Top 50 point guards

Our experts say Isaiah Canaan is the best point guard in America (US Presswire)  
Our experts say Isaiah Canaan is the best point guard in America (US Presswire)  
Conventional thinking is that 2012-13 is a down year for point guards in college basketball. Conventional thinking appears to be correct -- but only to a degree. You look at the list we’ve put together here, what do you notice? Examine it and it should come to you pretty quickly: There don’t appear to be a lot of pros on this list. And that’s the problem. While we’ve got a number of watchable, capable, talented and specialized-types at the 1 this season, how many of these players will ultimately be drafted? Ten? Maybe?

Still, I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I disdain all the how-will-they-be-as-a-pro talk during the college season when April, May and June have become nearly as ubiquitous with draft talk as the NBA playoffs. So let’s examine these guys as college players -- which is how we’ve ranked them. And one more quick word: I don’t want to hear any criticism over how “down” college basketball is this year because a guy like Isaiah Canaan is our No. 1 pick. People who pooh-pooh that choice just don’t know how good Canaan is.

The other part of this is, while the talent near the top isn’t all-world, once you get to the 30s on our list, you see that the game still has a lot of really good guys running their teams. Syracuse’s Brandon Triche is No. 39 on our list, and that team has a chance at flirting with the Final Four. He’s behind a guy like Dayton’s Kevin Dillard, who could have a huge breakout-type season.

So here they are, they best floor generals in college basketball for the year ahead, as compiled by the quartet of experts, or so we believe. Read along with your head on a swivel. -- Matt Norlander

