Kris Dunn (AP)

Ranking the best lead guards in college basketball

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We kick off our position-by-position rankings with the lead guards.

What is a lead guard, you ask? 

It’s a loose definition, I know, but it’s the guy that we think is going to be the team’s primary ball-handler and/or playmaker. True point guards, combo-guards, shooting guards that operate best with the ball in their hands. They all count.

Definitive, right?

Anyway, here are our rankings.

What did we get wrong?:

[MORE: Top backcourts | Top frontcourts]

1. Kris Dunn, Providence

Dunn was an easy pick here just as he was an easy pick for No. 1 in our top 100 players countdown. As a sophomore last season, Dunn averaged 15.6 points, 7.5 assists, 5.5 boards and 2.7 steals. With LaDontae Henton graduating during the offseason and Ed Cooley’s preference to play uptempo basketball, I wouldn’t be surprised to see those stats on the uptick this year. Dunn does, however, have two major flaws in his game: he turns the ball over too much and he needs to become a more consistent and confident jump-shooter. He’s been putting in the work to improve, but we have to wait and see if it manifests in production on the court.

2. Marcus Paige, North Carolina

We had Paige pegged as the Preseason National Player of the Year last season, and that turned out to be wrong. It wasn’t necessarily because Paige wasn’t good enough. The 6-foot-3 senior spent much of last season battling foot and ankle injuries and was forced into a situation where he had to primarily play as a point guard. Well, Paige is healthy now, and with Joel Berry expected to take over the point guard role for the Tar Heels, Paige should be freed up to be in more of an attacking role.

3. Melo Trimble, Maryland

Trimble’s numbers as a freshman were impressive: 16.2 points, 3.0 assists, 41.2% 3PT, 86.3% FT. As good as those numbers were, perhaps Trimble’s true value came in his late-game demeanor. He was, for lack of a better term, one of the most clutch players in the sport, a major reason that the Terps were able to win so many close games. Losing Dez Wells is going to hurt, but with more talent around him this season, Trimble should be asked to do less offensively as a sophomore. But he’ll still have the ball in his hands late in games, which is why Maryland is a considered a favorite to win the national title.

4. Jamal Murray, Kentucky

At this point, it’s hard to imagine Murray living up to the hype he has entering the season. Anything short of Steph Curry or Jimmer Fredette will almost feel like a disappointment. That’s not to say Murray can’t play. He can. He’s the odds-on favorite to lead Kentucky in scoring and will likely be the primary handler in ball-screen actions. The key for Murray: efficiency and consistency. He has a habit of being a bit of a streaky shooter.

RELATED: Top 100 players | Top off-guards | Top Wings | Top Bigs

5-foot-11 Demetrius Jackson (AP Photo)
5-foot-11 Demetrius Jackson (AP Photo)

5. Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame

If this list was my own, and not a collaboration with the rest of the CBT team, Jackson would be higher. I think he’s going to have a huge year, good enough to be a second- or third-team all-american. Mike Brey loves to force-feed his lead guards, putting them in ball-screen after ball-screen and allowing them to carry the load offensively, as a scorer and a creator. Jackson has the talent to follow in those footsteps. He may not be as good as Jerian Grant, but he’s got lottery pick written all over him.

6. Fred Van Vleet, Wichita State

Fred Van Vleet is a senior. He reached the Final Four as a freshman, he led Wichita State to a 35-0 record and a No. 1 seed as a sophomore and, as a junior, he helped get the Shockers to the Sweet 16 by beating Kansas in the NCAA tournament. He’s a winner in every sense of the word, and it doesn’t hurt that he averaged 13.6 points and 5.2 assists.

7. Yogi Ferrell, Indiana

Ferrell is the engine that makes Indiana’s high-octane offense go. As a junior, Yogi’s numbers were quite impressive: 16.9 points, 4.9 assists, 1.9 turnovers and 41.2 percent shooting from three. But the reason that the Hoosiers lost 14 games last season was that they were ranked 214th in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. That wasn’t all on Yogi, but he didn’t exactly solve the issue of Indiana’s sieve-like perimeter defense. I will say this: You may not find a more entertaining point guard to watch this season.

8. Monte Morris, Iowa State

Morris is a junior. He’s also the two-time national leader in assist-to-turnover ratio. Starting at the point on a team that has ranked 16th and 17th nationally in pace the last two years, Morris has a grand total of 66 turnovers. For comparison’s sake, Kris Dunn had 138 turnovers last year alone. The biggest question with Morris, like Iowa State as a whole, is how well he will adjust to Steve Prohm’s offense. Worth noting: Prohm turned Isaiah Canaan into an all-american and an early second round pick while helping Cameron Payne develop into a lottery pick.

