Early College Basketball 2012-13 Preview: The Nation's Top 10 Shooting Guards

Scott Henry@@4QuartersRadioFeatured ColumnistMay 6, 2012

Early College Basketball 2012-13 Preview: The Nation's Top 10 Shooting Guards

0 of 10

    For a shooting guard, the job description is right there in the name: shoot. Or, at the very least, find some way to score points.

    There are talented guards all over college basketball, and many are better at getting to the basket than raining from the outside. Some are defensive specialists, assigned to make their opponents' lives miserable for 40 minutes. And some are, in fact, unconscious outside gunners.

    The 10 players listed in this slideshow are the best proven producers at the position returning to college next season. Some freshmen will win more headlines than these men, and some may win more games.

    Still, right now, these are 10 backcourt players with skills that already mandate the highlighting and underlining of their names in every opponent's scouting report.

10. Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati

1 of 10

    By virtue of his 6'4", 215-pound frame, Sean Kilpatrick spent a good portion of his playing time as the "small forward" in a Cincinnati lineup that often used three, and occasionally four, guards.

    Next season, with Dion Dixon graduated, look for Kilpatrick to line up in the backcourt next to Cashmere Wright. Kilpatrick was, by every measure, a more efficient scorer than Dixon. Without that competition for shot attempts, Kilpatrick could up his scoring average to nearly 18 per game.

    Escaping matchups with bigger players could aid Kilpatrick's shooting efficiency, as he shot below 40 percent in 16 of the Bearcats' 37 games last season.

    In games in which Kilpatrick was not a scoring factor, he helped out in other ways. In seven conference and postseason games where he scored fewer than 10 points, he averaged 4.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists, both improvements on his season averages.

9. Kenny Boynton, Florida

2 of 10

    Kenny Boynton is the very definition of the conscience-free mad gunner. Thankfully for Florida Gator fans—and coach Billy Donovan—Boynton's volume shooting became a bit more efficient in 2011-12.

    An absolutely insane 63.5 percent of Boynton's shots were worth three points last season, and 56 percent of his points came from downtown. What made him an All-SEC first-teamer and less of a mere ball hog was the improvement in his shooting percentages from his sophomore to his junior season.

    Boynton's FG percentage rose from 38.5 to 44.0, and his three-point percentage climbed from 33.1 to 40.7. Some of the improvement could have been written up to defenses focusing more on gifted freshman Bradley Beal, but credit Boynton for being able to take advantage.

    Perhaps also due to Beal's presence, Boynton's numbers tailed off in conference play. Only four times in 15 non-conference games did Boynton shoot less than 50 percent from the floor. Once conference play began, Boynton managed to shoot 50 percent or better only five times.

    In March, Boynton managed only 33 percent from the floor, averaging 10.7 points per game. So why in the blue-and-orange blazes is he rated this highly?

    Donovan began allowing Boynton more freedom as the team's primary ball-handler when point guard Erving Walker needed rest, and Kenny managed a 1.9 assist-turnover ratio. Over the Gators' last seven games, including postseason, that ratio ran to 2.8.

    Even if he doesn't become a primary facilitator, an idea which might exponentially raise his NBA draft stock, Boynton has the ability to drop 20 on anyone, any night. He may need help to keep his efficiency numbers steady, with Beal and Walker no longer around to fight him for shots.

    It's not unreasonable to expect Boynton to hoist 500 shots next season, but if he's still making 44 percent, then he could also scratch the 20-ppg barrier.

8. Allen Crabbe, California

3 of 10

    Like Sean Kilpatrick, Crabbe was more of a wing player than a true shooting guard in what evolved into a three-guard lineup as the season progressed. The 6'6" sophomore still led the team in scoring and in total rebounds.

    With Berkeley legend Jorge Gutierrez graduating, Justin Cobbs and Crabbe will likely be next season's Golden Bears backcourt, and Crabbe should relish the idea of taking on smaller opponents.

