College Basketball’s Best Point Guards

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This season of college basketball should be a fun one because of an infusion of really talented lead guards who are entering the game along with a lot of returning talent.

Five of the top ten lead guards in college basketball this season are either freshmen or sat out last season due to transfer and this list has eight McDonald’s All-Americans across multiple classes. When college basketball has good lead guards, it’s typically more fun to watch and this is a promising group of players to keep an eye on this season.

Some of these players fit more of the mold of traditional point guard while others are more of the scoring type who can get to the basket and make plays for others. It’s also the deepest position in the country. Jack Gibbs, No. 20 on this list, is No. 62 in our top 100. 

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.

Top Backcourts | Top Frontcourts | Top 100 Players

POSITION RANKS: Lead Guards | Off Guards |Wings | Big Men

Markelle Fultz, via UW Athletics
Markelle Fultz, via UW Athletics

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1. Markelle Fultz, Washington: Potentially the top pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the 6-foot-4 guard is going to need to do a lot to make the Huskies a NCAA tournament team. But with deep range on his jumper, tremendous handles and great vision, Fultz is one of the most dynamic playmakers to enter the college game the last few years.

2. Monte Morris, Iowa State: The top returning point guard in college basketball gets a final season to see if he can do more in the scoring column. As a junior, the 6-foot-3 Morris put up 13.8 points and 6.9 assists per game but the Cyclones lost Georges Niang, Abdel Nader and Jameel McKay. Morris will have to put up more points this season.

3. Dennis Smith Jr., N.C. State: Expectations are huge for the five-star Smith, who stayed close to home to play at N.C. State. The 6-foot-3 Smith is an electric athlete who is also reliable and efficient running pick-and-rolls. Smith is coming off a torn ACL suffered in August 2015, but he opted to come on campus and enrolled as a student for the second semester last year.

4. Lonzo Ball, UCLA: Fultz isn’t the only elite, five-star floor general to enter the Pac-12 as Ball is going to be expected to make the Bruins a winner. With exceptional floor vision and passing ability and deep range on his jumper, Ball is the type of player you immediately give the ball to and let him make plays.

5. Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga: After sitting out a transfer season coming over from Washington, Williams-Goss could be an All-American as he’s expected to run the show for the Zags. A second-team All-Pac 12 selection in 2015, Williams-Goss put up 15.6 points, 5.9 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game as a sophomore.

CONFERENCE PREVIEWS: Big 12 | ACC | Pac-12 | Big Ten

Kansas guard Frank Mason III, center, drives to the basket between Austin Peay defenders Khalil Davis, left, and Kenny Jones, right, during the first half of a first-round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Thursday, March 17, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Kansas guard Frank Mason III (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

6. Frank Mason, Kansas: One of the best two-way guards in the country, the 5-foot-11 senior put up 12.9 points, 4.6 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game as a junior. Joined by Devonte Graham and Josh Jackson, that group might be the toughest perimeter defensive unit in the country.

7. Melo Trimble, Maryland: Trimble will have a lot of expectations on him this season with his four other starters moving on to the pros. The 6-foot-3 Trimble is a former All-American who can score from all over the floor and make plays for others. He could be in for a huge bounceback season and it would be stupid to count him out.

8. Edmond Sumner, Xavier: Sumner was a revelation as a redshirt freshman last season, at times looking dominant while averaging 11.0 points, 3.6 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-6 guard has the size to be a major problem when he attacks the rack, but he has to improve his 30 percent three-point shooting.

9. De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky: Potentially the best athlete on this list, Fox is an intense two-way guard who is an absolute blur with the ball. Fox is a potentially elite defender from the get-go and he’ll be lethal in transition with other athletes around him. A shaky perimeter jumper could be key to his freshman season. Fox is likely one-and-done.

10. Devonte’ Graham, Kansas: The junior backcourt running mate of Mason is an even better defender since he’s 6-foot-2. Graham also put up solid numbers at 11.3 points, 3.7 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game as he shot 44 percent from three-point range. Graham developed a big-game reputation after playing tough against Buddy Hield.

CONTENDER SERIES: Duke | Oregon | Kentucky | Kansas | Villanova

Virginia's London Perrantes (32) shoots against Iowa State's Monte Morris (11) during the first half of a college basketball game in the regional semifinals of the NCAA Tournament, Friday, March 25, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Virginia’s London Perrantes (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

11. London Perrantes, Virginia: One of the nation’s best clutch shooters, this will be a big year for the senior to step up his scoring with the loss of Malcolm Brogdon. The 6-foot-2 Perrantes averaged 11.0 points and 4.4 assists per game last year while shooting 48 percent from three-point range.

12. Joel Berry II, North Carolina: With the loss of Marcus Paige, this is Berry’s team now and he was very good last season for the Tar Heels. Berry will have to continue hitting perimeter jumpers for a team that has been shaky the last few years and he put up 12.8 points, 3.8 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game as a sophomore.

13. Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State: Evans was having a killer freshman season before missing half the conference season with a shoulder injury. He still won Big 12 Freshman of the Year. The final six games full games Evans played he averaged 19.5 points, 6.3 assists and 6.0 rebounds per game. The former McDonald’s All-American could have a big year.

