Inside the College Game: Top Starting Backcourts

Tue, 10/27/2009 - 9:05pm
Very few college basketball teams get far into March without having a great backcourt. North Carolina had an outstanding combo with Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington last year, both 1st round picks that took the Tar Heels to the title. This year there are some very good backcourts as well. Some are young and unproven, but could be lethal. Other backcourts are proven with plenty of experience and back for one more shot. Take a look at the top dozen backcourts in college basketball this year.

Top Dozen Starting Backcourts

1. Michigan State: Kalin Lucas & Durrell Summers

Last year’s National runner-ups are returning an explosive backcourt. Led by Big Ten Player of the Year in Kalin Lucas, any backcourt would be impressive. But, the Spartans will put junior Durrell Summers alongside Lucas and he should counter him well. Even when the coach Tom Izzo goes to the bench (or 3 guard line ups) he won’t lose much. Junior Chris Allen has experience and played 19 minutes a game last year for the Big Ten champs.

2. Kansas: Sherron Collins & Tyshawn Taylor

Sherron Collins and Tyshawn TaylorSherron Collins and Tyshawn TaylorSherron Collins may be the best lead guard in the country, and he is now a senior with tons of experience. But, the Jayhawks backcourt fire power doesn’t end there. Sophomore Tyshawn Taylor should come into his own after a year of experience. Taylor suffered a thumb injury during a campus brawl with football players, but will recover completely. If Taylor does miss time, coach Bill Self has possibly the top freshman in the nation with Xavier Henry. Henry will get minutes at the 3-spot as well, but should be in the backcourt a lot, making the Jayhawks incredibly dangerous. The Jayhawks have another blue chip recruit coming in and adding depth in Elijah Johnson.

3. Villanova: Scottie Reynolds & Corey Fisher

The Wildcats got to the Final Four last year with great backcourt play. They will have to rely on them even more this year with the departure of forward Dante Cunningham to the NBA and a more youthful frontcourt. It is a good backcourt to rely on because Villanova has the best in the Big East. This will be Scottie Reynolds fourth year playing major minutes. Corey Fisher is an explosive point guard alongside him. Junior classmate Corey Stokes will see time at the 2 and 3 spots and looks ready to emerge. All three players will see time together for a good portion of the season. The trio should lead the Wildcats near the top of the Big East standings once again. By stepping up, the Coreys could have Nova fans giddy similar to 80's schoolgirls were with Coreys (Feldman and Haim).

4. Oklahoma: Willie Warren & Tommy Mason-Griffin

Warren got overshadowed last year playing with the best player in the nation, Blake Griffin. This year it will be Warren’s team and he should be one of the deadliest guards in the country. Last year he averaged 14.6 points and he will get even more touches this year. Running the show from day one is bulldog freshman Tommy Mason-Griffin, who is going to surprise a lot of people and could easily be one of the top 3-5 freshmen performers in the country. He can score and distribute and is ready now to be a game changer for the Sooners. At 6-6 Tony Crocker will probably play a little more small forward, but does have guard skills, especially knocking down shots, where he had 59 three-pointers last year. The Sooners strength has switched from a power game last year to an explosive backcourt, but expect them to still win a boatload of games.

5. California: Patrick Christopher & Jerome Randle

Jerome RandleJerome RandleThe Pac-Ten is way down this year but the Bears feature one of the most experienced and talented backcounts in the country in Christopher and Randle. Randle was a model of efficiency with a staggering 18 ppg on 50% fg, 46% 3p and 86% ft all the while running the show effectively from the point guard position at a break neck speed. Patrick Christopher impressed folks during the summer at the LeBron Skills Academy in the counselor games. He's a high flier with a solid outside shot. This duo should have Cal in the thick of the Pac Ten title race all year and gives them a shot to make some noise in March.

6. Connecticut: Kemba Walker & Jerome Dyson

Walker was one of the best guards coming off any bench last year. He was instantly productive for the Huskies, especially in the NCAA tournament. With A.J. Price gone, Walker will step in and join Dyson to form one of the best backcourts in the country. Dyson was missed greatly last year when he went down with an injury, best was the Huskies leading scorer last year before he got hurt. A full season by Dyson along with Walker maturing as a sophomore should give Coach Jim Calhoun his usual explosive backcourt.

