2010-11 preview: Best backcourts
Here are the top dozen backcourts in the country this year — with the rich getting richer. The defending national champs, believe it or not, have actually improved their backcourt even after losing Jon Scheyer.
12. Vanderbilt: There may be no better shooter in the nation than sophomore John Jenkins. Jeffery Taylor is one of the top wings in the nation, and Brad Tinsley should slide right in and fill the void left by the graduation of Jermaine Beal.
11. Memphis: Josh Pastner is young — and so is his backcourt. He’s got a trio of freshmen in wing Will Barton, point guard Joe Jackson and shooter Chris Crawford.
10. Colorado: I’m not sure if new Buffs coach Tad Boyle has anything up front, but he’s got guards — and two really good ones. Alec Burks was the Big 12 Freshman of the Year last season, and Cory Higgins averaged 18.9 points. The key will be Aussie point guard Nate Tomlinson.
9. Marquette: Darius Johnson-Odom is a big-time scorer who averaged 13 points in his first season in the Big East. Freshman Vander Blue is ideal for Buzz Williams’ system, and Dwight Buycks and Junior Cadougan will give the Golden Eagles another stellar group of guards.
8. Georgetown: The Hoyas have a trio of veterans in point guard Chris Wright, shooting guard Austin Freeman and do-it-all wing Jason Clark. That’s three guys who know their roles and will all see extensive time.
7. Butler: I’m not sure of the depth here, but it’s tough to match the starting backcourt of Shelvin Mack and point guard Ronald Nored. Mack can do it all, and Nored is a high-IQ floor leader who will get a chance to increase his offensive role this year with the departure of Gordon Hayward. The Bulldogs also have big-time shooter Zach Hahn and Shawn Vanzant.
6. Pittsburgh: Ashton Gibbs has established himself among the nation’s best guards, and Brad Wanamaker may be as underrated as anyone in the Big East. Toss in fifth-year senior wing Gilbert Brown and Travon Woodall, and Jamie Dixon is loaded with guards.
5. Missouri: Kim English is a proven shooter, and Mike Anderson has added the perfect floor leader for his system with freshman Phil Pressey. Anderson also has Marcus Denmon and Michael Dixon, who give the Tigers four more-than-capable perimeter players.
4. Illinois: Demetri McCamey is a senior who has come a long way under Bruce Weber, and D.J. Richardson showed he can do it all as a freshman. Brandon Paul should be much improved this season, but it’s versatile freshman Jereme Richmond who makes this one of the nation’s top backcourts.
3. Villanova: Jay Wright has the two Coreys — point guard Corey Fisher and shooter Corey Stokes — as well as underrated sophomores Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek. It’s no surprise that the Wildcats are once again loaded with guards.
2. Michigan State: Kalin Lucas should be 100 percent healthy after recovering from an Achilles injury he suffered in the NCAA tournament last March. Durrell Summers is one of the most talented wings in the nation — and he started to produce down the stretch last year. Tom Izzo also has combo guard Korey Lucious and freshman wing Keith Appling to comprise one of the most potent perimeters in the nation.
1. Duke: The Blue Devils have one of the top returning guards in the nation and a potential All-American in Nolan Smith while also welcoming arguably the best freshman point guard in Kyrie Irving. Off the bench, Coach K has Liberty transfer Seth Curry as his third guard, a guy who can play either spot in the backcourt, and sophomore shooter Andre Dawkins.
*Kansas: This one depends on the availability of freshman Josh Selby. If the freshman point guard is cleared by the NCAA, Bill Self will have one of the premier backcourts with Selby, Tyshawn Taylor, Brady Morningstar, Travis Releford and Tyrel Reed.