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College Basketball’s Top Off Guards

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The off-guard spot is the weakest position in college basketball this season.

For off-guards, only 20 were ranked in our top 100, meaning that the other 80 players in that ranking came from lead guards, wing forwards and big men. I’ll let you handle that math on your own.

Why is this the case? Is it because the best scoring guards in basketball are trying to mold themselves after the likes of Russell Westbrook, John Wall and James Harden as opposed to, say, Kobe? Is it because the emphasis on court-spacing has turned the off-guard spot into a spot-up shooter or 3-and-D role? Or is this just a random year where the two-guards just aren’t all that good?

As interesting as that discussion would be, it’s a different conversation for a different day.

Before we dive into the top 20 off-guards in college basketball, a quick disclaimer: We used four positions to rank players – lead guards, off guards, wings and big men. If your favorite player isn’t on this list, he’s probably slotted in a different position.

RELATED: Top 100 Players | Top Backcourts | Top Frontcourts | Top Lead Guards
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1. Grayson Allen, Duke, Sr.

This pick is probably going to tick some people off.

If LaVar Ball isn’t the most hated man in or around college basketball, it’s Grayson Allen. Beyond the fact that he’s a star guard at Duke with, ahem, something in common with J.J. Redick and Steve Wojciechowski and Christian Laettner, Allen also tripped three different players during the calendar year of 2016 and managed all of a one-game suspension for it.

So I get it.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t hate Grayson Allen.

But I am saying that he’s a damn good basketball player, one of the best in the sport this year.

As a sophomore, Allen averaged 21.6 points, 4.6 boards and 3.5 assists while shooting better than 41 percent from three on a Duke team that ended up as a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament. He was a second-team all-american and the star of a team that included Brandon Ingram. He entered his junior season as the Preseason National Player of the Year, but spent most of the year battling through physical ailments – an ankle that needed offseason surgery to fix – and mental anguish – the weight of being booed everywhere he went and knowing he did that to himself wasn’t easy to handle.

Allen is healthy now. He’s the lone upperclassman on a team that is going to likely end up being the preseason No. 1 team in the country. I fully expect that he will put together a season that will remind the nation of the fact that Allen, in addition to being a habitual tripper working through some emotional issues, is a very, very good college basketball player.

CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky | Kansas | Arizona | Michigan State | Duke
Allonzo Trier (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

2. Allonzo Trier, Arizona, Jr.

Trier has dealt with some of his own issues over the course of the last year.

Prior to last season, a failed drug test involving the use of PEDs cost him 60 percent of his sophomore year, and while he returned and played like a star, the end result was an upset loss in the Sweet 16 on a night where Trier played a little too much hero-ball.

None of that, however, changes this simple fact: Trier is one of the best pure scorers in all of high-major basketball. He’s a 6-foot-3 combo-guard that is trying to get a clean look at the rim at all costs. I don’t think it’s crazy to predict that he ends up being a 20-point scorer this season.

The big question with Trier this year will be just how much of a ball-stopper he is. Part of the reason that the Wildcats lost to No. 11 Xavier in the Sweet 16 was because Trier froze out Lauri Markkanen down the stretch. He’s going to be sharing the floor with talents like Deandre Ayton and Rawle Alkins this season. Life will be easier for him, and a potential trip to the Final Four will be that much more likely for the Wildcats, if Trier embraces the idea of sharing the rock.

Final Four Sleepers | Louisville | Villanova | West Virginia | USC | Wichita State | Miami
Bruce Brown (Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

3. Bruce Brown, Miami, So.

Brown is the breakout star on this list.

Something of a late-bloomer in the hoops world, Brown was a high-level football recruit before he made the decision to focus on the hardwood. He still plays like a football player, an aggressive driver and athletic finisher that can be a terror on the defensive end of the floor.

Where he started to make some changes down the stretch of last season was on the offensive end of the floor. His jumper started going down more consistently. He started to look more dangerous in ball-screen actions. He caught the eye of NBA scouts and may be the biggest reason that the Hurricanes look like a legitimate threat to beat Duke out for the ACC regular season title.

Remember his name. You’ll be hearing quite a bit about him by the end of the year.

