College Basketball’s Best Lead Guards

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For the first time in what feels like ages, the point guard position in college basketball is not going to be dominated by freshmen.

There is a clear-cut top three at the position, and all three are upperclassmen. Of the top ten, just two are freshmen. Only one other is a sophomore, and he redshirted a season with a foot injury. 

This may take away from some of the intrigue in the sport this season – who didn’t love watching Lonzo Ball and De’Aaron Fox play? – but it should mean that some of the best teams in the country are primed to start well. 

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.

RELATED: Top 100 Players | Top Backcourts | Top Frontcourts | Top Lead Guards
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1. Jalen Brunson, Villanova

Only a junior and already with a national championship to his credit, this will be the first time that Brunson is a major focal point in the Villanova offense. While last season saw Brunson blossom playing alongside proven seniors like Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins, this season, Brunson will be counted on to be Villanova’s main source of offense.

Capable of boosting his scoring averages, Brunson should also have more post help this season in the form of freshman big man Omari Spellman. Having played on the AAU circuit with former Duke big man Jahlil Okafor, Brunson has already shown an ability to get the ball inside to a double-team threat and it should open up his very good perimeter shooting ability even more.

Most of the lead guards on this list are at their best playing at a certain tempo. Brunson is one of the few guards in the nation who will always seemingly be in control no matter what is going on around him.

Final Four Sleepers | Louisville | Villanova | West Virginia | USC | Wichita State | Miami
Devonte’ Graham (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

2. Devonte’ Graham, Kansas

Stepping out of Frank Mason’s immense shadow will be Graham as he’s been one of the Big 12’s most dependable perimeter players in the past few seasons. The big thing for Graham will be how he handles the full point guard responsibilities now that Mason has exhausted his eligibility.

A former high school point guard who has also owned a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio during a season at Kansas, Graham has the pedigree to be successful but he still has the expectations of winning another Big 12 title and competing for a national title. With a supporting cast that has a lot of new pieces and not a lot of big men, this year will be a considerable challenge for Graham.

3. Joel Berry II, North Carolina

It’s hard to put a value on a point guard who has played in two consecutive title games and took home the most recent MOP from the Final Four. Berry became the first player since Bill Walton to score 20 points in back-to-back title games. He was MVP of the ACC Tournament as a sophomore.

And yet Berry doesn’t seem to get nearly enough praise for his penchant for stepping up in the big moment. Although he’s not the most efficient player when it comes to shooting and he doesn’t put up monster numbers during the season, Berry has consistently stepped up when North Carolina has needed him the most.

Senior season should be fascinating for Berry as he’s already dealing with a broken hand that will likely cause him to miss early time. It’ll be fascinating to see how the Tar Heels perform without him.

Joel Berry II (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

4. Collin Sexton, Alabama

Avery Johnson finally gets his star guard with the Crimson Tide as this five-star prospect has a chance to be a special talent. Likely only in Tuscaloosa for one season, Sexton is an elite scorer despite being a bit on the smaller side. When he played in the Nike EYBL, Sexton led the league in scoring by over eight points per game while also getting to the free throw line a massive amount of times.

And I haven’t even talked about Sexton’s ridiculous motor.

The type of dude who will talk himself into a frenzy during every moment of competition, Sexton doesn’t give up on either end as his intensity is perhaps his best trait. Sexton is going to be one of the country’s most fascinating freshmen this season. Since he is not playing for a traditional basketball factory while also being such a unique talent, make you to make time to watch Sexton this season. Alabama won’t just be a must-watch for football this season.

5. Jevon Carter, West Virginia

The Big 12’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Carter is West Virginia’s best player at creating his own shot. For a team that can struggle mightily to create consistent offense in the halfcourt, Carter is vitally important for West Virginia since he can knock down his own shots while also finding others.

Press Virginia gets its nickname and mentality in-part from Carter’s hard-nosed defensive play as that aspect of his game is a tone-setter for the Mountaineers.

Final Four Sleepers | Louisville | Villanova | West Virginia | USC | Wichita State | Miami
Trevon Duval (Reagan Lunn/Duke Athletics)
CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky | Kansas | Arizona | Michigan State | Duke

6. Trevon Duval, Duke

Considered by many to be the top point guard in the high school senior class, Duval gives Duke the lead guard they lacked last season. With the size and athleticism to get in the paint whenever he wants, Duval comes into Durham with the reputation as a winner after leading multiple teams to prominent summer titles.