    The Bears' lack of bench production resulted in several starters, including Crabbe, stumbling near season's end. Crabbe shot 33.7 percent in his final eight games, including an ugly 3-for-14 effort in Cal's NCAA tournament loss to South Florida.

    Still, Crabbe was an efficient scorer over the course of the season, with a 53.1 effective field-goal percentage for the year. He also drilled 40 percent of his three-point shots for the second straight season.

    If Crabbe proves to be over the knee and ankle issues that plagued him in the latter stages of the 2011-12 season, he could succeed Gutierrez as the Pac-12 Player of the Year.

7. Michael Dixon, Missouri

4 of 10

    Michael Dixon and Phil Pressey will be the faces of Missouri's first foray into SEC basketball next season. Good luck to the teams that try to game plan for this backcourt, as the two can be virtually interchangeable.

    Dixon was just short of 50 percent from the floor and a ludicrous-for-this-day-and-age 88 percent from the free-throw line. The latter figure placed him third in the Big 12 and in the top 20 nationally.

    The senior-to-be had no issues with shooting in volume, either. Dixon ranked in the conference's top 20 in field goal, free-throw and three-point attempts despite placing 35th at only 26.7 minutes per game.

    Dixon also joined Pressey in the Big 12's top 10 in assists, giving Mizzou the top passing duo in the conference.

    The one thing that may hold Dixon down is the depth of talent that coach Frank Haith has managed to lure to Columbia. The Tigers could go as many as 11 deep next season, and Dixon may have to fight off Pepperdine transfer Keion Bell to start alongside Pressey.

    Still, departed stars Marcus Denmon and Kim English combined for about 22 shots per game, and Dixon is guaranteed to get himself a decent share of those opportunities.

6. B.J. Young, Arkansas

5 of 10

    Only nine players shot better than 50 percent from the floor last season while making 50 or more three-point baskets. B.J. Young was the only one to do it as a freshman.

    Young led Arkansas in scoring, 4.5 per game better than anyone else on his squad. He did it in only 25.2 minutes per game and with only seven starts all season.

    No matter how limited his playing time, Young was always a threat to explode. In his six 20-point games, Young averaged 29.7 minutes. In that time, he managed 25.8 points per game, equaling out to nearly 35 points per 40 minutes.

    By contrast, national scoring leader Reggie Hamilton of Oakland averaged 29.3 points per 40 minutes.

    The point of all this is that few players in America can get as hot as Young in as short a time. While it's extremely unlikely that he would sustain that kind of pace over a full season, he should be expected to lead a Razorback team with a wealth of young talent.

    His decision to return to school after submitting his name for the NBA draft allowed Fayetteville fans to breathe a sigh of relief. If he and his fellow Hogs enjoy good health next season, Arkansas could contend for a tournament berth in a Southeastern Conference that could be wide open behind Kentucky.

5. Chase Tapley, San Diego State

6 of 10

    More fun with player efficiency: Among players who attempted 400 field goals and made 75 threes last season, only five had FG percentages better than .450 and three-point percentages better than .430.

    Needless to say, this would not be brought up on Chase Tapley's slide unless he was a part of that group. In a measure of how far Mountain West Conference basketball, and San Diego State hoops in particular, has come, Tapley was the only one of the bunch who was not his team's leading scorer and also the only one who did not make first team all-conference.

    With the Aztecs losing forwards Garrett Green and Tim Shelton, coach Steve Fisher will need to lean even more on veteran guards Xavier Thames, Jamaal Franklin and Tapley.

    Tapley led the MWC in both field goals and attempts, and it would be no surprise to see him repeat. The downside was that he struggled in conference play, falling to 37 percent from the floor and 32 percent from deep.

    SDSU will need Tapley to maintain through the league schedule to capture a third straight piece of the MWC championship.

4. Rodney McGruder, Kansas State

7 of 10

    Christmas Day is a stop on the calendar that is anticipated worldwide. Kansas State basketball fans can point to it as the day that Rodney McGruder took over their team.

