Road to The Final Four: Top Two-Guards And Wings In The Nation
There has been an extraordinary amount of turnover in college basketball during the offseason. Last year's preseason list of top wings in the country perfectly exemplifies the changing of the guard (or wing, if you want to be literal in this case). Just one of the top 14 wings in the preseason is back for 2010.
The list this year has been expanded a little bit to include shooting guards, as many times the two-guard and wing are interchangeable on the floor. Combo guards like Scottie Reynolds, Willie Warren, and Elliot Williams are NOT included.
1. Evan Turner, Ohio State
He'll guard any player and can fill almost every offensive role. Ohio State's Evan Turner exploded during his sophomore season into one of the most dynamic and versatile players in the entire country.
Turner ranks in the top 500 in 11 of 15 of Ken Pomeroy's tempo free statistics, a feat extremely rare and reserved for the most elite athletes in the nation. At 6'7'' Turner is Thad Matta's leading returning "almost everything."
The junior wing will be a favorite for the Big Ten Player of the Year honors as Turner will likely improve his 17 ppg scoring average and become an even bigger force on the glass.
2. Manny Harris, Michigan
If Evan Turner is the No. 1 wing, then Manny Harris is essentially No. 1a. Harris is a better pure scorer than Turner, but Harris struggles with shot selection at times because sometimes John Beilein relies too heavily on the junior.
Harris reads passes very well on the defensive end of the floor and is nearly unstoppable in transition. Harris is one the nation's best slashers, but also streakiest shooters.
The Wolverine wing will almost get his points in the paint and from the stripe, but when the long range bombs and mid-range jumpers drop, Harris can put up some memorable performances.
3. Kyle Singler, Duke
There's been a common theme among the top wings in the country. They score in a variety of ways, but also rebound the ball extremely well. Kyle Singler is no different as the junior is a threat from beyond the arc, but also puts points on the board around the glass.
Singler is a beast on the offensive boards and draws a lot of contact under the basket. Singler will be allowed to play a lot more of his natural position (small forward) which will help him continue to develop as well as improve his NBA Draft stock.
4. Lazar Hayward, Marquette
One of the nation's most over-shadowed and underrated players, Lazar Hayward should balloon into one of the nation's top scorers. The Marquette forward never received much publicity with the Golden Eagles' outstanding trio of guards.
An unbalanced roster forced Hayward to play out of position during his tenure in the Badger State. That won't change in 2010 as Buzz Williams is still devoid of big men. Hayward might get to spend a little more time playing the three, but for the most part Hayward will be an undersized power forward.
Despite playing out of position, Hayward has excelled at scoring as he's developed a stronger game eight feet or closer to the basket; he's still a good three-point shooter.
5. Tyler Smith, Tennessee
Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl began to lean on Tyler Smith much more in 2009, but it came at a cost. The senior's shooting percentages dropped dramatically last season as Smith tried to do too much on the offensive end of the floor.
Smith still was an above average player in terms of offensive efficiency, but there's room to improve in 2010. Three-point shooting should be at the top of Smith's to-do list as he knocked down a putrid 29 percent of the almost 100 three-pointers he took last season.
The entire supporting cast around the senior returns and should make Smith's job as a scorer a bit easier.
6. James Anderson, Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford has a dark horse candidate to receive conference player of the year honors with in small forward James Anderson. The junior fits nicely in Ford's up-tempo system as a dangerous transition scorer and threat to drill the long ball.
Anderson connected on over 40 percent of his three-pointers last year and shot over 50 percent inside the arc which are two standards for excellence. Anderson isn't one to take many bad shots which is beneficial for OSU for more than obvious reasons.
At 6'6'', Anderson was one of Ford's tallest players last year and the team struggled to rebound its misses. This year, things will be a little different for OSU as the Cowboys brought in size which should allow Anderson to fill a more natural role.
7. Damion James, Texas
Longhorn forward Damion James is a tough player to classify at a certain position, but no matter where you want to classify him, he's an outstanding scorer and dominant rebounder.
Kevin Durant originally forced James out of position at Texas, but James has found success as a wing instead of a back-to-the-basket player. James still has the moves inside, but he's found other ways to be successful with the ball.
Being an absurdly strong rebounder for his size, James helps his team end defensive possessions quicker and keep offensive ones alive.
The Texas senior will see his role change in 2009 with the fantastic freshmen that should take pressure off of him to score.
8. Avery Bradley, Texas
One of the phenomenal freshman that will take the pressure off of Damion James is stud two-guard Avery Bradley. He's an outstanding shooter with limitless range that could be Rick Barnes' best player from day one if Bradley quickly adjusts to the college game.
The Longhorn freshman's biggest impact in Austin this year might be his offense, rather than his defense. He's considered the best defensive guard in this year's freshman class and should give Texas a stopper against Kansas' Sherron Collins.
