College basketball tiers: Zach Edey, Trayce Jackson-Davis lead top bigs

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The old man is back in college basketball.

The beauty of bigs in college hoops is that they can play facing the basket or underneath.

Purdue’s Zach Edey, who has thus far been a leading candidate for national player of the year, is a commanding presence in the paint.

Meanwhile, Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis can be a threat from the outside as well as underneath.

Choosing levels in this category is not an easy task.

So here we go:

Zach Edey leads the best big men in college basketball

Zach Edey leads the best big men in college basketball

Andy Katz breaks down college basketball’s big men, highlighted by Purdue standout Zach Edey.

Level 1: The best of the best

Zach Edey, Purdue

Edey is a dominant big man who is a double-double machine. The 7-foot-4 junior has recorded 16 double-doubles in 20 games this season, including four outings of 20-plus points and 15-plus rebounds. His overall size makes him impossible to defend at times.

Best moment: Edey scored 32 points and grabbed 17 boards in a 64-63 win over Michigan State on Jan. 16, including the game-winning bucket.

Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana

Jackson-Davis has battled through injuries and come back even stronger as a powerhouse in the Big Ten. The senior big man is averaging 27.3 points, 14.3 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game during the Hoosiers’ four-game winning streak. He could very well run Indiana through March.

Best moment: Jackson-Davis scored 35 points and grabbed nine rebounds in an impressive 80-65 win at Illinois on Jan. 19.

Drew Timme, Gonzaga

Timme has had to shoulder much of the load for the Zags this season and has answered the call multiple times. Recorded six double-doubles and had an impressive 38-point performance in a win over Pacific.

Best moment: Timme scored 29 points and grabbed 10 boards to lead Gonzaga to a 100-90 victory over Alabama on Dec. 17 in Birmingham.

Armando Bacot, North Carolina

Bacot returned to compete for a national title as well as ACC and national player of the year. He can still win the first, but he won’t get the second.

Best moment: Bacot scored 28 points and grabbed 15 boards in an 89-84 overtime win over Ohio State on Dec. 17 at Madison Square Garden.

Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky

Tshiebwe has had to deal with injuries and this season has not been as effective as he was a year ago when he won the Naismith Trophy. However, when the 6-foot-9, 260-pound center is locked down, the Wildcats are a factor.

Best moment: Tshiebwe scored 37 points and grabbed 24 boards in a much-needed 85-71 win over Georgia on Jan. 17.

Level 2: Next in line

Azuolas Tubelis, Arizona

Tubelis has been a steady presence for the Wildcats, and will likely continue to be a tough matchup. The 6-foot-11, 245-pound big man from Lithuania has recorded a double-double in six of his last seven games with Arizona.

Best Big Man Moment: Tubelis burst onto the scene in Hawaii with 30 points and 11 rebounds against Cincinnati in the first round of the Maui Invitational.

Oumar BalloArizona

Ballo has made remarkable progress with Tommy Lloyd in Arizona. He has become a special talent inside, averaging 16.1 points, nine rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game for the Wildcats.

Best moment: Ballo dominated Creighton in the Maui Invitational final with 30 points and 13 rebounds.

Adam Sanogo, UConn

Sanogo was the Big East Preseason Player of the Year. He could still reach that level as he is a difficult player for opponents to deal with. At 6-foot-9 and 245 pounds, Sanogo is a force in the paint. He leads the Big East in scoring with 16.9 points per game and is pulling down 7.2 boards per game, which ranks ninth in the conference.

Best moment: Sanogo led the Huskies to an 82-67 victory over Alabama in Portland last November with 25 points.

Hunter Dickinson, Michigan

Dickinson was again a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate. He probably won’t win the award, but he’s a first-team All-Big Ten player.

Best moment: Dickinson scored 32 points and grabbed 12 boards in a much-needed win over Maryland on New Year’s Day.

Ryan KalkbrennerCreighton

Kalkbrenner is a rim protector and solid finish. His injury has been a problem for the Bluejays this season, but if he stays healthy, he can be a major force in March.

Best moment: Kalkbrenner scored 21 points and grabbed seven boards in a 73-67 win over Providence on Jan. 14.

Level 3: Make a move

Kyle Filipowski, duke

Filipowski has become Duke’s best big man, contrary to preseason prediction. The award-winning freshman leads Duke in scoring (15.7), rebounding (9.5) and steals (1.3).

Best moment: Filipowski scored 28 points and grabbed 15 boards in a Jan. 11 win over Pitt.