9. Tyler Ulis, Kentucky

Murray is the guy that is likely going to put up the impressive numbers for Kentucky this season, but don’t let that blind you to just how good Ulis is. He’s everything that a coach looks for in a point guard: he’s a tough defender, he’s a leader, he’s unselfish, he protects the ball, he creates for his teammates, he can shoot it.

10. Malik Newman, Mississippi State

Newman is a tough guy to rank. On the one hand, the kid is one of the more talented scorers in the country, a combo-guard that can get hot and hit threes from deep. He’s a good bet to lead the entire SEC in scoring. But he’s also on a team that isn’t going to have that many other weapons, meaning that there are going to be times where a bad shot from Newman is a good shot for the Bulldogs. In other words, he’ll be a high-usage, high-scoring, low-efficiency player. How much do you value those offensive ratings?

  • 11. Tyrone Wallace, Cal: Wallace is a guy that I think should be getting more attention nationally. His shooting issues are a red flag, but he’s going to be the lead guard for what should be a Pac-12 contender embracing the small-ball revolution.
  • 12. Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Florida State: Consistency and efficiency. He went for 30-plus three times last season, but he scored in the single digits eight times, shot 28.1 percent from three and averaged 3.4 turnovers. Hopefully, the influx in talent in Tallahassee means he won’t have to do so much.
  • 13. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown: Arguably the most underrated player in the Big East. His decision to return to school instead of declare for the NBA Draft is the reason Georgetown is a Big East contender.
  • 14. Nic Moore, SMU: Moore’s three postseasons at SMU: snubbed as a sophomore, goaltended as a junior and banned as a senior. It’s a shame, because he’s really, really good.
  • 15. Frank Mason, Kansas: Mason turned into the heart and soul of last year’s Kansas team. He’s tough, he sets a tone defensively and he makes some big shots. The most popular man in Lawrence not named Bill Self.
  • 16. Jalen Brunson, Villanova: How good is Brunson? He may end up moving the reigning co-Big East Player of the Year Ryan Arcidiacono off the ball this season.
  • 17. Isaiah Taylor, Texas: Taylor never really seemed to get into a rhythm after injuring his wrist last November, but he should be a perfect fit at the point for new head coach Shaka Smart.
  • 18. Cat Barber, N.C. State: The former five-star recruit should finally round into form as a junior. He’s had some big moments helping the Wolfpack reach back-to-back Sweet 16s.
  • 19. Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin: Koenig took over for the injured Traevon Jackson midway through last season, keeping his starting spot even when Jackson returned to health. He’ll have a lot on his plate this year as the Badgers replace five of their top seven from last season.
  • 20. Sterling Gibbs, UConn: Gibbs was impressive last season despite Seton Hall’s late season collapse. He’s a stop-gap for UConn at the lead guard spot as they wait for Jalen Adams to be ready to run the shot.

Others considered: Shaq Harrison (Tulsa) Ryan Arcidiacono (Villanova), London Perrantes (Virginia), Maodo Lo (Columbia), Bryce Alford (UCLA), Jalan West (Northwestern State)

Tuesday’s Things to Know: Maui finals set; TCU upset; Texas Tech gets impressive win

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College hoops had some intriguing tournaments happening on Tuesday night as events like the Maui Invitational, Cayman Islands Classic and the Hall of Fame Classic continued. A top-25 team also fell to a team who had never defeated a ranked opponent as Tuesday saw a sizable upset.

1. Duke and Gonzaga advance to the Maui Invitational finals

The Maui Invitational continued on Tuesday as the semifinals commenced with some entertaining affairs.

In the opening contest, No. 1 Duke outlasted No. 8 Auburn despite some stretches of sluggish play. Freshmen R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish paced the Blue Devils with 18 points each while fellow freshman Zion Williamson chipped in 13 points and nine rebounds.

CBT’s Travis Hines is in Maui and covered this one, as he goes much more in-depth here.

The second game featured a second-half comeback from No. 3 Gonzaga as they heated up to pull away for an 91-74 victory. The Bulldogs found themselves down at the half, and trailing 50-37 in the second half, before turning on the jets and having a great second half.

Rui Hachimura paced the Gonzaga offense with 24 points while Zach Norvell Jr. heated up after a horrible first half to finish with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Duke and Gonzaga will play on Wednesday night in the Maui title game as that will be one of the must-see non-conference games of this season.

