Ranking College Basketball's Five Best Backcourts
The backcourt has been critical for recent NCAA champions, and this year should be no different. Last year, North Carolina seemed to be the odds-on favorite from the very beginning, but this season will be a two-horse race between Kansas and Kentucky.
Both schools have a great group of guards that will carry them in March with both scoring and playmaking.
When the Tar Heels cut down the nets last April, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington headed the backcourt. Not surprisingly, both were drafted in the first round of the 2009 NBA Draft.
The year before, Bill Self's Jayhawks won it all, defeating the Memphis Tigers. Between those two schools, there were three draft picks among the guards: Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts, and Mario Chalmers.
It is safe to say that, without at least one great guard, your team is doomed to fail in March. Granted, a team with no inside presence won't fare so well either, but a talented backcourt is vital.
No. 5: North Carolina Tar Heels (Last Season Result: National Champions)
Most people will wonder how a team that appears to have lost everybody gets a mention as having a top backcourt the year after. However, no other team recruits elite talent as consistently as North Carolina.
The starting point guard will most likely be Larry Drew II, a sophomore who spent a year under Lawson learning how to run the offense and direct the team.
Before coming to Chapel Hill, Drew was ranked as the No. 3 point guard in his class behind only Brandon Jennings and Kemba Walker.
Also returning for the Heels will be Marcus Ginyard, the glue guy that was supposed to help them win a championship last season but suffered a foot injury and only played in three games. His defense and experience alone will make North Carolina's backcourt much better.
Finally, the Tar Heels are bringing in two great recruits in Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald. Both should be able to contribute right away and will greatly add to the depth of the backcourt. I wouldn't be the least bit shocked if North Carolina makes yet another run in March.
No. 4: UConn Huskies (Last Season Result: Final Four)
A.J. Price is gone, but Kemba Walker is more than ready to step in and take his place. Even better news for coach Jim Calhoun is that Jerome Dyson is returning from last year's season-ending knee injury.
Before being injured, Dyson was averaging 13 points, three assists, four rebounds, and two steals. Walker, on the other hand, averaged only nine points and three assists per game but had four games in which he scored more than 20 points.
Darius Smith, a freshman, should also provide a few good minutes per game to spell either Walker or Dyson.
The depth, or lack thereof, of UConn's backcourt is what is keeping them from appearing higher on this list.
The talent of Walker and Dyson could make up for that, provided they both stay healthy. If not, Calhoun's team could have their season ended sooner than expected.
No. 3: Washington Huskies (Last Season Result: Second Round of NCAAs)
Last year proved to be a coming-out party for freshman Isaiah Thomas, who averaged 16 points per game and had seven games with more than 20 points.
Thomas, however, isn't a true point guard. He looks to score much more than he looks to distribute and get his teammates involved.
This year, Thomas will probably play the two-guard at times to make room for Abdul Gaddy, a true point guard and No. 2 at his position in this year's class.
Gaddy will find teammates for open shots while Thomas will remain the primary scoring option for the Huskies. It's a perfect fit for two players that will undoubtedly be playing professionally in a few years.
The problem, similar to UConn, will be depth. Hoping to help with that in particular, C.J. Wilcox, an unheralded recruit from Utah, is a great scorer who can help off the bench for Washington.
There are rumors that Wilcox may decide to redshirt though, which would hurt the Huskies. If he does, coach Lorenzo Romar's team will be in serious trouble if Gaddy or Thomas gets in foul trouble early in big games.
No. 2: Villanova Wildcats (Last Season Result: Final Four)
Villanova was supposed to be a decent team in the Big East with a lot of youth in the backcourt. Of course, that was until Scottie Reynolds, last year's East Regional Most Outstanding Player, decided to return to college for his senior season.
Joining Reynolds in the backcourt will be Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher. Combined, they contributed 20 points, five rebounds, and four assists per game last year. Both, however, will be playing larger scoring roles now that Dante Cunningham is gone.
Freshmen Dominic Cheek and Maalik Wayns, a pair of McDonald's All-Americans, will join Villanova's trio of returning guards, making them arguably the deepest backcourt in the country.
Coach Jay Wright has a history of playing three guards at a time in the lineup. This year should be no different.
Villanova has some solid talent in the frontcourt, but the strength is clearly within their guards. Another Elite Eight or Final Four isn't out of the question for this team.
No. 1: Kansas Jayhawks (Last Season Result: Sweet 16)
Sherron Collins was named to the Associated Press All-America Third Team last year and is a preseason favorite to make the First Team this year.
He is possibly the best playmaking point guard in the country, yet Collins is only the tip of the iceberg when discussing Kansas' backcourt.
Tyshawn Taylor, a shooting guard who has been playing well for Team USA recently, averaged 10 points per game last season and had a breakout game against Oklahoma (26 points on 8-of-13 shooting) near the end of the regular season.
Coming off the bench will be one of the best freshman shooting guards in Xavier Henry and one of the best freshman point guards in Elijah Johnson.
The Jayhawks also return Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed, two guards who contributed to a depleted Jayhawk team last year.
No other backcourt combines talent with depth better than Kansas. This, along with the fact that they are bringing back Cole Aldrich, is why they are my pick to be cutting down the nets in April.
The lack of a true shooting guard is what kept them out of the top five. John Wall and Eric Bledsoe are the cream of the crop in the Class of 2009 for point guards, but that's not enough. If Jodie Meeks had returned, however, they would have certainly had a top three backcourt.
The combination of two confident scoring guards may lead to a NCAA Tournament run or a disaster. Deonta Vaughn and Lance Stephenson are both very talented, but can either accept being the second option on offense?
The departure of Curtis Jerrells hurts, but LaceDarius Dunn is capable of stepping up into that star role for the Bears. Tweety Carter, A.J. Walton, and Nolan Dennis will add depth to the backcourt.
Top recruit Avery Bradley should be ready to contribute instantly on both ends of the floor. Jai Lucas, a transfer from Florida, will most likely be the point guard in Austin, which isn't bad for a player who was once in the top three at the position in his high school class. Justin Mason will also provide help off the bench.
Even I, truthfully, almost skipped over this team when making considerations for the list, but their backcourt shouldn't be ignored by any means. Chris Warren is back from injury and will join Terrico White to form one of the best scoring guard tandems in the SEC.
Big Ten Player of the Year Kalin Lucas is back along with Durrell Summers, but the lack of depth will hurt, especially late in the season. Lucas can't afford to get in foul trouble, or the Spartans are in trouble.
Demetri Goodson, who proved he can hit the big shot when called upon (see NCAA Tournament game against Western Kentucky), should take over the offense left to him by Jeremy Pargo, and returning players Matt Bouldin and Steven Gray give coach Mark Few a nice rotation.
Special thanks to Jameson Fleming and Leroy Watson for helping with the list.
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