Busting Brackets

Ranking the top 8 big men in the East Region

After Adama Sanogo was named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player and Zach Edey has taken the National Player of the Year in back-to-back years, the big man is making a comeback in college basketball and these are the beasts in the East.

San Diego State Aztecs forward Jaedon LeDee (13)
San Diego State Aztecs forward Jaedon LeDee (13) / Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
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For me, guards are what win you games in March, but those guards can’t do it without an imposing presence down low. Last year, UConn’s Adama Sanogo was the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, the first big since Anthony Davis at Kentucky in 2012 to take home the award. So, the big man might be back in style. 

UConn has another great one with Donovan Clingan and the defending champs are the top seed in the East, starting their journey to back-to-back titles against Stetson in Round 1. However, Clingan may not take the top spot on the East Region’s big man rankings like Danny Hurley’s backcourt did. He’ll have serious competition from two of last year’s Final Four teams who returned their frontcourt superstars, FAU and San Diego State. 

In the East Region, there are plenty of dominant forwards and centers who can carry their teams, and here I’ve ranked the top 8 to help you decide on the Round of 64 matchups. 

Coleman Hawkins. 8. player. Coleman Hawkins. . . Senior. 6'10" 225 lbs. Coleman Hawkins. 481

Illinois is one of the most interesting teams in the entire 68-team field. The No. 3 seed in the East doesn’t just lack a true point guard, but Brad Underwood doesn’t exactly have a true big either. Dain Dainja plays about 10 minutes a game, but otherwise, the frontcourt is comprised of 6-foot-8 Quincy Guerrier and 6’10” Coleman Hawkins, who might be the passer on the team. 

Hawkins is an excellent facilitator as a stretch forward and in many ways allows Underwood to get away with his no-point guard lineup. Hawkins averages 2.7 assists and shoots 37% from three, providing spacing and playmaking on the offensive end. 

Then, on the defensive end, Hawkins averages 1.5 steals and 1.1 blocks while Guerrier is the team’s leading rebounder. Hawkins can essentially be a Draymond Green-esque offensive fulcrum and defensive anchor, allowing Terrence Shannon Jr. and Marcus Domask to dominate the ball and covering up mistakes on the other end with his length. 

Shannon will be the guy taking the big shots for Illinois, but there will be plenty of instances in a close game where Underwood wants the ball in Hawkins's hands. Like with this team’s backcourt, Hawkins is a better player than where he’s ranked, but the unconventional nature of this team forces me to drop him down the list.