By Kevin Sweeney
Well, we’ve reached the final day of my mid-major top 10 positional rankings. Before we get into the centers, I’d like to thank you all for checking out these rankings throughout the week. The support has truly been amazing! In case you missed them, here are links to the previous 4 rankings from earlier this week:
Now, as we get into the center position, it’s important to note that many of these guys aren’t necessarily true “centers”. Many centers at the mid-major level would play the 4 or even the 3 in some cases at the high-major level, as some are undersized or play the 5 as a result of small-ball lineups. Let’s get into the rankings:
#1. Jock Landale (St. Mary’s)
- Vitals: Senior, 6-11, 255 pounds
- Stats: 16.9 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 61.1% FG%
This was a pretty easy choice at number 1. Landale is one of the top 20 players in college basketball as a whole, not just the mid-major level. He’s an absolute technician in the post and is an extremely efficient finisher around the rim. Pretty much the only way to stop Landale is to deny him the basketball, as once he catches the ball in the post, he’s nearly unstoppable.
#2. Jordan Caroline (Nevada)
- Vitals: Redshirt Junior, 6-7, 235 pounds
- Stats: 15.9 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 0.3 bpg, 46.3% FG%
Caroline isn’t really a center. Nor is he just a power forward, or even a small forward. He’s a basketball player, and an outstanding one at that. His combination of size, strength, quickness, and shooting ability makes him the absolute perfect fit for Eric Musselman’s free-flowing offensive system, one that emphasizes positionless basketball and versatility. Some games, we’ll see Caroline trotted out as the center, other times he’ll see time at either forward spot and maybe even some shooting guard. Regardless of where he plays, defenses certainly won’t be looking forward to seeing him.
#3. Rashaan Holloway (UMass)
- Vitals: Junior, 6-11, 311 pounds
- Stats: 10.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 62.3% FG%
To say Holloway is a post “presence” is an understatement. He’s absolutely massive at 6-11 and at last update, over 300 pounds, and is also absolutely unstoppable when on the floor. He posted the numbers above in just 19 minutes per contest. Holloway is the cornerstone of the rebuild at UMass, and needs to be on the floor as much as possible this season if the Minutemen are going to find success in year 1 of the Matt McCall era.
#4. Nana Foulland (Bucknell)
- Vitals: Senior, 6-9, 230 pounds
- Stats: 15.0 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.1 bpg, 63% FG%
I got a question during my Periscope chat on Wednesday night wondering why Foulland doesn’t get national attention. My answer: I have no idea. So, let’s give him some national attention right now. Foulland is a 4-year starter at center who does everything you could ask of a mid-major center. He’s a prolific post scorer who has one of the better jump hooks in college basketball, while also being an excellent rim protector. I have a feeling Foulland will have a chance to showcase his talents in the NCAA Tournament this season, as the Bison are prohibitive favorites in the Patriot League this season.
#5. Tai Odiase (UIC)
- Vitals: Senior, 6-9, 220 pounds
- Stats: 11.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 2.8 bpg, 57.7% FG%
Odiase is an elite defensive player whose offensive skillset has improved each season of his college career. A standout at the recent Adidas Nations event earlier this month, Odiase enters his senior campaign as an under-the-radar potential NBA prospect. For now though, he joins Dikembe Dixson and Tarkus Ferguson in a scary 3-headed monster in Chicago for Steve McClain, who hopes to have his Flames contending for a Horizon League title this season.
#6. Justin Tillman (VCU)
- Vitals: Senior, 6-7, 220 pounds
- Stats: 12.2 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 0.5 bpg, 59.2% FG%
Another guy who isn’t your traditional center, Tillman is deployed at the 5 for VCU and is incredibly effective in that role. He can jump out of the gym (can touch 2.5 feet above the rim) and brings energy to the table beyond his strong offensive game. Tillman really came on as the season went along last season, and Rams fans have told me time and time again how excited they are to see his senior season as he brings in the Mike Rhoades era in Richmond.
#7. William Lee (UAB)
- Vitals: Senior, 6-9, 215 pounds
- Stats: 13.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.4 bpg, 49.2% FG%
Classifying Lee is interesting, as offensively he plays more as a stretch 4 while frontcourt mate Chris Cokley does his work inside, while on defense Lee plays more as a center, protecting the rim. So, I decided I’d call him a center. Lee first burst onto the scene in the 2015 NCAA Tournament, when he helped the Blazers upset Iowa State. Now, he enters his senior season as one of the best defensive players in the country and a potential NBA prospect. He’s a big reason the Blazers are my early pick to win the C-USA.
#8. Devontae Cacok (UNCW)
- Vitals: Junior, 6-7, 240 pounds
- Stats: 12.3 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 80% FG%
No, that field goal percentage number isn’t a typo. Cacok led the country in field goal percentage last season at 80%, and was a force in the post for a team that went to the NCAA Tournament. Now, the question becomes how Cacok responds to being the focal point of the offense in a new system, as guards CJ Bryce and Chris Flemmings depart along with head coach Kevin Keatts.
#9. James Thompson IV (Eastern Michigan)
- Vitals: Junior, 6-10, 240 pounds
- Stats: 14.8 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 0.9 bpg, 57.4% FG%
If you were to envision an ideal center for the mid-major level, it would probably look something like Thompson. He stands an imposing 6-10 and has, in just 2 seasons, established himself as an elite rebounder and interior scorer, as well as one of the top players in the MAC. With a trio of talented guards graduating, Thompson will now be looked to as the top option offensively, and his numbers could explode as a result.
#10. Bryce Washington (Louisiana-Lafayette)
- Vitals: Senior, 6-6, 245 pounds
- Stats: 13.5 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 0.8 bpg, 60.3% FG%
He may stand just 6-6, but there is nothing small about Bryce Washington. He uses his strength to score in the post at will and dominate the glass on both ends of the floor. Last season, he had 10 games with 13 or more rebounds, including one game against Louisiana-Monroe in which he corralled 21 boards.
Just Missed the Cut:
- Brandon McCoy (UNLV)
- Rokas Gustys (Hofstra)
- Daniel Amigo (Denver)
- Albert Owens (Oral Roberts)
- Aaron Menzies (Seattle)
- Brandon Gilbeck (Western Illinois)
- Wyatt Walker (Samford)
- Trey Moses (Ball State)
- Reginald Johnson (Alcorn State)