RELATED: Top 100 Players | Top Backcourts | Top Frontcourts | Top Lead Guards

4. Marcus Foster, Creighton, Sr.

Foster’s career has been such a roller-coaster that it is hard to believe he is still in school. As a freshman at Kansas State, he played like a guy that wasn’t going to be long for the college ranks. He opted to return to school for his sophomore season, where a combination of ego, extra weight and a disagreement with the coaching staff resulted in Foster eventually transferring out of the program after getting relegated to the bench.

He left and wound up at Creighton, where, after a year of sitting out, he started the 2016-17 season playing like an all-Big East sidekick to all-american Mo Watson. But then Watson went down with a torn ACL and the Bluejay season went up in smoke.

So here we are, with Foster headlining a Creighton team with NCAA tournament hopes, four years after his career started.

With a full offseason to figure out how to play without a star at the point guard spot, I fully expect Greg McDermott to find a way to Make Foster Great Again.

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KeVaughn Allen (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

5. KeVaughn Allen, Florida, Jr.

So here’s the thing about KeVaughn Allen: While he’s capable of putting together absolutely massive performances, the one thing that has plagued him throughout his career has been consistency.

Let me explain.

Everyone remembers the 35-point outburst that he had against Wisconsin in the Sweet 16 last season. It was terrific. He went bonkers. He also went 7-for-33 from the floor and 3-for-21 from three in the other three NCAA tournament games that Florida played. Here’s another one: Allen went off for 29 points in a loss at Vanderbilt last January three days after scoring just a single point in what was a showdown for first-place in the SEC with South Carolina three days earlier.

When he gets going, he’s as dangerous as any scorer on this list.

But just how often is he actually going to get going?

MOREThe Enigma of Miles Bridges | NBC Sports Preseason All-American Team

6. Rawle Alkins, Arizona, So.

There is one major question mark involving Alkins that is not about the health of his foot (e’s likely to miss the first month of the season):

Are the shots going to be there for him to prove just how good he can be as a scorer?

That was a concern for Alkins when he was healthy. He’s No. 3 on a team that includes the potential National Player of the Year (Allonzo Trier) and the potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft (Deandre Ayton), and he may not be able to play in games until after the hierarchy for shots is determined. That’s tough.

I do think Alkins is a terrific player, but I’m not convinced that we are going to see it all this season.

Final Four Sleepers | Louisville | Villanova | West Virginia | USC | Wichita State | Miami

7. Hamidou Diallo, Kentucky, Fr.

Diallo has unbelievable potential as a defender. He’s 6-foot-5 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan and the kind of athleticism that will have you questioning whether or not he is actually from this planet.

Simply put: He is a freak.

But he’s also still in college, which is not something that was guaranteed after he enrolled at Kentucky in January. Diallo declared for the NBA Draft, went through the workout process and ended up being one of the last players to opt to pull his name out. It begs the question: If a league that values potential over all else, particularly in the drafting process, is concerned enough about a player with this kind of athleticism that he could not lock himself into a first round guarantee, just how worried do we need to be about what he is on the offensive end of the floor?

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Malik Newman (Kansas Basketball)

8. Malik Newman, Kansas, So.

I’m excited to see what Newman is going to be able to produce this season. A former top ten recruit in the Class of 2015, Newman ended up spending a season with Ben Howland at Mississippi State before transferring out and spending a year in residence at Kansas.

This season, he’s going to be put into an ideal position. With Devonte’ Graham finally playing the point, he will slide into that off-guard role for the Jayhawks, given freedom to score the way that we know that he can score. I think that Newman will end up leading the Jayhawks in scoring this season, and while he may not be their best player of NBA Draft prospect, he’ll remind everyone of why he was a top ten player in his class.

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9. Lonnie Walker, Miami, Fr.

Another guy battling injury, Walker should be healthy and ready to go by the start of the season after dealing with a knee issue during the summer.

That is great news for Miami, as Walker is the best shooting guard in this class and a potential lottery pick come June. A big time scorer and a big time athlete, he should be perfect playing alongside Brown and Ja’Quan Newton.

But like Alkins, my concern is how he will fit in with this group coming off of injury. He missed the summer and he missed the preseason. How long will it take him to adjust to playing and practicing in college? How long until he learns how to run Miami’s offense or their rotations on defense? How long until his teammates are comfortable playing with him?