Nobody is doubting Duval’s ability to get in the paint for himself. The major question marks will deal with how Duval looks when the game gets slowed down. Always a monster in transition, Duval has a shaky perimeter jumper and he also hasn’t run a lot of offenses that required patience. There have already been some question marks about Duval’s ability to fit in on a Duke team that desperately needs shooting and leadership. But if Duval can find teammates and limit turnovers, he might be just what the Blue Devils need to return to the Final Four.

7. Landry Shamet, Wichita State

Monitoring Shamet’s health will be a major storyline during the early season as he’s recovering from a stress fracture in his foot that was found in July. Once Shamet became Wichita State’s starting point guard in January, the Shockers didn’t lose until their epic battle against Kentucky in the NCAA tournament.

One of the nation’s most efficient players last season — even though he was only a redshirt freshman — Shamet could see his role in the offense expand even more as a sophomore now that he’s more comfortable with the playbook.

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Jaylen Adams (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

8. Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure

Perhaps the best player in college hoops that nobody talks about, Adams has been a regular on the All-Atlantic 10 first team over the past two seasons. A dynamic scorer who can also distribute a high number of assists, Adams plays nearly every minute for the Bonnies as he’s the leader of one of the best backcourts in the country playing with shooting guard Matt Mobley.

Is this the year that Adams and the Bonnies can make the NCAA tournament? Four starters are back from a 20-win team as expectations will be high on Adams to help carry them back for the first time since 2012.

CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky | Kansas | Arizona | Michigan State | Duke

9. Rob Gray, Houston

Leading the American in scoring last season at 20.6 points per contest, Gray is a nightmare to defend thanks to his 38 percent three-point shooting. Although he was a known scorer entering last season, Gray also did a solid job of improving other aspects of his game as his numbers went up nearly across the board.

Another warrior guard who doesn’t leave the floor very often, Gray had multiple 40-minute games last season as the Cougars are hoping he can carry them to March.

10. Nate Mason, Minnesota

The engine that made Minnesota go during their turnaround season, Mason was one of the best players in the Big Ten last season. The Golden Gophers’ leader in points and assists last season, Mason was Richard Pitino’s first recruit at Minnesota as he’s been a program-changing player.

If there is one area that Mason needs to improve it will be his inefficient field goal percentages as Mason can put up a lot of shots to get his points during some games. With so many weapons around him for a team with high expectations, those numbers need to go up this season.

RELATED: Top 100 Players | Top Backcourts | Top Frontcourts | Top Off Guards
Khadeen Carrington (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
  • 11. Shake Milton, SMU: This will be Milton’s team after the Mustangs lost so much firepower from last season’s team. Scoring can come easy for Milton but it’ll be intriguing to see how he makes others better.
  • 12. Khadeen Carrington, Seton Hall: Steadily improving each season of his college career, Carrington will be one of the most dangerous guards in the country this season. He’s a known scorer but his assist-to-turnover ratio needs to improve.
  • 13. Matt Farrell, Notre Dame: After stepping into the starting lineup last season, Farrell proved himself to be one of the most important players in the country. Notre Dame plays fast but Farrell leads the chaos with limited turnovers.
  • 14. Aaron Holiday, UCLA: Perhaps the nation’s best sixth man a season ago, Holiday still put up great numbers across the board as he has a chance to be one of the best two-way guards in the country.
  • 15. Kyron Cartwright, Providence: With Kris Dunn moving on to the pros, Cartwright had his time to shine as he was fourth in the nation in assists last season. Cartwright could make another leap if he improves as a scorer.
CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky | Kansas | Arizona | Michigan State | Duke
Jalen Adams (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
  • 16. Jalen Adams, UConn: Adams can be reckless at times but he’s also really fun to watch if he gets rolling as a scorer. Now that the Huskies have more talent around him it’ll be interesting to see if Adams becomes more efficient.
  • 17. Jordan McLaughlin, USC: A major presence for the Trojans the last three seasons, McLaughlin is a reliable scorer and distributor as he’ll lead one of the best teams in the country.
  • 18. Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern: McIntosh’s shooting numbers actually dipped as a junior but he’s still one of the most offensively gifted lead guards in the country if his shot isn’t falling. If his shot comes back, watch out.
  • 19. Bryant Crawford, Wake Forest: Underrated in the ACC, Crawford had six 20-point games in his final eight last season, closing out a strong sophomore year in which he became a much more efficient player.
  • 20. Trae Young, Oklahoma: This freshman sharpshooter has a chance to lead an underrated Oklahoma backcourt as he can pull up and knock down jumpers from beyond NBA range.

