Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart could have been one of the first players taken in the 2013 NBA Draft. Smart decided instead to return for his sophomore season to lead the Cowboys.
College basketball could be in for some of its best point guard play since the NBA started gobbling up all the best college players.
Think about this: The best perceived point guard, Marcus Smart, could have been one of the first players taken in the NBA draft and decided to come back to school. Almost any other guy in his position would be a millionaire right now.
There's a good group of senior points guards: Ohio State's Aaron Craft, Connecticut's Shabazz Napier, Michigan State's Keith Appling, Memphis' Joe Jackson and New Mexico's Kendall Williams, to name a few.
It's at least a possibility—not saying it's true, but possible—that Kentucky freshman Andrew Harrison is as good of a point guard as John Calipari has ever coached.
Is it the year of the point guard? Ehhh... It's probably the year of Andrew Wiggins, whether he succeeds or fails. But we could look back fondly in 10 years on this group of point guards and realize we should have given them more love back then.
And hey, we did save the point guards for last in these positional rankings. In case you missed it, the rest of the rankings are below with the grand finale—the top 100 players in college basketball—coming on Friday.
All advanced stats, unless otherwise noted, come from KenPom.com (subscription needed).
2012-13 Stats: 7.6 ppg, 4.1 apg, 2.8 rpg, 0.8 spg
Why He's Here: Yogi Ferrell is an old-school point guard whose No. 1 priority is setting up his teammates. That worked perfectly last year when Ferrell had the best weapons in college basketball around him. He helped the Hoosiers play fast—their average possession was 1.5 seconds faster than the previous year—and he made sure his guys got the ball in position to score.
This year he'll be even more important with a young supporting cast around him. How well Ferrell sets those young guys up could determine how quickly the Hoosiers start to reach their potential.
2012-13 Stats: 15.1 ppg, 4.8 apg, 3.5 rpg, 1.1 spg
Why He's Here: Justin Cobbs has led Cal to two straight NCAA tournament appearances sharing the spotlight with Allen Crabbe.
Cobbs has shown the last two seasons he could usually adjust to whatever role he needs to play, even from game to game. Sometimes the Bears need him to be a scorer and sometimes he needs to create for his teammates. With Crabbe gone now, Cobbs is probably going to need to fill both roles at a high level on a nightly basis for the Bears to get back to the tourney.
2012-13 Stats: 9.1 ppg, 5.0 apg, 2.9 rpg, 1.5 spg
Why He's Here: Billy Donovan will likely go with a two-point guard attack this year with Scottie Wilbekin sharing the backcourt with freshman Kasey Hill.
Hill could be the more important offensively of the two, but that should not diminish the importance of Wilbekin to Florida's success. He's extremely valuable because of his experience and his defense.
It's no coincidence that Florida's defense became elite last year with Wilbekin starting for the first time. His ball pressure set the tone for Florida's D, which went from ranked 71st in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted defensive efficiency in 2011-12 to third last season.
2012-13 Stats: 11.7 ppg, 5.3 apg, 3.8 rpg, 1.4 spg
Why He's Here: Two years ago, Duke had a lottery pick at point guard in Austin Rivers. Last year, the worry going into the season was what the Blue Devils would get out of their point guard play.
Quinn Cook quickly put that worry to rest and Duke was a much better team than the Rivers-led version because of Cook. This year, Cook will become the leader of the team and be surrounded by a lot of talented youth. The Blue Devils will look to play fast, and based off how Cook stepped up last year, he should be able to handle a quicker tempo.
2012-13 Stats (High school): Not available
Why He's Here: Billy Donovan gives his guards freedom to create, and that could pay off more than it ever has with Kasey Hill. Hill is extremely quick with the ball and should fit in well in a drive-and-kick type offense. He's been compared to Rajon Rondo, John Wall and Kyrie Irving.
2012-13 Stats (High school): 21.1 ppg, 5.1 apg, 3.8 rpg, 2.2 spg (via highschoolsports.nj.com)
Why He's Here: Tyler Ennis proved this summer that he's ready to play at this level. Ennis played on Canada's U-19 team in the World Championships, which was pretty good competition, and then joined Syracuse for four games on an exhibition tour in Canada.
In 13 games this summer, Ennis averaged 17.4 points and 2.8 assists.
The assist numbers are low, but if you watched Ennis play, you saw a point guard capable of running a team. For the Canadians, he had to be the primary scoring option. At Syracuse, he's going to have a lot more help.
Ennis has a great handle and navigates his way around ball screens really well. He has a little Trey Burke to his game in the way that he attacks. It's hard to pay a freshman point guard a better compliment than that.
2012-13 Stats: 14.6 ppg, 3.4 apg, 3.7 rpg, 1.1 spg
Why He's Here: Look back at what Andre Hollins did in the NCAA tournament and you'll find a point guard who was playing as well as anyone in the country. Hollins scored 53 points against UCLA and Florida and made 11 of 18 threes in those two games.
