Road to The Final Four at Ford Field: Revisiting The Nation's Top Guards, Part 1

Jameson FlemingSenior Writer IDecember 16, 2008

About two months ago, I ranked the top 20 guards in the country. A quarter way through the season, I'll be taking a look at how those guards are doing and where they rank now. This list is a list of the best guards in college basketball. It in no way represents NBA potential. I'll detail my top 20 guards by the end of the week, for now here's the top five.

1. Junior Stephen Curry, Davidson College (Previous Rank 1)

Stephen Curry tops the list of best guards in the country, but the gap between first and second is closing ever so slowly with the stellar play of fellow Tar Heel State guard, Ty Lawson.

Coach Bob McKillop moved the junior guard over to the point guard position with the graduation of the nation's best assist man, Jason Richards. The move certainly hasn't slowed Curry down as he's embraced the move incredibly well.

Curry is averaging 6.8 assists per game and has also been a thief on the defensive end, picking up almost three steals per contest as well.

But Curry's bread and butter has been and always will be his ability to score. Curry leads the country in scoring (31.9 ppg) despite being held scoreless by Loyola, when he faced a double-team all game.

Curry's ability to finish offensive possessions incredibly well is what sets him apart. The junior does it all every time he touches the ball. Something he does (shoots or turns the ball over essentially) finishes 37.5 percent of the possessions he's on the floor, which leads the country.

Curry is also fifth in the country in assist ratio at 42 percent, which means when he's on the floor he assists on 42 percent of his team's field goals. Considering Curry also scores at will, the majority of Davidson's baskets when Curry is on the floor, which is 86 percent of the time, somehow go through his hands.

2. Junior Ty Lawson, North Carolina (3)

The MVP of the top ranked Tar Heels is not Tyler Hansbrough or Wayne Ellington, but Roy Williams' floor general, Ty Lawson. The junior point guard is thrashing opponents with his speed that Kenny Mayne would describe as incendiary.

Lawson's ability to move up and down the court has resulted in some mind-boggling numbers. The junior only plays about 26 minutes per game because of North Carolina's dominance, so his tempo affected statistics aren't too eye popping. Lawson averages a solid 16.3 ppg and 6.9 apg.

His tempo-free statistics are what makes him standout. Lawson is sixth in the country in offensive rating at 143.3 (in possessions he ends this translates to 1.43 points per possession). Lawson also only trails Curry by a few percentage points with an assist rate of 38.7 percent, which ranks 19th in the country. The Tar Heel guard has been knocking down his threes at an stunning rate of 54 percent nine games into the year.

Lawson has also been a solid defender. He picks up almost three steals per game and has a steal rate of 5.4 percent (when he's on the floor, 5.4 percent of the opposing team's offensive possessions end in a Lawson steal).

3. Senior A.J. Abrams, Texas (un-ranked)

Not including A.J. Abrams on the preseason list was a big mistake. Abrams has stepped into his role as starting point guard and filled the footsteps of former Longhorns' guards Daniel "Boobie" Gibson and D.J. Augustine quite nicely.

The senior hasn't had to be the focus of the Longhorns offense, but when he needs to step up this year, he has. During UT's last three games, all tough wins, Abrams is averaging 29 ppg and has knocked down 14 of 25 three-point attempts. He's also been clutch at free throw line, hitting almost 85 percent of his free throws.

Abrams' 33 three-pointers ranks 10th in the country.

4. Sophomore Jonny Flynn, Syracuse (7)

There's probably no guard not named Stephen Curry in the country who's more calm and collected, poised to win a game with a late shot than the Orange's Jonny Flynn. In just over a season, Flynn has knocked a game winner against St. Joe's, a three-pointer to tie Kansas to complete a 13-point comeback, and with 24 seconds left against Cleveland State, Flynn drilled another long bomb to bring the 'Cuse to within two.

The super sophomore has led the team in scoring in all but three games this year, as he puts the ball in the hoop to the tune of 18.1 ppg. Flynn has also been a solid distributor, setting up his teammates for five baskets per game.

Flynn also continues to be an ironman for Jim Boeheim. The undersized guard plays over 34 minutes per game and in tight games, Flynn likely will play 36+ minutes, if not the entire game.

5. Senior Darren Collison, UCLA (2)

UCLA's Darren Collison dropped a few spots in the rankings despite a very solid start to the season. The Bruin point guard has been scoring well (15 ppg) and passing well (five apg), but Collison has struggled against the top two teams he's face this year.

Against Michigan, Collison scored just 13 points in 36 minutes of play and turned the ball over four times to counteract his five assists. In the Bruins' loss to Texas, Collison scored a season-high 22 points, but needed 22 shot attempts to reach that mark. The senior also turned the ball over six times.

With that said, Collison has still been a premier point guard. He's shooting very well, 95 percent from the charity stripe and 59 percent from three point range. Collison has adjusted pretty well to becoming the centerpiece to Ben Howland's offense after the departures of Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook.