College basketball's top shooting guards
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - History has shown that a guard with scoring ability can be the key component of a championship team. The following is an early list of college basketball top shooting guards for the 2012-13 season:
C.J. MCCOLLUM - The two-time Patriot League Player of the Year became a household name after he led the underdog Lehigh Mountain Hawks to a shocking upset of Duke in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. McCollum ruined the majority of fans brackets by tallying 30 points, six rebounds, and six assists while outplaying Duke's talented guards Austin Rivers, Andre Dawkins, and Seth Curry. McCollum ended up in Bethlehem after being overlooked by the top programs during his high school career, and he has made every school that did not pursue him look foolish right away by leading all freshmen in scoring his rookie year. He then finished in the top 10 in the NCAA in points per game in each of his next two seasons as Lehigh's program reached new heights. McCollum decided to return for his senior season where he will set new school and Patriot League records for career points if remains true to form. Although his scoring production is sensational, the 6-3 combo guard is far from one dimension, as he has career averages of 6.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 2.6 steals per game.
JAMAAL FRANKLIN - The San Diego State Aztecs were expected to fall off last season after Kawhi Leonard departed for the NBA after leading the team to a 30-3 record and NCAA Tournament appearance in 2010-2011. Franklin clearly had different plans as he stepped up to claim the role of leader for the Aztecs. The athletic shooting guard earned the Mountain West Player of the Year award and an Honorable Mention All-American selection by the Associated Press in 2011-2012, after he averaged a league-high 17.4 points and a team-high 7.9 rebounds per game. The Aztecs reached the NCAA Tournament once again with their new go-to-guy. Franklin improved his scoring average by 14.5 points per game from his freshman to his sophomore seasons, which was the second best improvement in the nation. His jump shot is developing to the point of matching the effectiveness of his athleticism, making him extremely difficult to guard.
DREW CRAWFORD - Northwestern came up just short of its first ever NCAA Tournament appearance this past season with Crawford and John Shurna leading the charge. Shurna led the Big Ten in scoring last year, but his eligibility expiration will make Crawford the new face of the program. The senior-to-be averaged 16.1 points per game while displaying an efficient all-around game. Northwestern's shooting guard became the first player in the university's history to be named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2010 and was a consensus All-Big Ten Third-Team selection last season. Crawford, whose father Danny is an NBA official, will have the attention of professional scouts in 2012-2013 as he attempts to lead the Wildcats to the Big Dance this time around.
MICHAEL SNAER - Florida State was one of the most exciting programs in the NCAA last season and that was in large part due to its clutch scoring guard. Snaer knocked down three buzzer-beating shots from long range that gave the Seminoles thrilling victories. FSU's leading scorer was named the 2012 ACC Tournament Most Valuable Player after guiding the program to its first ever ACC Championship. His decision to return for his senior season immediately made him an All-American candidate and a frontrunner for the ACC Player of the Year award. Snaer is not just a big-time scorer, he is also one of the best perimeter defenders in the country. The Seminoles will turn to Snaer for leadership in 2012-2013 as they attempt to set a new school record of five- straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
DEANDRE KANE - Marshall nearly pulled off the impossible as it won three games in three days before running out of steam in the Conference USA Tournament Championship versus a much more rested Memphis Tigers squad. Kane garnered some attention when he set a C-USA tourney record with 40 points in MU's triple overtime victory over Tulsa in the quarterfinals. The continuously improving Thundering Herd battled through the entire season behind the leadership of their star sophomore, who averaged 16.5 points, 5.4 boards, 3.5 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. Kane finished third in the C-USA in scoring which led to a spot on the All-C-USA Second-Team last season. Kane's rookie season was also successful as he was named the C-USA's Freshman of the Year in 2010-2011. Now with two years remaining, Kane will attempt to guide Marshall to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in over two decades.
JUD DILLARD - The Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles will have a solid chance of snapping their six-game losing streak to Murray State this season with Dillard leading the pack. Despite being just a 6-4 shooting guard, Dillard finished first in the Ohio Valley Conference in rebounding (8.5) and fourth in scoring (17.3) last season as a junior. The versatile guard played second fiddle to the league's leading scorer Kevin Murphy last season, but Murphy's graduation makes Dillard the number one option in TTU's run and gun offense. Tennessee Tech's fast paced offense paired with the weak level of its competition should yield an even more impressive senior year statistically for Dillard.