Hollins is not a great setup man, but he makes up for it with his outside shot. He shot 41.8 percent from deep last year and is a 40.3 percent three-point shooter for his career.
2012-13 Stats (at Marshall): 15.1 ppg, 7.0 apg, 4.4 rpg, 1.8 spg
Why He's Here: Give Fred Hoiberg a talented transfer, and so far in his career, he's been able to make that player better than he ever was at his previous stop.
That could be worrisome for the Big 12, because Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane was pretty good before he arrived in Ames.
Kane has always been a good scorer, and last season he improved as a setup man. He assisted on 42 percent of his teammates' baskets when he was on the floor, which ranked ninth in the NCAA. Hoiberg runs a lot of quick-hitters in his offense and a point guard who can make quick decisions and has good vision should fit in really well.
2011-12 Stats (at Missouri): 13.5 ppg, 3.3 apg, 1.8 rpg, 1.2 spg
Why He's Here: Two years ago at Missouri, Michael Dixon provided immediate offense off the bench, and he also was able to spot Phil Pressey at point guard. Think Bobby Jackson back in the day for the Sacramento Kings.
Dixon was on the best offense in the country on a team that played four guards at a time. Once again, he's on a team that could go with a four-guard attack and also has the chance to be one of the best offenses in the country. This time around, if Josh Pastner chooses to start four guards, Dixon will likely be a starter and also be able to spot Joe Jackson at point guard.
Either way, much like at Mizzou, he'll play starter minutes, because you don't sit a guy with Dixon's speed and scoring instincts.
2012-13 Stats: 11.9 ppg, 3.3 apg, 2.7 rpg, 1.5 spg
Why He's Here: It would appear that Kevin Pangos experienced a sophomore slump looking purely at his numbers. Pangos averaged 13.6 points per game as a freshman and saw his average nearly take a two-point dip.
But Kelly Olynyk is what actually happened to Pangos.
Olynyk, not Pangos, became the Zags best scoring option. That didn't mean Pangos was no longer as good. Olynyk was an All-American. Pangos was still incredibly efficient and shot 41.7 percent from distance.
Without Olynyk around this year, look for Pangos to be more aggressive offensively and put up numbers even better than his freshman year.
2012-13 Stats: 13.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.9 apg, 1.1 spg
Why He's Here: Kendall Williams had the most impressive single-game performance of the season last year when he went off for 10 threes and 46 points in a win at Colorado State.
What's most impressive about that performance is how Williams followed it up. He didn't have his shot the next game out—he went 0-for-4 from three—yet he didn't force the issue and try to recapture what he'd done against the Rams. Instead, Williams had eight assists and helped his team beat San Diego State.
That maturity is why Williams was the Mountain West Player of the Year and the Lobos had an outstanding season that ended prematurely against Harvard.
2012-13 State (Junior college): 21.8 ppg, 4.2 apg, 5.1 rpg
Why He's Here: Chris Jones has the ideal setup for a talented junior college point guard. He's been given the keys to the defending national champion with plenty of weapons leftover from last season.
Of course, that also comes with expectations, and taking over for Peyton Siva, who was a rock last year, is a tough chore.
Jones is more in the Russ Smith mold in that he likes to shoot—he averaged 16.6 field-goal attempts per game last year—and he likes to put up points.
For Louisville to be really good, he'll need to be willing to be a setup guy as much or even more as he looks for his own offense. But based off situation and talent, he's in a spot where he can have a great year.
2012-13 Stats: 13.6 ppg, 4.8 apg, 3.3 rpg, 1.7 spg
Why He's Here: Joe Jackson has always had talent, and his career arc suggests that young coach Josh Pastner has the ability to be a good player development guy.
Once upon a time Jackson was a speed demon who played the game out of control at times. Jackson's biggest progression a season ago was improving his jump shot and also taking better shots. He shot over 50 percent inside the arc for the first time (54.4 percent), and he shot a surprising 44.7 percent from deep after entering his junior season as a 30.6 percent three-point shooter for his career.
If Jackson can continue to lower his turnover numbers this year and prove his improved shooting numbers were not a fluke, he'll be the ideal senior point guard.
2012-13 Stats: 15.2 ppg, 4.8 apg, 2.9 rpg, 1.5 apg
Why He's Here: Semaj Christon is a big, overpowering guard who projects well as a pro because of his ability with the ball. Christon is as good as it gets at putting his head down and getting to the rim or simply backing down a smaller defender and scoring over the top. He also realizes his limitations—a consistent outside shot, for one—and because of that, he attempted only 28 threes last year.
And what's most promising for Christon and the Musketeers this year is he should have some help.
Xavier had less talent than is typical of the program last season, and Christon had to carry the offense. Chris Mack has surrounded Christon with better talent this year. He signed four freshmen, and Western Michigan transfer big man Matt Stainbrook will be eligible after sitting out last season.