    When the Wildcats took the floor against Long Beach State on December 25, McGruder was averaging 10.8 points per game and shooting 39.3 percent from the floor. He went for 28 on 10-of-11 shooting against the 49ers and rarely had another off night the rest of the season.

    From Christmas on, McGruder averaged 18 points per game on 48.8 percent shooting. He had eight games of 20 or more, including 30-point efforts against Baylor, Texas and K-State's first NCAA tournament opponent, Southern Miss.

    Not only was he named to the All-Big 12 second team, he also received an All-Defensive Team nod.

    With Jamar Samuels leaving, McGruder will be the Wildcats' unquestioned leader on the court. Look for him to begin the season as a conference player of the year favorite.

3. Khalif Wyatt, Temple

8 of 10

    While Khalif Wyatt can be a dangerous three-point shooter, he's absolutely lethal when he breaks down the defense and gets himself to the foul line.

    A full 29 percent of Wyatt's points came from the stripe last season, and he ranked in the top 50 nationally with a success rate of 85.6 percent.

    Wyatt drained 17 of 18 free throws against UMass on February 29, but the one miss came with 33 seconds left and could have prevented overtime. Wyatt atoned, though, scoring seven of the Owls' 10 overtime points to seal a two-point win.

    While 22 points against Duke on January 4 seemed a lot more impressive at the time, Wyatt's 19 points against South Florida's stifling defense may have been even more solid, even if he did shoot a mere 5-of-13.

    Not only did Wyatt make his opponents miserable by making them pay for their foul trouble, he also picked pockets on the regular, ranking third in the Atlantic 10 with 2.2 steals per game.

    For his efforts, Wyatt was named second team All-A10 and first team All-Big 5.

    Backcourt mates Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez are moving on, leaving Wyatt and forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson as the primary returning options for the Owls.

2. Isaiah Canaan, Murray State

9 of 10

    A viewer could easily make the case that Isaiah Canaan should be included with the point guards. After all, he's Murray State's primary ball-handler and ranked third in the OVC with 3.6 assists per game.

    Still, last season's 120 assists pale in comparison to 400 shot attempts. Canaan thrives in MSU's pick-and-roll offense, but primarily in finding shots for himself.

    When Canaan gets his shots off, they fall as often as not. His 64.2 true shooting percentage ranked in the top 40 nationally, impressive for a 6'1" guard.

    Detractors can point to his difficulties in the NCAA tournament, where he shot 8-for-30 against Colorado State and Marquette. Of course, the whole team shot less than 35 percent over those two games, so Canaan didn't get a whole lot of help to give him space.

    With Donte Poole, Ivan Aska and Jewaun Long gone, this year's Racer team may rely even more on Canaan's shot, which is a primary reason he's listed on this slideshow and not the point guard version.

1. C.J. McCollum, Lehigh

10 of 10

    C.J. McCollum was made famous by an NCAA tournament in which he shot 14-of-46 over two games. Still, by leading 15 seed Lehigh to a win over second-seeded Duke by dropping 30 points, six rebounds and six assists, he etched his name into tournament history and booked his place atop the pantheon of Lehigh basketball heroes.

    Granted, that's not a long list, as Basketball-Reference.com does not recognize a single Lehigh player who's ever suited up in the NBA. Expect McCollum to be the first, but thankfully for Lehigh fans, he'll be finishing his degree first.

    Only 13 of Lehigh's 35 games ended with McCollum scoring less than 20 points. He was sixth in the nation in scoring, also ranking in the top 10 in field goals, FG attempts, free throws and FT attempts.

    There couldn't be any argument when McCollum was voted Patriot League player of the year for the second time, as he also led the conference in steals, ranked second in rebounds and fifth in assists.

    Something seriously unforeseen will have to occur for McCollum to be beaten to his third Patriot POY award, and he could also open the season as an All-America selection.


    Check out the other 2012-13 Top 10 positional previews:

    Top 10 Point Guards

    Top 10 Small Forwards

    Top 10 Power Forwards

    Top 10 Centers