College basketball preview: Top 30 Point and Combo Guards

Russ Smith (USATSI)
Louisville senior Russ Smith is one of the top guards in the nation. (USATSI)

More player rankings: Top 100 | Top 30 Wings | Top 30 Bigs

I imagine you've already seen our list of's Top 100 College Basketball Players, and now we're going to break the sport's best down by positions.

But not five positions.

Truth is, these days, too many schools play too many non-traditional lineups, and too many players play multiple positions and are kind of interchangeable. So what we've decided to do, to the best of our abilities, is separate players into three categories, and those three categories are as follows:

1. Points and Combos

2. Wings

3. Bigs

In other words, if a player will be asked to handle the ball to some degree for his team this season, for our purposes, he's a point or combo. And if a player does most of his work around the basket, for our purposes, he's a big. And pretty much everybody else is going in the middle category.

Will we all agree on these categories for these players?


The three of us who decided on these categories -- me, Jeff Borzello and Matt Norlander -- didn't even all agree. Reasonable minds can disagree. And unreasonable minds can certainly disagree. So if you want to argue about the groupings, I guess you can. But we'd rather you argue about the lists themselves, and we know you will.

Have at it ...

Top 30 Points and Combos

1. Marcus Smart

Oklahoma State

Vitals: 6-4 | Soph.

Comment: Smart is a combo guard in every sense of the word, and he's a great one. The sophomore National Player of the Year candidate has terrific instincts and is a top-shelf leader. He's the biggest threat there is to Kansas' Bill Self winning a 10th consecutive Big 12 title. -- Gary Parrish

2. Russ Smith


Vitals: 6-1 | Sr.

Comment: The good vastly outweighed the bad for Smith last season, culminating with a terrific NCAA tournament run in which he totaled 134 points in six games. He's headed for All-American honors. -- Jeff Borzello

3. Aaron Craft

Ohio State

Vitals: 6-2 | Sr.

Comment: The faction that hates Craft needs to check themselves. Guy plays hard -- but not in an obnoxious way -- and is a prototypical Awesome College Player. He will probably put up 12 points, six assists and more than two steals per game. Also, when he got engaged in the offseason it produced a waterfall of emotion on Twitter. -- Matt Norlander

4. Jahii Carson

Arizona State

Vitals: 5-10 | Soph.

Comment: Carson is limited by size, at least according to professional scouts. But his speed and athleticism is off the charts, and he's incredible in the open floor. If his teammates are good enough to make Arizona State good enough, Carson could earn First Team All-American honors before being selected in the first round of the NBA Draft. -- GP

5. Andrew Harrison


Vitals: 6-6 | Fr.

Comment: One of the most talented players in the country, Harrison is the nation's premier incoming guard. He is unstoppable going to the basket, and his 6-foot-5 size makes him adept at the rim. -- JB

6. Semaj Christon


Vitals: 6-3 | Soph.

Comment: In the A-10 last year, Christon was the only NBA prospect. He's back, is a great athlete and does so much for Xavier. He can play defense, too. Really well. We're expecting big things this year. -- MN

7. Shabazz Napier


Vitals: 6-1 | Sr.

Comment: Napier is the best of the UConn guards, and the main reason the Huskies were picked second -- just behind Louisville and just ahead of Memphis -- in the American Athletic Conference's official preseason poll. He's really progressed since an uneven freshman year. -- GP

8. Spencer Dinwiddie


Vitals: 6-6 | Jr.

Comment: Dinwiddie led the Buffaloes in points and assists last season, and is one of the better defenders in the Pac-12. He can also draw contact effectively, and he should have Colorado back in the NCAA tournament. -- JB

9. Kyle Anderson


Vitals: 6-9 | Soph.

Comment: The most interesting of any player on our list, Anderson is a point forward with a smooth game and ability to play better near the hoop on defense. If he eliminates the turnovers, Anderson can be top-five good. -- MN

10. Kevin Pangos


Vitals: 6-2 | Jr.

Comment: Pangos is about to average double-figures in points for the third straight season while shooting better than 40 percent from beyond the arc for the third straight season. He's going to finish his career as another of Mark Few's terrific four-year guards. -- GP

11. Joe Jackson


Vitals: 6-1 | Sr.

Comment: For all the talk about Jackson's inconsistencies, he was the Conference USA Player of the Year last season while shooting 53 percent from the field and 45 percent from 3-point range. Entering his final season with the Tigers, Jackson is looking to end his career on a high note and in the Sweet 16, at least. -- JB

12. Kendall Williams

New Mexico

Vitals: 6-4 | Sr.

Comment: Williams, last year's Mountain West Player of the Year, is a fierce competitor who averaged 13 points, five assists and four rebounds last season. He'll have the ball in his hands a lot, and always when it matters. -- MN

13. Michael Dixon


Vitals: 6-1 | Sr.

