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September 30, 2009

KU has nation's top inside-outside duo

Take a look at the 2009 Final Four of North Carolina, Michigan State, Villanova and Connecticut. Each program had a formidable inside-outside tandem that came alive during the NCAA tournament.

North Carolina had Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson. Michigan State had Goran Suton and Kalin Lucas. Villanova had Dante Cunningham and Scottie Reynolds. Connecticut had A.J. Price and Hasheem Thabeet.

Indeed, having a premier guard and top-flight big man is a major building block for a team's success. Here's a look at the top 10 inside-outside duos in college basketball, along with three others to watch, for the 2009-10 season.

Mr. Inside
: Cole Aldrich
Mr. Outside: Sherron Collins
The buzz: Not really much debate here. Aldrich and Collins should be preseason All-Americas for the nation's preseason No. 1 team. Both could have gone to the NBA draft after last season but elected to make a run at a second national title during their careers. Collins needs to cut his turnovers (3.3 turnovers per game) while Aldrich could polish his offensive game to go with his fantastic defensive presence. Still, you won't find a better inside-outside duo in the country.

Mr. Inside
: Patrick Patterson
Mr. Outside: John Wall
The buzz: John Calipari didn't know if he'd have this pairing until mid-May, when Wall signed and Patterson pulled out of the NBA draft. Good things come to those who wait. The Wildcats are SEC favorites and Final Four contenders because of Wall and Patterson. The top freshman in the country, Wall is a blazingly fast point guard who often will look inside to Patterson, who averaged 17.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks last season.

Mr. Inside
: Raymar Morgan
Mr. Outside: Kalin Lucas
The buzz: The Spartans will miss center Goran Suton down low, but they are hopeful Morgan will return to form. Morgan was limited by an illness through the second half of the season, averaging 6.1 points and 3.8 rebounds after Jan. 17. Michigan State lacks a true center, so Morgan will have to suffice at power forward. There aren't any questions at the point, where Lucas is one of the best in the nation. He can pass the ball and drive to the basket as well as anyone.

Mr. Inside
: DeShawn Sims
Mr. Outside: Manny Harris
The buzz: John Beilein's teams rarely have a traditional inside presence. This group at Michigan is no exception. The Wolverines often use a four-guard lineup, with Sims on the court as the only forward. Sims is a double-double threat who can score from the perimeter. Harris is a proven scorer (16.9 points per game) who also averaged 4.4 assists last season.

Mr. Inside
: Luke Harangody
Mr. Outside: Tory Jackson
The buzz: Harangody could be Mr. Inside for any team in the country. He is the nation's top returning scorer at 23.3 points and the second-leading rebounder at 11.8 boards. His return for his senior season is a huge plus as the Irish attempt to return to the NCAA tournament. Jackson is a speedy and confident point guard who averaged 10.6 points, 4.9 assists and 4.4 rebounds.

Mr. Inside
: Stanley Robinson
Mr. Outside: Kemba Walker
The buzz: Robinson and Walker face a tall order in replacing the Huskies' inside-outside duo of Hasheem Thabeet and A.J. Price. What Thabeet brought in sheer size, the 6-9 Robinson brings in athleticism. He averaged 8.5 points and 5.9 boards last season, but he was indispensable in the Big East and NCAA tournaments (three double-doubles in the final six games). Walker stepped in for an injured Jerome Dyson last season and flourished. He could be due for a breakout season playing at his natural position of point guard.

Mr. Inside
: Dexter Pittman
Mr. Outside: Avery Bradley
The buzz: Bradley is the second freshman guard to appear on the list. He's the No. 4 incoming freshman in the nation, and is a mid-range scorer and top-notch defender. The 6-10, 298-pound Pittman causes opponents problems with his sheer size. Pittman should have more stamina this season and should be one of the nation's best low-post players.

Mr. Inside
: Keith Gallon
Mr. Outside: Willie Warren
The buzz: The ultra-confident Warren proved he could be a sidekick last season, when Blake Griffin was starring for the Sooners. Now Warren must prove he can lead a team. He should be up to the task. Warren is an all-around talent with the ability to penetrate and shoot the 3-pointer. Gallon, another freshman, isn't as much of a sure thing as Wall or Bradley, but he was the No. 9 prospect in the country. Gallon is a skilled center who will have to grow up in a hurry for a frontcourt that will miss Griffin, Taylor Griffin and Juan Pattillo.

Mr. Inside
: Greg Monroe
Mr. Outside: Chris Wright
The buzz: A return to the NCAA tournament by the Hoyas depends greatly on the development of Monroe, the Big East's newcomer of the year last season. Monroe averaged 12.7 points and a team-leading 6.5 rebounds. If you're thinking the 6-11 Monroe is a big man in mold of Roy Hibbert, think again. Monroe is a versatile forward who was second on the team with 2.5 assists. The Hoyas also are hoping Wright will continue to develop after he averaged 12.5 points and 3.8 assists in his first season at point guard.

Mr. Inside
: Jerome Jordan
Mr. Outside: Ben Uzoh
The buzz: This duo poses the biggest threat to Memphis' Conference USA dominance. Jordan, a 7-footer from Jamaica, should be one of the nation's best centers. He flirted with the NBA draft but decided to continue his development in college. He averaged 13.8 points and 8.6 rebounds to go with 88 blocks. Uzoh is an excellent shooter and defender and also a solid rebounder. He'll benefit from what should be more consistent play at point guard.

Mr. Inside
: DeAngelo Casto
Mr. Outside: Klay Thompson
The buzz: Washington State has a new coach in Ken Bone, and this sophomore duo gives him solid building blocks. The sharp-shooting Thompson should thrive in Bone's high-tempo offense after averaging 12.5 points per game last season. Casto was a part-time starter last season, but he will see a lot more playing time this season. Given the dearth of proven big men in the Pac-10, Casto should have a breakout season.

Mr. Inside
: Derrick Favors
Mr. Outside: Iman Shumpert
The buzz: The Yellow Jackets won only two conference games last season, but that hasn't stopped preseason prognosticators from projecting Georgia Tech as an ACC contender and likely NCAA tournament participant. The reason is the arrival of Favors, the No. 3 freshman in the class. Favors should be a force around the basket, and Shumpert should be a little more polished at guard after not having enough help last season.

Mr. Inside
: Daniel Emerson
Mr. Outside: James Florence
The buzz: Notre Dame and Mercer are the only teams to have a top-five returning scorer and a top-five returning rebounder. Harangody fills both spots for the Irish; at Mercer, Florence averaged 20.8 points and Emerson averaged 13.8 points and 10.7 rebounds. The duo will try to lead the Bears to the Atlantic Sun title and their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1985.

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.

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