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Spencer Parlier | NCAA.com | November 10, 2020

25 contenders for the Karl Malone Award as the nation's best power forward

Top 25 Karl Malone Award contenders for 2020-21

The past two seasons the winner of the Karl Malone award for the nation's best power forward, have gone on to win National Player of the Year — Duke's Zion Williamson and Dayton's Obi Toppin. With another batch of talented big men, it could happen again this season.

On this week's March Madness 365, Andy Katz ranks his top 25 contenders for the Karl Malone award headed into the 2020-21 season. This episode also features ESPN's Fran Fraschilla, Oklahoma State's Cade Cunningham and Howard's Makur Maker and Kenny Blakeney. Turner Sports' Chad "March Chadness" Aycock also stops by to discuss potential impact freshmen heading into the season with Katz. 

Here are the players who have won the Karl Malone award in past seasons:

Year Player School
2020 Obi Toppin Dayton
2019 Zion Williamson Duke
2018 Deandre Ayton Arizona
2017 Johnathan Motley Baylor
2016 Georges Niang Iowa State
2015  Montrezl Harrell Louisville

Here are some of the top contenders for the Karl Malone award, according to Andy Katz: 

25. Scottie Barnes — Florida State, Freshman

Scottie Barnes will be another highly-touted freshman to join Leonard Hamilton and company in Tallahassee. Barnes is a five-star recruit out of the Montverde Academy standing at 6'9" and 227 pounds.

24. Greg Brown — Texas, Freshman 

Greg Brown is another freshman looking to make an impact. Hailing out of Austin, Brown stands at 6'9" and 195 pounds and chose Texas over the likes of Memphis, Auburn and Kentucky. 

23. Evan Mobley — Southern Cal, Freshman

This 7'0 big man will try to stand out in a Pac-12 that is loaded with talent this season. Mobley is a five-star recruit, who chose USC over other appealing offers like rival UCLA, Stanford, Alabama and Washington. 

22. Makur Maker — Howard, Freshman 

Howard Basketball's Makur Maker

Maker has already made his mark on the game of college basketball, deciding to attend an HBCU. Maker, 6'11" and 235 pounds, will bring a lot of attention to the Bison's campus as he looks to establish himself as one of the best power forwards and freshmen in the country. 

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21. Hasahn French — Saint Louis, Senior

Hasahn French is the first non-freshman to crack this list, as he'll be looking to play a key role for the Billikens his senior year. Coming off of a season where he averaged a double-double, 12.4 points and 10.4 boards a game, French will be looking to be one of the best forwards in the A-10. 

20. E.J. Liddell — Ohio State,  Sophomore

Liddell will look to make a big transition from his freshman year to his sophomore year, as he'll be paired with Harvard transfer Seth Towns in the Buckeyes' frontcourt. Liddell averaged 6.7 points and 3.8 boards per game last season. 

19. K.J. Buffen — Ole Miss, Junior

Ole Miss basketball's K.J. Buffen

Ole Miss needs K.J. Buffen to have a big year to break out of a crowded SEC pack. Katz thinks if Ole Miss is going to be an NCAA tournament team then it will be on the shoulders of Buffen. He averaged 10.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last season. 

18. Justin Smith — Arkansas, Senior

Just like Ole Miss, Arkansas will be looking to break out of the SEC and make the NCAA tournament. They'll look to do it behind Indiana transfer Justin Smith. Smith averaged 10.4 points and 5.2 boards for the Hoosiers his junior season. 

17. Anton Watson — Gonzaga, Sophomore

Paired with Drew Timme and Corey Kispert, a healthy Watson helps give the Zags a productive frontcourt this season. 

16. Nate Reuvers — Wisconsin, Senior

Katz thinks the 6'11" Reuvers' inside game will improve this season and he should see an increase in touches.

15. Matthew Hurt — Duke, Sophomore

Hurt could be the best player on potentially the best team in the ACC. He'll look to improve upon his freshman numbers of 9.7 points and 3.8 rebounds a game. 