Comment: Dixon's talent suggests he should be higher on this list, but he's hurt here because he hasn't played in a year. Still, don't be surprised if the transfer from Missouri ends up being Memphis' best player. He's proved to be a great leader in early practices at Memphis, and his ability to defend the perimeter is why he was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the year two seasons ago. -- GP

14. Andre Hollins


Vitals: 6-1 | Jr.

Comment: With three starters gone from last season, Hollins might have to take on a bigger scoring role this season. Considering he led the team in scoring and assists, that could lead to a big year. -- JB

15. Chaz Williams


Vitals: 5-9 | Sr.

Comment: He's going to be college basketball's tiny star this season, the player that is arguably the best in the Atlantic 10. He should get UMass back to the NCAA tournament and will kind of remind you of Jameer Nelson while doing it. -- MN

16. Elfrid Payton


Vitals: 6-3 | Jr.

Comment: Payton has spent his college career mostly off the radar in the Sun Belt, but his summer with USA Basketball elevated his profile. He's a gifted athlete who can guard multiple positions. He'll someday make money playing this game even if it didn't look like it when he graduated from high school as an unheralded prospect. -- GP

17. Derrick Marks

Boise State

Vitals: 6-3 | Jr.

Comment: The explosive guard from Chicago is capable of carrying the Broncos, as evidenced by his six outings of at least 25 points. This season, the goal is to lead Boise to a Mountain West title. -- JB

18. Bryce Cotton


Vitals: 6-1 | Sr.

Comment: Cotton made a huge jump last season, and while the Friars are an enigma, if he's the combo point guard he was last year, PC can finish top-five in the Big East. So much is on him, though. -- MN

19. Tyler Ennis


Vitals: 6-2 | Fr.

Comment: I saw Ennis play a bunch two summers ago on the AAU circuit and was impressed each and every time. He's not Michael Carter-Williams, exactly. But he's going to be a suitable replacement right from the start. -- GP

20. Chris Jones


Vitals: 5-10 | 175

Comment: Jones is the biggest reason why the Cardinals aren't fretting the loss of Peyton Siva. The Memphis native was the best junior college player in the country last season. He's very dangerous with the ball in his hands. -- JB

21. Deonte Burton


Vitals: 6-1 | Sr.

Comment: Burton has started every game of his career. He averaged 16.3 points last season, and since Nevada's not likely to be in the hunt for an NCAA tournament bid, Burton will probably average at least 18 points a game this season. -- MN

22. Justin Cobbs


Vitals: 6-3 | Sr.

Comment: Cobbs' offseason foot injury wasn't ideal, but it's not expected to limit him once the games start next month. He's California's leading returning scorer, someone capable of leading the Bears back to the Field of 68.

23. Markel Starks


Vitals: 6-2 | Sr.

Comment: A year ago, Starks was a major catalyst for the Hoyas' success. This season, he will have to be a go-to scorer with Otto Porter off to the NBA. -- JB

24. Jerian Grant

Notre Dame

Vitals: 6-5 | Sr.

Comment: I love Grant's potential for his senior season. The Notre Dame floor general led the team in points and assists -- and turnovers -- last season. If he takes better care of the ball, the Irish can threaten atop the ACC. -- MN

25. Keith Appling

Michigan State

Vitals: 6-1 | Sr.

Comment: Appling doesn't consistently play to his potential enough to keep Tom Izzo consistently happy, and that's a problem. But the senior from Detroit is still talented enough to possibly guide the Spartans to a national title.

26.  Ryan Boatright


Vitals: 6-0 | Jr.

Comment: A pest on the defensive end, Boatright is capable of going on offensive tears -- and also capable of shooting his way out of a game. Consistency is the key for Boatright, who has plenty of confidence in his skills. -- JB

27. Trevor Releford


Vitals: 6-0 | Sr.

Comment: This senior guard for the Tide is a great defender, already the program's all-time leader in steals. There's a good chance we've even underrated him here. -- MN

28 Eric Atkins

Notre Dame

Vitals: 6-2 | Sr.

Comment: So the Irish actually placed two players on this list -- mostly because both Grant and Atkins averaged at least 11 points and five assists per game last season. Like Norlander stated above, if Grant and Atkins are really good then Notre Dame will be really good. -- GP

29. Jake Odum

6-4 | Sr.

Vitals: 6-4 | Sr.

Comment: You should probably make an effort to watch Odum a bit more this season. He's got great size and vision for the position, and he's the primary reason Indiana State has racked up four straight winning seasons. -- JB

30. Anthony Ireland


Vitals: 5-10 | Sr.

Comment: Ireland stands under six feet tall but will be a menace in the West Coast Conference, where I expect him to lead the league in scoring and break myriad school and league records. -- MN

CBS Sports Insider

Gary Parrish is an award-winning college basketball columnist and television analyst for CBS Sports who also hosts the highest-rated afternoon drive radio show in Memphis, where he lives with his wife... Full Bio

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