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College Basketball’s Best Lead Guards


For the first time in what feels like ages, the point guard position in college basketball is not going to be dominated by freshmen.

There is a clear-cut top three at the position, and all three are upperclassmen. Of the top ten, just two are freshmen. Only one other is a sophomore, and he redshirted a season with a foot injury. 

This may take away from some of the intrigue in the sport this season – who didn’t love watching Lonzo Ball and De’Aaron Fox play? – but it should mean that some of the best teams in the country are primed to start well. 

Before we dive into the top 20 lead-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. Jalen Brunson, Villanova

Only a junior and already with a national championship to his credit, this will be the first time that Brunson is a major focal point in the Villanova offense. While last season saw Brunson blossom playing alongside proven seniors like Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins, this season, Brunson will be counted on to be Villanova’s main source of offense.

Capable of boosting his scoring averages, Brunson should also have more post help this season in the form of freshman big man Omari Spellman. Having played on the AAU circuit with former Duke big man Jahlil Okafor, Brunson has already shown an ability to get the ball inside to a double-team threat and it should open up his very good perimeter shooting ability even more.

Most of the lead guards on this list are at their best playing at a certain tempo. Brunson is one of the few guards in the nation who will always seemingly be in control no matter what is going on around him.

Final Four Sleepers | Louisville | Villanova | West Virginia | USC | Wichita State | Miami
Devonte’ Graham (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

2. Devonte’ Graham, Kansas

Stepping out of Frank Mason’s immense shadow will be Graham as he’s been one of the Big 12’s most dependable perimeter players in the past few seasons. The big thing for Graham will be how he handles the full point guard responsibilities now that Mason has exhausted his eligibility.

A former high school point guard who has also owned a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio during a season at Kansas, Graham has the pedigree to be successful but he still has the expectations of winning another Big 12 title and competing for a national title. With a supporting cast that has a lot of new pieces and not a lot of big men, this year will be a considerable challenge for Graham.

3. Joel Berry II, North Carolina

It’s hard to put a value on a point guard who has played in two consecutive title games and took home the most recent MOP from the Final Four. Berry became the first player since Bill Walton to score 20 points in back-to-back title games. He was MVP of the ACC Tournament as a sophomore.

And yet Berry doesn’t seem to get nearly enough praise for his penchant for stepping up in the big moment. Although he’s not the most efficient player when it comes to shooting and he doesn’t put up monster numbers during the season, Berry has consistently stepped up when North Carolina has needed him the most.

Senior season should be fascinating for Berry as he’s already dealing with a broken hand that will likely cause him to miss early time. It’ll be fascinating to see how the Tar Heels perform without him.

Joel Berry II (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

4. Collin Sexton, Alabama

Avery Johnson finally gets his star guard with the Crimson Tide as this five-star prospect has a chance to be a special talent. Likely only in Tuscaloosa for one season, Sexton is an elite scorer despite being a bit on the smaller side. When he played in the Nike EYBL, Sexton led the league in scoring by over eight points per game while also getting to the free throw line a massive amount of times.

And I haven’t even talked about Sexton’s ridiculous motor.

The type of dude who will talk himself into a frenzy during every moment of competition, Sexton doesn’t give up on either end as his intensity is perhaps his best trait. Sexton is going to be one of the country’s most fascinating freshmen this season. Since he is not playing for a traditional basketball factory while also being such a unique talent, make you to make time to watch Sexton this season. Alabama won’t just be a must-watch for football this season.

5. Jevon Carter, West Virginia

The Big 12’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Carter is West Virginia’s best player at creating his own shot. For a team that can struggle mightily to create consistent offense in the halfcourt, Carter is vitally important for West Virginia since he can knock down his own shots while also finding others.

Press Virginia gets its nickname and mentality in-part from Carter’s hard-nosed defensive play as that aspect of his game is a tone-setter for the Mountaineers.

Final Four Sleepers | Louisville | Villanova | West Virginia | USC | Wichita State | Miami
Trevon Duval (Reagan Lunn/Duke Athletics)
CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky | Kansas | Arizona | Michigan State | Duke

6. Trevon Duval, Duke

Considered by many to be the top point guard in the high school senior class, Duval gives Duke the lead guard they lacked last season. With the size and athleticism to get in the paint whenever he wants, Duval comes into Durham with the reputation as a winner after leading multiple teams to prominent summer titles.

Nobody is doubting Duval’s ability to get in the paint for himself. The major question marks will deal with how Duval looks when the game gets slowed down. Always a monster in transition, Duval has a shaky perimeter jumper and he also hasn’t run a lot of offenses that required patience. There have already been some question marks about Duval’s ability to fit in on a Duke team that desperately needs shooting and leadership. But if Duval can find teammates and limit turnovers, he might be just what the Blue Devils need to return to the Final Four.

