Senior Writer

Top point/combo guards: Pullen (and his beard) rank No. 1


Can Jacob Pullen be Kansas State's primary ball-handler?

That's the question that'll be asked until the answer is provided on the court, and I suppose it's fair considering Pullen isn't a natural or traditional pass-first point guard. He's a shooter trapped in a small body (featuring a beard), for better or worse. But he's exciting and effective, and one helluva scorer, which is why Pullen deserves to top's list of the nation's top point guards and combo guards.

(Don't forget to read the explanation for these rankings in the blog. Also: The only reason Kansas freshman Josh Selby isn't on this list is because it remains unclear if Selby will play college basketball because of questions about his amateur status. Otherwise, he'd be in the top 10.)

Point guards and combo guards
1. Jacob Pullen (Kansas State)
Pullen averaged 19.3 points last season and led the Wildcats to 29 wins. Similar numbers with a similar win total are possible if not likely for this Chicago native who is no longer in the shadows of high school rivals Derrick Rose and Evan Turner.

2. Nolan Smith (Duke)
Smith will play more on the wing than normal because Kyrie Irving and Seth Curry are both on the roster. But I still think Smith fits best on this list of points and combos because he's more of a combo than a true wing. He averaged 17.4 points last season and is a major reason -- perhaps the biggest -- the Blue Devils could repeat as national champions.

3. Jimmer Fredette (BYU)
Fredette spent last season mostly unknown nationally despite a huge regular season that included four games of at least 33 points. But then he put 45 on TCU in the Mountain West tournament and 37 on Florida in the NCAA tournament, and now he's a serious All-America candidate and a relevant star, somebody capable of leading BYU to a MWC title.

4. Shelvin Mack (Butler)
Mack has developed into a combo guard more than a point, but he's terrific either way. The 6-foot-3 junior averaged 14.1 points and 3.0 assists last season. Those numbers (at least the points) should increase with Gordon Hayward now in the NBA.

5. Kyrie Irving (Duke)
Those who think Duke might miss Jon Scheyer have clearly never seen Irving play. The 6-foot-2 freshman is a fundamentally sound, do-it-all point guard destined to make an immediate splash. If this ranking turns out to be too low, I won't be surprised.

6. Malcolm Delaney (Virginia Tech)
Delaney isn't a star outside of the ACC only because he has yet to lead the Hokies to the NCAA tournament. But that could -- and it should -- change this season, which would allow the Baltimore native to leave school on a nice note, then be drafted into the NBA.

7. LaceDarius Dunn (Baylor)
Dunn's off-the-court troubles stemming from last month's domestic dispute with the mother of his child remain. But he's unlikely to miss a significant amount of time, which means he's likely to make a significant impact on the Big 12 again this season.

8. Kalin Lucas (Michigan State)
Eighth seems awfully low for Lucas, I admit. But this is what happens when a heralded player has a junior season that isn't much different -- and certainly not much better -- than his sophomore season. A late-season injury that kept Lucas from playing a huge role in Michigan State's trip to the Final Four hurts, too, at least in terms of perception.

9. Brandon Knight (Kentucky)
Knight might not be Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans or John Wall, but he is the fourth consecutive likely one-and-done point guard for John Calipari, and he'll be great. Again, Knight won't be Wall. But could he be the SEC Player of the Year? Yes, absolutely.

10. Ashton Gibbs (Pittsburgh)
Gibbs is another great combo guard who, like Mack at Butler, was never supposed to be this good; he wasn't even a top 100 recruit. But Gibbs burst onto the scene and averaged 15.7 points last season. He was the main reason Pitt was able to endure the losses of Levance Fields, Sam Young and DeJuan Blair and make another NCAA tournament.

The next 15
11. Kemba Walker (Connecticut) 12. Corey Fisher (Villanova) 13. Isaiah Thomas (Washington)
14. Demetri McCamey (Illinois) 15. Kevin Anderson (Richmond) 16. Randy Culpepper (UTEP)
17. Talor Battle (Penn State) 18. Chris Warren (Ole Miss) 19. Tu Holloway (Xavier)
20. Joe Jackson (Memphis) 21. Cory Joseph (Texas) 22. Chris Wright (Georgetown)
23. Kenny Boynton (Florida) 24. Tyshawn Taylor (Kansas) 25. Reggie Jackson (Boston College)
2010-11 Season Preview/Conference Countdown Schedule
Fri., Oct. 15Preseason Top 25 (and one) Fri., Oct. 29Conference No. 6: Pac-10
Mon., Oct. 18Preseason All-Americans Mon., Nov. 1Conference No. 5: SEC
Wed., Oct. 20Player rankings: Points/Combos Tues., Nov. 2Conference No. 4: ACC
Thurs., Oct. 21Player rankings: Wings Wed., Nov. 3Conference No. 3: Big East
Fri., Oct. 22Player rankings: Big men Thurs., Nov. 4Conference No. 2: Big 12
Mon., Oct. 25Coaches on the Hot Seat Fri., Nov. 5Conference No. 1: Big Ten
Wed., Oct. 27Best of the non-BCS Mon., Nov. 8Projections: Parrish | Palm

Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.

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