7. Mississippi: Terrico White & Chris Warren

White is a budding star who showed the ability to play both guard positions filling in for the injured Warren last season. He comes into his sophomore season as one of the top 2-guards in the country with the ability to take over games with great speed and penetration ability. After missing much of last season due to a knee injury, Chris Warren (19.6 ppg, 4 asts in 11 games as soph) is expected to be back running the point for the Rebels. This duo could challenge for backcourt supremacy in the country if Warren gets back to where he was prior to the knee injury.

8. Kentucky: John Wall & Eric Bledsoe

The starter alongside Wall is in question but will likely be fellow freshman Eric Bledsoe that gets the starting nod. The key is John Wall. He should hit the ground running for coach Calipari and could have a Derrick Rose-like impact, where he leads Kentucky to the very top of the rankings in his first year. The problem is that his first year will be his last year most likely. Wall is a huge prospect and if he lives up to the hype this year, he could end up being the top pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.

9. Georgetown: Chris Wright & Austin Freeman

The Hoyas were disappointing last year and everyone blamed their youth for the reason. Well, this year they can’t make the same excuse and Wright and Freeman are prime examples. Both are now juniors and both were highly touted recruits coming in. If Georgetown is going to get back to their usual Big East-giant style, Wright and Freeman will have to live up to the hype. They were not bad last year, Wright averaged 12.5 ppg and Freeman 11.4 ppg. But, they will have to step up even more and should lead John Thompson III and his team to another March appearance.

10. Gonzaga: Matt Bouldin & Steven Gray

This will be Bouldin’s fourth year of logging major minutes, and it is finally his team. Along with Steven Gray they will form the best backcourt in the WCC and one of the best in the country. Bouldin’s style mixes well with Gray, who is a sharp-shooter and one of the best in the nation. The Zags will dominate the WCC again (14-0 last year), and will be another threat when March rolls around, led by this unique backcourt.

Maryland: Greivis Vasquez & Adrian Bowie

Maryland’s backcourt is returning after a great run in the ACC tourney and a win in the NCAA tourney. Led by Vasquez who was one of the most exciting players in the country last year. He could lead the ACC in scoring this year after putting up 17.5 ppg a game last season. Bowie is a solid player but it’s the depth that coach Gary Williams has that makes the backcourt impressive. Eric Hayes and Sean Mosley both return after playing major minutes in the Terrapins backcourt last year.

Washington: Isaiah Thomas & Abdul Gaddy

Thomas was one of the best freshman in the country last year, averaging 15.5 ppg (led team in scoring). With Dentmon's graduation , it clears the way for freshman phenom and McDonald’s All-American Abdul Gaddy, a true point guard who teammates will love because of his unselfishness. Washington is young but should be at or near the top of the conference (along with California) all season.

Who was left off this list? Who deserves to be ranked higher? Discuss below.
mikeyvthedon's picture
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Justin Dentmon

Has graduated. I think you are talking about Isiaiah Thomas and Abdul Gaddy, because there is no more Dentmon.

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yeah, like mikeyvthedon

yeah, like mikeyvthedon said, Dentmon graduated. But Abdul-Gaddy is considered a top 15 recruit in the nation and should pair with Isiah thomas as a terrific backcourt.

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The Kentucky Paragraph

There are plenty of options as to who will start on the wing for Kentucky. Ramon Harris is probably the least likely of all our guards to fill that role. Whether it be Eric Bledsoe, Darnell Dodson, Jon Hood, or DeAndre Liggins, I'm fairly confident Ramon Harris will not start or get any major playing time for Kentucky this year.

Also Eric Bledsoe is much better than he is given credit for. I think you'll look back on this list post-season and find that ranking that tandem as the 8th best was a little ridiculous. I'm not sure there's a single defender that can stay in front of Wall or Bledsoe.

