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.

No. 22 Tennessee beats No. 3 Kansas 64-50 for Atlantis title

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – Tennessee’s players proved to be determined defenders and relentless rebounders, along with having the kind of toughness to ensure the reigning national champions would have little chance to get comfortable.

It was all enough to give the 22nd-ranked Volunteers a title of their own, along with the blueprint that coach Rick Barnes hopes they follow the rest of the year.

Santiago Vescovi scored 20 points while Tennessee locked down on third-ranked Kansas in a 64-50 win Friday night in the championship game at the Battle 4 Atlantis, snapping the Jayhawks’ 17-game winning streak.

Vescovi hit five 3-pointers as the tournament’s most valuable player for the Volunteers (5-1), who dominated the glass, overcame their own turnover troubles and made the Jayhawks work for clean looks. And for the third time in as many days, Tennessee won without leading scorer Josiah-Jordan James (knee soreness).

Perhaps that’s why reserve guard Zakai Zeigler, who had 14 points and four steals, showed up wearing sunglasses to the postgame news conference after the Volunteers had danced and hollered through the on-court trophy ceremony.

“We know if you can’t stop the man in front of you, then you’ll have no shot at winning the game,” Zeigler said, adding: “We just like to play defense, and we just happen to be good at it.”

The Vols held the Jayhawks to 32.1% shooting, bothering them with size and length around the rim. They also took the ball right at the Jayhawks with 5-foot-9 Zeigler leading the way, down to him refusing to let go of a jump ball and trading words with 6-8 forward Jalen Wilson.

Zeigler’s night included a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock at the 7-minute mark to push Tennessee’s lead to 56-38. He followed with another big one from the right wing with 4:42 left after Kansas had closed within 11.

Wilson and Joseph Yesefu each scored 14 points to lead the Jayhawks (6-1), who shot 28.6% in the first half and never warmed up. They made 5 of 21 3-pointers in what was an all-around rough night, from losing starting guard Dajuan Harris to fouls with 9 minutes left to failing to keep the Vols off the glass (45-27).

“We played a team tonight that was older and more mature and obviously played stronger and tougher,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “We didn’t handle the situation near as well as what I would hope a poised team would.”

BIG PICTURE

Tennessee: The Volunteers opened the tournament with a win over Butler, then grinded through an overtime win against Southern California in Thursday’s semifinals. This time, Tennessee played in front the entire way en route to its first title in three tries at the Atlantis resort.

“I think the main thing from the whole week was stay together through tough times, that’s what you’ve got to do,” Vescovi said.

Kansas: The Jayhawks didn’t have an easy first two days in the Bahamas. First came a battle to the final minutes with North Carolina State. Then came Thursday’s overtime win against Wisconsin on Bobby Pettiford Jr.’s last-second putback. But they never looked in any type of offensive flow this time with their smaller lineup.

“I feel like if we were able to get them out of place and not just have them standing there, waiting to contest a layup, that could’ve gave us some better chances at finishing at the rim,” Wilson said.

STRONG RUN

Tennessee held its three Atlantis opponents to 36.9% shooting and 15 of 59 (25.4%) from 3-point range. The Volunteers also averaged a +9 rebounding margin, ending with having Jonas Aidoo (nine) leading five players snagging at least six rebounds against Kansas.

“You can be a good defensive team but if you can’t be a great one if you give them second and third shots,” Barnes said.

SIDELINED

Beyond Harris’ foul trouble, the Jayhawks played most of the way without Pettiford, who exited midway through the first half grabbing at his right leg.

Afterward, Self said he would be out “for a while” with a hamstring strain.

UP NEXT

Tennessee: The Volunteers return home to host McNeese State on Wednesday.

Kansas: The Jayhawks host Texas Southern on Monday.

BYU erases 23-point deficit, beats Dayton in overtime 79-75

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NASSAU, Bahamas – Gideon George scored 21 points and combined with Jaxson Robinson and Rudi Williams for BYU’s 15 overtime points as the Cougars came back from a 23-point deficit to beat Dayton 79-75 in overtime Friday.

BYU’s victory came in the seventh-place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.

George’s 3-pointer with 2:19 left in regulation gave BYU (4-3) its first lead after Dayton scored the first 10 points of the game and led 32-9 with six minutes left in the first half.

