. The seven-footer averaged 12.1 points and 8.1 rebounds, but he was also a defensive force with 63 blocked shots.
|10.||Davante Gardner, Marquette|
Gardner slimmed down as a junior to become an imposing presence down low. Coming off the bench, he averaged 11.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in 21.5 minutes. His physical play pays off as he averaged 83.5 percent on five free throws per game.
Other Post Superlatives
Freshman to watch: Joel Embiid, Kansas
Most to prove: Patric Young, Florida
Returning from injury: Jeronne Maymon, Tennessee
Transfer to watch: Josh Smith, Georgetown (from UCLA)
Breakout to watch: Kaleb Tarczewski, Arizona
Mid-major star: Augustine Rubit, South Alabama