Ranking the best forwards in college basketball

Profile Picture: Nick Roush

March 20th, 2020

As we reflect on the season that was disrupted by the coronavirus crisis, let’s look back at the best forwards college basketball had to offer in 2019-2020.

5. Filip Petrusev (Gonzaga)

The Serbian was a surprise breakout star for the Zags, who were destined to become a No. 1 seed. The 6-foot-11 sophomore made more than 56% of his field goals and averaged 17.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.

4. Jalen Smith (Maryland)

Once an ACC powerhouse under Gary Williams, the Terps were expected to deliver success when they joined the Big Ten in 2014. Six years later, they finally won a share of the Big Ten title in one of the conference’s best years. Smith is a big reason why.

The 6-foot-10 forward added more meat and potatoes to his diet to clear out space in the paint. He almost doubled his rebounding output to average 10.8 a game, the second-most in the Big Ten. The extra strength did not alter his shot. He made almost 37% of his attempts from three-point range to score 15.5 points per game.

3. Xavier Tillman (Michigan State)

Consistency defined the Michigan State forward’s game. Tillman played larger than his 6-foot-8 size, and averaged 13.7 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 2.1 blocks per game. He played with a traditional style, but was mobile enough to defend all areas of the floor.

2. Vernon Carey (Duke)

The Duke big man would have been the ACC Player of the Year if the conference did not have an antiquated voting system.

Some may consider him a center, because of his ability to play with his back to the basket. His mobility makes him versatile enough to fall in the forward category. A future lottery pick, he averaged 17.8 points, 8.8 rebounds per game.

1. Obi Toppin (Dayton)

Dayton’s high flyer was the best player in college basketball this season. If not for Zion Williamson a season ago, he would have been the best dunker college basketball has seen in a decade.

Toppin can score from anywhere on the floor. He made more than 60% of his field goals and 39% of his three-point attempts.

It’s a shame we will not get to see what he could do against the best of the best in the NCAA Tournament. Instead we’ll be stuck playing the "what if" game.

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