1. Harrison Barnes, UNC
The best player in the nation might just be Barnes, the 6-foot-8 small forward who decided to come back to Chapel Hill despite the fact that he would have been a surefire lottery pick in the NBA Draft. He averaged 15.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, but really came on at season's end, dropping 40 on Clemson in the ACC tournament, then hitting clutch shots in NCAA Tournament play. Paired with the big bodies of Tyler Zeller and John Henson, Barnes can exploit matchups and use his athleticism to take over games.
2. Terrence Jones, Kentucky
Another NBA-caliber player, Jones had 15.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.9 blocks per game last season, winning both Freshman of the Year as well as Newcomer of the Year in the SEC. With the now departed Brandon Knight, Jones led the Wildcats to the Final Four. Jones has the length and strength to overpower other small forwards, but can step out on the perimeter against larger defenders, or blow by them off the dribble. With Josh Harrelson also in the League, Jones will be asked to clean the boards with even more potency this season. The offense will run through Jones as well, leaving him poised for a monstrous sophomore campaign.
3. Jeffery Taylor, Vanderbilt
Taylor is a stat-sheet stuffer who developed his long-range jumper last season; after hitting just 10 threes in his first two seasons for the Commodores, Taylor connected on 39-of-113 treys, a 34.5-percent clip. His overall stat line as a junior showed 14.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.4 dimes and 1.0 steals. With Festuz Ezeli and John Jenkins pitching in, the athletic Taylor should have another standout season for Vandy,.
4. Kris Joseph, Syracuse
Joseph will command a young Syracuse frontcourt with the graduation of the beastly Rick Jackson. Joseph can certainly fill it up with a verity of moves both inside and out, as he averaged a career-high 14.3 points last season as a junior. Joseph is a vital part of the vaunted 2-3 'Cuse zone as well, though, snatching 5.2 rebounds and averaging 1.5 thefts per contest. Although Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine take care of most of the playmaking, Joseph even managed 2.2 assists per game in 2010-2011. It certainly appears that the versatile Joseph can do it all for the Orange.
5. Draymond Green, Michigan State
Green is a banger who is not quite tall enough to be listed as a power forward, but certainly could be classified as one. He's a fearsome rebounder, averaging at least 7.7 boards per contest in each of the last two seasons for the Spartans. His shot selection suffered last season, as he shot a career-low 42.6-percent from the field. However, he still managed to score 12.6 points per tilt. He is also a primary playmaker for the Spartans, averaging 4.0 assists per game last year. Michigan State had a tumultuous 2010-11 season and will look to right the ship behind the senior.
6. Perry Jones, Baylor
Jones is a rare breed of baller; he's a 7-foot slasher who can handle the rock, though he doesn't take many outside shots. As one of the nation's most highly touted freshmen, Jones averaged 13.9 points, 7.2 boards, 1.2 assists and 0.9 blocks for the Bears. As he matures, expect his jumpshot to get better and for Jones to become more adept at using his body to his advantage. His NBA comparison has always been Tracy McGrady, and the Bears hope he reaches even half of that potential before leaving for the pros.
7. Robbie Hummel, Purdue
Can Hummel's ACL hold up? Poor Robbie has missed the last two seasons due to consecutive ACL tears in his right knee. He was a star prior to the injury, managing 15.7 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.0 blocks and 1.1 steals in 2009-10 before the first tear. Big Ten Player of the Year JaJuan Johnson and stud point-guard E'Twaun Moore have both moved on, leaving Hummel to set the tone for the Boilermakers. It could take him a few games to get back into the swing of things, but Hummel should eventually regain his pre-injury form.
8. Elias Harris, Gonzaga
Harris actually had a down season as a sophomore, as he saw his points per game decrease from 14.9 to 12.4, and his rebounds per tilt go from 7.1 to 6.0. Still, he's long and can get to the basket, as shown by his 51.7-percent shooting from the floor. With leading scorer Steven Gray graduated, Harris will be asked to do more for the 'Zags, and he should be up to the task. Teaming with 7-footer Robert Sacre shouldn't hurt, either.
9. Kevin Jones, West Virginia
Jones is a consistent, if unspectacular player for the Mountaineers. For two-straight years, he has averaged about 13.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. He did not take the leap to superstardom as hoped despite the absence of Da'Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks last season. Nevertheless, he is a horse for coach Bob Huggins, averaging 34.9 minutes per contest in 2010-2011. There are players with greater upside on this list, but you know the type of production you're getting with Jones.
10. Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame
Trust the Abromaitis touch? Coach Mike Brey has no other choice with team-leader Ben Hansbrough graduated. A shooter first and foremost, Abromaitis actually had a subpar shooting campaign for the Irish last year, hitting 45.6 percent from the field en route to 15.4 points per game. Both stats were down from the season prior. However, he still hit 42.9 percent of his shots from downtown and also improved his all-around game. The 22-year-old snatched 6.1 boards per game, while dishing out 1.8 assists per contest, both career highs. Abromaitis likely will have to put the Fighting Irish on his back if they are to make noise in 2011-12.
