Tag Archives: floor generals

Previewing the point guards: Pac-12 North

Yesterday we looked at the Pac-12 South’s point guards – a group of talented underclassmen and steady upperclassmen. In the North, we about follow the same trend as there are a number of potentially explosive newcomers, most notably Tony Wroten, Jr.

I present, the point guards of the Pac-12 North:

Washington State: Reggie Moore had a bad sophomore season. His numbers were down across the board, he battled an injured wrist, and he was arrested. Then Klay left. And Angelo. It would appear the cupboard is bare in Pullman. It’s my belief, however, that Moore’s 2010-11 season was anomaly. Moore is just a season removed from being neck-and-neck with Derrick Williams for the Pac-10 FOY. He’s a quick guard and strong, a good distributor and finisher with a knack for getting to the line. Washington State’s success rides squarely on Moore. And evidently he is his own harshest critic which should translate to a big junior year. If indeed his health and confidence are back, Moore and the Cougars could surprise some people.

Washington: If one is good, then two is better. Junior Abdul Gaddy returns from knee surgery and will be helped by one of the most heralded point guard recruits in the country, Tony Wroten Jr. Gaddy has been slower to develop than most would have liked – he averaged just 4 points and 2 assists as a freshman. But he did double his freshman stats in year two before tearing his ACL. His new sidekick, Wroten, is an equally as heralded recruit – the 17th best player in the 2011 class. Not only does he arrive in Seattle with recruiting hype, Wroten has already been compared to Magic Johnson by his coach, Lorenzo Romar. Lofty to say the least, but Gaddy’s steady play and Wroten’s flash, could have an upset minded UW squad causing trouble. It also never hurts to roll out 6’3” (Gaddy) and 6’5” (Wroten) point guards.

Oregon: First dibs as the Ducks starter go to Garrett Sim. Dana Altman is handing the keys (and yes, you’re welcome for the Haarlow link) to his high octane offense to the senior point guard. While he’s not going to wow you with athleticism or shooting – 34% from three and 42% overall – the senior won’t turn the ball over, makes good decisions, and will hit his free throws. Sounds about right for a team with eight fresh faces, plenty of scorers, and a whole lot of under-the-radar hype. Many are calling Oregon a possible sleeper and Sim’s steady hand can go a long way in making that a reality. Then there’s also the talented Jonathan Loyd who didn’t quite live up to expectations last year but returns to Eugene ready to contribute in 2011-12. There’s some players in Eugene and Altman can coach. Whether they’re a sleeping giant or not, they’re going to be an interesting team to watch.

Oregon State: The Beavers have the luxury of having three returning players each capable of running the point. We’ll highlight Jared Cunningham here because he’s the most intriguing of their possible point guards – of all the Beavers for that matter – and he also did this. Many have picked Cunningham as a possible breakout star in the conference and, frankly, it makes sense, especially if he can improve his three-point shooting. Cunningham is obviously an explosive athlete (review that dunk), but he also uses it for defensive good – accumulating 85 steals and shattering Gary “The Glove” Payton’s OSU sophomore record of 72. With this dynamic athlete as well as the steady and improving Roberto Nelson and Ahmad Starks, Craig Robinson has himself quite a backcourt. In fact, they represent 43% of Oregon State’s scoring and assist totals from last year. A sign that OSU could be in good hands. Or not…

Stanford: Does this school just keep seniors around to play point guard? Jarrett Mann is the likely starter and he has some lofty shoes to fill amongst the litany of capable, stable, upperclass Stanford PGs. Remember Chris Hernandez, Arthur Lee, Michael McDonald, and Mitch Johnson? Yeah, all pesky winners. But Mann and the other Cardinal point guard candidates (Aaron Bright, Chasson Randle) will have some work to do. They don’t return the most talented group but rather one with potential. Mann isn’t going to make this team blow up, in fact he’s probably best suited in a backup role; but he’ll allow the Cardinal to start the season off in a controlled manner, befitting Johnny Dawkins’ style. Don’t be surprised to see plenty of Chasson Randle, either. The dynamic freshman can bring some scoring and a style that compliments their athletic bigs, Dwight Powell and Josh Owens. Bright received plenty of minutes last year and his game is similar to Mann’s, heady and steady, but brings some additional athleticism to the court. Stanford will be an interesting group and the point guard position is no different. Ultimately, the battle for playing time will only make this team better.

California: The steadiest of all the league’s point guards: Jorge Gutierrez. A pest, to say the least, Gutierrez is the type of player you hate on their team but love on yours. By no stretch is he the most talented player on the court but he is going to give big effort. He’s gutsy and tough and makes things happen; a dangerous combination for any player, let alone a senior on a talented team with high hopes. He’ll use his size as an advantage in defending smaller guards and to score when guarded by them. He needs to improve his assist/turnover ratio (4.5/3) or really just cut down the turnovers, but many have predicted Gutierrez to be the conference’s player of the year. If he is, look for Cal to top the standings come Pac-12 tournament time.

Old or young, just be a good point guard

Many will tell you that winning college basketball has a lot to do with your point guard. After all, they’re the one handling the ball more often than not.

Dana O’Neil took a look at the position for the four preseason title favorites: UConn, Kentucky, Ohio State, and North Carolina. Each team is absolutely loaded with talent but also saddled with youth at the point. This, O’Neil points out, does not bode well for their title chances. There have been only six underclassmen floor generals to lead their team to a national championship in the last twenty years (Arizona’s Mike Bibby being one of them).

While I agree that experience at the helm is a great advantage, I don’t think youth is a death certificate. There are some omissions to O’Neil’s piece. For example, she fails to mention that Derrick Rose (UM), Darren Collison (UCLA), Mike Conley Jr. (OSU), Travis Walton (MSU) and Ronald Nored (Butler) were all underclassmen national runners up over the last six seasons. Championships are a terrific measure of success, but runner up ain’t too shabby and perhaps demonstrates that talent trumps experience.

Shifting from a national perspective to the West, the Pac-12 hasn’t quite followed the trend of the national champions. Of the last eleven conference champions (outright, not tournament) seven have been underclassmen, just two were seniors (Jerome Randall of Cal and Michael McDonald of Stanford), and one was the conference POY (Randall). Also of note, only one of these players (Luke Ridnour in 2003) was a lottery pick but five have played in the NBA. They may be young but they are talented.

Examining the crop of 2011-12 Pac-12 point guards shows us that we have an experienced group but not necessarily the most talented. There are six seniors and eight total upperclassmen. There are only two projected starting freshman (Josiah Tuner of AZ and Jahii Carson of ASU) but Carson has yet to qualify and hasn’t practiced with the Sun Devils. Although an argument can be made that Tony Wroten, Washington’s talented freshman, could be a starting point, I believe junior Abdul Gaddy is the lead guard for the Huskies. And while the league’s floor generals may be long in the tooth, they’re also short on accolades. Only Jorge Gutierrez received any conference recognition last season, making First Team All-Conference.

But per O’Neil’s logic, the Pac-12 is set up to have some pretty sturdy squads based on experience. Her fellow media-folk appear to agree. The Pac-12 media poll picked UCLA and Cal to finish first and second in the conference. Not coincidentally, these two teams are led by senior point guards.

Perhaps O’Neil says it best, “The special ones get it.” With the ball in their hand, they make their team better. So who, amongst the Pac’s point guards, gets it? Who’s going to lead their team better than the others? The young or the old? The wise or the green?

We’ll take a deeper look in the next few days as I breakdown each team’s point guard situation.