March 16, 2004
There are certain factors that must exist at NCAA Tournament time for a team to be successful, but the biggest may be great point-guard play. The point is important because he becomes an extension of the coach when tournament play becomes half-court oriented.
It's all about execution, execution, execution -- and that starts with the point guard, because offensive efficiency is crucial. It's imperative for a team to get a good shot on each possession and the right people shooting the basketball in the best position possible.
Let's look at seven point guards who stand out and can have a great impact on tournament games.
Jameer Nelson | Saint Joseph's
|Jameer Nelson is my choice for player of the year.|
Obviously, I'll start with Nelson since he's my choice for player of the year. He controls the tempo and the entire offensive system for the Hawks. Nelson is vital because St. Joe's is limited on the interior. It's important that Nelson and his buddy and backcourt mate, Delonte West, each have big games to help St. Joe's march on. I also love Nelson's enthusiasm on the court; he flat-out enjoys the game of basketball.
Chris Duhon | Duke
He's an orchestra leader, the maestro man. Duke has so many different weapons, and he has to do a good job distributing the rock to keep them involved. Duhon is also very important for the Blue Devils because of his on-the-ball defense.
Raymond Felton | North Carolina
The Tar Heels are my sleeper team. Felton is ultra-quick and gets the ball to his teammates well. He has lots of similarities to former Texas Longhorn star T.J. Ford in the way he pushes the ball up the court (only he isn't as quick). Felton puts pressure on opposing defenses by getting the ball upcourt quickly and getting the ball to the right people.
John Lucas | Oklahoma State
One of the big things that happened for the Cowboys was the transfer of Lucas from Baylor. Coach Eddie Sutton was thrilled to add Lucas because he helped get the team to blend as a unit. He has been perfect for the system, getting the ball to Tony Allen, Ivan McFarlin and Co. He also creates opportunities for himself and has put big points on the board. Lucas has shown superb leadership abilities and is a chip off the old block, as his dad was a special player at Maryland.
Anthony Roberson | Florida
He is a combination point guard-scorer and he must come up big for coach Billy Donovan's team to advance, especially with Matt Walsh playing with a foot injury. Florida will have a tough task against Manhattan, with five New York City kids who are tough as nails giving their all for coach Bobby Gonzalez. Roberson not only distributes the ball but also puts points on the board.
Dee Brown | Illinois
For the Fighting Illini to have a chance to make some noise and prove they're better than a No. 5 seed, Brown has to play his A game. There aren't many players in the game that can get from point A to point B quicker. He had an up-and-down sophomore season, but Brown is capable of taking charge. He loves to carry a game in his hands, with quick decisions and by creating excitement for the Orange Crush fans.
John Gilchrist | Maryland
He has momentum going for him after the Terps beat the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 seeds at the ACC tournament. He put Maryland on his back and got the Terps to the winner's circle, handling the ball and making big plays and big shots. He has a great basketball IQ, and he and Jamar Smith took over against Duke in the ACC championship game. Gilchrist deserves plaudits.
These are just some of the valuable point guards who will help their teams succeed in postseason play.
Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979 (he has been an ESPN analyst ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.