10. De’Anthony Melton, USC, So.

Melton is such a versatile talent. He can pass, he can drive, he can defend. He’s a consistent three-point shot away from being an NBA player.

There’s really not all that much to add. Melton is not going to blow-up a box score or make the kinds of plays with the ball in his hands that set twitter on fire. He’s not a lay-up line scout and he’s not a Sportscenter-scout.

He’s just a damn good basketball player.

CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky | Kansas | Arizona | Michigan State | Duke
Khyri Thomas (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
  • 11. Quinndary Weatherspoon, Mississippi St., Jr.: Weatherspoon averaged 16.5 points and 5.8 boards as a sophomore despite playing through a wrist injury that was supposed to end his season. It’s not a coincidence that Malik Newman, who was a freshman in the same class as Weatherspoon, left when Ben Howland and his staff realized just how good Weatherspoon is.
  • 12. Khyri Thomas, Creighton, Jr.: I love the way Thomas plays the game. At 6-foot-3 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, Thomas is built to be a 3-and-D wing. He’s one of the best perimeter defenders in the sport and shoots right around 40 percent from beyond the arc. He’ll play in the NBA.
  • 13. E.C. Matthews, Rhode Island, Sr.: Matthews saw his numbers take a bit of a hit as a junior after coming back from a torn ACL he suffered in the first game of the 2015-16 season. He’s a terrific talent, particularly when he’s healthy, and should be in line for a monster senior season.
  • 14. Tyler Hall, Montana State, Jr.: Since 1992, there have been just two underclassmen that have averaged at least 23 points while posting a true shooting percentage above 63.0. One of them was Tyler Hall. The other was Stephen Curry. Clearly, Hall is destined to be a two-time MVP on arguably the best NBA team we’ve ever seen. That’s how this works, right?
  • 15. Markus Howard, Marquette, So.: Continuing with the fun stats, Markus Howard is the first player in the last 20 seasons to shoot 54.7 percent or better from three while firing up at least 4.8 threes per game. That is out-of-this-world efficiency.
RELATED: Top 100 Players | Top Backcourts | Top Frontcourts | Top Lead Guards
Markus Howard (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
  • 16. Tyus Battle, Syracuse, So.: I’m torn on Battle. On the one hand, he’s a potential first round pick that has a shot to put up massive numbers as a sophomore. On the other hand, he’ll put up those numbers because his Syracuse team isn’t really any good.
  • 17. Shamorie Ponds, St. John’s, So.: Ponds had himself a terrific freshman season for the Johnnies, and his presence on the roster is one of the biggest reasons that Chris Mullin’s squad is getting some NCAA tournament buzz.
  • 18. M.J. Walker, Florida State, Fr..: Walker is going to have his work cut out for him trying to find a way to replace the scoring that the Seminoles lost this offseason, but he may be cut out for it. He’s a freshman, but he’s already 19 years old and was an SEC-caliber recruit as a football player. He’s ready for the ACC.
  • 19. Jerome Robinson, Boston College, Jr.: How many players in the ACC averaged 18.4 points, 3.4 assists and 3.0 boards last season? Jerome Robinson. That’s it.
  • 20. Donte DiVincenzo, Villanova, So.: DiVincenzo is a star waiting in the wings. The question isn’t whether or not he will end up being an all-Big East player, it’s when. He may not end up being the face of the Villanova program until he’s a senior.

No. 19 Wichita State upends No. 5 Cincinnati 76-72

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HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (AP) — Dave Stallworth was running the show the last time Wichita State beat a Top 5 team on the road. Landry Shamet took the lead as the Shockers did it again 54 years later.

This one, too, will be a reference point, given all that was at stake.

Shamet scored 19 points, and No. 19 Wichita State ended the nation’s longest home-court winning streak, beating No. 5 Cincinnati 76-72 on Sunday to leave the American Athletic Conference race wide open.

The Shockers (21-5, 11-3) beat a Top 5 team on the road for the first time since 1964. They led most of the way, building an 11-point lead midway through the second half and holding on. Shaquille Morris’ dunk with 5 seconds left finished it off.

The Shockers ran onto the floor for congratulatory chest bumps. Coach Gregg Marshall got a celebratory dunking in the locker room, leaving his light-colored shirt clinging to him.