9. Devin Ebanks, West Virginia
West Virginia's Devin Ebanks is one of few players and by few, really the only wing you'll see in the top 20 that won't be knocking down many three-pointers. Ebanks hit just five of 40 attempts from deep last year, but Ebanks has worked hard on his outside game over the summer.
A more confident Ebanks could become a more versatile scorer this season, but he'll likely settle in as the Mountaineers' second option behind sensational senior Da'Sean Butler.
Ebanks began to come around as an offensive threat down the stretch and when that likely carries over to 2010, Ebanks could emerge as a potential honors candidate in the Big East.
10. Wes Johnson, Syracuse
During Syracuse basketball media day, the players had to be sick of two questions: "What will they do without Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf, and Paul Harris?" and "How good is he ?" That he most reporters kept referring to is Iowa State transfer Wesley Johnson.
It seemed like the other nine players and the rest of the coaching staff each found a different way to gush over Johnson like they had a school-boy crush on the guy.
He's a 6'7'' small forward who jumps like he's got springs in his legs. Johnson shoots as well as sharpshooter and teammate Andy Rautins and rebounds better than former teammate Paul Harris.
If Johnson emerges to be the player his teammates can't stop raving about, Syracuse won't be looking to just make the tournament after its offseason losses, but head back to the Sweet 16.
11. Gordon Hayward, Butler
If the Bulldogs want to have success outside the Horizon League, sophomore Gordon Hayward will need to develop into an All American candidate. Sure, Butler has a lot of talent, but John Stevens needs a player that can dominate against any level of competition.
Hayward has the potential to be that player.
He's one of the nation's best shooters and smartest players. By the time he's done at Butler, he'll remind you of Adam Morrison or Drew Neitzel in the category of "I can't believe this guy is still in college."
12. LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor
Without Curtis Jerrells and Kevin Rogers, Baylor will be looking towards LaceDarius Dunn to lead the Bears' dynamic offense. Dunn couldn't be a better fit for Scott Drew's up-tempo attack that looks to get the most out of transition opportunities.
Dunn is a shifty slasher, but much like Manny Harris can get scorching hot from three-point range and put on a show.
The one negative that stands out about Dunn is he doesn't get his teammates involved...ever. The junior dished out a mere 0.6 assists per game!
13. Dominique Jones, South Florida
Joining the Big East was supposed to generate more publicity for South Florida's stars. Unfortunately for superstar Dominique Jones, the Bulls perennial stay in the conference cellar has garnered him little attention.
Jones deserves it though as a 6'5'' wing who is one of the conference's best scorers. Jones is a well built wing whose size helps him create space in the lane.
14. Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall
Bobby Gonzalez's leading scorer is in a similar boat as Dominique Jones, but Hazell has a great supporting cast this year. Hazell will likely average close to 20 points again for a Pirates' team that should be ready to return to the NCAA Tournament.
Hazell has an extremely low turnover percentage which is extremely impressive considering the ball was always in his hands last year.
15. Tasmin Mitchell, Louisiana State
The Tigers have little hope to go to the NCAA Tournament this year and all that hope revolves around LSU's outstanding small forward Tasmin Mitchell. After missing most of the 2008 season, Mitchell had a studly junior season averaging 16 points per game for a surprising LSU team.
16. Jonathan Tavernari, Brigham Young
The Brazilian baller is a favorite to be the Mountain West Player of the Year for good reason. Tavernari won't be playing second fiddle to Lee Cummard this year which means Tavernari could average close to 20 points per game.
He's a strong shooter from three, but can struggle with his decision making and his shot selection.
17. Klay Thompson, Washington State
With so little talent returning in the Pac-10, Washington State's Klay Thompson could be one of the best players in the league. Thompson rarely left the court last year as a freshman and had a major role under former coach Tony Bennett.
Few major conference teams relied on a freshman more than Washington State did with Thompson, and his role should only increase this season.
18. Rodney Green, La Salle
The Explorers are poised to make a run at the NCAA Tournament behind senior wing Rodney Green. Between Green and outstanding freshman Aaric Murray, La Salle should contend for an at-large birth out of the Atlantic 10. Green is a strong slasher and is also developing a better three-point shot.
19. Xavier Henry, Kansas
The Jayhawks won't need to ride a one-and-done freshman to a championship, but Xavier Henry will be a major contributor to Kansas' No. 1 ranked team. The Jayhawks will be able to work him in slowly with Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich carrying the load.
Henry is a great shooter with a well sculpted body that helps him defensively. Henry is described as an average defender and his athleticism makes up for any of his fundamental problems.
20. E'Twaun Moore, Purdue
The Boilermakers have a trio of juniors that make Purdue one of the elite teams in the country. Shooting guard E'Twaun Moore is a crafty scorer that provides the outside component of Purdue's deadly inside-outside combo. Moore could improve his decision making skill as he can get reckless with the ball and take questionable shots.
Chris Kramer gets most of the credit as Purdue's defensive stopper, but Moore is also a great defender.
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