Position Rankings: Ranking the 20 best shooting guards

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Throughout the month of October, CollegeBasketballTalk will be rolling out our previews for the 2012-2013 season. Check back at 9 a.m. and just after lunch every day, Monday-Friday, for a new preview item.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To look at the rest of the Top 25, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Yesterday we took a lot at some of the nation’s best point guards. This list focuses on the point guard’s sidekick, the shooting guard. While “shooting” is a part of their game, the best find a way to help their teams in a variety of ways. Here’s a look at some of the nation’s best.

The Top 10

1. Shabazz Muhammad (UCLA)
There’s still the major question whether or not the NCAA will clear Muhammad for competition, but there’s no denying the fact that he’s one of the most talented players in the country. The southpaw is extremely difficult to stop in the open court, and he’ll add a much-needed dimension to the UCLA attack.

2. Michael Snaer (Florida State)
Snaer may be the best perimeter defender in the country, and he’s also the Seminoles’ primary scoring option. As a junior Snaer averaged 14.0 points per game, shooting 43.6% from the field and 40.4% from beyond the arc.

3. C.J. McCollum (Lehigh) 
Look for McCollum to get some more work at the point for the Mountain Hawks, and that 30-point showing against Duke was simply the latest example of what happens when he gets rolling. The reigning Patriot League Player of the Year averaged 21.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game in 2011-12.

4. B.J. Young (Arkansas)
If the Razorbacks return to the NCAA tournament Young will be a big reason why. One of the best freshmen in the SEC last season, Young scored 15.3 points per game, shooting 50.4% from the field and 41.3% from three.

5. Archie Goodwin (Kentucky)
Goodwin, like classmate Muhammad, is an absolute handful when he makes up his mind to attack the rim. He’s Kentucky’s best perimeter scorer, and that was the case before Goodwin’s 32-point showing in the Blue-White Scrimmage.

6. Rodney McGruder (Kansas State)
McGruder was a second team All-Big 12 selection last season, averaging 15.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. McGruder shot 46.3% from the field and 38.5% from three in 2011-12.

7. Michael Dixon Jr. (Missouri) 
Dixon Jr. is more of a point guard when projecting to the next level, but the presence of Phil Pressey leads to him playing off the ball more often than not. Currently suspended indefinitely, Dixon Jr. averaged 13.5 points per game and shot 48.7% from the field as a junior.

8. Tim Hardaway Jr. (Michigan)
Hardaway Jr. teams up with Trey Burke to form one of the nation’s best backcourt duos. As a sophomore Hardaway Jr. averaged 14.6 points per game and shot 41.7% from the field. If he can boost that three-point percentage (28.3%) this season, Hardaway can raise that scoring average a few points.

9. Allen Crabbe (California) 
Crabbe is arguably the best returning shooting guard in the Pac-12, coming off of a season in which he averaged 15.2 points per game and was a first team All-Pac-12 selection. Crabbe shot 43.1% from the field and 39.9% from three while also grabbing 5.7 rebounds per game.

10. Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati)
Kilpatrick is poised for a breakout campaign after a solid 2011-12, in which he averaged 14.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. With Dion Dixon (13.0 ppg) gone there are more shots to be had on the perimeter for the Bearcats, and Kilpatrick is a prime candidate for increased scoring opportunities.

The Best of the Rest

11. Kenny Boynton (Florida) 

12. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Georgia) 

13. Colt Ryan (Evansville) 

14. Rodney Purvis (NC State)

15. Trent Lockett (Marquette)

16. Jerian Grant (Notre Dame)

17. DeAndre Kane (Marshall) 

18. Gary Harris (Michigan State)

19. Victor Oladipo (Indiana)

20. Khalif Wyatt (Temple) 

20 Others: Gary Bell (Gonzaga), Keion Bell (Missouri), Drew Crawford (Northwestern), Seth Curry (Duke), Jud Dillard (Tennessee Tech), Kevin Foster (Santa Clara), Langston Galloway (St. Joseph’s), Ramon Galloway (La Salle), Shane Gibson (Sacred Heart), Preston Medlin (Utah State), Brandon Paul (Illinois), Steven Pledger (Oklahoma), Chasson Randle (Stanford), Devon Saddler (Delaware), Durand Scott (Miami), Trevis Simpson (UNC Greensboro), Chase Tapley (San Diego State), Brandon Triche (Syracuse), C.J. Wilcox (Washington), Trey Zeigler (Pittsburgh).

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej. 

Bluiett back to Xavier for senior season

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Xavier lost one significant piece to the professional ranks this spring, but will return another.

Trevon Bluiett, the team’s leading scorer last year, announced via social media that he will be back to play his senior season with the Musketeers.

Chris Mack will return the bulk of a roster that struggled February only to make a run to the Elite Eight, but getting Bluiett for a final season makes the Musketeers especially dangerous. The 6-foot-6 Bluiett scored a team-high 18.5 points per game last year while also putting up 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per night. He shot 37.1 percent from 3-point range, the second-best mark on the team. His return, even with point guard Edmond Sumner going pro amid his ACL tear recovery, makes Xavier one of the top teams in the Big East heading into the 2017-18 season.

