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.

Iowa’s Caitlin Clark wins AP Player of the Year

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DALLAS — Caitlin Clark has put together one of the greatest individual seasons in NCAA history with eye-popping offensive numbers.

Iowa’s junior guard, though, saved her best performance for the game’s biggest stage, recording the first 40-point triple-double in NCAA history to get Iowa to the Final Four for the first time in 30 years.

Clark was honored Thursday as The Associated Press women’s basketball Player of the Year. She received 20 votes from the 28-member national media panel that votes on the AP Top 25 each week. Voting was done before March Madness began.

“It’s a huge honor,” Clark said. “I picked a place that I perfectly fit into and that’s allowed me to show my skill set. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t mean something. It’s not the reason you play basketball, it’s just something that comes along with getting to do what you love.”

The Iowa coaching staff surprised Clark by sharing that she won the award while they were visiting the Iowa Children’s Hospital – a place near and dear to her. It also has huge ties to the Hawkeyes athletic department.

They put together a video of some of the children in the hospital congratulating Clark on an outstanding season, and in the middle of it, Iowa coach Lisa Bluder popped on the screen to tell her she won.

“I’m there for inspiring the next generation and being there for the people that you know are going through a hard time,” said Clark, who grew up in Iowa. “Being able to give joy to people that watch you play and watch your team play is amazing.”

She averaged 27.0 points, 8.3 assists and 7.5 rebounds during the season to help Iowa go 26-6. Clark has 984 points, the sixth-most in a season by any player in Division I women’s history. She also has over 300 assists.

“She is spectacular. I don’t know how else to describe what she does on the basketball court,” Bluder said.

Next up for the Hawkeyes is undefeated South Carolina in the national semifinals. The Gamecocks are led by Aliyah Boston, last season’s winner of the award. She garnered the other eight votes this season.

“There’s so many great players, more than just me and (Aliyah),” Clark told the AP. “You can go on and on and list the tremendous players. I think that’s really good for our game when there’s a lot of great players. That’s what is going to help this game grow more than anything else.”

Whether it’s hitting deep 3s from the Hawkeye logo at home games, hitting off-balance game-winning shots or throwing pinpoint passes to teammates for easy baskets, Clark has excelled on the court this year to get Iowa to a place it hasn’t been in a long time.

“It’s funny, because the better the opponent, almost the better she plays,” Bluder said. “It’s like she locks in on those, when we’re playing against Top 25 teams. That’s when her statistics even go up even more, against great opponents.”

Clark is the second Iowa player to win the AP award in the past few seasons, joining Megan Gustafson who won it in 2019.

UCLA guard Jaylen Clark declares for NBA draft

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES – UCLA guard Jaylen Clark has declared for the NBA draft, weeks after a leg injury forced him out of the season’s final six games.

The junior from Riverside, California, announced his plans on his Instagram account Wednesday.

“Thank you to UCLA and coach (Mick) Cronin for believing in me,” Clark’s post read. “I’d like to announce that I am declaring for the 2023 draft.”

Clark didn’t indicate whether he would hire an agent ahead of the June 22 draft or retain his remaining eligibility. He has until May 31 to withdraw and be able to return to Westwood.

He suffered a lower right leg injury in the regular-season finale against Arizona on March 4. Clark averaged 13 points and six rebounds while starting 29 of 30 games. He led the Pac-12 in total steals with 78, tying for third all-time in single-season steals for the Bruins.

He was a second team All-Pac-12 selection, was named the league’s defensive player of the year and made its five-man All-Defensive Team.

AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Penn State hires VCU’s Rhoades as men’s basketball coach

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Penn State hired VCU’s Mike Rhoades on Wednesday as its men’s basketball coach, bringing in the Pennsylvania native to take over a program coming off its first NCAA Tournament appearance in more than a decade.

The Penn State board of trustees approved a seven-year deal worth $25.9 million for Rhoades, who is from Mahanoy City in eastern Pennsylvania.

Just a few hours after Rhoades was named at Penn State, VCU hired Utah State coach Ryan Odom to replace Rhoades.

Rhoades replaces Micah Shrewsberry, who was hired away by Notre Dame last week.

Shrewsberry, an Indiana native, was at Penn State for two seasons. The Nittany Lions went 23-14 this season, reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 and won an NCAA game for the first time since 2001.

Rhoades, 50, was 129-61 in six seasons at VCU, including three NCAA Tournament bids. He also spent three seasons at Rice, going 23-12 in the final year with the Owls before returning to VCU.

