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A Search For The Next Great Rim Protector

Jeff Withey and Joel Embiid patrolled the paint as well as anyone in the country for the last three years. Is Hunter Mickelson next?

Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

April 2, 2012 was notable for two reasons. First, Kentucky defeated Kansas to win the national championship. Perhaps having a longer lasting impact, though, was how Anthony Davis, #1 pick in the NBA Draft and budding NBA superstar, was just 1-10 from the field against Jeff Withey, and that 1 was a long two pointer.

Withey led the nation in block percentage in his Junior season, and was 5th in 2013. Last year, Joel Embiid finished 19th, but Kansas allowed a lower percentage at the rim than in either of the Withey years. For whatever problems Kansas had defensively last year, we knew that when teams got to the rim, someone would be there.

As a Freshman at Arkansas, Hunter Mickelson posted a 13.5% block rate, 5th best in the country. In his Sophomore year, his number dipped a bit to 8.2% as Mickelson's playing time decreased a bit. It appears, given both Arkansas' situation as well as the fact that Bill Self took him on as a transfer, that this is a case of Mickelson being undervalued rather than not good.

To be fair, Mickelson isn't a great offensive player. He shot under 50% from two in both of his years at Arkansas. He's not a great rebounder either, and he's struggled with foul trouble.

Still, rim protection is a huge huge deal in college basketball, and that alone will give Mickelson value. Jamari Traylor posted some encouraging shot blocking numbers in his Freshman season, and Cliff Alexander has blocked a ton of shots in high school, but Hunter Mickelson has done it at the Division 1 level and, especially if Kansas's perimeter defense is going to struggle as much as it did last year, the amount of playing time Hunter Mickelson gets could be key to extending the streak.