2012-13 Stats: 13.4 ppg, 3.3 apg, 3.4 rpg, 1.3 spg
Why He's Here: Michigan State has the talent to win a national title, and Keith Appling has the ability to get his team there, but ability and production are two different things.
While Appling had his moments last year when he could take over a game scoring, his assist numbers were down and not sufficient. He even went assist-less in a Sweet 16 loss to Duke.
Tom Izzo told Mike DeCourcy of Sporting News during the offseason that he told Appling he needed to improve as a playmaker or he wasn't going to play point guard any longer.
"Keith wasn't as turnover-prone, but he wasn't as assist-prone," Izzo told DeCourcy. "He isn't taking a lot of shots, but he wasn't driving thinking about making somebody else better. Because he can get in the lane anytime."
That's why Appling is here. As Izzo says, he can get in the lane anytime he wants. And whether he evolves into what Izzo wants could determine how far the Spartans go this year.
2012-13 Stats (High school): 14.1 ppg, 5.1 apg, 6.1 rpg, 0.8 spg (via maxpreps.com)
Why He's Here: Andrew Harrison is the perfect fit for John Calipari's dribble-drive offense. Like the best Calipari guards who have come before him, Harrison has a great ability to get into the lane and finish.
The two things, at this point in his development, that Harrison has over Calipari's best guards—Derrick Rose and John Wall—is size and a jumper. Harrison is listed at 6'6"—Wall is 6'4" and Rose 6'3"—and just the threat of his jumper should help Harrison get in the paint.
If he can get in the lane regularly, he's in a great situation to put up good scoring and assist numbers with as many weapons as Calipari has put around him.
2012-13 Stats: 17.1 ppg, 4.6 apg, 4.4 rpg, 2.0 spg
Why He's Here: It doesn't seem like that long ago when Shabazz Napier was the freshman sidekick to Kemba Walker on Connecticut's 2011 national championship team.
Napier's game has evolved since then, and he put together a really impressive junior year that might have gone slightly underappreciated since UConn was not eligible for the postseason.
Napier is one of the best shooters in the country off the bounce, and his career-best 39.8 three-point percentage last year is more impressive when you consider that he created many of his own shots. Napier has also matured as a point guard, and he made fewer mistakes last season even though a lot of pressure was put on him as well as fellow guard Ryan Boatright to score and create for teammates.
Walker really made his legacy in March. Now that the Huskies are eligible for the tourney again, Napier should get his due as a senior.
Aaron Craft did not have as many steals last season (2.1 per game to 2.5 his sophomore year), but Craft's pressure still gave opposing point guards fits.
2012-13 Stats: 10.0 ppg, 4.6 apg, 3.6 rpg, 2.1 spg
Why He's Here: Effort.
Aaron Craft is a solid point guard offensively, and he's capable of picking his spots to score or be aggressive. But it's those things that Craft does that don't show up in the box score that make him so valuable.
It's hard to find a player in college basketball who plays as hard as Craft. The ball pressure he applies not only causes turnovers, it messes up offensive rhythm. Try running a play with a guy belly up to your hip. It's hard for point guards to move, let alone see the floor when Craft is guarding them.
The Buckeyes have gone 94-19 in his career and never lost before the Sweet 16. Thad Matta has also had three of his best defenses with Craft. Neither is a coincidence.
2012-13 Stats: 18.5 ppg, 5.1 apg, 3.7 rpg, 1.2 spg
Why He's Here: Jahii Carson is the most gifted scoring point guard in the country because of his speed and how he uses that speed. Carson is great in the open court, and defenders are powerless when he has a head of steam, but he's also great in short bursts. He can turn the corner around a ball screen and get to the rim in a snap.
To get an idea of his value and speed, take a look at the impact he made at Arizona State as a freshman. The Sun Devils went from 10-21 the year before he arrived to 22-13 last year. Herb Sendek has traditionally coached a plodding offense, but he could not slow Carson down.
The Sun Devils' average possession went from 19.0 seconds two years ago to 17.5 seasons last year. That's a substantial difference.
The only freshman in the country a year ago who transformed his team as much as Carson was Marcus Smart. And they just so happen to be the top two point guards in the country this year.
2012-13 Stats: 15.4 ppg, 4.2 apg, 5.8 rpg, 3.0 spg
Why He's Here: Coaches love Marcus Smart—just read up on what Florida coach Billy Donovan has had to say about the guy—and there's a reason they love him so much. Smart impacts the game on so many levels.
It starts with his defense. He has the instincts and the strength of an NBA veteran point guard. He's been compared to Jason Kidd, which is a ridiculous comparison on the offensive end, but defensively, it's a good comp. Smart sees the game really well on that end, and his presence turned OSU into an elite defense last year.
Offensively, Smart gets the job done because of his ability to get in the paint. His jumper is far from pure, and he's too loose with the ball at times, but he makes up for it by stealing extra possessions on the defensive end. If his understanding of the game offensively matures as a sophomore, the Cowboys have the potential to play deep into March.