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.