Cream Carlson, Utah

Carlson has been overshadowed by others in the Pac-12, but has made his mark this season. The 7-foot Utah native is putting up 17.1 points and 7.6 boards per game for the Utes, who are currently 8-3 in the Pac-12.

Best moment: Carlson scored 22 points in a win over Arizona, playing better than the Wildcats’ bigs.

Clifford Omoruyi, Rutgers

Omoruyi is one of the most difficult players to deal with in the post. He can dunk anyone, get to the rim quickly, and can alter and block shots at will.

Best moment: Omoruyi scored 14 points, grabbed 11 boards and blocked six shots in a 68-64 overtime win against Ohio State on Jan. 15.

Zach Freemantle, Xavier

Freemantle has played well alongside Jack Nunge this season, but has many of his highlights. He has recorded four double-doubles in the month of January.

Best moment: Freemantle scored 29 points and grabbed 11 boards in a Jan. 7 win over Villanova.

Darron Holmes, Dayton

Holmes has had a stellar career in Dayton and has not disappointed so far this season. The 6-foot-10, 225-pound big man ranks third in the A10 in both scoring (18.4) and rebounding (8.0).

Best moment: Holmes scored 32 points and grabbed 10 boards in a New Year’s Eve win at Davidson.

Level 4: It’s hard to keep them that low

Noah ClowneyAlabama

Clowney has gotten better every game throughout his freshman season. He complimented Brandon Miller, forming a solid punch for the Crimson Tide.

Best moment: Clowney scored 17 points and grabbed 14 boards in a Jan. 21 road win at Missouri.

Morris Queen, New Mexico

Udeze has been the unrecognized glue for the Lobos’ advanced season under coach Richard Pitino. The 6-foot-8 senior has recorded five double-doubles in his last six games with New Mexico.

Best moment: Udeze scored 15 points, including the game-winning bucket, to beat Boise State in overtime on Jan. 20.

Steven Crowl, Wisconsin

Crowl doesn’t have much national esteem, but he’s been a staple for the Badgers this season. The junior big man is averaging 12.6 points and 6.7 rebounds for Wisconsin.

Best moment: Crowl stepped up with 21 points and 11 rebounds in a crucial late-possession win over Penn State on Jan. 17.

Tyson Hunter, Clemson

Tyson has been the most reliable and versatile scorer for the ACC title-holder Tigers. Leads the Tigers in scoring (15.5), rebounds (10.0) and steals (0.9).

Best moment: Scored 31 points and grabbed 13 boards in a win over NC State on Dec. 30.

Jarace Walker, Houston

The freshman big has had plenty of moments to shine for a title contender. Walker opened the new year with a 23-point, 10-rebound outing in an impressive 87-53 win over SMU and has played a key role in the Cougars’ 7-1 start in the American.

Best moment: Walker scored 17 points and grabbed seven boards in a road win at Virginia on Dec. 17.

Level 5: Don’t sleep on them

DeAndre Williams, Memphis

Williams doesn’t get the attention he deserves. He has been an anchor for the Tigers so far this season, with 17.9 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.

Best moment: Williams fouled out, but came out strong for Memphis in an upset over Auburn. He scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the 82-73 victory.

Colin Castleton, Florida

Castleton returned to playing for coach Todd Golden and has proven to be one of the most reliable post players in the SEC. The 6-foot-11 senior leads the Gators in points (15.0), rebounds (7.6), steals (1.0) and blocks (3.0).

Best moment: Castleton paced the Gators in a Jan. 14 win over Missouri with 16 points, 13 boards, three steals and two blocks.

Liam Robbins, Vanderbilt

Minnesota’s transfer is healthy and wreaking havoc in the SEC. He is putting up 13.2 points and 5.9 boards for the Commodores.

Best moment: Robbins scored 22 points, grabbed seven boards and collected six blocks in a Jan. 3 overtime win against South Carolina.

Brandon Johns Jr., VCU

The Michigan transfer has played well of late, which has been timed with the Rams’ surge. The 6-foot-8 senior has scored in double figures in eight straight games for VCU.

Best moment: Johns scored 18 points and grabbed nine boards in a win over Pitt in Brooklyn.

Jesse Edwardssir, Syracuse

Edwards has played well for the Orange, a team that could still mount a postseason campaign. He averages 13.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per game.

Best moment: Edwards scored 22 points and grabbed 16 boards in a win at Notre Dame in December.

Andy Katz is a longtime college basketball writer, analyst and host. He can be seen on the Big Ten Network as well as March Madness and and hosts the “March Madness 365” podcast. Katz worked at ESPN for nearly two decades and, before that, in newspapers for nine years.

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