Don’t think that the Year of the Point Guard only applies to the NBA. In college basketball, a bumper crop of ones is helping write the national narrative in a way similar to their pro counterparts: With diverse styles and circumstances that make it tough to pick exactly who is No. 1 on a daily basis.
Two of the front-running candidates for national Player of the Year are point guards. One of the top 10 teams in the country (according to the most recent Associated Press poll), at least five could arguably say their point guard is their best player. One of the oldest March Madness adages says you win championships with guard play, and this year that seems to be the case more than ever. Here are the top 10 point guards in the country according to me:
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10. TU HOLLOWAY, Xavier — Formerly known as Terrell Holloway, one of the heroes of last year’s Sweet Sixteen instant classic between Xavier and Kansas State. Now a junior who doesn’t have to share shots with Jordan Crawford, Holloway (20.4 ppg, 5.4 apg, 1.5 spg) posted a triple-double against Wake Forest (14 pts, 10 rebs, 14 asts) and just put up 21 points, 9 boards and 7 assists on Temple’s vaunted defense last Saturday.
9. ANDREW GOUDELOCK, College of Charleston — On his way to what should be a near-unanimous Southern Conference P.O.Y. win, Goudelock (23.4 ppg, 4.5 apg, 41% 3PA) might just pick up an ACC P.O.Y. trophy just because. Check his resume against ACC competition: 27 points, 5 threes and 8 rebounds against Maryland; 28 points and 5 threes against North Carolina; and 21 points, 6 boards and 6 assists against Clemson. Oh, and the 6-2 senior dumped 33 points, 6 threes and 6 assists on Tennessee. The Carolinas haven’t seen a guard dropping bombs like this since Stephen Curry.
8. COREY FISHER, Villanova — The kid who had the audacity to carve up Michael Jordan’s son during the Jordan Brand Classic in high school, and drop 105 points in a summer playground game, is now the go-to guy on the always guard-heavy Wildcats. Fisher (16.1 ppg, 5.0 apg, 1.5 spg) lost his head-to-head matchup with Kemba Walker at the buzzer, although he outscored the UConn star, and just led ‘Nova to an upset win at Syracuse over the weekend.
7. JACOB PULLEN, Kansas State — The preseason national Player of the Year predictions and Final Four expectations for K-State aren’t looking good right now, but Pullen (17.9 ppg, 3.5 apg, 1.6 spg) is still putting in quality work. Pullen isn’t a natural point guard, but at 6-feet, he’ll have to look like one for now. His most impressive asset is making big-time shots, but K-State (2-4 in the Big 12) hasn’t been in position too often for him to showcase that crunch-time magic.
6. ISAIAH THOMAS, Washington — He’s playing out of position, but that’s actually good for his pro prospects. Thomas (16.9 ppg, 5.8 apg) is a natural two-guard at 5-8, similar to Nate Robinson, but he’s been playing the one ever since sophomore Abdul Gaddy went down for the season with a knee injury. In Washington’s current three-game win streak against Cal, Arizona and Arizona State, the lefty highlight-maker Thomas is averaging 22.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 10.3 assists.
5. NOLAN SMITH, Duke — The heart and soul of the defending national champions, Smith (20.1 ppg, 5.6 apg, 2.1 spg) is also playing out of position; he had to slide over from the two due to Kyrie Irving’s foot injury. Since Duke suffered their lone loss of the season at Florida State, the 6-2 senior has been their best player in blowout wins over Virginia, NC State and Wake Forest.
4. JORDAN TAYLOR, Wisconsin — The Badgers are one of those teams that can get hot and suddenly find themselves in the Final Four and it wouldn’t surprise me. And if that happens, it will be in large part due to Taylor’s play. Senior forward Jon Leuer is Wisconsin’s MVP, but Taylor (17.4 ppg, 4.6 apg, 4.5 rpg) is their most talented player. The 6-1 junior nearly had a triple-double against South Dakota (20 pts, 11 rebs, 9 asts), and took over in a huge win over Illinois with 22 points on 16-for-18 shooting at the foul line.
3. DEMETRI MCCAMEY, Illinois — If you didn’t get a chance to watch Deron Williams in college, just find this year’s Illinois squad on the schedule and watch McCamey. The size (6-3, 200) and build are the same, the game is the same, even the tats are close. McCamey (15.6 ppg, 7.1 apg) is coming off his worst game of the season in the Illini’s loss to No. 1-ranked Ohio State, but that was an exception to the rule. He’s the best passer in the country and a handful for defenders when he goes into scoring mode.
2. JIMMER FREDETTE, BYU — Like I’ve written before, I understand the argument for Fredette as national P.O.Y., and it gets stronger every week. He’s scored at least 39 points in three of his last five games, including a 47-point effort against Utah and a 42-point line against Colorado State. The 6-2 senior Fredette (26.7 ppg, 4.4 apg) has Gilbert Arenas-like range but with a smoother and more consistent stroke.
1. KEMBA WALKER, UConn — The best, most exciting, and most clutch player in America. Walker (25.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.0 apg, 2.1 spg) has lifted a UConn team that has no business in anybody’s top 10 and carried them to a top-five ranking. Walker has dominated and/or hit game-winners in W’s against Michigan State, Texas, Kentucky, Wichita State and Villanova. The 6-1 New York native is unstoppable getting to the rim and has turned himself into an outside shooter whom defenses at least have to respect. He’s my pick for national Player of the Year.