He was an assistant at the Richmond, Virginia, school from 2009-14 under then-head coach Shaka Smart.

Odom was 44-25 at Utah State in two seasons, with an NCAA Tournament appearance this season.

He previously spent five seasons at Maryland-Baltimore County, going 97-60. In 2018, Odom’s UMBC team became the first No. 16 seed to upset a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament when it beat Virginia.

Temple hires Penn State assistant Fisher to replace McKie

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PHILADELPHIA – Temple named Penn State assistant Adam Fisher just its fifth coach since 1973 on Wednesday.

Fisher’s goal will be to turn around a program that hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2019.

Fisher replaces Aaron McKie, who was transferred out of the coaching job earlier this month after four seasons and a 52-56 overall record with no tournament berths. McKie is now a special advisor to the athletic department.

Fisher takes over a team in flux with six players in the transfer portal. Temple has yet to find any steady success in the American Athletic Conference.

Fisher spent eight years as an assistant with Miami before he joined Micah Shrewsberry’s staff last season at Penn State. Shrewsberry has since moved on to Notre Dame.

“I am confident we have found the right person to lead Temple men’s basketball,” athletic director Arthur Johnson said. “We look forward to welcoming coach Fisher to the Temple community and returning to the NCAA Tournament under his leadership.”

Fisher also worked as a graduate manager at Villanova under Hall of Fame coach Jay Wright from 2007-09.

The Owls have traditionally given their coaches significant time on the bench, though McKie’s tenure was the shortest since Ernest Messikomer from 1939-42. The next five coaches all lasted at least 10 seasons, notably Hall of Fame coach John Chaney’s tenure from 1982-2006.

Cal hires Mark Madsen as basketball coach

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BERKELEY, Calif. – California is hiring a former Stanford star to revive its struggling basketball program.

The Golden Bears announced Wednesday that Mark Madsen was signed to replace the fired Mark Fox following the worst season in school history.

“We conducted an exhaustive search, and one name kept rising to the top – and that’s Mark Madsen,” athletic director Jim Knowlton said. “Mark is a person of high character, high energy, high intensity, and he’s done it the right way. He’s intense. He’s passionate. He loves his student-athletes, and he loves competing. We want an ambassador for this program who is going to make us proud and develop our young men – both on and off the court. I am absolutely thrilled that Mark will lead our program into the future.”

Madsen played at Stanford under Mike Montgomery, who later coached at Cal, from 1996 to 2000 and helped the Cardinal reach the Final Four in 1998.

After a nine-year playing career in the NBA that featured two titles as a backup on the Lakers in 2001-02, Madsen went into coaching.

He spent time in the NBA’s developmental league and a year at Stanford before spending five seasons on the Lakers staff.

Madsen then was hired in 2019 to take over Utah Valley. He posted a 70-51 record in four years with a 28-9 mark this season before losing on Tuesday night in the NIT semifinals to UAB.

“Having grown up in the area, I have always admired Cal as an institution and as an athletic program, with so many of my teachers, coaches and friends impressive Cal graduates,” Madsen said. “We will win with young men who have elite academic and athletic talent and who will represent Cal with pride.”

Madsen is the third prominent coach to flip sides in recent years in the Bay Area rivalry between Cal and Stanford. The Cardinal hired former Cal quarterback Troy Taylor to take over the football program last season and Bears women’s basketball coach Charmin Smith played and coached as an assistant at Stanford.

Madsen is faced with a tough task, taking over a program that went 3-29 under Fox and set a school record for most losses and worst winning percentage in a season.

Cal went 38-87 during Fox’s tenure, ending his final season on a 16-game losing streak. Fox’s .304 winning percentage ranking second worst in school history to predecessor Wyking Jones’ 16-47 mark (.254) in the two seasons before Fox arrived.

The Bears haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2016 and haven’t won a game in the tournament since 2013 under Montgomery.

Adding to the issues for Fox was the complete lack of interest in the program. Cal’s home attendance averaged just 2,155 this season for the lowest mark among any team in the Power 5 or Big East. That’s down from an average of 9,307 per game in Cuonzo Martin’s last season in 2016-17 and from 5,627 the year before Fox arrived.

Cal had the worst winning percentage among any school in the six major conferences during Fox’s tenure. The Bears also were the lowest-scoring team (62.4 points per game) in all Division I under Fox and had the worst scoring margin of any major conference team under Fox.