2012 Preseason Top 50 point guards
1. Isaiah Canaan, Murray State
Is he a point or a two-guard? We're not quite sure, but he's just one heck of a guard. He can really shoot the ball, he makes shots with the game on the line -- and he leads his team to victories. That's enough for us to have him atop this list. -- Jeff Goodman
2. Phil Pressey, Missouri
He's the straw that stirs the drink, the engine that makes Mizzou go. He did it last year and he'll do it again this season with a different cast in Columbia. Pressey is the consummate point guard. -- J.G.
3. Trey Burke, Michigan
Burke wisely returned to school because he could've easily slipped into the second round of the NBA Draft. That wouldn't have been good. But leading Michigan to a possible Final Four this season will be really, really good. -- Gary Parrish
4. Aaron Craft, Ohio State
He may not score the ball like some others on this list, but he's the best perimeter defender among this group, he leads, competes every possession and also makes his teammates better. -- J.G.
5. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Is he a natural point guard? Probably not, but Smart is a born winner, is willing to do anything to help his team win, and is a top-notch leader. Sounds enough like a point guard to qualify. -- Jeff Borzello
6. Kyle Anderson, UCLA
He's not a natural point guard, but he's a phenomenal talent. If Ben Howland figures out how to use him, watch out. -- G.P.
7. Pierre Jackson, Baylor
Jackson had a mostly smooth transition from junior college to the Big 12. He and Isaiah Austin make a nice inside-outside -- or maybe outside-outside, depending on the possession -- combo. -- G.P.
8. Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary's
Not blessed with incredible athleticism, Delly is a master at his craft -- which is using angles and ball-screens. He shoots it well, passes it and has been the primary reason why the Gaels ended Gonzaga's streak and won the WCC a year ago. -- J.G.
9. Peyton Siva, Louisville
Siva has never established himself as a star but he has moments when he looks like one. If he looks like one this season consistently, Rick Pitino might get another national title. -- G.P.
10. Lorenzo Brown, N.C. State
Brown is a fantastic playmaker with the ball in his hands. He knows how to beat his man off the dribble in order to get into the lane. Once there, he can finish or dump off to a teammate for an easy bucket. -- J.B.
11. Mark Lyons, Arizona
"Cheeks", as he is called, is a talented scoring guard who has played off the ball for his college career. Lyons spent the first four years (he sat out as a freshman) at Xavier, but the key will be how he adjusts in Tucson to running the team. -- J.G.
12. Ray McCallum Jr. , Detroit
Little Ray chose to play for his dad at Detroit over the big boys (i.e. Arizona and UCLA) and while he hasn't received the national attention, he's thriving in the Horizon. Terrific command of the game and blends the ability to score, distribute and lead. -- J.G.
13. Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse
He's still somewhat of an unknown to the general college hoops fan, but MCW is long, talented and can both score and distribute. The NBA scouts love him for his versatility and length. -- J.G.
14. Elijah Johnson, Kansas
KU fans will tell you this is too low for Johnson. I admit, they might be right. -- G.P.
15. Tim Frazier, Penn State
There is a case to be made he should be top-10 on this list, because his production the past two years on a nondescript Penn State squad has been fantastic. Don't be shocked if he earns All-American Third Team or honorable mention come March. -- Matt Norlander
16. Myck Kabongo, Texas
Struggled out of the gates last season in Austin, but has terrific speed and leadership qualities. Now it's his team with J'Covan Brown gone, and that should make it easier for the talented Canadian. -- J.G.
17. Shabazz Napier, UConn
He had great games -- and brutal ones. Napier can really shoot the ball from deep, but needs to learn how to consistently get his teammates easy shots -- and also become a quality leader. Also capable of being a terrific perimeter defender. -- J.G.
18. Vincent Council, Providence
Ultra-productive at his position, Council has a chance to rank among the Big East's leaders in both points and assists. Throw in the fact he barely ever comes off the court, and he deserves more attention nationally. J.B.
19. Ryan Harrow, Kentucky
He's not Derrick Rose or Tyreke Evans or John Wall or Brandon Knight, and I don't even think he's Marquis Teague. But Harrow is still good enough to help UK repeat. -- G.P.
20. Rotnei Clarke, Butler
There's no better shooter in the country. No one. Clarke proved that in his first three seasons at Arkansas, but now he'll make the transition to playing the point for Brad Stevens in his one season at Butler. Clarke is also healthy for the first time in years. -- J.G.
21. Joe Jackson, Memphis
The former McDonald's All-American has struggled with consistency, but there are moments -- most notably in the past two C-USA tournaments -- when he reminds everyone of his potential. -- G.P.
22. Anthony Marshall, UNLV
He won't put up huge offensive numbers, especially with all the talent in Vegas, but Marshall can score when needed. He averaged 12.2 points as a junior last season, locks down on the defensive end, runs the team and rebounds the ball well for his position. -- J.G.
23. Nate Wolters, South Dakota State
Will probably do more for his team than any guard on this list. Is more than just a point guard, even if that's his classified position. Has potential to be a March mini-star if SDSU reaches the Big Bracket. -- M.N.
24. D.J. Cooper , Ohio
He's undersized but not under-skilled. Cooper is one of the best pure 1s in the game, and with him returning for his senior season, Ohio has a chance to get back to the NCAA tournament despite losing coach John Groce to Illinois. -- M.N.
25. Chaz Williams, UMass
It's easy to love watching the diminutive guard get up and down the court. Williams knows how to make plays at both ends of the floor, and is the perfect player to jump-start Massachusetts' up-tempo system. -- J.B.
26. Michael Dixon , Missouri
