This is the last of the lists.
Our rundown of the various college basketball preseason topics (top conferences, high fliers, new coaches, etc.) covered all the necessary reading for your needs entering 2009-10. Well, now it does.
And I suppose highlighting the best defenders last should come as no surprise. These guys never get any respect.
|Jarvis Varnado blocks a shot by South Carolina's Mike Holmes.
(Well, that's not true. They get some respect. Maybe more than some. A lot. I mean, there are awards for defensive player of the year most conferences have all-defensive teams. Sure, highlights are usually reserved for guys like Stephen Curry or Tyler Hansbrough, but a big-time shot blocker is gonna get some SportsCenter airtime.)
ANYWAY, here are the star defenders for this season. Apologies to guys like Cole Aldrich and Devin Ebanks. They're superb defenders, but they've gotten plenty of pub thus far. I'm all about sharing the love.
Marcus Ginyard, North Carolina
It speaks volumes about UNC's offensive ability last season that it won the NCAA title with Ginyard on the bench. Roy Williams' best teams usually feature a lock-down defender (David Noel, Jarod Hasse), which is a good sign that Ginyard is fully recovered from foot surgery. He's a little too big (6-5, 220) to handle the game's quickest guards, but that's about it. He'll guard everyone else, and do it well.
Chris Kramer, Purdue
A former Big Ten defensive player of the year, Kramer has led the league in steals the last two years. He's big, strong and uses his hands well, though sometimes opponents complain he's using them too well. If the Boilermakers ever break through for a Final Four run, Kramer's defense will be crucial, much like Travis Walton was to Michigan State last season.
Larry Sanders, VCU
If you're driving to the hoops against the Rams, know where Sanders is. He's 6-10, athletic and his freakishly long arms (7-foot-7 wingspan) make him a threat to block any shot at any time. He might not even have to try too hard if you're short. Small wonder the junior was the Colonial League's defensive player of the year – and that was after his %Blocks (how many shots he swatted while on the floor) went down from his freshman to sophomore seasons. Opponents stayed away.
JT Tiller, Missouri
Not many players who average 8.4 ppg, 3.6 apg and 1.8 spg can nab a spot on the preseason Wooden Watch list. But hey, when you D up like Tiller, you earn some plaudits. At 6-3, he has the size to handle bigger shooting guards, and is quick enough to stay in front of (most) point guards. Tiller's just as good off the ball. Missouri's pressing defense encourages him to get into passing lanes and disrupt opponents, and was a driving factor behind his co-Big 12 defensive player of the year honor.
Venoy Overton, Washington
If there's anyone more disruptive – or annoying – as an on-ball defender than Tiller, it's Overton. Washington's 5-11 pest is quick, aggressive and impossible to ignore. Or maybe that's his mouth. Seattleites see a little Gary Payton in Overton, both in his quick hands and constant trash talk. But that's a necessity for any good defensive player since there's more than one way to throw an opponent off his game.
Jarvis Varnado, Mississippi State
A no-brainer. The 6-9 senior will become the NCAA's all-time blocks leader this season and is a two-time All-SEC defensive player. If the résumé lines don't impress you, consider some tempo-free numbers: His %blocks (how many shots he swatted while on the floor) was tops among all players last season and the best of his career. Varnado's always been a natural shot blocker, but he's gotten better each season at help defense and his timing.