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I'm looking forward to seeing how Kemba Walker does in extensive minutes. Could be a real breakout year for him - he showed in flashes last year that he has the talent.

Jeff Fox

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No way Ramon Harris is going

No way Ramon Harris is going to start alongside John Wall.  It is either going to be Bledsoe or Darius Miller.  Harris should play limited minutes at SF this season.  Kentucky is too talented for Ramon to get much playing time. 

 The backcourt you forgot about was PURDUE.  E'Twaun Moore, Keaton Grant, Chris Kramer, & Lewis Jackson definitely form a top backcourt.  Not sure who will start.

TEXAS probably shoud also crack this list. Their backcourt is loaded with Varez Ward, Justin Mason, Jai Lucas, & Avery Bradley.  I imagine Texas will experiment with several different starting lineups.

CINCINNATI  Deonta Vaughn & Lance Stephenson? Close, probably not a top 12 backcourt yet.  Vaughn is one of the best PGs in the nation though.  Just depends on how well Stephenson's game translates to the college game.

 Overall this is a solid list.  I would put Oklahoma down a few notches.  I would move Kentucky & Washington up a little.  Also Texas & Purdue would replace Georgetown & Maryland on the list.

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Grant and Kramer were seniors last year, so it will be Jackson and Moore. Still that is one of the better guard combos in the country.

I agree with Texas definitely, but with Cincinnati it could go either way. First of all Stephenson hasn't been cleared yet, so that decision looms. Also he kind of has a Terrell Owens team destroyer reputation. He's one of the most gifted freshmen in the country, but I want to see how hard he's willing to work defensively before I label him part of one of the best guard combos in the country.

What about Downy and Archie for South Carolina, though? I might even take that combo over the combo from Ole Miss (White is a little over-rated after a big year last year in my opinion, and Warren is coming back from a serious injury).

I also like Tennessee's back-court. I don't LOVE Maze at the point, but they have all sorts of talent on the wings with Hopson, Prince, and Tatum. Any combination of those 3 could crack your list, and I think Tennessee overall is easily the second most talented team in the SEC after Kentucky. Now last year they had a ton of talent and really under-achieved with it, so it will be interesting to see if they play up to their ability this year.

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More corrections

#3, Grant and Kramer were NOT seniors last year. They are seniors this year.

I basically agree with everything gatorheels said. Ramon Harris will not even be in the rotation, let alone starting.

I'm a Jayhawk fan, and even I feel that Kalin Lucas should be ranked above Sherron Collins in preseason accolades, based upon last year (better #'s, won twice head-to-head). I also believe that MSU has a high-quality backcourt, with Allen, Summers, Lucious and Dahlman to support the reigning Big Televen PoY.

BUT, BUT, BUT, if you compare backcourts as a whole, there is no way you can rank the Spartans' above ours. First of all, Taylor-vs-Summers more than compensates for the difference between Lucas and Collins. Secondly, the Kansas bench is better than that of Michigan State, at every turn. I'd take:
-- Brady Morningstar over Chris Allen
-- Tyrel Reed over Isaiah Dahlman
-- Elijah Johnson over Korie Lucious

Then you have guys like Travis Releford, Mario Little and CJ Henry, who could start for alot of programs. The Spartans are deep, but not nearly this deep. As the article aptly mentioned, you can even count Xavier Henry, who has the skills of the SG, but will mostly be utilized at SF for Bill Self.

Texas (unranked) could switch spots with OU (#4), and it would be ALOT closer to accurate. Griffin is nice, but Bradley and Hamilton are both better talents. Where the Sooner bench has no-names like Pledger and Davis, the Longhorns have game-breakers like Ward, Barnes, Balbay and Lucas.

Take these rankings back to the drawing board...

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No John Wall And Eric

No John Wall And Eric Bledsoe Are Ranked Where Exactly Where They Should Be.....THEY HAVENT PROVED ANYTHING YET....Yes They Are Good,But You Cant Rate Them Over People Who Have Already Accomplished Things.

Kalin Lucas Is The Top PG In The Country To Me.

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