2. TCU played with fire (again) and finally got burned

TCU has been banged up at the start of the season. The No. 18 Horned Frogs are playing without guard Jaylen Fisher while forward Kouat Noi made his regular-season debut on Tuesday after missing the first three games of the season.

So it makes sense why TCU has struggled to put away buy-game opponents at home to start the season. Cal State-Bakersfield almost stunned TCU to open the season. Fresno State was beating the Horned Frogs at halftime. The Horned Frogs rallied to win both games.

The sluggish early play finally caught up to Jamie Dixon’s ballclub on Tuesday night as the Horned Frogs fell to Lipscomb, 73-64. Although TCU is banged up to start the season, they start the season with six straight home games against winnable opponents. Even though they’re not yet at 100 percent, this is still not the type of loss that the Horned Frogs are looking for at this point in the season. Noi will undoubtedly give TCU a boost when he’s back up to speed. He didn’t look like himself on Tuesday. But this kind of loss still shouldn’t happen for a top-25-caliber team.

TCU’s first major opponent of this season is a road game at SMU on Dec. 5. They host USC right after that. The Horned Frogs have some work to do before then if they want to get those non-conference wins before Big 12 play.

3. Texas Tech dismantles Nebraska in front of Patrick Mahomes Jr.

Earning an impressive neutral-court win in Kansas City, Texas Tech used its stifling defensive effort to take down Nebraska, 70-52, in the final game of the Hall of Fame Classic.

Playing in front of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes Jr. (a Red Raider alum), Texas Tech was able to hold Nebraska’s offense to 35 percent shooting as a veteran Huskers team never sustained a rhythm after a strong start.

From there, Jarrett Culver (26 points) and Matt Mooney (15 points) heated up and carried Texas Tech’s offense in the second half. Even though the Red Raiders sustained some significant losses from this offseason, it looks like Chris Beard’s trademark toughness and defensive attitude is resonating with this year’s group. Not a lot of people counted on Texas Tech to be any sort of major threat in the Big 12, but I wouldn’t want to face them based on the way they’ve started this season.

Lipscomb stuns No. 18 TCU 73-64 for 1st win over Top 25 team

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FORT WORTH, Texas — Garrison Mathews had 23 points, Kenny Cooper scored 17 with a couple of breakaway layups off steals and Lipscomb held on to upset No. 18 TCU 73-64 on Tuesday night, giving the Bisons their first win over a Top 25 team.

Lipscomb (4-1), the ASUN Conference preseason favorite, had been 0-13 against ranked teams since 2006. All of those losses were by double digits.

Alex Robinson had 17 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for TCU (3-1), which lost a November game for the first time since 2015. The Horned Frogs’ 18-game winning streak during the month had been the second-longest among Division I programs, behind only Virginia’s 21 in a row.

The Bisons built a 12-point lead before Mathews rebounded a missed 3-pointer by Kouat Noi that would have tied the game with just more than a minute left. Mathews then made a 3 at the other end.

Cooper’s steal and layup in the opening seconds of the second half put the Bisons ahead 31-30, and they never trailed again. He did it again just over two minutes later.

TCU had a 30-29 halftime lead after Robinson was able to hit an off-balance 3 from the top of the key to beat the shot clock in the closing seconds of the first half.

Kendric Davis had 14 points for TCU, and JD Miller added 11.

Rob Marberry scored 13 points for Lipscomb.

BIG PICTURE

Lipscomb: The Bisons were down 22-8 midway through the first half before tying it with a 16-2 run that included 10 straight points. Cooper started that spurt with a layup and 3-pointer.

TCU: Point guard Jaylen Fisher played his first game since January. He made his season debut after recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. But he was scoreless on only one shot while playing seven minutes in the first half, and had two fouls. Noi also played his first game. He had been sidelined because of a right knee issue.

UP NEXT

Lipscomb plays the third of five consecutive road games Saturday at Morehead State in Kentucky. The Bisons, who played their first three games at home, don’t play at home again until Dec. 9 against Navy.

TCU gets a break for Thanksgiving before resuming a six-game homestand to start the season. The fifth game is Monday night against Eastern Michigan.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Top-ranked Duke dispatches No. 8 Auburn, 78-72

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LAHAINA, Hawaii — Bruce Pearl spent the early part of the week telling everyone how he was concerned that his team wouldn’t belong in the field of the Maui Invitational when Auburn was announced back in 2016.

