The nation's best big men

Ranking the best bigs from college, NBA perspectives

Updated: February 4, 2013, 11:18 AM ET
By Jay Bilas and Chad Ford | ESPN Insider
Zeller & Noel & Muscala USA TODAY SportsCody Zeller, Mike Muscala and Nerlens Noel are among the top big men in college basketball.

During college hoops season, Jay Bilas and Chad Ford will start the week by addressing a big question, evaluating NBA prospects on the rise and looking ahead to the next week.

The discussion: Who are the best big men in the nation?

Jay Bilas: I consider a big man to be one who can play and guard the pivot, not necessarily a face-up 4 or an inside-out forward such as Doug McDermott of Creighton, Anthony Bennett of UNLV, Ryan Kelly of Duke or Kenny Kadji of Miami. I am talking more about a center or a 5 who can score and guard in the post, and is the man in the middle.

The one player I had trouble leaving off of this list is Nerlens Noel of Kentucky, who is as good as any big man as a shot-blocker, rebounder and energy guy, but does not have a reliable post game or an offensive skill set beyond playing off of penetration, rim runs and offensive rebounding. Another player I considered was Louisville center Gorgui Dieng, who is an outstanding shot-blocker and rebounder (leading the Big East in rebounding) but is not yet the offensive player that these other players are.

Of mid-major bigs, I went back and forth on the inclusion of Akron's Zeke Marshall, a skilled and efficient 7-footer who shoots better than 70 percent from the field, but he's not a high-volume rebounder, averaging 6.8 rebounds per game.

5. Mike Muscala, Bucknell Bison

Muscala is not a big-time athlete, but he does a great job of blocking shots, rebounding at a high rate and scoring facing up or with his back to the basket. Muscala averages 19 points, 11.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks while shooting better than 52 percent from the field and 78 percent from the line on 7.1 free throw attempts per game. Muscala makes Bucknell a real threat in the NCAA tournament because he can score and guard in the post.

Jay Bilas

College Basketball analyst

Chad Ford

Senior Writer, NBA Insider