Houston reaches No. 1 in AP poll for first time since 1983

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Make some room, Phi Slama Jama. Another Houston team has reached the top of men’s college basketball.

Nearly four decades after Clyde Drexler and Akeem Olajuwon took the Cougars to No. 1, the latest bunch led by Marcus Sasser and star freshman Jarace Walker took over the top spot in the AP Top 25. They received 45 of 63 first-place votes from the national media panel, easily outdistancing second-place Texas and third-place Virginia.

“It’s not like we went online and applied for it and waited for a response back. We’ve been working for this,” said Houston coach Kelvin Sampson, whose team is coming off a Final Four and Elite Eight trip the past two seasons. “But remember, it’s a rental. You don’t own it. You’re just renting it because someday somebody else is going to be No. 1.”

North Carolina had been No. 1 all season, but the Tar Heels lost to Iowa State and in a four-overtime thriller to Alabama at the Phil Knight Invitational to cede the top spot to Houston, which beat Kent State in its only game last week.

The last time the Cougars ascended to No. 1 was the final poll of the 1982-83 season, when “The Glide” and “The Dream” along with coach Guy Lewis were the favorites to win it all. They rolled through the NCAA Tournament before falling to Jim Valvano and North Carolina State in an iconic championship game in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“I’ve never been ranked No. 1,” said Sampson, now in his 34th season as a college basketball coach. “We were ranked all 12 years at Oklahoma. I’m sure we were ranked at Indiana. Then we’ve been ranked five or six straight years. We’re used to having a high level of success.”

Texas received eight first-place votes and Virginia received two. Arizona climbed from 14th to fourth after emerging from a stacked field to win the Maui Invitational. Purdue jumped from 24th all the way to fifth and scooped up eight first-place votes after beating West Virginia, Gonzaga and Duke at the Phil Knight Legacy tourney.

“Our guys are competitive. They’re fun to coach. They get along. They’re out there playing with purpose and that’s what you have to have,” said Boilermakers coach Matt Painter, whose team was briefly No. 1 about this time last season.

“Early in the season, very few teams play with the purpose collectively,” he said. “I thought our guys played with a purpose.”

Baylor was sixth, Creighton seventh and U Conn climbed from 20th to eighth after beating Oregon, Alabama and Iowa State to win the Phil Knight Invitational. Kansas fell from third to ninth after losing to Tennessee in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis, while Indiana rounded out the top 10.

There was a tie for 11th between SEC rivals Alabama and Arkansas with the Volunteers, another conference foe, right behind them. Gonzaga dropped from sixth to 14th, its first time outside the top 10 since Feb. 5, 2018, and Auburn was 15th.

Illinois was next followed by Duke and North Carolina in a tough week for Tobacco Road. The Blue Devils fell from eighth after their 75-56 loss to the Boilermakers.

Kentucky and Michigan State joined UCLA, Maryland, Iowa State, San Diego State and Ohio State in rounding out the poll.

RISING AND FALLING

Purdue made a rare 19-spot jump as the poll underwent a massive shakeup. UConn climbed 12 spots, Arizona moved up 10, Tennessee climbed nine and Alabama seven. On the flip side, the Tar Heels tumbled 17 spots, Duke dropped nine, Gonzaga fell eight and San Diego State fell seven.

IN AND OUT

Despite all the movement, Iowa State was the only newcomer this week, checking in at No. 23 after beating Villanova and North Carolina before falling to UConn. The Cyclones replaced Iowa, which dropped out after a one-week stay following its loss to TCU in the title game of the Emerald Coast Classic.

CONFERENCE WATCH

There are six difference conferences represented in the first seven teams in the poll. The Big Ten leads the way with six in the Top 25 while the SEC has five and the Big 12 has four, though three of them are in the top 10.

South Carolina tops women’s AP Top 25; Stanford, UConn next

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South Carolina remained the unanimous No. 1 choice in The Associated Press women’s poll, as the Gamecocks keep close watch on the foot injury of reigning Player of the Year Aliyah Boston.