TOP RETURNERS: Luka Garza, Ayo Dosunmu highlight Andy Katz's top returning players for 2020-2021

14. Brady Manek — Oklahoma, Senior

Oklahoma basketball's Brady Manek

Brady Manek — who looks like Larry Bird — was the third-leading scorer (14.4 per game) on the team and second-leading rebounder (6.2 per game) last season. He'll look to boost those numbers this year. 

13. Franz Wagner — Michigan, Sophomore

Known as a face-up forward, Wagner could be just what the Wolverines need this season to compete in the Big Ten. Loaded with talent in the frontcourt, Wagner will have some heavy competition this year with the likes of Luka Garza and Kofi Cockburn in the same conference. 

12. Sandro Mamukelashvili — Seton Hall, Senior

Mamukelashvili averaged 11.9 points and six rebounds per game last season in a year where he went down early with a wrist injury. Without star Myles Powell, Mamukelashvili will have a more critical role to the Pirates' productivity this year if they want to escape a loaded Big East.  

11. John Fulkerson — Tennessee, Senior 

John Fulkerson could emerge as not only Tennessee's best player this year, but he has the potential to be one of the best in the SEC. The fifth-year senior averaged 13.7 points and 5.9 rebounds down low for the Vols last season, as he'll be one of the go-to guys for Rick Barnes this year. 

10. D.J. Funderburk — N.C. State, Junior 

Katz has the Wolfpack right on the bubble come tournament time. If they want to get to the other side and make the NCAA tournament, D.J. Funderburk will have to play well this season. He averaged 12.8 points and 6.1 boards per game last year. 

9. Mark Vital — Baylor, Senior

Katz has Mark Vital having a big year for the Bears, as they'll need him to be consistent on the glass to compete for a title. With Jared Butler leading the backcourt, Vital will look to champion the frontcourt and improve upon last season's 6.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. 

BEST OF THE BEST: 10 Player of the Year contenders for the 2020-2021 college basketball season

8. Eugene Omoruyi — Oregon, Senior

Eugene Omoruyi is making the change from the Big Ten to the Pac-12, as the former Rutgers big man will hope to make some healthy contributions to Dana Altman's frontcourt. He scored 13.8 points per game last season and grabbed 7.2 boards per game. 

7. Trevion Williams — Purdue, Junior

With center Matt Haarms now at BYU, Trevion Williams should get a lot more touches. He averaged 11.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game last season.

6. Trendon Watford — LSU, Sophomore

LSU basketball's Trendon Watford

Watford had a big year his freshman season for the Tigers, averaging 13.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. He'll look to be the go-to guy for the Tigers year, and possibly one of the best players in the SEC. 

5. Derek Culver — West Virginia, Junior

Culver is expected to be one of the most productive players on one of the best teams in the Big 12 this season. He and fellow big man Oscar Tshiebwe will hold down the frontcourt for the Mountaineers. They combined for 21.6 points and 17.9 rebounds per game last season. 

4. Joey Hauser — Michigan State, Sophomore

Katz is high on Joey Hauser this season after he transferred from Marquette and sat out a season to develop within Tom Izzo's system. He averaged 9.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in the 2018-2019 season. 

UNDER THE RADAR: 10 under-appreciated college basketball programs that deserve more love

3. Aamir Sims — Clemson, Senior 

Katz thinks Aamir Sims isn't being talked about enough on the national stage. With Clemson being an early pick to be a bubble team out of the ACC, they'll need Sims to step-up and play like a potential Karl Malone Award winner to make it to the NCAA tournament. 

2. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl — Villanova, Sophomore

Robinson-Earl decided to come back to the Wildcats for his sophomore season, and because of it, Nova is an early Katz pick to make it to the Final Four. Paired up with point guard Collin Gilespie, Robinson-Earl will need to strike a balance with his star guard and try to dominate down low. 

1. Trayce Jackson-Davis — Indiana, Sophomore

Indiana basketball's Trayce Jackson-Davis

Katz thinks Trayce Jackson-Davis might be the most underrated player in all of college basketball, let alone at the power-forward position. Jackson-Davis racked up 13.5 points and 8.4 rebounds per game last year, and will try to lead Indiana out of a talented Big Ten this season. He could potentially challenge Luka Garza and Ayo Donsunmu for Big Ten Player of the Year. 

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