7. Landry Shamet, Wichita State

Monitoring Shamet’s health will be a major storyline during the early season as he’s recovering from a stress fracture in his foot that was found in July. Once Shamet became Wichita State’s starting point guard in January, the Shockers didn’t lose until their epic battle against Kentucky in the NCAA tournament.

One of the nation’s most efficient players last season — even though he was only a redshirt freshman — Shamet could see his role in the offense expand even more as a sophomore now that he’s more comfortable with the playbook.

RELATED: Top 100 Players | Top Backcourts | Top Frontcourts | Top Off Guards
Jaylen Adams (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

8. Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure

Perhaps the best player in college hoops that nobody talks about, Adams has been a regular on the All-Atlantic 10 first team over the past two seasons. A dynamic scorer who can also distribute a high number of assists, Adams plays nearly every minute for the Bonnies as he’s the leader of one of the best backcourts in the country playing with shooting guard Matt Mobley.

Is this the year that Adams and the Bonnies can make the NCAA tournament? Four starters are back from a 20-win team as expectations will be high on Adams to help carry them back for the first time since 2012.

CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky | Kansas | Arizona | Michigan State | Duke

9. Rob Gray, Houston

Leading the American in scoring last season at 20.6 points per contest, Gray is a nightmare to defend thanks to his 38 percent three-point shooting. Although he was a known scorer entering last season, Gray also did a solid job of improving other aspects of his game as his numbers went up nearly across the board.

Another warrior guard who doesn’t leave the floor very often, Gray had multiple 40-minute games last season as the Cougars are hoping he can carry them to March.

10. Nate Mason, Minnesota

The engine that made Minnesota go during their turnaround season, Mason was one of the best players in the Big Ten last season. The Golden Gophers’ leader in points and assists last season, Mason was Richard Pitino’s first recruit at Minnesota as he’s been a program-changing player.

If there is one area that Mason needs to improve it will be his inefficient field goal percentages as Mason can put up a lot of shots to get his points during some games. With so many weapons around him for a team with high expectations, those numbers need to go up this season.

RELATED: Top 100 Players | Top Backcourts | Top Frontcourts | Top Off Guards
Khadeen Carrington (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
  • 11. Shake Milton, SMU: This will be Milton’s team after the Mustangs lost so much firepower from last season’s team. Scoring can come easy for Milton but it’ll be intriguing to see how he makes others better.
  • 12. Khadeen Carrington, Seton Hall: Steadily improving each season of his college career, Carrington will be one of the most dangerous guards in the country this season. He’s a known scorer but his assist-to-turnover ratio needs to improve.
  • 13. Matt Farrell, Notre Dame: After stepping into the starting lineup last season, Farrell proved himself to be one of the most important players in the country. Notre Dame plays fast but Farrell leads the chaos with limited turnovers.
  • 14. Aaron Holiday, UCLA: Perhaps the nation’s best sixth man a season ago, Holiday still put up great numbers across the board as he has a chance to be one of the best two-way guards in the country.
  • 15. Kyron Cartwright, Providence: With Kris Dunn moving on to the pros, Cartwright had his time to shine as he was fourth in the nation in assists last season. Cartwright could make another leap if he improves as a scorer.
CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky | Kansas | Arizona | Michigan State | Duke
Jalen Adams (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
  • 16. Jalen Adams, UConn: Adams can be reckless at times but he’s also really fun to watch if he gets rolling as a scorer. Now that the Huskies have more talent around him it’ll be interesting to see if Adams becomes more efficient.
  • 17. Jordan McLaughlin, USC: A major presence for the Trojans the last three seasons, McLaughlin is a reliable scorer and distributor as he’ll lead one of the best teams in the country.
  • 18. Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern: McIntosh’s shooting numbers actually dipped as a junior but he’s still one of the most offensively gifted lead guards in the country if his shot isn’t falling. If his shot comes back, watch out.
  • 19. Bryant Crawford, Wake Forest: Underrated in the ACC, Crawford had six 20-point games in his final eight last season, closing out a strong sophomore year in which he became a much more efficient player.
  • 20. Trae Young, Oklahoma: This freshman sharpshooter has a chance to lead an underrated Oklahoma backcourt as he can pull up and knock down jumpers from beyond NBA range.

VIDEOS: Villanova team bus stuck on icy roads trying to leave campus

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Villanova’s road to the Sweet 16 hit its roughest patch yet on Wednesday as the team attempted to leave campus for the team’s flight to Boston.

