Mark Lyons, Arizona's feisty point guard, is half way through his senior season at the University of Arizona. He has played well, averaging 14.6 points and 3.3 assists a game.
With his help, the team is off to one of the greatest starts in school history. And because he is playing at "Point Guard U," it is only natural to compare his senior season to all the greatest Wildcat point guards. This list ranks the best final seasons for all the Wildcat legends playing the point guard position.
Sean Miller's first team was Nic Wise's senior year. Playing alongside the freshman Derrick Williams, Wise led a bad Arizona team to a 16-15 record. They were the first Arizona Squad to miss the NCAA in a quarter century despite finishing fourth in the Pac-10.
In an otherwise forgettable year, Wise played well for the Wildcats, averaging 14.4 points, 3.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds. Had he been playing on a better team, he would have ended up higher on this list. But this was the worst in a series of average teams playing in the transition between Olson and Miller. Wise finished his Arizona career with over 1,200 points and nearly 400 assists.
Rivals had Mustafa Shakur rated as the best point guard coming out of high school in 2003. His class included Clippers point guard Chris Paul and future Oregon star Aaron Brooks, which shows how highly touted Shakur was. He was to be the next in the long line of great Arizona point guards.
That didn't quite happen. Although he was a good guard at Arizona, his play at the college level didn't live up to his prep accolades. He was never able to shoot consistently with his awkward release. Additionally his aggressiveness and energy level was labile which impacted his effectiveness.
At some points Shakur did look like the player fans had hoped when he arrived on campus. In the 2006 NCAA tournament, Shakur was incredible. Against Wisconsin in the first round he had 17 points, nine assists and five rebounds while leading the Wildcats to a dominating victory. In the second round against Villanova's star guards, Shakur was aggressive and dominant, scoring 21 points, dishing out five assists and knocking down all four of his threes. While the Wildcats lost, it gave Arizona fans great hope for the next season.
Again there was disappointment with Shakur.
In his final year at U of A, he didn't play much better than he had the year before. He averaged 11.9 points, four rebounds and a great number of assists at 6.9. The team finished 20-11 and lost in the first round to Purdue.
Jerryd Bayless is one of the most physically gifted athletes ever to play at the University of Arizona. He competed for only his freshman year, but it was impressive. He scored nearly 600 points at a clip of 19.7 a game. He added four assists and nearly three boards a night during this season.
However, while Bayless had all the talent a player would need to be great, he never made his teammates better and always seemed to look out for himself first. This isn't the attitude you want your leader to have and it translated to a 19-15 season and loss in the first round of the NCAA.
Reggie Geary held down the fort between Damon Stoudamire's departure to the NBA and Mike Bibby's arrival. Two years before, the team went to the Final Four. The next year they won the National Championship. So it makes sense Geary gets overlooked.
Reggie Geary was one of the best defenders in the country and led a very good Arizona team to the Sweet 16. Always poised, he averaged seven assists and just under 10 points his final season. His Arizona team was 26-7 and finished second in the Pac-10. In the tournament, Geary and company took a loaded Kansas team to the brink, losing by only three points.
Reggie Geary wasn't the most gifted of players, but in his final season he led as one hopes all point guards will.
Arizona entered Gardner's final season ranked No. 1. They were easily the best team in the nation that year and remained at No. 1 for 13 weeks during the 2002-03 campaign. Gardner led a team of stars to a 25-2 regular season mark. He averaged 14.8 points, four rebounds and 4.9 assists during that run.
The reason Gardner's season is fifth on the list is that his production was down from over 20 points and the Wildcats final five games were a disaster. In the first round of the Pac-10 Tournament Arizona faced the lowest seed UCLA and lost. In the second round of the tournament ninth seeded Gonzaga pushed the No. 1 seeded Wildcats to double overtime before Arizona won by a single point. In the Elite Eight, Arizona faced a Kansas team they beat by 17 on the road earlier that year. The Jayhawks were in control from the start and won the game by three.
Gardner's final season is fifth because his team was so stacked, went nearly start to finish No. 1 in the country and lost in the Elite Eight.
Obviously this is premature. Mark Lyons has only played 16 games in a very long season. But through those 16 games he has been great (with a couple of hiccups), and if he keeps it up, this Arizona team may go down as one of the greatest in the school's history.
Lyons numbers aren't staggering, 14.6 points and 3.3 assists (with 2.8 turnovers), but he finds a way to win. When Arizona needs a play, he is the one with the ball and he has come through every time. In several instances this season he has been the only player with the ability to get the Wildcats back in a game and then over the top. Even in the loss against Oregon, it was Lyons' constant attacking that kept the game close.
The bottom line for Lyons will always be Arizona's record. Right now the team is 15-1 and the future looks bright. If they end up in the Final Four, he will climb higher on the point guard list at Point Guard U. If they lose a few more than they should, he will drop. At this point he will hold strong at the fourth best final season for a point guard at Arizona.
For the second straight year and for the third out of five, the first team All-American point guard came from the University of Arizona. In 1998 it was Jason Terry's name on this list. "Point Guard U" was in its prime with a string of greatness at one position not by many schools in history.
That year, in 1998, Jason Terry had one of the program's greatest seasons. He averaged 21.9 points, 5.5 assists, 3.3 rebounds and nearly three steals. The Jet was named Conference Player of the Year.
Considering all the talent that had gone (Bibby, Simon, Dickerson), the team did relatively well also. They were 22-7 and finished second in the Pac-10. However, with no one else to take on the scoring, the Wildcats bowed out early in the tournament when facing Eduardo Najera and Oklahoma in the first round. Even with the first round exit, Terry's season was so great he ends up at No. 3.
Mike Bibby presided over the best teams in Arizona history. During his freshman season, the Wildcats won the National Championship. In the next, the Wildcats came back as the best team to ever don an Arizona uniform. After a couple of early season losses, the Cats destroyed nearly everyone they ran into. They didn't lose in the month of January. Or February. They won 19 in a row before a loss to USC on the last road trip of the regular season.
Bibby played as solid as you can ask of a college sophomore. He averaged 17.2 points per game, 5.7 assists and only 2.2 turnovers. He was a good leader on a great team. He was a consensus All-American and won Pac-10 Player of the Year.
The only reason he didn't end up higher on the list is that the guy above him did just a bit more and on a team with a lot less talent. And Bibby's 1998 team suffered the most shocking loss in the history of the program when they went down to Utah. This defeat was much too soon for a team as good as this one. For that reason Bibby stands second on this list.
If there is a face of the "Point Guard U" slogan, it must be Damon Stoudamire. Nicknamed "Mighty Mouse," Stoudamire was just that. Standing at only 5'10'', Stoudamire dominated his opponents his final season, averaging a staggering 22.8 points, 7.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game. Those numbers are nearly unbelievable. To score 23 a night and then add more than seven assists? In a 40 minute game? All the guy did was create offense.
That was all he had time to do. And then the rebounding number alone at his height is ridiculous. For his labor, Stoudamire was a first team All American and won the Pac-10 Player of the Year.
With not much help, and after the Final Four run of the previous year, Stoudamire led the Wildcats to a 23-8 record and second place finish in the Pac-10. They too had an early exit from the tournament with a first round loss to the 12th seeded team from Miami of Ohio.
Stoudamire finished his career at with 1,849 points, 663 assists, 100 wins, a trip to the Final Four, a Pac-10 POY and consensus All-American honors. He was the first great in this long line of great point guards and his 1995 season was the very best of them all.