Mike Sharavjamts’ basket gave the lead back to Dayton but George’s free throw with a minute left sent the game into overtime.

Dayton got the first points in overtime but Robinson’s 3-pointer gave BYU the lead for good halfway through the extra period.

Robinson had 14 points, Dallin Hall 12 and Williams 11 to join George in double figures for BYU.

DaRon Holmes II scored 21 points and Sharavjamts 15 for Dayton (3-4). The Flyers lost starting guards Kobe Elvis and Malachi Smith to lower-body injuries in the second half, Smith with with just seconds left in regulation.

Portland beats Villanova 83-71 in Phil Knight Invitational

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Moses Wood scored 16 points and Portland beat Villanova 83-71 on Friday in the Phil Knight Invitational.

Villanova (2-4) has lost three straight games, including an overtime loss to Iowa State on Thursday to drop below .500 for the first time since March 7, 2012.

Vasilije Vucinic’s layup with 4:16 remaining in the first half gave Portland the lead for good. The Pilots had an eight-point lead at halftime and scored the first 10 points of the second half.

Wood added six rebounds and three blocks for the Pilots (5-3). Tyler Robertson scored 15 points while shooting 6 for 12 (1 for 5 from 3-point range) and added seven rebounds and eight assists. Kristian Sjolund recorded 14 points and shot 5 for 7 (2 for 3 from 3-point range).

Caleb Daniels finished with 18 points and seven rebounds for the Wildcats. Villanova also got 14 points from Jordan Longino. Brandon Slater had 11 points.

Caleb Grill, Iowa State topples No. 1 North Carolina 70-65

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Caleb Grill has followed T.J. Otzelberger from South Dakota State to UNLV and now back to Iowa State hoping the pair could share a moment like they did Friday.

Taking down the No. 1 team in the country was another bookmark moment in a long journey for the pair.

“I’m actually really enjoying sitting next to him from this moment right now just thinking about how long we’ve known each other and how cool this really was,” Otzelberger said.

Grill hit seven 3-pointers and scored a career-high 31 points and Iowa State rallied in the final five minutes to stun No. 1 North Carolina 70-65 in the semifinals of the Phil Knight Invitational.

Iowa State (5-0) picked up just its third win over a team ranked No. 1 in the AP Top 25. The Cyclones are 3-22 against No. 1 teams, with the other wins coming against Kansas in 1957 and Oklahoma in 2016.

The Cyclones can now add North Carolina (5-1) to the list.

“I was just staying the course of the game. I never really thought about it and the game just kind of came to me,” Grill said.

Grill was averaging 7.3 points and had made just 4 of 24 3-point attempts for the season entering Friday. But he couldn’t be stopped from beyond the arc, hitting a pair of big 3s to spark Iowa State’s late rally. His deep fadeaway jumper just inside the 3-point line with 1:40 left gave Iowa State a 63-61 lead and the Cyclones did just enough at the free throw line in the final minute to close out the upset victory.

Grill’s previous career high was 27 points while playing for UNLV in the 2020-21 season against Alabama. He also hit seven 3-pointers in that game.

Grill originally signed with South Dakota State when Otzelberger was the coach there. He was released from his commitment when Otzelberger took the head job at UNLV and started his career at Iowa State before deciding to join his coach in Las Vegas.

When Otzelberger returned to Ames, Grill followed again.

“Just having him be the first person that really had belief in me, it’s just really special what he’s done for me and my family and everything we’ve done,” Grill said.

Jaren Holmes added 22 points and the Cyclones withstood off shooting games from Aljaz Kunc and Gabe Kalscheur, who combined for three points and missed all eight of their shot attempts. Both were averaging double figures scoring for Iowa State.

RJ Davis led North Carolina with 15 points, Armando Bacot added 14 and Caleb Love scored 12. But the Tar Heels will lament a series of mistakes in the closing minutes that allowed Iowa State to rally.

“We had wide open threes. We were able to get to the basket. We were able to get whatever we wanted, we just didn’t make those shots,” North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said.

North Carolina led 57-49 after Leaky Black’s layup with 5:43 left, but missed four of its final six shots and had four turnovers during that span.

