Leading up to the season, each week ESPN.com college basketball experts will come out with a Top 10 List. This week's list, by Fran Fraschilla, takes a look at the top defenders in the country. Three Big 12 players are mentioned.
J.T. Tiller, 6-3, Sr., Missouri
Tiller was the Big 12's Co-Defensive Player of the Year (along with KU's Cole Aldrich) and is the catalyst for the Tigers' great pressure defense. He has the mentality of an All-Pro NFL "shutdown" cornerback. The kind of toughness that he exudes for coach Mike Anderson's team is a primary reason for last season's record-setting 31-win campaign.
Avery Bradley, 6-3, Fr., Texas
It's rare to put a freshman on a defensive team like this before he's even played a game. But I know Rick Barnes well enough and have seen Bradley enough to know that this is a marriage made in hoops heaven. Bradley has the quickness, athleticism and mental makeup to be one of the nation's best defensive stoppers immediately. Bradley, Tiller and Texas A&M's Donald Sloan will make life miserable for Big 12 point guards all season long.
The Rim Protectors
Cole Aldrich, 6-11, Jr., Kansas
While Aldrich made a huge jump as a player last season, averaging 15 points, 11 rebounds and almost 3 blocks a game, it was his performance as a freshman in the Final Four in 2008 that showed his defensive potential. With his Kevin McHale-like arms, he helped frustrate Tyler Hansbrough inside as the Jayhawks rolled over North Carolina. Along with his length and improved strength, he has great hands, meaning he wins almost every "50-50." The big men of the Big 12 couldn't have been happy with Aldrich's decision to return to KU.