Sizing Up a Handful of the Nation’s Best Point Guards

No role on a basketball team is more glamorous than that of the point guard–he is the extension of the coach, the leader of the offense, the QB of the hardwood. And this year there are many, many outstanding point guards in college basketball. Today I feel like talking about a few of the best. But let me say this: there are numerous other fantastic 1s not mentioned in the blog (such as Arizona State’s Jahii Carson, who is shooting a nutty 56% from three-point land this year); I just didn’t feel like writing about them.

Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State

Following an impressive, if uneven, freshman campaign, Smart elected to return to Stillwater in the spring, spurning the NBA to return to a Cowboys team with its eyes on the final four. Smart was really good as a freshman, using his tremendous athleticism to dominate games on both ends of the court, but he’s already taken a big step forward as a sophomore. His weakness as a freshman was clearly his shooting, as his 40% field goal percentage and 29% three-point percentage showed, but his shot appears to have improved in a major way. Through five games this year, Smart’s three-point percentage has jumped up to 36% and at times he’s displayed range out to Norman. During Smart’s 39 point explosion against Memphis a week ago Smart’s improved offense was on full display, and he remains one the nation’s best defensive 1s.

Aaron Craft, Ohio State

The Buckeyes’ sensational senior guard is not one to put up flashy numbers (for his career he averages just 8.7 points per game), but Aaron Craft still might be the best point in the nation. He’s a legitimate shut down guard on the defensive end and is brilliant at orchestrating That Matta’s offense. Best of all, Craft is huge in big moments and knows how to hit big shots.

Craft makes a habit of disrupting opponent's offense.

Craft makes a habit of disrupting opponents’ offenses.

Shabazz Napier, UConn

Nobody does it all quite like Shabazz. UConn’s senior guard has seemingly been in Storrs forever, improving his game year in and year out. Napier is a buttery shooter with some serious range, but he also excels in just about every other part of the game. He’s a great passer, scores from outside and around the hoop, plays quality defense, and (remarkably), is leading UConn in rebounds this year with 7.7 per game. Yes, that’s partly an indictment of the Huskies–UConn’s frontcourt leaves something to be desired–but it is especially crazy when you consider that Napier is 6-1 on a good day. Shabazz does it all, and it is hard not to like the 59% clip that he’s shooting three-pointers at this year. He’s one of the most fun players in the nation to watch and he’s been known to hit ridiculously deep game winning threes from time to time too.

Napier recently put up a triple double against Yale.

Napier recently put up a triple double against Yale.

Marcus Paige, North Carolina

This guy might be the most improved player in college hoops. That’s not to say that Paige wasn’t good last year for the Heels as a freshman–he dropped a solid 8 and 5 per game and led one of the best offenses in the country, but he’s been otherworldly early this season. The Tar Heels’ sly, swift, and smooth sophomore (say that five times fast) dropped 32 over the weekend on Louisville and the Cardinals’ defensively tough backcourt, going 9 of 12 from the field and hitting on all 11 free throws he attempted. Paige, who currently boasts a 53% three-point percentage and an equally impressive 93% free throw percentage, looks in complete control of North Carolina’s offense and has been dynamite in the open court running fast breaks. He’s also shown an ability to score in a variety of ways, getting into the paint, hitting from deep, and getting the charity strip.

Olivier Hanlan, Boston College

What, you thought I was going to leave out my favorite basketball player ever? (Ok, that’s actually Paul Pierce, but Hanlan’s right up there.) Olivier is actually coming off a fairly lifeless performance by his standards, a 15 point effort in BC’s win over Sacred Heart last night, but when a 15/5/3 performance is a quiet night for a guy, you know that guy is doing something right. Hanlan has been tremendously efficient this year, thanks in large part to his penchant for making frequent trips to the charity stripe. He shoots 84% at the line and is getting there nine times a game. The sophomore also has been spraying treys from deep and playing great defense for a BC team that appears to (hopefully) be rebounding from a sluggish start.

Yogi Ferrell, Indiana

Yogi! The Hoosiers’ sophomore guard just knows how to play basketball. He’s a rangy shooter, a consistent disher of dimes, a staunch defender, and Ferrell just knows how to make things happen offensively. So far this season, the youthful Hoosiers have looked like they’ll be legitimate contenders in the Big Ten this year. The biggest reason why has been the play of Yogi, who’s just stepping into his role as their go-to scorer following a freshman year spent mostly facilitating on a team that starred guys like Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo.

Looks like it is Yogi time in Bloomington.

Looks like it is Yogi time in Bloomington.

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