“We turned the ball over a couple of times and you just can’t do that in late-game situations,” Davis said. “You have to be sound and discipline and you have to do that on both ends of the floor and we just didn’t do it.”

NO. 1 LOSSES

North Carolina lost as the No. 1 team in the country for the first time since Nov. 21, 2015 when it lost 71-67 at Northern Iowa. The Tar Heels also lost as No. 1 to UNLV in 2011 at a Thanksgiving tournament.

BIG PICTURE

North Carolina: Pete Nance wasn’t able to contribute in the same way he did in Thursday’s opening round. Nance, who tied his career high with 28 points against Portland, didn’t score for the first 27 minutes and finished with seven points.

Iowa State: The Cyclones were playing a No. 1 team from outside their conference for the first time since 1999 when they faced Cincinnati in the championship game of the Big Island Invitational.

UP NEXT

Iowa State will face either No. 18 Alabama or No. 20 UConn in the championship game while the Tar Heels will face the loser for third place.

No. 8 Duke locks down late, holds off Xavier 71-64

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PORTLAND, Ore. – After a shaky offensive performance in the opening round of the Phil Knight Legacy tournament, Duke coach Jon Scheyer wanted to see Jeremy Roach get back to playing more instinctively, especially at the offensive end of the floor.

Roach responded with a season-high 21 points, Mark Mitchell added 16 and No. 8 Duke withstood Xavier’s second-half comeback for a 71-64 win on Friday.

The Blue Devils (6-1) advanced to the championship game thanks to the play of their standout guard and another strong defensive effort. Roach came one point shy of matching his career high, and the Blue Devils rebounded after an unexpectedly tight victory over Oregon State in the opening round of the event.

Roach was 3 of 14 shooting against Oregon State as the Blue Devils scored a season-low 54 points. He made 9 of 15 shots and had five assists against Xavier.

“There’s a lot that falls on your shoulders so you can end up overthinking it a little bit,” Scheyer said. “The thing that I love for him today is he just was him. And when he’s that way, he is to me the best guard in the country.”

The Musketeers (4-2) were held to two points over the final five minutes and missed their last four shot attempts. Souley Boum scored 23 points and Adam Kunkel had 13. Kunkel didn’t play the last 11 minutes after taking a hard fall committing a foul.

Xavier leading scorer Jack Nudge was 1 of 13 shooting and finished with five points.

“Jack played a great effort. He really did. He was ready for the game. He just had one of those nights where the ball didn’t go in the basket,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said.

At the same time, Miller was disappointed in what he called the “fracturing” he saw from his team.

“There were spurts and segments of the game where I thought we reflected our style, how we’re trying to play, whether it be defense and offense. But there were way too many segments of the game, if not most of the game, where we were at times in our own way,” Miller said.

Mitchell scored seven points in the opening minutes of the second half, including a pair of layups, and he hit a 3-pointer from the wing that gave Duke a 49-36 lead, its largest of the game.

That’s when Xavier’s comeback started. The Musketeers pulled within three points on several occasions, but Duke answered each time. Desmond Claude’s driving layup pulled Xavier within 63-60 with 5:51 left, but Ryan Young scored for Duke and Xavier didn’t make another basket.

Roach’s jumper with 2:40 left pushed Duke’s lead to 69-62.

“We like to play inside out but I mean, when guys are hitting shots it just opens up for everybody else,” Roach said. “Just try to continue to be consistent hitting shots and I think we’ll be fine.”

Kyle Filipowski had 12 points and was not Duke’s leading scorer for the first time in five games.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: The Blue Devils’ dominance on the backboards finally came to an end. Duke had outrebounded each of its first six opponents by double figures, the longest such stretch in school history. But Xavier’s interior size limited Duke to a 33-32 advantage on the glass. The Blue Devils had 12 second-chance points.

Xavier: The Musketeers played an Atlantic Coast Conference team for the first time since beating Virginia Tech in last year’s NIT Season Tip-Off. Xavier dropped to 0-2 against ranked opponents this season, having lost to Indiana last week. The Musketeers will play another ranked foe in Sunday’s third-place game.

UP NEXT

Duke will face the Gonzaga-Purdue winner in the championship game on Sunday, while Xavier will play the loser.