By Kevin Sweeney
At this point in college basketball, I’d argue there is more versatility at the “power forward” position than there is at any other spot. Some 4’s run offense, others are floor-spacers, while some still represent that bruising force of old. It is this divide that made ranking the power forwards so difficult, but I took my stab at assembling the best ten.
The Top Ten:
- Jordan Caroline (Nevada)
- Vitals: 6-7, 230 pounds, Redshirt Senior
- Stats: 17.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 2.2 apg, .474/.324/.709
Caroline might be my favorite player in college basketball. The bruising forward does a little bit of everything for Nevada, tasked much of last season with dealing with much larger centers due to Nevada’s lack of frontcourt depth. Now, with Trey Porter and Jordan Brown incoming, Caroline’s role should change quite a bit. Offensively, he’ll still float on the perimeter a fair amount, though he’ll need to be a consistent 3-point shooter to maintain Nevada’s elite spacing. Defensively, he’ll defend more in space against wings than he did last season. It’s his ability to do it all that makes him so valuable, allowing Nevada to go to small or big to match up best with the competition.
2. Jalen McDaniels (San Diego State)
- Vitals: 6-10, 195 pounds, Redshirt Sophomore
- Stats: 10.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 0.9 apg, .586/.211/.788
McDaniels’ huge redshirt freshman campaign was a testament to the work he put in while sitting out as a freshman, and I can’t wait to see the next step in his development this season. An uber-athletic forward who competes at both ends, McDaniels led the Aztecs in both offensive and defensive rating last season. As he develops his outside shot, McDaniels will skyrocket up NBA Draft boards.
3. DeSean Murray (Western Kentucky)
- Vitals: 6-4, 210 pounds, Redshirt Senior
- Stats (Auburn): 10.1 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.7 apg, .455/.321/.840
After stops at Presbyterian and Auburn, Murray will conclude his collegiate career at Western Kentucky, where he’ll provide a valuable veteran presence on a young but exceedingly talented Hilltopper squad. Murray was so important to Auburn’s success a season ago, an ego-free hustle player who did all the little things for a Tiger team that was in contention for a #1 seed until late in the season. He’s a beast on the glass, defends multiple positions, and has expanded his offensive game to include the 3-point shot. Look for a big year from the the North Carolina native.
4. Seth Towns (Harvard)
- Vitals: 6-7, 205 pounds, Junior
- Stats: 16.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.8 apg, .419/.441/.805
The defending Ivy League Player of the Year is an absolute matchup nightmare. An elite 3-point shooter, Towns handles the ball like a guard but has the requisite size and length to guard bigs. A former 4-star prospect from Ohio who chose Harvard over a slew of high-major offers, Towns has lived up to the hype so far and has the talent to make the jump from the Ivy League to the NBA at some point in his career.
5. Jordon Varnado (Troy)
- Vitals: 6-6, 235 pounds, Senior
- Stats: 18.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.7 apg, .478/.289/.738
On track to become a 2,000 point scorer, Varnado was slowed by a broken foot but still put up huge numbers for the Trojans. Varnado is a load in the post and has an improving floor game that makes him extremely hard to guard in the Sun Belt. Him and Alex Hicks form the conference’s most formidable frontcourt, but they’ll need someone to step up and fill the void of Wesley Person in the backcourt to contend for a conference title.
6. Jarrell Brantley (College of Charleston)
- Vitals: 6-7, 250 pounds, Senior
- Stats: 17.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.7 apg, .500/.385/.821
Brantley is a BEAST. His 250-pound frame makes him tough to guard in the post, and he has developed a reliable 3-point shot that is valuable in pick-and-pop looks. After dealing with a knee injury that limited him for most of the non-conference slate, Brantley returned to form by conference play to lift the Cougars to a CAA title. It wouldn’t surprise me if he averaged a double-double this season.
7. Jordan Brown (Nevada)
- Vitals: 6-11, 210 pounds, Freshman
Brown’s commitment to Nevada and Eric Musselman sent shockwaves through college basketball. He was the second 5-star to ever sign with the Pack, a result of a 3-year effort by Musselman and his staff that was detailed magnificently by Chris Murray of the Reno Gazette-Journal. Brown should see his fair share of time at both the 4 and the 5 for the Wolf Pack, but given one of the things cited by Brown throughout his recruitment was Nevada’s willingness to let him play the 4, I chose to put him amongst the power forwards.
Given Nevada has the #1 SG, #2 SF, and #1 & #7 PF’s (along with possibly a ranked center in Trey Porter), it’s not hard to see why expectations are sky-high.
8. John Konchar (Fort Wayne)
- Vitals: 6-5, 210 pounds, Redshirt Senior
- Stats: 14.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 4.7 apg, .482/.384/.648
Konchar is one of the most unique players in college basketball, an undersized point forward who combines high-level floor vision with crafty finishing ability and a steady 3-point shot. He also wreaks havoc on the defensive end, averaging 2.5 assists per game. Konchar’s physical tools won’t wow you, but he’s almost always the smartest player on the floor, and that changes the game.
9. Anthony Lamb (Vermont)
- Vitals: 6-6, 227 pounds, Junior
- Stats: 14.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 0.9 apg, .468/.318/.829
The clear preseason frontrunner for America East Player of the Year, a healthy Lamb is a scary sight for the rest of the conference. The Rochester, NY native missed much of last season with a broken foot, but when healthy is almost unstoppable. Per 40 minutes last season, Lamb averaged 24.5 points and 13.1 rebounds per game. However, John Becker likes to use Lamb in spurts to get the most out of his star forward, a strategy that has been very successful thus far. However, a heavier minutes load may be on tap for Lamb with Drew Uruquart and Payton Henson graduating from the program.
10. Alessandro Lever (Grand Canyon)
- Vitals: 6-10, 230 pounds, sophomore
- Stats: 12.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.2 apg, .453/.321/.766
After being mostly a role player for the early part of the season, Lever blossomed into a star down the stretch for the Lopes. In the season’s final 16 games, Lever averaged over 18 points and 5 rebounds per game. He then impressed with the Italian U20 National Team this summer, averaging 13.9 points and 5.1 rebounds in the event. As he becomes more efficient and disciplined, GCU will have one of the best big men in college basketball.
Jace Hogan (Jacksonville), Scottie James (Liberty), Ed Polite (Radford), Justin Pierce (William & Mary), Tyler Seibring (Elon), Roland Griffin (Iona), Elijah Minnie (Eastern Michigan), Nick Perkins (Buffalo), Shakur Juiston (UNLV), Nick Mayo (Eastern Kentucky), Will Rayman (Colgate), Jakeenan Gant (Louisiana-Lafayette)