TREY ZEIGLER - Two years of impressive numbers on a losing team in the Mid- American Conference made Zeigler a highly coveted recruit as a transfer for every school in the NCAA. Zeigler decided to depart Central Michigan after his father and head coach, Ernie, was fired following a poor season. Zeigler decided to attend Pittsburgh and was granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA. The newest Panther became the first sophomore in CMU history to eclipse the 1,000 point mark. The 6-5 guard has great court awareness and a natural knack for being in the right place at the right time. His decorated high school career earned him offers from top programs such as Michigan State, Duke, and UCLA but his decision to play for his father kept him out of the spotlight the past two seasons. Zeigler and incoming freshman center Steven Adams will have the Oakland Zoo excited for the team's farewell tour of the Big East.
SETH CURRY - Basketball fans of the 1980's and 1990's witnessed Dell Curry shine as one of the most deadly three-point shooters in professional basketball. Years later, Dell's eldest son Stephen became a fan favorite by leading the Davidson Wildcats to the 2008 NCAA Tournament Elite Eight. Now, it is the youngest Curry's time to shine. Seth, like his older brother, decided to begin his collegiate career at the mid-major level and attended Liberty of the Big South Conference. Curry led all freshmen in the NCAA with 20.2 ppg that season which urged him to move onto the grand stage of the ACC. Duke's overcrowded and highly talented backcourt has made the Curry a secondary option over the past two seasons, but he showed his value by averaging 13.2 points and 1.9 makes from distance per game last season. Point guard Austin Rivers was the go-to-guy for the Blue Devils last season, but his early departure makes Curry the leading scorer among returners for Coach K in 2012-2013.
SHABAZZ MUHAMMAD - UCLA had a disappointing season in 2011-2012 as it failed to reach the NCAA Tournament after being ranked in the top 25 at the beginning of the season. Coach Ben Howland's reported lack of control of the team had some skeptical if he would remain at the helm of the esteemed program. However, Howland's recruitment of Muhammad and a few other blue chips resurrected the Bruins back into relevancy. The incoming freshman guard is already projected to be a top five pick in the 2013 NBA Draft due to his sheer athleticism and potential. Muhammad is considered to be the best prospect at his position in quite some time. The 6'6" two guard displayed the reasoning behind the hype by earning the MVP award at the McDonald's All-American game. His scoring ability will immediately make UCLA a much better team. As the season nears, Muhammad's debut is going to be highly anticipated by Bruins' fans and just as highly dreaded by opposing coaching staffs.
B.J. YOUNG - Arkansas almost lost Young after just a year before he decided to withdraw from the NBA Draft in early April. The freshman guard produced 15.3 ppg on 50.4 percent shooting from the field and 41.3 percent shooting the three-point range. Young is a very explosive combo guard who uses a quick first step to blow by opposing defenders. The Razorback guard can score anyway imaginable, but he is undersized for the shooting guard position. Young and his coach Mike Anderson finished 18-14 without a birth in any postseason tournament last season. UA is expected to take the next step during Anderson's second year at the helm and what could be Young's final year of NCAA action.
RODNEY MCGRUDER - Bruce Weber reached the 2005 NCAA Championship Game with Illinois after he inherited a talented Fighting Illini roster which included superstar guards Dee Brown, Luther Head, and Deron Williams. Weber once again has inherited a crop of talent when he was hired at Kansas State during the offseason. The Wildcats' guard trio which includes Will Spradling and Angel Rodriguez, flows around the net-torching abilities of McGruder. The KSU guard scored 20 or more points on 10 separate occasions and 30 or more three times in 2011-2012. McGruder asserted himself into a leadership role last season as a junior which ended in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. He will be a player to watch as he tries to lead the Wildcats even further and show NBA scouts he is worthy of consideration.
D'ANGELO HARRISON - The St. John's season of 2011-2012 can easily be compared to a roller coaster ride as multiple players left the team for various reasons and head coach Steve Lavin took an extended leave from his duties as he recovered from prostate cancer surgery. The Red Storm was sporting just a six- man rotation by the season's end which simply was not enough to combat the Big East powers. Harrison was fantastic despite his team's struggles and finished the season with a program freshman-record 544 points. His average of 18.5 ppg in league action was third highest in the conference. Harrison and his teammate Moe Harkless both earned a spot on the Big East All-Rookie team, but Harkless decided to pursue a professional career. Harrison's sophomore season will be very interesting to watch as Lavin makes his return to the bench and SJU adds much needed depth.
Honorable Mention: Shane Gibson (Sacred Heart), Juan'ya Green (Niagara), Durand Scott (Miami-Florida), C.J. Harris (Wake Forest), Tim Hardaway Jr. (Michigan) Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Georgia), Marcus Jordan (UCF), C.J. Wilcox (Washington), SG Reggie Bullock (North Carolina), Trevis Simpson (UNC Greensboro), Ramon Galloway (La Salle), Devon Saddler (Delaware), Steven Pledger (Oklahoma), Brandon Paul (Illinois).