Since the Philadelphia area has been slammed with a snowstorm, the Wildcat team bus had issues leaving to get to the team’s chartered flight.

A struggle between team bus and ice ensued. The bus was delayed by 30 minutes before finally being able to leave.

Villanova continues its NCAA tournament journey on Friday when the No. 1 seed Wildcats play No. 5 seed West Virginia in Boston.

Wake Forest guard Keyshawn Woods to transfer or go pro after graduation

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Wake Forest will be down a key player next season as the school announced that guard Keyshawn Woods will either transfer or go pro after graduation.

The 6-foot-3 Woods was the team’s second-leading scorer this season as he put up 11.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Woods shot 43 percent from the floor and 37 percent from three-point range for the 2017-18 campaign.

Also a key member of last season’s NCAA tournament team for the Demon Deacons, Woods transferred to Wake Forest after spending his first season at Charlotte.

“I appreciate the opportunity that Coach Manning gave me to be a part of this program and to graduate from this great university,” said Woods in the release. “I am proud that I was able to help the coaches change the culture of the program and build a foundation for the future.”

The loss of Woods won’t be easy for Wake Forest, but the team is scheduled to return some talented guards like Bryant Crawford and Brandon Childress next season. Incoming freshmen like Jaime Lewis and Sharone Wright Jr. are also signed to add to the perimeter depth.

David Padgett not retained as Louisville coach

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Louisville announced on Wednesday afternoon that interim head coach David Padgett would not be retained.

Padgett, who is 32 years old, stepped in and took the program over in the wake of a scandal that cost Hall of Fame head coach Rick Pitino his job.

“We all owe a great debt of gratitude to David for his leadership and poise this season,” said U of L Interim Director of Athletics Vince Tyra. “He took over during incredible circumstances, has handled himself respectfully throughout the season and I believe he has a bright future in coaching. We expect to determine a new head coach in a short period to build upon the great basketball tradition of this university.”

Pitino was fired because an FBI complaint contained an allegation that he and his staff had arranged for a $100,000 payment to be funneled to Brian Bowen from Adidas.

In his one season with the Cardinals, Padgett went 22-14 and reached the quarterfinals of the NIT.

Louisville will now conduct a search for their next head coach, and current Xavier coach Chris Mack has long been considered the favorite to take that job.

Kansas State’s injured star hoping to play Thursday

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One of the most surprising parts about Kansas State’s run to the Sweet 16 is that they have done it without the services of their leading scorer, Dean Wade.

Wade injured his foot prior to the Big 12 tournament loss to Kansas. He did not play in that game or in either of Kansas State’s first two tournament games, but it is looking more and more like he’ll be on the floor on Thursday night when they play Kentucky.

“I don’t play percentages very well, but I’m feeling good,” Wade said, via SEC Country. “I’m very positive about it. It’s getting better every day and today I felt great out there, doing a little more than usual. It felt good.”

Wade averaged 16.5 points per game, but the big question is going to be whether or not he is actually healthy when he takes the court. Just because he’s on the floor doesn’t mean he’s at 100 percent.

“Really just trying to get it out of my mind that it’s not hurt,” Wade said. “Just more of a mental thing, just getting out there and running around. I think I got moved past that and it’s feeling better.”

Arizona’s Sean Miller: ‘I am not a candidate’ at Pitt

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With speculation mounting about who Pitt will hire to replace Kevin Stallings as their new head coach, current Arizona head coach Sean Miller released a statement saying that he is not in the running to fill the opening.

“I am not a candidate for the University of Pittsburgh men’s basketball head coaching vacancy. I wish them well in their search for a new coach,” the statement read.

Miller is a native of Pittsburgh and an alumni of the school — he’s the guy that had the assist on Jerome Lane’s famous dunk — and with the issues that are currently swirling around him and the Arizona program, there was speculation that he was looking for an escape plan.

Maybe he wasn’t.

Maybe he was and the Pitt administration decided they couldn’t risk hiring someone who had an assistant coach arrested in the FBI’s sweep of college basketball and who himself may be on wiretaps talking about who knows what. Releasing this statement would then be a way for him to save face and say he was never interested.

And then maybe there’s option No. 3: Pitt has won the Dan Hurley sweepstakes.

As it stands, both the Panthers and UConn are in the process of chasing after the Rhode Island head coach, and it’s not uncommon in coaching searches for a coach to announce that he is not a candidate for the job after the job decides they want someone else. Call it a professional courtesy.

But that’s neither here nor there.

What we do know now is that Sean Miller will not be the next head coach at Pitt.