The Tigers have certainly proven those fears unwarranted, but they also just helped Duke make the case that no one may belong on the same court as them this winter.

Duke was undeniably brilliant again, this time in perhaps its most difficult test yet against the talented and experienced Tigers, who proved to be no match in the Blue Devils’ 78-72 win in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational.

It wasn’t a perfect performance by Duke, but that makes it even clearer how far ahead they are the rest of the country. It doesn’t take the Blue Devils’ best to clearly be better than a top-10 team full of veterans on a neutral court.

The final score didn’t indicate the space between Duke and Auburn. The Tigers made big shots and came up with huge plays. The Blue Devils shrugged every single one of them off, and countered with something even stronger.

“We threatened them,” Pearl said, “but they were never scared.

The Tigers – who 22 points from Jared Harper, 17 from Austin Wiley and 16 from Bryce Brown – didn’t shake Duke, but they showed yet again how far they’ve come in Pearl’s five seasons.

“When I talked to (tournament director) Dave Odom several years ago about trying to get Auburn in the field,” Pearl said Sunday, “he was honest with me. He said, ‘Coach, the program just isn’t up to snuff. I don’t know that you’re going to travel and be competitive.’

“I was so glad that we were able to travel and we are competitive, able to represent Auburn here and the SEC.”

It was evident when Duke blasted Kentucky that their ceiling was special, but what they did to Auburn in the Lahaina Civic Center was something different. The Blue Devils didn’t just blow out a talented but inexperienced team like John Calipari’s. They handled the defending SEC champs, a team with pros and vets, without really even hitting on all cylinders for 40 minutes.

We saw it for a bit at the outset, when the Blue Devils overwhelmed Auburn to get out to a 17-point lead.

“Duke got whatever they wanted early,” Pearl said. “Duke’s start says something about the fact that those four freshmen are a lot more mature than (most freshmen).”

But then Auburn did what good, seasoned teams do. They fought back. They threw everything they had at Duke, which never found that same level of play where they lived early the rest of the game.

Still, it didn’t matter because R.J Barrett, Cam Reddish, Zion Williamson and Tre Jones are not only a wildly talented assortment of freshmen but a mature one. A group that doesn’t rattle. A quartet that is, as Krzyzewski said Monday, is “over themselves. It’s not about them. They’re very secure, and they have been parented well, they have been coached well, and so they understand being part of something bigger than them, but still being really good.”

Duke is going to go as far as those four take them, and they look equipped for the long haul.

“Those four guys are really good now,” Pearl said. “It’s a special group.”

It also helps when the forgotten fifth guy is a junior who himself is a former five-star recruit capable of flirting with a triple-double on a stage like this. Marques Bolden – remember him? – put up 11 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks.

(Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)

“This is the first year he’s been healthy the whole time,” Krzyzewski said. “So he has continuity of preparation, shape, and it’s a big thing. It’s a big thing. He’s made the most of it. He’s really gotten in great shape and he’s taken great care of himself and as a result he’s good.”

So where does this Duke team go? There is so much season left, and they’ve already exhibited a level of hoops we rarely see from any team in any season, let alone a freshmen-led team in November.

“It’s got to be fun for them,” Krzyzewski said. “I’ll do everything I can not to let them think that everything is won in November or December. But what we need to do is just use the season to get better and don’t worry about, no one gives a trophy for who is No. 1 in November, December, January or February. Even March. And don’t play for things that the outside wants you to play for. Play for what you want to play for and that’s fun, getting better.”

Things may change over the course of the next month. There could be injuries or whatever else that derails seasons. The biggest threat to Duke, though, seems to be complacency. Not because they’re freshmen or because they’ll settle on a sense of entitlement, but because they’re really, really good and the season is long. Complacency is just natural.

The bar to clear for Duke is a national championship. That’s probably true every year given the legacy and the continuous talent in Durham, but with this group it’s hard to see even a Final Four or runner-up finish as something to celebrate given just how damn good they look.

So maybe they should go for something more.

Kentucky’s 2014-15 team showed a team with a special core of freshmen and a supporting cast of veterans can get to at least the precipice of a perfect season. How is this group, with potentially the top three picks in June’s NBA draft, another first-rounder at point guard and plenty of experience around them, any different? Why shouldn’t this be the team that matches that 1976 Indiana team helmed by Coach K’s one-time boss, Bob Knight?

That would keep things fun.

“You look at our league, we’re going to be in a lot of games,” Krzyzewski said. “We’re going to get beat.”

Maybe they won’t, though.