Gets hurt a little by playing alongside Pressey, who's a joy to watch. But so is Dixon, who will get a fair share of time with the ball -- most likely splitting on-court time with Pressey this season. These two guys on the floor at the same time is why I really like Mizzou's Final Four chances. -- M.N.
27. Will Cherry, Montana
Will probably miss the first few weeks of the season with a broken foot, but he's on the NBA's radar due to his athleticism, improved offensive game and ability to dominate a game on the defensive side of the floor. -- J.G.
28. Keith Appling, Michigan State
Appling wasn't exactly a pure point guard coming out of high school, but he's thrived at that position so far. He needs to get his 3-point accuracy to where it was as a freshman, but Appling is getting better and better as a playmaker. -- J.B.
29. Chasson Randle, Stanford
Has the ability to play both guard positions, and is scoring more than he did in high school. Went for 30 points in the Pac-12 tournament against Arizona State, and gained more confidence as the season progressed. -- J.B.
30. Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga
Pangos is ball-handler who can shoot the you-know-what out of it. Another great find for Mark Few. -- G.P.
31. Anthony Collins, South Florida
Quick and light, Collins helped turn South Florida into one of the most unexpected major-conference teams worthy of an NCAA appearance. He's hard to get a hip on. -- M.N.
32. Frantz Massenat, Drexel
Dating back to his high school days, Massenat has consistently played his best against top-notch competition. With the Dragons set to get to the NCAA tournament this season, Massenat should get some more attention. -- J.B.
33. Yogi Ferrell, Indiana
Ferrell will be the key to Indiana's season, as he should be the starting point guard right off the bat. He has tremendous quickness and penetration ability, but he needs to stay under control and get the ball in the right player's hands. -- J.B.
34. Erick Green, Virginia Tech
Despite being the focal point of opposing defenses, Green still took a major step forward last season. After an offseason playing against the top point guards in the country, Green could be even better as a senior. -- J.B.
35. Deonte Burton, Nevada
The 2012 WAC Player of the Year is a very good ballhandler and pick-n-roll player. Unafraid and very able to get to the hoop working from either side of the floor. Can definitely take the Wolf Pack to an NCAA tournament. - M.N.
36. Travon Woodall , Pittsburgh
An average defender, Woodall loves to get out and run on O. It makes for an interesting change of pace with Pitt's game. Thanks to frosh big man Steven Adams creating a dynamic for the Panthers, Woodall's set up to have a very nice year. - M.N.
37. Kwamain Mitchell, Saint Louis
His college career was postponed because of some off-the-court issues that are behind him now. It'll be interesting to see how he plays in the absence of Rick Marjerus. -- G.P.
38. Kevin Dillard, Dayton
Averaged 13.3 points, six assists and had a 2-to-1 turnover-to-assist ratio in his first season with the Flyers after transferring from Southern Illinois. Has a chance to be the A-10 Player of the Year. -- J.G.
39. Brandon Triche, Syracuse
Triche has forever been good but never been much more than that. Perhaps this is the year he makes a jump. -- G.P.
40. Korie Lucious, Iowa State
Had a year to sit things out after transferring from Michigan State to Iowa State. Put here based on potential. Lucious hopes to have a successful transition the way Royce White did last year, having come from Minnesota to Ames. Lucious isn't nearly the talent -- or anything like White -- but will he be the next big transfer success story? -- M.N.
41. Trae Golden, Tennessee
Golden is a mostly unheralded point guard who should be able to take advantage of playing with a really good frontcourt. -- G.P.
42. Semaj Christon, Xavier
Don't be surprised if this ranking is too low come February. Christon is an absolute star waiting to happen -- and he is going to have the ball in his hands often. Will be expected to product plenty of offense for the Musketeers. -- J.B.
43. Kerron Johnson, Belmont
Belmont leaves the Atlantic Sun for the Ohio Valley this season. Johnson will compete with the No. 1 guy on this list as league's best point guard. He's much different than Canaan, though. A terrific transition player who gets to the line a lot. -- M.N.
44. Anthony Ireland, Loyola Marymount
Gets lost in the shuffle among the top guards, but Ireland was a first-team all-WCC guy a year ago after averaging 16.1 points and 4.9 assists. Brings toughness, scoring and the ability to give teammates easy looks to the table for the Lions. -- J.G.
45. Marcus Paige, North Carolina
He's a left-handed point guard, but he's not the same player as Kendall Marshall. Although Paige doesn't have Marshall's passing ability, he can create his own shot and also knock down shots from deep. Good IQ and sense of pace. -- J.B.
46. Kendall Williams, New Mexico
Williams could take a step forward this season as the Lobos will need him to score more without Drew Gordon down low. He defends effectively, can get teammates involved and is also adept at getting to the free-throw line and converting. J.B.
47. Lamont "Momo" Jones , Iona
Oh, Momo. He's a sporadic player who can create his own shot. A true point guard? Not at all. But the former Arizona product is undeniably one of the best players in the MAAC now. Will he have a better season than last year, when he was third on the team behind Scott Machado and Mike Glover? Absolutely. -- M.N.
48. Andrew Lawrence, College of Charleston
Was one of just two college Olympians (Dellavedova was the other). Lawrence played for Great Britain and is vastly underrated. He averaged 13 points and 5.5 assists last season and should thrive under new coach Doug Wojcik. -- J.G.
49. Jake Odum, Indiana State
Had a down season last year after getting plenty of preseason hype, but Odum might justify the expectations this season. Contribute in different ways, and is super-competitive. Makes the Sycamores a threat in every game. -- J.B.
50. Ian Miller, Florida State
He just needs to stay out on the court. Miller has missed parts of his first two seasons, but he is an explosive scoring point guard who can shoot the ball, but needs to work on his floor game. -- J.G.

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