“It’s tremendous,” Marshall said. “Look at my shirt. College basketball has such tremendous parity. The games are decided by great players making great plays. Landry is a tremendous player.”

The Bearcats (23-4, 12-2) had won their last 39 home games. In their first real home challenge of the season, they wound up playing catch-up and coming up short. Cincinnati hasn’t beaten a ranked team all season, falling to 0-3 with losses to Xavier and Florida.

Cincinnati and Wichita State were expected to contend for the title in the Shockers’ first season in the AAC. Wichita State gave itself a chance with a solid all-around game led by its point guard. Shamet had 16 points in the first half, when the Shockers shredded the nation’s second-ranked defense to take control.

Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin was bothered by his team’s “gross, mind-boggling defensive breakdowns,” including allowing the Shockers to get open for those two late layups. Wichita State shot 53 percent from the field, getting open 3-pointers in the first half and layups in the second half.

“We’re just not in a good place right now,” Cronin said. “I hadn’t slept much. We’re not in a good place for a lot of reasons.”

Wichita State closes the regular season by hosting Cincinnati on March 4. Houston (21-5, 11-3) also is in the running for the league title after beating Temple on Sunday.

The Shockers hit seven of eight shots during a 17-3 run that gave them a 34-23 lead. Cincinnati responded by turning up its full-court defense, forcing three quick turnovers, and going on a run that cut the deficit to 42-40 at halftime.

The Shockers showed a little defense of their own, forcing five turnovers while rebuilding their lead to 59-48 with 11 minutes left, matching its biggest of the game. Cincinnati closed to 72-70 on Trevon Scott’s dunk with 13 seconds left, but the Shockers scored on a pair of inbound passes by Landry, the last a full-court heave to Morris for a dunk that provided the final margin.

“This is what we do,” said Austin Reaves, who made the first of the two decisive layups. “We stick together on the road.”

BIG PICTURE

Wichita State: The Shockers needed a win to maintain their chances of a regular season title, and they got it with another good showing on the road. The Shockers are the most successful road team in the nation over the past five years at 47-8, including 7-2 this season.

“This is like our 50th red-out or white-out or black-out,” Marshall said. “We feel comfortable when that happens.”

Cincinnati: The Bearcats moved into the Top 5 even though they hadn’t beaten a ranked team all season. Losses at Houston and at home to Wichita State left them prepared for a plummet.

“As it gets later in the season, every team is better,” said Jacob Evans III, who had 16 points. “It’s not the beginning of conference or the season. Every team knows us well. We’ve got to be able to go to second options when they take away the first ones.”

NO LONGER A SWEET HOME

The Bearcats hadn’t lost at home since a 77-70 defeat against Temple on Dec. 29, 2015. They went 18-0 at Fifth Third Arena last season and were 13-0 at Northern Kentucky’s BB&T Arena, where they’re playing this season while their on-campus arena is renovated.

LONG TIME NO SEE

The Shockers and Bearcats played regularly as members of the Missouri Valley Conference from 1958-70, but it was their first game since 1981.

TOP 5 HISTORY

It was only the fourth time the Shockers have beaten a Top 5 team on the road. They beat No. 5 Oklahoma A&M in 1954 and topped No. 3 Loyola in 1963 and again in 1964 behind Stallworth.

TOUGH WEEKEND IN CINCY

Cincinnati had two teams in the Top 5, and both of them lost at home over the weekend. No. 4 Xavier lost to No. 3 Villanova 95-79 on Saturday at Cintas Center.cincinnati

Andy Kennedy resigns from Ole Miss effective immediately

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Andy Kennedy announced that, effective immediately, he will be stepping down as the head coach at Ole Miss. Tony Madlock will serve as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

The reason is simple: Kennedy wanted to “relieve any external pressure being felt by our current players” and he did not believe that last week’s announcement that this would be his final season in Oxford accomplished that.

“It has become readily apparent to me that my continued presence as the head coach is proving detrimental to these players finishing the season in a fashion that is representative of The Standard for this program that has been clearly established and maintained for over a decade,” Kennedy said in a statement. “Yherefore, I believe that it is in everyone’s best interest that I exit my role as head coach effective immediately. We all know that “clean breaks” are always best, and I should have realized this last Monday. My apologies.”

On Saturday, Ole Miss lost by 17 points at Mississippi State. That came two days after Kennedy went viral for a brutally honest criticism of what his team was going through.

