2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament: Kemba Walker and the Top 5 Guards in the Field
The 2011 NCAA tournament will be dominated by the top guards in the country.
Kemba Walker showed the importance of a dominant guard during the Big East Tournament, and he will continue to strut his stuff during UConn's tournament run.
The country is full of guards with ankle-crippling crossovers, net-swishing jumpers and cunning thievery. Which guards will have the biggest impact on their team's tournament chances?
Jimmer Fredette, BYU
No surprises to lead off the list; this player-of-the-year candidate has been on fire all season and even scored 52 points to lead his team past New Mexico in the Mountain West Conference semifinals.
"Jimmer," is the current cry among playground children shooting a jumper, and Jimmer will be making his own share of shots.
With Brandon Davies out, the scoring load will fall even more on Fredette. For BYU to even make the Sweet 16, Fredette will have to make a run for the ages.
Isaiah Thomas, Washington
This junior guard stands 5'9", but makes up for his lack of stature with his skill.
HIs ball-handling allows him to create enough space for his sweet jumper, as he showed with his game-winning shot over Arizona in the Pac-10 tournament championship game.
Thomas has been a star since his freshman year, but he is becoming a leader on this Washington Huskies team.
Averaging nearly 17 points and six assists per game, Thomas has proven he is one of the best guards in the country. He will have to be for his seven-seeded Huskies to advance in the NCAA tournament.
Nolan Smith, Duke
Nolan Smith, averaging 21 points and five assists per game, had a scary moment in the ACC Tournament against Maryland when he fell to the ground and limped into the locker room.
Luckily, all was well and, just a couple days later, Smith scored 20 as Duke beat North Carolina for the ACC Tournament title.
Smith has been playing the point during Kyrie Irving's extended injury. Should Irving return, expect Smith's numbers to get even better as he shifts to shooting guard and the pressure of handling the ball is relieved.
Also, expect a healthy Irving to jump his way into the upper echelon of tournament guards.
Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin
As a freshman, Jordan Taylor was a hard-nosed defender, a role player on a talented team. As a sophomore, Taylor took over the reins to the starting point guard role halfway through the season and was third in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio.
The Cousy Award finalist (given to the nation's top point guard) has made the jump to elite player this season. He is averaging 18 points per game on 46 percent shooting, and nearly five assists to only one turnover per game.
For Wisconsin to even make it out of their first round matchup with Belmont, Taylor must continue his development into a superstar and show the leadership that makes good point guards great.
Kemba Walker, UConn
Kemba Walker is probably the most-known NCAA player in the country right now. After leading UConn on an unprecedented five-games in five-day run against four Top 25 teams, Walker has become arguably the best guard in UConn's prolific history.
Walker is a scorer first, but he has managed to get his teammates involved all season.
UConn entered the season unranked with little hope of being counted among the nation's elite, but Walker changed all that with back-to-back wins against top 10 schools early in the season.
With a preseason tournament and conference tournament under his belt, Walker now looks ahead to the NCAAs.
If there is one player in the tournament capable of putting his team on his back all the way through the Final Four, it is Kemba Walker.