14. Mo Watson, Creighton: Should be a fascinating senior year for the 5-foot-10 Watson as he gets Kansas State transfer and guard Marcus Foster in the backcourt with him. Foster should take a lot of attention off Watson and he was already great last season, averaging 14.1 points and 6.5 assists per game.

15. Jordan McLaughlin, USC: With Julian Jacobs leaving USC, this will be McLaughlin’s team now as the 6-foot-1 junior will be ready to lead. Last season, McLaughlin averaged 13.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game while shooting efficiently from all over the floor. We’ll likely see McLaughlin put up bigger numbers as a primary ball handler.

RANKINGS: Top Frontcourts | Top Backcourts

16. Jordan Woodard, Oklahoma: Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Ryan Spangler are gone, meaning that this is Woodard’s team now. The senior averaged 13.0 points, 3.4 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game while shooting 45 percent from three-point range last season and he’ll need to score much more for an inexperienced team.

17. Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin: The senior has been to two Final Fours and a Sweet 16, so he’s about as experienced as it gets across college basketball. The 6-foot-4 Koenig can put up points and he’ll need to be a distributor on a Wisconsin team that returns all five starters.

18. Jalen Brunson, Villanova: The former McDonald’s All-American started 39 of 40 games for the defending champions as a freshman and he’ll get primary ball-handling responsibilities with Ryan Arcidiacono gone. Brunson put up 9.6 points and 2.5 assists per game while shooting 38 percent from three-point range.

19. Shake Milton, SMU: The Nic Moore Era is complete at SMU and it means that this 6-foot-5 sophomore could be asked to do a lot offensively. Since the Mustangs have a lot of talented players but not a lot of creators, Milton will have to build on a solid freshman season that saw him average double figures and looking like a potential all-league player.

20. Jack Gibbs, Davidson: This 6-foot-0 senior has a chance to lead the nation in scoring after putting up 23.5 points per game as a junior. Also averaging 4.9 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game, Gibbs is the engine that makes Davidson’s offense go.

ALSO CONSIDERED

  • Jalen Adams, UConn
  • Bryce Alford, UCLA
  • Troy Caupain, Cincinnati
  • J.J. Frazier, Georgia
  • Aaron Holiday, UCLA
  • Makai Mason, Yale
  • Dallas Moore, North Florida
  • Emmett Naar, Saint Mary’s
  • Jaquan Newton, Miami
  • Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Florida State
  • Justin Robinson, Monmouth
SEATTLE, WA - MARCH 20: Jack Gibbs #12 of the Davidson Wildcats dribbles the ball against Mike Gesell #10 of the Iowa Hawkeyes during the second round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KeyArena on March 20, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Jack Gibbs (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Tennessee center Tamari Key out for season with blood clots

Saul Young/News Sentinel/USA TODAY NETWORK
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee senior center Tamari Key will miss the rest of this season because of blood clots in her lungs, coach Kellie Harper said.

Doctors found the issue during testing. Key is expected to make a full recovery after treatment from University of Tennessee doctors, Harper said, adding that her sole concern is Key getting the medical care she needs to heal and return to full strength.

Key missed the first game of her career in a win Tuesday night over Chattanooga after playing her first 99.

“This is much bigger than basketball. We are so grateful that this medical condition was caught,” Harper said in a statement. “Our entire program will be right beside Tamari during this process and welcomes prayers and positive thoughts from Lady Vol Nation and beyond.”

The Lady Vols opened the season ranked fifth but currently are 5-5.

The 6-foot-6 Key from Cary, North Carolina, currently is Tennessee’s third-leading scorer averaging 8.4 points a game and averaged 4.2 rebounds per game. She started all 34 games as the Lady Vols reached their first Sweet 16 since 2016 last season and set the school record with 119 blocked shots.

Key had 18 blocks this season and 295 for her career, five away from becoming the eighth woman to reach that mark in Southeastern Conference history.

No. 7 Tennessee beats Eastern Kentucky, win streak hits 7

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Saul Young/USA TODAY NETWORK
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tyreke Key scored 10 of the first 12 points of the second half and finished with 17, and No. 7 Tennessee overcame a sluggish first half and beat Eastern Kentucky 84-49 on Wednesday night.

“Tyreke is handling the ball now,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “That’s all new to him. He keeps getting better.”

The Volunteers (8-1) struggled in the first half but still built an 11-point lead over Eastern Kentucky (4-5) on the way to their seventh straight victory.

Key led Tennessee in scoring before leaving with a cramp in his right leg with 6:15 left in the game. Julian Phillips had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Zakai Zeigler and Uros Plavsic added 13 points apiece. Olivier Nkamhoua scored 10.

“I’m still settling in,” said Key, a transfer from Indiana State who didn’t play last year while recovering from an injury. “This is a new role. I’m taking steps every day and keep learning.”

Eastern Kentucky, which came into the game averaging 83.5 points, was held well below that total due to 17% (6 for 35) shooting from long range and 22% (15 for 68) overall. Leland Walker led the Colonels with 13 points.