“I can’t get to them,” he said. “I can’t reach them.”

It’s sad that this is the way that it had to end for the best basketball coach that Ole Miss has ever had. But it had to be done.

No. 12 Duke beats No. 11 Clemson as defensive resurgence continues

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Grayson Allen finished with 19 points, four assists and four steals, scoring 17 of his points in the first half, and Wendell Carter added 15 points, 10 boards and three blocks as No. 12 Duke won their fourth straight game without Marvin Bagley III, 66-57.

No. 11 Clemson was short-handed as well, and that’s something that needs to be noted. Not only are they playing without Donte Grantham, who tore his ACL earlier this year, but Shelton Mitchell was not in the lineup after suffering a nasty concussion at Florida State on Wednesday.

The Tigers were a No. 3 seed when the bracket reveal occurred last Sunday, but like Ohio State and Oklahoma, they have now lost back-to-back games; 11 of the top 16 teams have lost a game in the last week.

But the story here more than anything is Duke.

Yes, Allen finished with 19 points and continues to play well without Bagley on the floor. Getting him into a rhythm is critically important for this team. He was averaging 14.7 points in 24 games with Bagley. He is averaging 22.3 points in the last three games that Bagley has missed, and that does not include the 37-point outburst he had when Bagley went down with an injury against Michigan State.

Coach K also has had a chance to develop some confidence in his bench. Javin DeLaurier had 10 boards on Sunday. Marques Bolden didn’t play a done of minutes, but he still finished with five points, three boards and a pair of blocks. He was, generally speaking, a positive influence on the game.

But here is the most important and perplexing nugget: Duke, for the third straight game, was excellent defensively. They’ve now allowed fewer than 1.0 points-per-possession in each of the last three games. They are clearly not the same time offensively without Bagley’s presence on the floor, but it is impossible to ignore what they have been defensively in the last 10 days without him.

To put it into context: For all the talk about how much of a problem Duke’s defense has been, the Blue Devils are now ranked 43rd in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. They were 79th after they lost to North Carolina, the last game that Bagley played. Villanova, who many believe is the best team in the country when healthy, is 42nd.

The question we need to ask is whether or not that will continue once Bagley makes his return.

Because the only thing standing between Duke and a Final Four is their inability to defend.

No. 8 Ohio State falls at No. 22 Michigan, Michigan State moves into first in Big Ten

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After all of the drama and the speculation about whether or not Ohio State or Purdue was the best team in the Big Ten, water has seemingly found its level.

On Sunday afternoon in Ann Arbor, No. 8 Ohio State lost their second straight game, falling 74-62 at No. 22 Michigan and allowing No. 2 Michigan State — who had one of college basketball’s greatest comebacks on Saturday at Northwestern — to slide into sole possession of first place in the Big Ten with just one week left of the regular season.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman led the way with 17 points while Jordan Poole added 15 off the bench in the win.

The Wolverines did a good job of slowing down Ohio State’s all-american forward, Keita Bates-Diop. KBD finished with 17 points and seven boards, but he shot just 5-for-17 from the floor. Jae-Sean Tate led the way with 20 points and 15 boards for the Buckeyes.

There was a special moment before this game even started as Austin Hatch, a two-time survivor of plane crashes that killed his entire immediate family, took part in the team’s Senior Day.

VIDEO: Michigan celebrates plane crash survivor Austin Hatch’s Senior Day

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If you don’t know the story of Michigan senior Austin Hatch, you should.

He’s survived two plane crashes in his life. The first, in 2003, robbed him of his mother, 11-year old sister and five-year old brother. In 2011, to celebrate his commitment to the Wolverines, Hatch’s father flew them up to the family’s vacation home, but the plane crashed into a garage killing Hatch’s dad and his stepmom and leaving Austin critically injured.

He had a severe brain trauma, a punctured lung, broken ribs and a broken collarbone, and in order to manage the swelling in his brain, he was put into a medically-induced coma for eight months.

He managed to return and even played for the Wolverines during the 2014-15 season, but he eventually made the decision to retire from basketball at the end of the year. He did, however, remain a part of the program and on Sunday, during Michigan’s Senior Day, he warmed up with the team and was introduced to the crowd as a starter and no, I’m not crying, YOU’RE crying: