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October 26, 2006

Good 1-2 punch can be key to success

Preseason Top 25
Media Days Central
The College Basketball Wire

Get the inside scoop on your favorite team:

One is the loneliest number, but players on this list are in good company this season.

Joakim Noah and Al Horford carried Florida through the NCAA Tournament with their defense, scoring and rebounding.

Florida's opponent in the final had its standout duo with guards Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo.

Who will be the best 1-2 punches for the 2006-07? Whether it's a frontcourt, backcourt or inside-outside combination, here are the top 20 tandems for this season:

Rivals.com 2006-07 Top Tandems
1. Center Joakim Noah and forward Al Horford, Florida
The juniors make up the best 1-2 punch in the country. The 6-foot-11 Noah and 6-foot-10 Horford create matchup problems for opponents with their size and athleticism. During the NCAA Tournament, Noah blocked a tournament-record 29 shots on his way to Final Four MVP. Both Gators elevated their play in March, with Horford averaging a double-double on the way to the title. During the regular season, Noah and Horford combined for 163 blocks in 29 games.
2. Center Tyler Hansbrough and forward Brandan Wright, North Carolina
The top recruit in the Tar Heels' outstanding signing class should be a perfect complement for the Rivals.com Freshman of the Year. Alone, Hansbrough became the first freshman to lead North Carolina in scoring and rebounding. With Wright's presence as a scorer, rebounder and shot blocker in the frontcourt, Hansbrough could become more dangerous as a sophomore.
3. Guard Ronald Steele and forward Jermareo Davidson, Alabama
Steele, the point guard, and Davidson, the power forward, make up the best inside-outside combination in the country. Focus on Davidson, and Steele (14.3 points per game) can score from 3-point range or take it to the basket. Pressure Steele, and the junior (4.3 assists) can find Davidson down low. The senior Davidson also averaged 14.3 points per game. Watch out for another tandem in Tuscaloosa: Davidson and sophomore forward Richard Hendrix form an elite rebounding duo.
4. Forward Brandon Rush and guard Mario Chalmers, Kansas
Rush and Chalmers led the Jayhawks to the conference tournament championship and a tie with Texas for the Big 12 regular season title last season. As freshmen, Rush and Chalmers led Kansas in scoring. Rush tailed off at the end of the season, topping 15 points only three times after Feb. 1. However, Chalmers heated up and was named the MVP of the Big 12 Tournament. Throw in sophomore forward Julian Wright and Kansas has not only the best 1-2 punch in the Big 12, but also the best 1-2-3 combo.
5. Center Roy Hibbert and forward Jeff Green, Georgetown
No Big East team returns a better frontcourt than the Hoyas with juniors Hibbert and Green, who should continue to build on last year's success. The 7-foot-2 Hibbert averaged 11.6 points per game last year and should improve on his 6.9 rebounds as he develops. Green is an emerging star who should break through in his third year as a starter after averaging a team-leading 11.9 points per game last year.
6. Center Glen Davis and forward Tasmin Mitchell, LSU
Tyrus Thomas was "Big Baby's" partner in crime last year. Now it's the sophomore Mitchell's turn. The SEC's leading scorer and rebounder, Davis can eat up space down low but is also fast for a big man - especially after dropping even more weight during the offseason. Mitchell gives the Tigers an outside threat if Davis is not an option. A sophomore this season, Mitchell hit 28 3-pointers last year and averaged 11.4 points.
7. Guard Arron Afflalo and forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, UCLA
Not only do Afflalo and Mbah a Moute form the best tandem in the Pac-10, their names are fun to say. With Jordan Farmer gone to the NBA, more will be asked of Afflalo - the Bruins' leading scorer. In addition to scoring, Afflalo may be asked to handle some point guard duties. Mbah a Moute averaged 9.1 points and 8.2 points per game as a freshman, but should creep closer to double-double territory as a sophomore.
8. Guards Sean Singletary and J.R. Reynolds, Virginia
The ACC's best backcourt is in Charlottesville, with the junior point guard Singletary and the senior shooting guard Reynolds. The two were as potent a scoring punch as any in college basketball, with both averaging more than 17 points per game last year. The Cavaliers will need just as much this year to contend for an NCAA Tournament spot.
9. Guard Acie Law and forward Joseph Jones, Texas A&M
Law and Jones are one of the best inside-outside duos in the country. Each averaged more than 15 points per game in 2005-06. Law (four assists per game) can feed the ball to Jones inside or can score himself. Jones provides the muscle and toughness down low, but the Aggies would like to see more rebounds (6.5 per game) out of their junior.
10. Guard Kammron Taylor and forward Alando Tucker, Wisconsin
The senior inside-outside duo carried the Badgers last season - for better or worse. Tucker and Taylor led Wisconsin in scoring and minutes played even though Tucker fought through injuries and Taylor struggled with turnovers. Tucker provides an inside-outside scoring presence, while Taylor can pitch in from 3-point range. With more depth around them and improved health for Tucker, the tandem should keep Wisconsin in contention in the Big Ten.
Best of the rest
11. Guards Dominic James and Jerel McNeal, Marquette
12. Guards Loren Stokes and Antoine Agudio, Hofstra
13. Center Aaron Gray and forward Sam Young, Pittsburgh
14. Guards Derrick Byars and Shan Foster, Vanderbilt
15. Guards Kevin Durant and D.J. Augustin, Texas
16.Guards Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris, Syracuse
17. Guards Javaris Crittenton and Anthony Morrow, Georgia Tech
18. Forwards Jared Dudley and Sean Williams, Boston College
19. Guards Mustafa Shakur and Jawann McClellan, Arizona
20. Guards Aaron Brooks and Malik Hairston, Oregon



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