11. John Shurna, Northwestern – 16.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg
12. Jamar Samuels, Kansas State – 8.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg
13. Dorian Finney-Smith – High School
14. Dom Pointer, St. John's – High School
15. Khris Middleton, Texas A&M – 14.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg
1. John Henson, North Carolina
Henson has the luxury of playing power forward, with Tyler Zeller occupying the center position. Henson averaged a double-double as a sophomore, accumulating 11.7 points and 10.1 points in just 26.7 minutes per game for the Tar Heels. Henson is also a shot-blocking machine. The wiry, 6-10 Henson swatted 3.2 shots per contest, good for eighth in the nation. His offensive game is improving, but Henson still shot 50 percent from the floor last season. Even with a poor free-throw percentage, Henson is among the elite big men in the game.
2. Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota
Mbakwe tested the NBA waters but decided to return to Minnesota for his senior season. He was Mr. Double-Double in college hoops a year ago, averaging 13.9 points and 10.5 rebounds per tilt for the Gophers. Mbakwe tallied 19 double-doubles to his name, while failing to score double-digit points in just four games. He got in trouble with the law in January for violating a restraining order, which seemed to be the only way to keep him off the glass last season. if he can stay on the court, Mbakwe is a great bet to average another double-double for Minnesota.
3. JaMychal Green, Alabama
Green's scoring has increased in each of his first three seasons for the Tide. As a junior last year, Green managed 15.5 points per game, shooting 50.8 percent from the floot and 73.7 percent from the charity stripe. Green has always been a solid rebounder, averaging more than 7.0 rebounds per game throughout his career in Tuscaloosa. With 1.4 dimes and 2.4 blocks per game to boot, Green has proven he is more than just muscle as 'Bama's leader. Expect another scintillating campaign as he closes out his college career.
4. Jordan Morgan, Michigan
Morgan showed loads of potential for the Wolverines in his first full season, managing 9.2 points and 5.4 boards per tilt. He shot an absurd 62.7 percent from the field, good for 14th in the country. Michigan is starved for height, leaving Morgan to play an increased role, which includes clearing the boards and also getting easy buckets with his large frame.
5. Drew Gordon, New Mexico
The name may be unfamiliar, but Gordon's got game. As with many of the power forwards listed here, double-doubles were his Modus Operandi last year, as Gordon scored 13.0 points per game while snaring 10.5 rebounds per tilt for the Lobos. The UCLA transfer took his game to the next level at the Pit last season, also rejecting 1.3 shots per game in putting his 6-9, 245, body to good use. Gordon is solely a low-post threat, but has the ability to impose his will.
6. Reeves Nelson, UCLA
Speaking of UCLA, the Bruins will need to rely on Nelson even more this season with the departures of Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee. A fan favorite, Nelson is a bruiser who asserted himself on the boards last season to the tune of 9.1 boards per game. Although his shooting percentage dropped from 64.7 percent as a freshman to 56.7 percent as a sophomore, Reeves still had a 13.9 points per game average. As with Drew Gordon above, Nelson's damage will come largely in the painted area, and he will certainly make his presence felt in 2011-2012.
7. Christian Watford, IndianaWatford still struggles with shot selection, but he can really fill it up. Watford shot just 42.2 percent from the floor as a sophomore, but that was actually an improvement from his freshman campaign. He still managed 16 points per game for the Hoosiers with 5.4 rebounds and even 1.1 assists per tilt. He shot 84.3 percent from the charity stripe and even connected on 38.1 percent of his treys. Watford's versatility makes him a difficult assignment for opposing players.
8. Patric Young, Florida
Young is a physical specimen. At 6-9, 245, he is among the strongest players in the country, and he can also jump out of the gym. You do not want to be underneath the basket during one of his mammoth dunks, at the risk being posterized. Young is still raw, but his size, strength and upside make him one to watch for the Gators, particularly with Alex Tyus no longer in the equation.
9. Thomas Robinson, Kansas
Robinson had a trying 2010-11 season, as he lost his 37-year-old mother to a heart attack. Basketball proved to be an escape for Robinson, as he played through the mental anguish and still put together a nice sophomore season. Robinson posted 7.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game for the Jayhawks, while shooting 60.1 percent from the floor. The Morris Twins will play in the NBA if the lockout ever ends, leaving a huge vacuum to be filled. Robinson is the obvious candidate to fill that void for coach Bill Self and Rock Chalk.
10. CJ Leslie, North Carolina State
Leslie had a quality freshman campaign for the Wolfpack. He averaged 11.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. With Tracy Smith graduated, Leslie will be asked to shoulder even more of the load for N.C. State in what could be a stacked ACC. Leslie needs to gain some more muscle to his frame to be a true power forward, as he weighs little more than 200. However, his physical gifts are apparent, and Leslie could be well on his way to superstar status.
11. Herb Pope, Seton Hall – 9.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg
12. Mason Plumlee, Duke – 7.2 ppg, 8.4 rpg
13. James McAdoo, North Carolina – High School
14. Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure – 20.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg
15. Kyle Wiltjer, Kentucky – high school