As college basketball grows bigger, the NBA is getting smaller.
We’re not talking about the size of the audience, but rather the players.
Once the influence of the elite center flowed from high school through college and into the NBA, as with Wilt Chamberlain (from Overbrook to Kansas to the Warriors) or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (from Power Memorial to UCLA to the Bucks).
Now, the big man matters most in March.
The 2021-22 All-America team for The Sporting News had two centers on the first team and five players 6-10 or taller on the first two teams. The 2022 NCAA Championship game became largely a battle between North Carolina’s Armando Bacot and Kansas’ David McCormack.
And the 2022-23 midseason All-America team is going REALLY BIG.
Check it out:
Zach Edey, Purdue
7-4, 295, Jr., C
Key stats: 21.9 ppg, 13.4 rpg, 2.2 bpg, .614 FG
Defining game: 32 points, 17 rebounds, 13-of-26 shooting in 64-63 win at Michigan State
Overview: The challenge of dealing with Edey could be illustrated in just two game-winning plays from this season, both on the road against Big Ten Conference challengers. At Ohio State, with the Boilermakers trailing by a point inside the final 15 seconds, Edey was able to field an entry past on the left block and immediately faced a second defender running at him to make it hard to get off a game-winning shot. Edey still had room to try himself, but he passed to teammate Fletcher Loyer, whose 3-pointer won the game. Against Michigan State, the Spartans faced the exact same situation but chose to defend him straight up. Edey bounced the ball once, rolled into what would be a jumphook for most but might better be described, for him, as “dropping the ball in the goal”. He’s become the toughest player to scout in the college game.
Brandon Miller, Alabama
6-9, 200, Fr., F
Key stats: 19.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg, .456 FG, .463 3-PT
Defining game: 31 points, 9 rebounds, 7-of-11 3-point shooting in 106-66 win vs. LSU
Overview: If he were a little more consistent – and if Edey were half a foot shorter – Miller might not only be the best freshman in the country but the best overall player. Miller is having a magnificent first (and only) season with the Tide. He delivered 24 in a narrow win over Memphis and another 24 in beating Michigan State. He had 36 in a loss to Gonzaga. He tends to be overly reliant on his deep shooting, which is kinda good for someone who makes nearly half his attempts, but not so good when he’s capable of physically overwhelming opponents. When he went 0-of-8 but the Tide beat Houston on the road anyway, five of his attempts were threes. He can do better. Which is frightening.
Drew Timme, Gonzaga
6-10, 235, Sr., C
Key stats: 21.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg, .610 FG
Defining game: 29 points, 10 rebounds, 12-of-18 shooting in 100-90 win against Alabama
Overview: He’s been one of college basketball’s best offensive players long enough to be on the brink of the 2,000-point mark for his career, something only two other Zags have achieved. Timme is on pace to become the program’s all-time leading scorer in their first West Coast Conference tournament game. He’ll never be an elite defender, and his game has not expanded beyond the 3-point line, but he knows his way around the lane as well as any big man in recent college history.
Azuolas Tubelis, Arizona
6-11, 245, Jr., PF
Key stats: 20.4 ppg, 9.0 rpg, .574 FG, .474 3-PT
Defining game: 25 points, 10 rebounds, 11-of-15 shooting in 86-74 win at Oregon State
Overview: Tubelis and big center Oumar Ballo have combined to give the Wildcats and overwhelming inside game that has caused problems for such opponents (victims) as Indiana, Arizona State and Tennessee. Tubelis has not used the full force of his perimeter shooting ability, with only 19 long-range attempts, but that does force opponents defending him on the perimeter to honor the threat. His complete package of offensive skill also includes 11 games with multiple assists and a season high of six.
Jalen Wilson, Kansas
6-8, 200, Jr., PF
Key stats: 19.8 ppg, 8.9 rpg, .456 FG, 2.6 apg.
Defining game: 29 points, 14 rebounds in 69-68 OT win against Wisconsin
Overview: There is no program better at preparing players to be stars, and demanding it of them, than Kansas under Bill Self. Wilson was a significant contributor to KU’s 2022 NCAA championship, but operating as the first option on a title contender is something entirely different. Wilson has made the transition beautifully, like Ochai Agbaji a year ago. He arrived in the Champions Classic with 25 points and 11 rebounds in beating Duke and has been a double-figure scorer in every game and delivered a double-double a total of eight times. He plays without a true big man to take physical pressure off him, which affects his efficiency, but he has continued to compete.