Bluiett himself is enough to keep Xavier relevant in the league, but when he’s coupled with the likes of returners JP Macura, Sean O’Mara and Quentin Goodwin, plus a recruiting class featuring two four-star prospects, it’s not difficult to see a path for Mack’s group to a place where they can compete with the likes of Villanova and Seton Hall atop the league.

Welsh and Holiday returning to UCLA

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UCLA sustained some major, though expected, attrition from its roster this spring. On Tuesday, the Bruins announced a pair of significant contributors that will be back.

Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday will both return next season to the UCLA program, according to the school.

Welsh, a 7-foot center, averaged 10.8 points and 8.7 rebounds as a senior last year for the Bruins. He shot 58.5 percent from the floor and blocked 1.2 shots per game, and decided to declare for the NBA Draft without an agent before ultimately deciding to return to Westwood.

“Thomas has worked hard all spring,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “We supported him testing the NBA waters and are excited to have him returning for his senior year. He simply continues to develop each and every season.

“Thomas will be one of the top centers in college basketball next year and, undoubtedly, has a great chance to be a first-round pick in next season’s draft.”

The 6-foot-1 Holiday averaged 12.3 points and 4.4 assists last season while sharing a backcourt with Lonzo Ball, whose departure, along with those of TJ Leaf, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton will leave UCLA with a very different look next season. The positive results, however, may not fluctuate too significantly with Welsh and Holiday coming back to play alongside two five-star recruits, Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands, as well as Lonzo’s younger brother LiAngelo.

West Virginia’s Macon forgoing final year

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West Virginia’s attempt to dethrone Kansas atop the Big 12 took a bit of a hit Tuesday.

Elijah Macon, a 6-foot-9 forward, announced his decision to forego a fifth year in Morgantown in order to pursue a professional career.

“First things first I would like to say thank you Bob Huggins and Erik Martin for believing in a young 15-year-old boy growing up from the Southside of Columbus, OH losing my mother and still having you guys push me to be the man I have become,” Macon said according to the school. “I can do nothing but thank you for all you and Mountaineer Nation (have) done for me. Unfortunately, I will not be returning for my senior season at WVU and instead sign with a(n) agent and play professional basketball. Thank you guys for all the love and support!”

Macon wasn’t a major contributor for the Mountaineers last season, averaging 6.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in 16 minutes per game, but he was an experienced and tough player who was well-versed in Huggins’ style and demands. Given the pace that the newly-fashioned Press Virginia plays at, depth is also paramount for them as a program.

Macon’s departure, though, may have been expected or at least partly anticipated by West Virginia. The Mountaineers signed five players in its most recent recruiting class, putting them one over their allotment of 13, so something had to give. West VIrginia will stay have interior depth, anchored by junior Esa Ahmad, so the loss of Macon is one they likely can weather, even if it may take some time to acclimate the newcomers.

“Elijah is in the process of completing classes during this summer school period that ends June 2 and will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in August,” Huggins said in a statement released by the school. “I respect his decision to become a professional basketball player and to go make money to support his family. He had a great four years with us, and we wish him nothing but the best.”

Key returning to Alabama for sophomore season

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Alabama’s top scorer is returning to school.

Braxton Key has withdrawn his name from the NBA draft and will be back with the Tide for his sophomore season, the school announced Tuesday.

“I spoke to coach Avery (Johnson) just over a week ago and informed him of my decision to withdraw my name from the NBA Draft and return to the University of Alabama for my sophomore season,” Key said in a statement. “I made that official when I sent my paperwork to the NBA league office Monday morning. I want to express my appreciation to my teammates, Coach Johnson and the entire coaching staff for giving me their full support while I went through this process.

“I am excited for the future of the Alabama basketball program and looking forward to getting to work as we prepare for next season. Roll Tide and Buckle Up!”

The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 12 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while shooting 43.3 percent from the field as a freshman. He gives Alabama four returning starts to pair with one of the country’s highest-regarded recruiting classes, headlined by five-star guard Collin Sexton. The Tide will also have an eligible Daniel Giddens, who previously transferred in from Ohio State.

Key didn’t seem likely to stay in the NBA draft, especially after he wasn’t invited to the combine, but his ultimate decision is a huge one for Avery Johnson as he looks to break through in his third season in Tuscaloosa with his first NCAA tournament appearance. 

Report: Justin Jackson to return to Maryland

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Maryland forward Justin Jackson is expected to return to school for his sophomore season, according to a report from FanRag Sports.

Jackson is an intriguing talent, a 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-3 wingspan that shoots 44 percent from three. But he’s also still developing his offensive game and consistency on the defensive end of the floor, which is why he was projected as a second round pick in this year’s draft.

With Jackson back in the fold, Maryland is a borderline top 25 team. They lost Melo Trimble to the professional ranks, but that’s something that Mark Turgeon has prepared for. With a sophomore class that also includes highly-regarded point guard Anthony Cowan and sharp-shooter Kevin Huerter, the Terps have a promising season ahead of them.