It was the seventh time this season Tennessee has held its opponent to 50 or fewer points.

“(Tennessee) is the best defensive team in the country,” Eastern Kentucky coach A.W. Hamilton said. “I think they’re the best team in the country.”

At one point in the first half, Tennessee was shooting 20% and still leading by 10 points. The teams combined to shoot 4 of 32 from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes. The Vols, who shot 24% (8 of 34), led 32-21 at the break.

“If we can’t make shots, can you find a way to win the game?” Barnes said. “When the shot’s not going in, find a way to play. The first thing we talk about is our defense.”

Tennessee shot 41 free throws. Phillips, a true freshman, was 7 of 10.

“(Phillips) has learned the pace of the game,” Barnes said. “I’m not sure there’s been a more effective freshman in the country (this season).”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Since its early season slip against Colorado, Tennessee has had a steady ascent in the rankings. The Vols’ next two games – neutral site (Brooklyn) against No, 13 Maryland (Dec. 11) and at No. 10 Arizona (Dec. 17) – will go a long way toward justifying the No. 7 ranking.

BIG PICTURE

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels’ run-and-gun style of offense had them averaging 83.5 points through their first eight games. They ran into a defensive buzz saw in Tennessee, which was yielding just over 51 points.

Tennessee: Santiago Vescovi sat out his second straight game with a shoulder problem. He is expected to be ready to play Sunday against Maryland. . The Vols have won seven in a row since their loss to Colorado.

UP NEXT

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels host Boyce College on Saturday.

Tennessee: Take on No. 13 Maryland on Sunday at the Hall of Fame Invitational in New York.

Hoggard scores career-high 23, Michigan State snaps 2-game skid

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Matthew OHaren/USA TODAY Sports
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A.J. Hoggard scored a career-high 23 points, Joey Hauser had 12 points and 15 rebounds and Michigan State beat Penn State 67-58 on Wednesday night to snap a two-game losing streak.

Michigan State (6-4, 1-1 Big Ten) avoided going .500 or worse after 10 games for the first time in 18 seasons.

Hoggard blocked an open layup with less than a minute to play and Hauser grabbed the rebound before being fouled and making two free throws at the other end for a 66-58 lead.

Hoggard, Hauser and Tyson Walker combined for 31 of Michigan State’s 32 second-half points.

The Michigan State defense allowed only one made field goal in the final five minutes. Penn State was just 1 of 9 from 3-point range in the second half after 7 of 18 before halftime.

Walker scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half for Michigan State. Hoggard, who entered third in the conference in assists at 6.3, had six rebounds, two assists and one key block.

Hoggard gave Michigan State 35-33 lead – its first since 4-2 – after back-to-back three-point plays with 59.3 seconds left in the first half. It was tied at 35-all at the break.

Seth Lundy scored 16 points and Jalen Pickett had 13 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists for Penn State (6-3, 0-1)

Michigan State hosts Brown on Saturday. Penn State, which hadn’t played since a double-overtime loss to Clemson on Nov. 29, plays at No. 17 Illinois on Saturday.

No. 7 Virginia Tech posts 9th straight win, beats Boston College 73-58

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BOSTON — Reigning Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Elizabeth Kitley had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Cayla King scored 16 on Wednesday night to lead No. 7 Virginia Tech to a 73-58 victory over Boston College, the Hokies’ ninth straight win.

Taylor Soule, one of two BC transfers on the roster for Virginia Tech (9-0, 1-0 ACC), added nine points and five rebounds. Soule scored more than 1,500 points and grabbed almost 700 rebounds in four seasons at BC, earning All-ACC honors three times.

Andrea Daley scored 15 points and Maria Gakdeng scored 14 for BC (7-4, 0-1). They each grabbed six rebounds.

Virginia Tech scored 17 of the game’s first 21 points and led by as many as 19 in the third quarter before BC cut the deficit to 10 in the fourth. Leading 64-54 with under three minutes left and the shot clock expiring, Kayana Traylor hit a 3-pointer for the Hokies.

Gakdeng missed two free throws for BC, and then Kitley scored from inside to make it a 15-point game.

Clara Ford, who also played four years in Chestnut Hill, pitched in 2 points in 2 minutes against her former team.

BIG PICTURE

At No. 7, the Hokies have the highest ranking in the program’s history. With the victory over BC, a 10th straight win against North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday would leave Virginia Tech in position to move up even higher should a top five team falter.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech: Hosts North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday.

Boston College: Hosts Albany on Saturday.

Michigan’s Jaelin Llewellyn out for season with knee injury

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan point guard Jaelin Llewellyn is out for the rest of the season with an injured left knee and is expected to have surgery next month.

Wolverines coach Juwan Howard made the announcement three days after Llewellyn was hurt in a loss to Kentucky in London.

Llewellyn transferred to Michigan from Princeton last spring and that seemed to lead to Frankie Collins transferring to Arizona State after a solid freshman season for the Wolverines.

Llewellyn averaged seven points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists in eight games at Michigan. He was an All-Ivy League player last season and averaged nearly 16 points over three seasons at Princeton.