Maybe this season will be as special as those freshmen.

Maybe this season will somehow add something Coach K is missing from his legacy.

No. 23 Ohio State starts slowly but beats Samford 68-50

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Don’t flinch.

That was the message Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann had for his young Buckeyes, trailing for the first time at the half against undefeated Samford after shooting just 37.5 percent from the field.

Those words provided the necessary motivation, as Kaleb Wesson scored 17 points and Keyshawn Woods added 14 to help No. 23 Ohio State beat scrappy Samford 68-50 on Tuesday night for its fifth straight victory to begin the season.

Ohio State seemed out of sync from the opening tip, with Holtmann benching four starters for being late to “game-day preparation,” according to the school. Samford shot 50 percent in the first half and led 32-29 at the break.

“I thought in the first half we couldn’t have stuck to our game plan any better than what we did,” Samford coach Scott Padgett said. “We made shots, so we were able to get in our press, which then slowed down the tempo of the game, and kind of brought it to a grinding halt.

“Watching them on film, that was the only way I thought we had a chance.”

Momentum shifted with 16:27 remaining, when C.J. Jackson dove into the stands to save a ball headed out of bounds, starting a relay from Luther Muhammad to Woods that ended with Andre Wesson hitting a 3-pointer.

The play seemed to spark Ohio State (5-0), which went on a 21-3 run that sealed the win. The Buckeyes shot 50 percent from the field in the second half to 24 percent for Samford (5-1).

“I think it was a momentum play, for sure,” Holtmann said. “It was a fantastic series of saves by (Jackson) and Luther, and Key was somehow involved. I had my eyes shut for most of it.

“It was a fantastic hustle play that I think was critical. It fired up our crowd.”

Junior guard Myron Gordon led the way for the Bulldogs, shooting 6 for 8 in the first half and finishing with 18 points.

BIG PICTURE

Ohio State came in ranked for the first time this season but had to fight hard for the win.

Samford is rebuilding after losing 10 players, including all five starters, from last season’s 10-22 team. But the Bulldogs showed they have the talent to keep pace for a half with a nationally ranked Big Ten opponent.

PLAN B

Both teams had to make do without much from their leading scorers. Jackson, who averages 12.8 points per game, shot 2 for 11 and finished with eight points. Samford center Ruben Guerrero averages 17 points but had just two against Ohio State.

HE SAID IT

“There is so much social media. If I get 15 points tonight the whole world is going to know on social media and I am going to get 2,500 likes and all this stuff. Because of that, kids care about it more now,” Padgett said. “They want to get that attention through social media. Now, all of a sudden, it’s a little harder to get them to care about the name on the front, not the name on the back.”

TIP-INS

Ohio State signed three Top 50 recruits Tuesday, as Alonzo Gaffney, E.J. Liddell and D.J. Carton all inked national letters of intent. … Ohio State is 19-1 vs. the teams that currently make up the Southern Conference. … The Bulldogs have lost seven of their last nine road games. … Samford is off to its best start since the 1996-97 season.

UP NEXT

Samford: Makes the last stop on a three-game road trip Friday night at Fort Wayne.

Ohio State: Looks to extend its season-opening win streak to six games at sold-out St. John Arena on Friday night against Cleveland State, which lost at home to Samford by 13 points Sunday.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25

Five-star guard Anthony Edwards reclassifying to 2019

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Five-star shooting guard Anthony Edwards announced his intention to reclassify from the Class of 2020 into the Class of 2019 on Tuesday.

The Atlanta native was one of the major breakout players of last summer, as Edwards earned rave reviews nationally with his strong play. Edwards is such a major talent, that upon moving up to 2019, 247Sports immediately put him as its new No. 1 prospect in the class.

The move is also good for college basketball fans. Because Edwards has the kind of scoring package and athleticism that will make him one of the must-watch freshmen of next season. Edwards joins a Class of 2019 group that doesn’t have a lot of star power and must-see talents. After averaging over 20 points per game in the Under Armour Association this summer, Edwards became one of the hottest recruits in the country.

Edwards told Evan Daniels of 247Sports that Florida State, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan State and North Carolina are the five schools currently prioritizing him — as he hasn’t set any official visits yet. With his ability to easily play above the rim, or knock down deep perimeter shots, Edwards is going to be one of the major recruiting attractions of this spring.

Since he’s jumping into the recruiting process so late, we probably won’t have a decision for quite some time. But once Edwards joins the college ranks next season, he’ll likely be generating headlines from the moment he starts playing.