The Gamecocks received all 29 first-place votes in the poll, a day after Boston left a game with her injury. Coach Dawn Staley said Boston was “questionable” going forward but added that the “team doctor wasn’t too, too concerned.”

South Carolina’s next game is at home against No. 15 UCLA.

Stanford remained No. 2 after cruising through a tournament in Hawaii. It’s the 618th appearance for Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer, tying the late Pat Summitt for most all-time. Summitt’s teams only missed being in the poll 14 times during her Hall of Fame career at Tennessee.

UConn, Ohio State and Indiana rounded out the top five.

The Huskies are one of four Big East teams to be ranked this week as Marquette entered the poll at No. 24. It’s the first time the Big East has four ranked teams since the conference realigned in 2014. The league is 56-14 so far this season, including going 8-2 against ranked teams.

“We’ve been trying to earn a little more respect,” Marquette coach Megan Duffy said of the Big East. “Tried to schedule tougher non-conference (games). ‘Nova’s playing people. Us going to the Bahamas was great. Creighton’s doing what they’ve been doing since last season. Getting some of those quality wins is everything.”

North Carolina moved up two spots to No. 6 after rallying to beat then-No. 5 Iowa State in the Phil Knight tournament. The Cyclones fell to eighth.

The Tar Heels visit the Hoosiers on Tuesday in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Indiana returns home after winning two games in Las Vegas at a subpar venue that lacked basic necessities.

Notre Dame remained No. 7 while Virginia Tech and Iowa finished off the top 10. At No. 9, Virginia Tech has matched its best ranking ever and is in the top 10 for the first time since 1999.

Tennessee fell out of the poll this week marking the 56th time in the 827-week history of the poll that the Lady Vols weren’t ranked. Kansas State also fell out with Gonzaga moving in at No. 23.

FALLING CARDINALS

Louisville dropped to 18th in the poll this week after falling to South Dakota State in the fifth place game at the Battle 4 Atlantis last week. It’s the Cardinals lowest ranking since Jan. 11, 2016.

Louisville entered the top 10 in the preseason poll in 2017 and hadn’t been out since, a span of 98 consecutive weeks. It was the longest active streak.

“It’s a compliment to the consistency that we built here,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said of being ranked in the top 10 for so long. “Obviously are goal would have been to stay in the top 10, but it’s a new team and growing.”

Edey scores 21 as No. 24 Purdue beats No. 8 Duke 75-56

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Zach Edey and No. 24 Purdue shook off a slow start. When No. 8 Duke tried to rally in the second half, the Boilermakers finished strong.

Edey had 21 points and 12 rebounds, and Purdue beat Duke 75-56 on Sunday in the championship game of the Phil Knight Legacy men’s tournament.

Fletcher Loyer scored 18 points for Purdue (6-0), and reserve Caleb Furst finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

“I feel like we weren’t getting the looks we wanted early. As we settled into the game, we kept our poise and kept getting the shots that we wanted,” Edey said. “They were making some tough twos at the beginning of the game, shots we’re OK with all season.”

The 7-foot-4 Edey was 7 for 13 from the field and 7 for 8 at the line. He was named tournament MVP.

“They have the most unique player in the country,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said of Edey. “He’s a hard guy to prepare for because there’s nobody else like him.”

Duke (6-2) shot 36.2% (21 for 58) from the field. Tyres Proctor scored 16 points for the Blue Devils. Kyle Filipowski and Jeremy Roach each had 14.

Ethan Morton had a steal and a dunk to help Purdue open a 58-41 lead with 15:37 left in the second half.

Duke countered with an 8-0 run, capped by two foul shots by Dariq Whitehead. But Furst made a layup and a jumper to help hold off the Blue Devils.

A hook by Edey and a 3-pointer by Loyer made it 68-56 with 5:03 remaining.

Duke got off to a 14-7 start before Purdue worked its way back into the game.

“I don’t feel like we came out bad today, but they matched our energy,” Edey said.

A 3-pointer by Brandon Newman pushed the Purdue lead to 46-28. A late run by Duke cut the Boilermakers’ lead to 46-35 at halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: It looked as if Roach had an issue with his left foot at one point, but he went back into the game. Scheyer said Roach had hurt his toe.

