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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.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.