Outlook: The shooting guard spot is where these rankings get a bit difficult. The thing that is so great about this Final Four is that three of these teams have completely fluid lineups. They can play big. They can play small. Sometimes their best lineup is four guards and a big man. Sometimes they need those two big bodies on the floor to matchup sizewise. In this case, a couple of these listings might look a bit funny. For example, I’m putting Jeremy Lamb as a small forward even though he can probably be listed as a shooting guard as well. The same goes for a guy like DeAndre Liggins.
For these rankings, the shooting guards may actually be the weakest position of the five.
Ranking the SGs:
1) Doron Lamb and Darius Miller, Kentucky
Lamb and Miller both play vital, albeit slightly different, roles on this Kentucky team. Lamb is the guy that spreads the floor. He’s a lights out shooter and has a knack for getting free in transition. He’s also able to comes off of screens and shoot in the midrange, although he’s not used that way as much by the Wildcats. He hasn’t scored a ton in this tournament, but he’s capable of going for 25 when he gets hot.Miller is also used to spread the floor, but he’s more of just a spot-up shooter than Lamb. Miller does a lot of other things for Kentucky as well. He probably falls into the category of glue guy. He can defend and he crashes the offensive glass well for a back court player. He played his best basketball down the stretch of the season, carrying the Wildcats in some of their late regular season games.
2) Brandon Rozzell, Ed Nixon, Rob Brandenburg, and Darius Theus, VCU
There isn’t a star in this group, but all four of these wing players are quite good at their role. Rozzell is the hired gun off the bench. He’s a streaky shooter, but when he gets hot, look out. He had 26 against Georgetown and his four first half threes against Kansas were instrumental in building their first half lead. Nixon is probably the best defender of the group, but he can also knock down an open three. Brandenburg provides some athleticism and playmaking off the bench and can score in bursts. Theus is the back up point guard, but Shaka Smart likes to play him and Rodriguez together quite a bit, giving VCU two penetrators.
3) Shabazz Napier and Donnell Beverly, UConn
Both Napier and Beverly are probably more suited to being point guards than shooting guards. Both are very good defenders, which is one of their more valuable roles on the team. They also both spend a lot of time as the guys that dribble the ball at the top of the key as Kemba Walker runs off of screens. Beverly isn’t much of a scorer, but Napier has had a couple of big games this season. Early on, the freshman was turnover prone and a gunner. But as he has gained confidence, he’s developed a bit of a reputation for hitting crucial, and tough, jumpers for the Huskies.
4) Ronald Nored, Shawn Vanzant, and Zack Hahn, Butler
Nored and Vanzant are both known for their defensive abilities. They are ball hawks that overcome their lack of size with quickness, toughness, and anticipation. Nored, at times, can be an offensive liability, but Vanzant is an underrated scorer and creator. Hahn might be the x-factor on this Butler team. He’s a shooter, but he’s only shot 32.6% from three this season. When he is on, he makes Butler a more dangerous team.
Future Pros: Like I said before, this is probably the weakest position in this Final Four. Beyond Doron Lamb, there probably isn’t a pro in this group.
Essential to winning a title? Since all four of the teams in this year’s Final Four have ball-dominating, scoring point guards, the off-guards are resigned to filling roles. When they fill their roles, they make each of their teams that much better. When Darius Miller and Doron Lamb are hitting from the perimeter, they spread the floor for Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones. When Shabazz Napier is scoring and protecting the ball, he takes a lot of pressure off of Kemba Walker. Ronald Nored and Shawn Vanzant usually are defending the best perimeter players on the floor for their opponents.
The most important, however, is probably VCU’s guards. When the Rams are at their best, they are spreading the floor, creating driving lanes, and hitting threes on kick outs. Their ability to knock down threes in Houston will be likely be a determining factor in how far VCU advances.