Purdue: Although neither team had great offensive games, Purdue was the better team from range. Purdue made seven 3-pointers to just two for Duke.

UP NEXT

Duke: Hosts Ohio State on Wednesday.

Purdue: Visits Florida State on Wednesday.

No. 18 Alabama beats No. 1 North Carolina 103-101 in 4 OTs

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Mark Sears had 24 points, five rebounds and five assists, and No. 18 Alabama sent top-ranked North Carolina to a second straight loss with a 103-101 victory in a quadruple-overtime thriller on Sunday in the third-place game of the Phil Knight Invitational tournament.

Jahvon Quinerly added 21 points off the bench for the Crimson Tide (6-1), who knocked off the top-ranked team for the first time since upsetting Stanford in the 2004 NCAA Tournament.

“I was losing track of how many overtimes we were in there at the end,” Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said. “A lot of credit to our guys. I thought they showed a lot of character when we could have folded.”

Charles Bediako had 14 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks, while Brandon Miller also scored 14 points.

Caleb Love led the Tar Heels (5-2) with 34 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals. Armando Bacot contributed 20 points and 10 rebounds, and R.J. Davis had 19 points and nine rebounds in the second four-overtime game in North Carolina history. The other was a victory over Tulane in 1976.

“At the end of the day, Alabama made one more play than we did,” North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said. “I walked in the locker room and a number of the guys had their head down and I told them to pick their head up. I’m just as disappointed (as the players) in terms of the final outcome, but I couldn’t be any more proud about the way they competed.”

Bediako gave the Crimson Tide the lead for good on a layup with 26 seconds remaining in the fourth overtime.

The Tar Heels, who lost to Iowa State in the semifinals, led by as much as eight in the second half before Alabama came back to tie it. The Crimson Tide retook the lead on a pair of free throws from Gurley with 2 minutes remaining, and later tied with another free throw from Sears with 51 seconds remaining in regulation.

Alabama starting forward Noah Clowney took a hard fall on a dunk attempt four minutes into the first half and had to be helped off the court. He did not return.

The Crimson Tide were 16 for 38 (42.1%) from 3-point range, with Sears making seven.

BIG PICTURE

North Carolina: The Tar Heels figure to take a deep drop in the Top 25 poll.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide bounced back nicely following their loss to No. 20 UConn in the semifinals, beating a top-ranked team in the regular season for the first time since a 66-64 victory over eventual national champion Arkansas on Jan. 8, 1994.

UP NEXT:

North Carolina: The Tar Heels travel to Bloomington to face No. 11 Indiana on Wednesday.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide return home to face South Dakota State on Saturday.

Clingan lifts UConn past Iowa State for Phil Knight title

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Donovan Clingan had 15 points and 10 rebounds to power No. 20 UConn to a 71-53 win over Iowa State in the championship game of the Phil Knight Invitational on Sunday night.

Tristen Newton scored 13 points for the Huskies (8-0), who went 20 for 25 at the free-throw line. Alex Karaban and Andre Jackson, Jr. each had 10 points.

Osun Osunniyi led Iowa State (5-1) with 14 points. Tamin Lipsey had 12 points and Jaren Holmes finished with 11.

“They were the more aggressive team,” Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “We wanted a physical game. We didn’t want a physical game with them getting the rebounds and then also us putting them on the foul line. Lesson that we’ve got to learn is we need to embrace being the aggressor at both ends of the floor at all times.”

The Huskies had more offensive rebounds (20) than the Cyclones had total rebounds (19), and capitalized on that disparity with 20 second-chance points.

“Those guys are tough,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “T.J.`s an excellent coach. They grind people up. To outrebound them, it just speaks to how tough we were.”

Clingan, who was named tournament MVP, scored eight points to help UConn to a 38-28 lead at the break.

Iowa State closed to 53-48 on Holmes’ 3-pointer midway through the second half. But Karaban made a 3 and a dunk, and Newton’s jumper made it 60-48 with 7:13 remaining.

BIG PICTURE

UConn: The Huskies couldn’t have asked for a better showing in Portland, winning all three of their games.

Iowa State: The Cyclones picked up nice wins over Villanova and top-ranked North Carolina in the earlier rounds but ended with their first loss of the season.

UP NEXT

UConn: The Huskies return home to face Oklahoma State on Thursday.

Iowa State: The Cyclones return home to face North Dakota on Tuesday.