All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.
Ranking back courts against front courts is a tough thing to do because, technically speaking, a small forward is a front court player. That’s why we changed our list to top perimeter attacks; if a player will predominantly spend his time playing on the wing, we label it as such. That’s why you’ll see guys like Andrew Wiggins and Rodney Hood on this list.
Enough blabbering. Here are our top 15 perimeter attacks:
1. Louisville: It’s hard to believe this, but despite losing Peyton Siva from last year’s title-winning team, Louisville’s back court may actually be better this season than it was a year ago. They return an all-american in Russ Smith while bringing in the top JuCo recruit in the country in Chris Jones, who will take over at the point. Toss in Terry Rozier, who spent last season at Hargrave Military academy, and Rick Pitino will have plenty of talented guards on his roster. Now remember that last season’s tournament hero, Luke Hancock, will finally be healthy and may not even be the best wing on the roster with Wayne Blackshear back.
2. Memphis: Expect to see Memphis play with a four-guard lineup quite a bit this season. Why? Because their four guards might be the four best players on the roster, and they’re all seniors: Joe Jackson, Michael Dixon, Geron Johnson and Chris Crawford. If Crawford can do what Kim English did for Missouri in 2011-2012, playing the four and holding his own in the paint, the Tigers will be dangerous. They also have a couple of talented freshmen — Nick King, Kuran Iverson, Markel Crawford — that will see some action as well.
3. Oklahoma State: Travis Ford caught a break when Marcus Smart announced that he would be returning to school for his sophomore season despite being projected as a top five pick in the NBA Draft. Smart will be the best guard in the country this year. He’s joined on the perimeter by the severely underrated Markel Brown. Brian Williams will be healthy this season as well, and Phil Forte and Stevie Clark should provide quite a bit of scoring pop off the bench.
4. Duke: For the purposes of this list, we considered Jabari Parker to be a front court player and Rodney Hood to be a perimeter player, which is why the Blue Devils are “so low”. Hood has a chance to be a star, as does Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke’s sophomore shooting guard. Add in Quinn Cook, Matt Jones and Andre Dawkins, and the Blue Devils have plenty of talented perimeter depth. If you consider Parker a perimeter player, Duke might be No. 1.
5. UConn: The Huskies are going to have a tough time competing with Memphis and Louisville for the AAC crown. Because while Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, Omar Calhoun, Deandre Daniels and Lasan Kromah make up the fifth best perimeter attack in the country, it’s only the third best perimeter attack in the league, and UConn’s front court leaves much to be desired.
6. Kentucky: From a talent perspective, there may not be a better group of perimeter players than Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison and James Young. The problem? Kentucky has no perimeter depth — Alex Poythress is not a wing and Jarrod Polson is lovable but not a part of this conversation — and there are question marks about the chemistry between those three.
7. Notre Dame: I’ll be honest: I think that we’re underrating the Irish by having them seventh. Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins are arguably the best lead guard duo in the country, and they’ll be flanked by Pat Connaughton, Demetrius Jackson and Cameron Biedscheid. That’s quite a bit of talent.
8. Kansas: We all know about Andrew Wiggins, and we all know about Wayne Selden. They’re both lottery picks. Where the question mark lies is at the point guard spot. Will Naadir Tharpe step up and be the player everyone thought he could be coming out of high school? Will Frank Mason or Connor Frankamp take that spot over from him? Full disclosure: We voted on these lists and I had Kansas at No. 1.
9. Michigan State: This ranking — and the Spartans’ season, really — hinges on the play of Keith Appling at the point guard spot. Gary Harris has the chance to be an all-american and Denzel Valentine and Branden Dawson are both talented and versatile enough to allow Tom Izzo to give opponents multiple different looks. But if Appling doesn’t fulfill the point guard role he’s been trying to learn for a couple years, Michigan State’s upside is limited.
10. Gonzaga: With Kelly Olynyk dominating the headlines last season, people started to forget about just how good the back court of Gary Bell Jr. and Kevin Pangos is. Throw in Louisville transfer Angel Nunez (eligible in December), Providence transfer Gerard Coleman, and David Stockton, and Mark Few will have some depth at his disposal as well.
11. Ohio State: Aaron Craft is the name you know, but LaQuinton Ross may be the name you’ll learn this year.
12. Michigan: Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III are stars, and Caris LaVert should shine with more minutes. But can Derrick Walton and Spike Albrecht replace Trey Burke?
13. Colorado: Spencer Dinwiddie is underrated. Expect a big year from Xavier Johnson.
14. Boise State: Not well known, but Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks are one of the best back courts out west, and they’re far from alone.
15. Harvard: Deep and loaded with talent that shouldn’t be in the Ivy. Siyani Chambers and Wesley Saunders are the stars, but that’s just the top layer.