Armando Bacot, North Carolina
6-11, 235, Sr., C
Key stats: 17.4 ppg, 10.9 rpg, .570 FG
Defining game: 28 points, 15 rebounds, 11-of-19 shooting in 89-84 OT win vs. Ohio State
Overview: It could be said the defining game for Bacot occurred when he was injured in the first minute against Virginia and was credited with zero points and two rebounds for the game. That night impacted the Heels’ ability to win and his per-game stats, but he since has attempted to power through the ankle problem that developed that night. The Tar Heels have not been what was expected, at least not to date, and Bacot has been a smidge below his potential, as well. But he’s still been one of the best players in the sport – with plenty of ability to do even more.
Souley Boum, Xavier
6-3, 175, Sr., PG
Key stats: 17.6 ppg, 4.9 apg, 4.4 rpg, .495 FG, .444 3-PT
Defining game: 26 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds, 9-of-18 shooting in 90-87 win vs. Creighton
Overview: With returning regulars in place from shooting guard through center and an ideal sixth man ready to come off the bench, new Xavier coach Sean Miller recognized he needed to draw a high-end point guard out of the transfer portal to give the Musketeers a chance to contend for an NCAA Tournament bid for the first time since 2018. Boum has been so terrific they’re now contending for the Big East championship. After he left UTEP, there were questions about whether he was a true point guard because of low assists numbers, but playing with a lineup filled with capable scorers has revealed his playmaking ability. And Boum has been elite in the category of dropping in the open 3-pointers that develop after the initial offensive action does not develop a scoring chance.
Jaime Jaquez, UCLA
6-7, 225, Sr., F
Key stats: 16.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.5 apg, .510 FG,
Defining game: 23 points, 13 rebounds, 5 blocks, 4 steals, 2 assists in 68-54 win over Colorado.
Overview: The Colorado game was a master class of competitive will. On a night when the Bruins struggled to land open 3-point shots – they wound up 4-of-19, after missing their first 15 – Jaquez kept the Bruins in the game with his ability to score one-on-one and by creating possessions with steals and by contesting and rejecting shots at the rim. He had only 11 blocks in 17 prior games. That’s who Jaquez is: a player who will do whatever is necessary to win. He’s been in one Final Four and appears determined to push UCLA toward another.
Mike Miles, TCU
6-2, 195, Jr., PG
Key stats: 19.0 ppg, 3.4 apg, 1.6 spg, .520 FG
Defining game: 33 points, 4 assists, 12-of-21 FG shooting in 88-87 victory at Baylor
Overview: Miles is an atypical playmaker who might ring up a 30-point night or, when it’s necessary, slice through the opposition for double-digit assists another. In his third season as a starter, he has been the engine driving the Horned Frogs’ surge, which led them to March Madness last season after they’d missed the previous two tournaments and should result in a comfortable seed this time. He’s on pace to attempt more than 210 free throws this season, a sure sign of a player who can attack defenses at an elite level and put them off balance – and an increase of more than 30 percent from last season in that category.
Markquis Nowell, Kansas State
5-8, 160, Sr., PG
Key stats: 16.4 ppg, 8.4 apg, 2.3 spg, .878 FT
Defining game: 36 points, 9 assists, 6-of-10 3-PT shooting in 116-103 victory at Baylor
Overview: It’s not easy to choose whether it’s Nowell or forward Keyontae Johnson having a better season for Jerome Tang’s surprising Wildcats. But Nowell has been leading K-State’s resurgence since before Tang was brought on board, committing to remain in Manhattan and even offering advice to the administration about potential candidates. He has been the complete point guard, offering stern defensive resistance against opposing playmakers – he’s uncommonly effective there, for a player his size — and running an attack that’s averaging just short of 80 points a game.
Kendric Davis, senior guard, Memphis
Adama Sanogo, junior center, UConn
Jalen Pickett, senior guard, Penn State
Terquavion Smith, sophomore guard, NC State
Kris Murray, junior forward, Iowa