Dance Lessons: Go big ... or go home

An elite big, especially in terms of interior defense, will help you win a title

Updated: March 24, 2010, 2:34 PM ET
By Alvin Chang | ESPN Insider
Getty ImagesDeMarcus Cousins might be the top big left in the Dance. How much does that matter for UK?

How often have you heard the clichés? "Defense wins championships." "Live by the 3, die by the 3." But are they truth or myth? Dance Lessons looks at NCAA tournaments past to see whether these truisms check out, and examine which teams they help and hurt in 2010.

In a game with a 10-foot basket, anyone knows a dominant big man is important. And if you grew up with David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing, this adage has been branded into your basketball brain: Big men win championships.

But saying you need a dominant big man is like saying you need a cooler built into your recliner; it makes life better, but it's not a necessity.

Dominant big men are luxuries. And that's because they are rare. In fact, some years, The Associated Press doesn't vote a single center onto any of its three All-America teams. When a center does get honors -- especially on the first or second team -- it signals he is a great collegiate big man.

So using that criteria, we've found the "dominant big men" of the past decade. And it turns out these rare assets really do carry their teams deep into the Dance.