Last season, 10 of the top 16 teams in the country in block rate — a metric that measures what percent of opponents' 2-point attempts that a team blocks, courtesy of kenpom.com — made the NCAA tournament, including No. 2 seed and Final Four participant Houston, which blocked roughly one out of every seven 2-point shots its opponents took.
Ranked one spot ahead of Houston and eighth nationally in block rate was Syracuse, a No. 11 seed that made a Sweet 16 run that, oddly enough, lost to the Cougars in the regional semifinals. Elite Eight squads Arkansas and USC both ranked in the top 25 nationally in the metric, too.
So, there's clearly a benefit to having an elite rim protector, or several, and many of the sport's top shot-blockers from last season returned to the sport for the 2021-22 campaign.
Here are the top nine returning men's basketball players in blocked shots per game.
1. KC Ndefo, Saint Peter's
Blocks per game (2020-21): 3.64
Saint Peter's blocked 16 percent of its opponents' 2-point attempts last season, which ranked second nationally, according to kenpom.com, and Ndefo was the primary reason why. He led the country with a 15.3-percent block rate and no one else on the team's roster had a block rate higher than 2.1 percent.
Ndefo's blocked-shots average has steadily improved year over year, from 1.8 per game as a freshman, to 2.4 as a sophomore to 3.6 blocks per game last season. He blocked at least one shot in all 25 games he played in last season, including a season-high seven blocks in a road game at Siena. He blocked at least five shots in a game eight times.
2. Dajour Dickens, Hampton
Blocks per game (2020-21): 3.38
Last season, the national average in block rate — the percent of the opponent's 2-point attempts that a team blocks — was 8.8 percent, but Hampton led the country at 16.1 percent, per kenpom.com. That rate was fueled by Hampton's Dajour Dickens, a 7-footer who blocked 13.8 percent of opponents' 2-point attempts.
Dickens' blocked-shots average more than doubled from his junior to senior seasons, from 1.5 per game in 2020 to nearly 3.4 per game as a senior. He blocked a season-high seven shots on three occasions last season — against Gardner-Webb, UNC Asheville and High Point.
3. Mouhamadou Gueye, Pittsburgh
Blocks per game (2020-21): 3.10
In the offseason, Gueye transferred to Pitt from Stony Brook, where he became a regular starter as a sophomore and averaged a career-best 3.1 blocks in 26.4 minutes per game. His 12.9 percent block rate ranked sixth nationally last season.
Gueye blocked a season-high eight shots against UMBC last season and he had at least five blocks in seven of the 21 games he played in as a sophomore.
4. David Muoka, UNLV
Blocks per game (2020-21): 2.96
He transferred to UNLV from Lamar in the offseason after blocking 11.7 percent of opponents' 2-point attempts last season, which ranked 12th nationally, per kenpom.com. His playing time jumped from 17.3 minutes per game as a freshman to 26.6 minutes per game as a sophomore and as a result, his blocked shots per game average climbed from 1.8 to 2.9 per game.
His season-high in blocked shots came against Stephen F. Austin, when he had nine blocks and finished one block shy of a triple-double. He finished the season with 15 consecutive games with at least two blocks.
5. Osun Osunniyi, St. Bonaventure
Blocks per game (2020-21): 2.86
St. Bonaventure earned a No. 9 seed last season after the Bonnies swept the A-10 regular season and conference tournament titles and the 6-10, 220-pound Osunniyi was a major reason why. He started all 21 of the team's games, while playing 85.6 percent of possible minutes (91st-most in the country, per kenpom.com), while blocking 10.6 percent of opponents' 2-point attempts. He ranked 21st nationally and second in A-10 play in block rate.
Osunniyi has 210 blocks through three seasons, as he has averaged more than two blocks per game in each of his three seasons of college. Osunniyi finished last season on a high note from a rim-protecting perspective, as he blocked at least three shots in each of the team's final five games — which included three A-10 tournament and one NCAA tournament game — including a pair of seven-block performances.
6. Ike Obiagu, Seton Hall
Blocks per game (2020-21): 2.85
Obiagu has annually been one of the nation's top shot-blockers on a percentage basis, but last season, he finally saw significant playing time. As a freshman at Florida State, he blocked 20.9 (!) percent of opponents' 2-point attempts when he was on the floor, but he played just 10 minutes per game — the same number as his first season at Seton Hall.
Then, as a redshirt junior last season, he started 26 of 27 games and averaged 2.9 blocks in 22.3 minutes per game, which means that if he can stay on the floor longer (he averaged 2.3 fouls in 22 minutes per game), his blocked-shot average could climb well over three per game. Obiagu's season-high in blocks came against Georgetown, when he blocked nine shots. He also had games with eight and seven blocks.
7. Liam Robbins, Vanderbilt
Blocks per game (2020-21): 2.70
Robbins transferred to Vanderbilt from Minnesota, after starting his career at Drake. Even though his blocked-shot average took a slight dip from 2.9 to 2.7 per game during his first and only season in Minneapolis, Robbins still ranked 10th nationally in blocked shots per game last season. He ranked 15th nationally in block percentage, per kenpom.com, after blocked 11 percent of opponents' 2-point attempts.
Robbins' season-high in blocks last season came in a road game at Purdue, where he blocked six shots in 30 minutes of action.
8. Manny Bates, NC State
Blocks per game (2020-21): 2.67
Not only was Bates NC State's second-most efficient offensive player (and 93rd nationally, per kenpom.com), but he ranked 18th in block rate, as he swatted 10.7 percent of opponents' 2-point attempts.
Remarkably, last season was actually a bit of a down year for Bates' shot-blocking, compared to his freshman season. His minutes-per-game average increased by nine from his freshman to his sophomore season, yet his blocked-shot average dropped by 0.2, but he still had 2.7 per game.
Bates had eight blocks against Saint Louis, seven against North Carolina and six against Pitt.
9. Theo Akwuba, Louisiana
Blocks per game (2020-21): 2.62
Louisiana's Theo Akwuba had a breakout junior season after transferring from Portland. After not starting any games at Portland as a sophomore, he started every game last season for Louisiana, while playing 27.9 minutes per game — roughly 17 more per game than the previous season. He made the most of his increased playing time, averaging a career-best 11.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game for a Ragin' Cajuns team that went 17-9 (10-7 Sun Belt).
In a three-game span against New Orleans, McNeese State and Texas State, he blocked a combined 20 shots — seven, seven and six in those three games, respectively. He had at least two blocks in 19 of the 26 games he played.