Oregon's Bol Bol and Gonzaga's Brandon Clarke are two of college basketball's most promising big men. We dove into the numbers and the game tape to break down their skill sets and find out just what it is that separates them from the pack.
Let's check out the numbers first.
Bol Bol and Brandon Clarke's stats this season
Both of these guys have put up crazy numbers in 2018-19. A full look:
Something to note: Clarke is 2-for-3 from 3-point range, so don't read too much into that. Bol, on the other hand, is shooting 52 percent from 3 on a healthy 25 attempts.
We knew Bol would be a defensive powerhouse at Oregon, but the offensive volume efficiency is a pleasant surprise. And Clarke just rarely misses while swallowing up opponents' shots regularly. You could make an argument for either player here. Too close to call.
Bol, who has the longest legs in college basketball (unofficial stat) is a unicorn. At 7-2, 235 pounds with a 7-8 wing span, he has the ability to alter shots other players wouldn't even sniff and downright obliterate shots others might deflect. Bol is fluid for his size. But when you have his type of length, that's just gravy. He's going to make an impact on both ends.
The first play of this reel against Eastern Washington is a prime example. Bol actually gets beat off the dribble, but his ridiculous length allows him to recover, and frankly, toy with the offensive player by the time all is said and done.
Bol needs to add strength, but that's not as big of a concern for centers as it used to be considering the dwindling amount of post-ups these days. And even if he faces someone more physical than him, he still makes up a lot of the difference with his long arms.
Clarke, at 6-8, isn't in Bol's league in this department. He's a really good athlete, and the fact that he doesn't have a 7-8 wingspan yet puts up the kind of numbers he does is a testament to him. But Bol's physical profile is the primary reason to like him as a prospect.
Some of this comes down to preference. Bol averages more points and projects to have a higher ceiling. But some of the stuff Clarke can do is a guard's dream. He has some of the best hands in college basketball.
He has a wide array of finishes near the hoop and can contort his body in ways that don't seem possible. Clarke rarely gets blocked despite the fact that he's a 6-8 center who's usually at a size disadvantage. Think you have another block for your highlight reel, Zion Williamson? Think again.
Clarke has a better natural post game than Bol, and his face-up game is lethal. He has outstanding balance and is hard to stay in front of. It's rare that you can run isolation plays for a big man, but that's what Gonzaga does for Clarke, to great effectiveness. Watch as he spins his way to two free-throws here:
Clarke's offensive game is violent. Bol's is smooth, and as you might expect, predicated on length. Baskets like this are admittedly boring, but happen quite often when you have a 7-8 wingspan.
Bol's shooting is also advanced for a guy his size. If you need someone to create a shot, Clarke is your man. And he'll do it efficiently, as he's shooting almost 70 percent from the floor. Bol can do more stuff, but Clarke gets a slight edge here because he's always doubling and tripling down on his offensive strengths.
Slight edge: Clarke
This is an easier one. It's Bol, who's a surprising 13-of-25 from 3-point range and has shown feathery touch for his size. Clarke has the makings of a good jump shot, but he's reluctant to take 3s as of now.
A theme here: these guys' numbers look the same, but they get said numbers using completely different methods. Clarke averages 8.2 rebounds, but 3.4 of those come on the offensive glass. He collects 15.3 percent of Gonzaga's own misses when he's in the game, the No. 22 mark among Division I players. Bol averages 9.4, but only 2.1 of them come on offense. That obviously means Bol is the superior defensive rebounder.
This makes sense, on a certain level. Clarke's motor is always running hot, while Bol just needs to camp near the hoop on defense and use his massive rebounding radius to end opposing possessions. Clarke is an expert at probing the rim, kind of serving as a football pass rusher looking for moves to beat the box out. Like here:
Bol gets the edge by a hair, but it depends if you value offensive or defensive rebounding more. At the end of the day, it's hard not to give the guy with a 7-8 wingspan the rebounding advantage.
Slight edge: Bol
It's remarkable that Clarke averages 3.3 blocks per game despite only being 6-8. Similar to his offensive rebounding, Clarke's impeccable timing and anticipation serve him well as a rim-protector. It helps that he's a supreme athlete.
A common mistake among college big men: they abandon their man too quickly to try and contain a drive. They may force an errant shot, but their own man is there for the easy offensive rebound. The good ones stick to their assignment as long as possible before stunting to help on the driver.
Clarke excels in that department. He essentially guards two guys at once on this play against North Dakota State and gets the rejection:
Opponents score 94 points per 100 possessions with Clarke in the game. He's the only Gonzaga regular with a defensive rating below 102.3, and he's way below that mark. Clarke is a boss of an interior defender.
And yet, his ceiling doesn't match Bol's. Clarke's block above took pristine timing and basketball IQ. Bol has a high basketball IQ, too, but he doesn't have to do as much to stifle an opponent, which expands the range of possibilities. This poor San Diego player hits Bol with a series of moves and never really has a chance. Bol doesn't even have to jump and blocks it easily.
Oregon's defense is also better than Gonzaga's, and Bol has a lot to do with that. His 87.7 defensive rating is best on the team by almost 10 points. He has a similar effect on the Ducks that Mo Bamba had on Texas last season.
Both of these dudes are defensive juggernauts. But Bol is special.
Bol rarely strays from the paint, because why would he? Oregon tries to keep him near the basket as much as possible. On the rare possessions he has switched onto a guard, he usually gets beat, but his length helps him recover to fare pretty well.
We have more a sample size with Clarke, who can guard a variety of players effectively. Take this play here, for example, where Clarke does that thing again where he guards two guys at once. He sticks to Jack White long enough to deny a pass for an open 3, but then helps onto a good point guard in Tre Jones and snags the block.
Clarke has the advantage here, but it's mostly a result of these two being asked to do different things.
These guys have both been phenomenal, and pleasantly surprising on certain levels. But Bol is just as good as Clarke right now, if not better, and has a higher ceiling.
Bottom line: Bol and Clarke have been a blast to watch this season.