Best of the best: The top 10 point guards

October, 30, 2012
10/30/12
9:45
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Editor's note: This list includes only those we've seen play in college before -- in other words, no freshmen. For Eamonn Brennan's list of the nation's 10 best rebounders, click here.

1. Isaiah Canaan, Murray State: The Racers senior has posted a double-figure scoring average in each of his three seasons. In 2011-12, he poured in 19 points a contest for a squad that went 31-2. Even more impressive is that Canaan shot 45.6 percent from beyond the arc while ranking first in the Ohio Valley Conference with 98 made 3-pointers. A preseason All-American, Canaan is generously listed at 6-foot-1, but he’s likely an inch or two shorter. He makes up for his lack of height with upper-body strength that makes him deadly on NBA-range 3-pointers and hard to stop when he’s slashing to the basket.

[+] EnlargeBurke/Hardaway
AP Photo/Tony DingTrey Burke (3) and Tim Hardaway Jr. return this season to form a formidable pair for Michigan foes.
2. Trey Burke, Michigan: The Wolverines became Final Four contenders when Burke announced he’d return for his sophomore season instead of entering the NBA draft. Along with a team-high 14.8 points, Burke led Michigan in assists last season with 4.6 per game. That number should increase with the addition of players such as forward Mitch McGary and the maturation of Tim Hardaway Jr., Jordan Morgan and others. Like Canaan, Burke is a member of the preseason All-American squad. He has a lot on his shoulders as the Wolverines prepare for one of the most highly anticipated seasons in two decades.

3. Pierre Jackson, Baylor: Perry Jones III, Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller were all selected in the NBA draft. But the Bears never would’ve won a school-record 30 games and reached the Elite Eight if not for Jackson, who led Baylor in points (13.8) and assists (5.9) while shooting 82.2 percent from the foul stripe. There aren’t many guards in America as quick as Jackson, who brought a swagger and toughness to a squad that had long been considered soft. The Big 12’s preseason player of the year, Jackson must step up his leadership even more as the Bears attempt to incorporate freshmen such as Isaiah Austin and Rico Gathers into the rotation.

4. Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary’s: After honing his game at the Australian Institute of Sport, Dellavedova arrived at Saint Mary’s three years ago with the poise and fundamental skills of a college veteran. As a junior last year, he sparked the Gaels to the WCC regular-season and conference tournament titles and was one of 10 finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, which is given annually to the nation’s top point guard. He is one of just two returning college players to participate in last summer’s Olympics, where he competed for Australia in London.

5. Peyton Siva, Louisville: The Big East preseason player of the year made major strides in his game at the perfect time last season and helped the Cardinals reach the Final Four. Siva battled an ankle injury during the winter and lost confidence in his jump shot. He made just 40.2 percent of his field goals on the season and connected on just 24.6 percent of his 3-point attempts. But by March he had settled down and improved his decision-making while continuing to play well on the defensive end. If Siva, who is a tremendous leader, continues to perform at that level (or higher), there is no reason this Louisville team can’t win a national championship.

6. Aaron Craft, Ohio State: Jared Sullinger and William Buford received most of the notoriety, but the Buckeyes never would’ve reached the Final Four last season if it wasn’t for Craft. And they certainly wouldn’t be opening the 2012-13 campaign with a No. 4 national ranking if they didn’t still have Craft as their leader. A junior, Craft is regarded as one of the top on-the-ball defenders in the nation. Maybe the best. His assists numbers (4.6 per game) last season were strong but not gaudy. Still, Craft limits his mistakes and is a true floor leader, which will be important as the Buckeyes try to move on after losing two of their top three scorers. An interesting tidbit on Craft is that he’s the only scholarship player on Ohio State’s roster who hails from Ohio.

7. Phil Pressey, Missouri: The SEC preseason player of the year may have more upside than any player on this list and could easily be ranked No. 1 by the end of the season. He and Jackson are probably the top two players in America at beating an opponent off the dribble, drawing a help defender and then dishing to an open teammate for an easy basket. He’s the main reason Missouri averaged a Big 12-best 80.4 points per game last season. Along with becoming more of a vocal leader, Pressey needs to improve offensively. He’s not an excellent shooter, and it certainly hasn’t mattered on the Tigers, who are loaded with guys who can score. It’s usually just easier for Pressey to defer. But if things change and he elevates that facet of his game -- especially if he does it consistently -- he could become the best point guard in America.

8. Lorenzo Brown, NC State: NBA scouts love the frame on the 6-foot-5, 190-pound Brown, who played a huge role in the Wolfpack’s somewhat surprising run to the Sweet 16 this past spring. Brown averaged 12.7 points and 6.3 assists on the season. Brown’s length helped him lead the ACC steals with 1.8 per game. Like Pressey, the junior still has an incredibly high ceiling and could make a tremendous leap this season both in terms of production and leadership. Remember, Brown played off the ball as a freshman, so he’s spent only one full season as a college point guard.

9. Ray McCallum Jr., Detroit: This might be McCallum’s last season at Detroit, where he plays for his father. The former McDonald’s All-American propelled the Titans to the NCAA tournament as a sophomore in 2011-12, when he led his squad in points (15.4), assists (4.0) and steals (1.6). McCallum’s biggest problem as a sophomore last season was his poor showing from beyond the arc. He connected on just 30 of his 125 attempts from 3-point range (24 percent). If he can improve in that area and continue to play with the same kind of passion and intensity that has defined his first two seasons, McCallum may be in the NBA a year from now.

10. Nate Wolters, South Dakota State: It’s a shame Wolters doesn’t play in a bigger conference with more television exposure, because he’s one of the most enjoyable players to watch in all of college basketball. The 6-4 Wolters averaged team-highs in points (21.2), rebounds (5.1) and assists (5.9) to lead his squad to its first NCAA tournament appearance. He’ll be one of four returning starters for a South Dakota State squad that’s picked to win the Summit League.

Honorable mention: Mark Lyons, Arizona; Tim Frazier, Penn State; Vincent Council, Providence; D.J. Cooper, Ohio; Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse

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