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Top Centers for 2011-12: Sullinger Leads the Pack

Jesse Siegel

Siegel covers college football, college basketball and minor league baseball for RotoWire. He was named College Sports Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.


As the old adage states, "You can't teach height." The following players certainly possess that unteachable quality. However, there's plenty more to success as a college basketball center than just being tall. One must use that frame to his advantage. Although the classic post-up centers are few and far between, those that remain possess a unique combination of size, strength, athleticism, mobility and touch. Certainly the squads lucky enough to have these monsters in the middle create matchup issues for opponents.

Without further ado, here are the top fantasy behemoths heading into the 2011-12 college hoops season.


1. Jared Sullinger, Ohio State

Many thought Sullinger was one-and-done for the Buckeyes. However, after dominating Big Ten play for the majority of his freshman campaign, Sullinger and OSU were ousted by Kentucky in the Elite Eight, leaving a sour taste in his mouth. As a result, he decided to return to Columbus for his sophomore season, and figures to dominate once again. Sully averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounded per game en route to being named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, as well as First Team All-Big Ten. His wide body at 6-foot-9, 280, makes him a nightmare to defend, and his post moves are extremely polished. Expect another standout season for Sullinger.

2. Tyler Zeller, UNC

Zeller also decided to stay another season, as he will once again team with John Henson in forming one of the most formidable frontcourt duos in the nation. Zeller has worked tirelessly on his post game the last few years, developing a dangerous hook shot to pair with his incredible motor. He managed 15.7 points and 7.2 rebounds per contest as a junior. He's a bit robotic at times, but his effort and size (7-0, 250) make him a handful to contain.

3. Festus Ezeli, Vanderbilt

In just 23.5 minutes per game last season, Ezeli averaged 13.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.6 swats per contest. At 6-11, 255, Ezeli proved to be an all-around dynamo. The Nigerian center shot 58.8 percent from the floor, while averaging more than six free-throw attempts per contest. Ezeli also had one seven-block game and three six-block games en route to finishing 18th in the nation in rejections. With the exception of Jared Sullinger, Ezeli likely has the most upside of any player on this list.

4. Robert Sacre, Gonzaga

Some believe Sacre has not lived up to his potential for the Zags. Last season he averaged career highs of 12.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game, but but he has not imposed his will on opponents and take over games, despite his 7-0, 247, stature. He also shot just 48.8 percent from the field, displaying the need to improve shot selection. However, leading scorer Stphen Gray is gone, meaning Sacre will shoulder more of the load for the Bulldogs in 2011. He has the raw talent; it remains to be seen whether that will translate to the court.

5. Joshua Smith, UCLA

From a purely physical standpoint, Smith is a man among boys. At 6-10 and weighing more than three bills, Smith struggled with conditioning to begin his freshman season but finished strong with 10.9 points and 6.3 boards per game. With Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee both leaving for the League, the Bruins will rely on Smith for even more production this time around. Using his huge frame, Smith shot 55.5 percent from the floor as a frosh and will look to improve that as he becomes an even more polished big man.

6. Mouphtaou Yarou, Villanova

Yarou is far from a finished product, but he pounded the glass when healthy last season for the Wildcats. He managed 7.1 rebounds per game in just 24.1 minutes per game. Due to his supreme efforts on the glass, Yarou got plenty of dunks and cutbacks off of misses from the talented Villanova guards. Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes have moved on, though, leaving Yarou to continue to hone his craft on the offensive end. He will need to have more of an impact in the scoring column for coach Jay Wright's squad this year after finishing fifth on the team in scoring last season at 8.4 points per game.

7. Alex Oriakhi, Connecticut

Oriakhi did not make the leap into superstardom in 2010-11 despite playing an integral role in UConn's championship run. His offensive game remains raw despite increasing his shooting percentage to 50.7 percent and averaging a career-high 9.6 points per tilt. Rebounding remains his forte, though, as Oriakhi managed 8.7 bounds per contest. With 1.6 blocks per game to boot, Oriakhi remains a defensive stalwart. However, he won't get as many easy buckets with Kemba Walker in the NBA; thus, he needs to showcase an improved offensive repertoire.

8. Kenny Frease, Xavier

Frease had a breakout junior season for the Musketeers, averaging 11.7 points and 7.1 boards. Frease shot 54.9 percent from the field, while also hitting 70.2 percent of his free throws. He even finished fourth on Xavier in assists. With fellow frontcourt mate Jamel Mclean departed, Frease has the chance to control the paint. Preseason First Team All-American Tu Holloway is back at point guard, which should continue to give Frease easy buckets as Holloway draws the majority of the attention from opponents.

9. Fabricio Melo, Syracuse

Monster rebounder Rick Jackson has graduated, leaving a vacancy in the middle of the vaunted Syracuse 2-3 zone. Melo is expected to fill that void after an up-and-down freshman season. Despite much pomp and circumstance heading into last year, Melo averaged just 9.9 minutes per game for coach Jim Boeheim, limiting his impact. Still, the 7-footer shot 60.7 percent from the floor and showed glimpses of promise. The vertically-challenged Orange will need Fab to make the quantum leap this season if they are to seriously contend.

10. Reggie Johnson, Miami

Johnson would be near the top of this list if not for the injury suffered in a pickup game in late June. He had surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee and likely will not make it back until ACC play begins in January. When healthy, Johnson was a behemoth, accumulating 12 double-doubles en route to a 11.9 points and 9.6 rebounds per tilt. It will be interesting to see if the injury saps some of his mobility, as Johnson has shown surprising quickness for a young man at 6-10, 303.

11. Bernard James, Florida State
8.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg
12. Eli Holman, Detroit
11.9 ppg, 9.6 rpg
13. Gregory Echenique, Creighton
10.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg
14. Adreian Payne, Michigan State
2.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg
15. Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse
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