Luke Winn's Top 16 Backcourts
After an underwhelming freshman season, the highly touted tandem of Jackson and Barton will be expected to lead the Tigers as sophomores. If Jackson can make serious progress as a point guard, Memphis can be a top-15 team; if he stagnates, they're unlikely to make much noise in March.
The Jardine-Triche Duo, now in its third season together, will be expected to chase a Big East title and make a deeper run in the NCAA tournament than it did in '10-11, getting upset by Marquette in the second round. Waiters, despite transfer rumors in April, returned for his sophomore year and could have a breakout campaign.
The enigmatic Taylor will be asked to take on a larger scoring load for the Jayhawks now that the Morris Twins (not to mention Josh Selby, Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar) are gone. Johnson and Releford provided quality minutes off the bench last season and are ready for bigger roles.
New coach Frank Haith inherited a loaded backcourt. Denmon, who shot 44.8 percent from long range as a junior and emerged as one of the nation's best offensive forces (with a 127.1 offensive rating), is back to lead the Tigers' scoring attack, and Dixon is expected to continue his steady progress at the point.
Fernandez hit a game-winner against Penn State in the second round of the NCAA tournament and nearly helped the Owls knock off second-seeded San Diego State. Moore was their breakout scoring leader at 15.2 points per game, while Wyatt was the team's best three-point shooter (42.1 percent) and a quality defender.
Siva, one of the best athletes anywhere at the point-guard position, can be a menace on D: He had the Big East's second-highest steal percentage (4.13) last season. Kuric is a sharpshooter who hit 44.9 percent of his threes as a junior.
Gibbs, a senior, is back to terrorize Big East defenders for another season, although will he miss having playmaker Brad Wanamaker beside him in the backcourt? Woodall will have to pick up plenty of the shot-creation slack now that he's jumping into the starting lineup.
Jenkins, a prolific scorer, is a prime candidate for SEC Player of the Year -- and even All-America -- honors as a junior. He'll be once again fed the ball by Tinsley, who performed admirably last season in his first term as the full-time point guard. Parker, a three-star freshman, should relieve Tinsley off the bench.
Holloway was a true ironman, playing 94.5 percent of the Musketeers' minutes as a junior. Only two major-conference guards, Penn State's Talor Battle and Virginia Tech's Malcolm Delaney, logged a higher minute percentage last season. Redford, perhaps the A-10's most lethal shooter, missed all of '10-11 with an ACL tear but is hoped to return to Xavier's lineup for a full senior season.
Napier's defense in the national championship game helped seal the Huskies' miraculous title run; he's now set to join the starting lineup in Kemba Walker's old spot at the point. Lamb, a fellow sophomore, is a potential breakout star who could be among the nation's best all-around scorers.
Taylor is the nation's best point guard, without question, playing 90.6 percent of the Badgers' minutes with a 126.9 offensive rating. Last season, Gasser was the first freshman guard to start for Bo Ryan since Devin Harris, and should take on a bigger offensive role in '11-12. Jackson, a three-star rookie, is the son of former Ohio State great Jim Jackson.
Marshall, who was inserted (with impressive results) into the Tar Heels' starting lineup in February, led the ACC in assists as a freshman while posting a 2.5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Strickland is a junior two-guard who earns his minutes by locking down on D, and Bullock and Hairston are gunners who space the floor.
Craft is a tenacious, on-ball defender who made the Big Ten's All-Defensive Team (and was named the league's top sixth man) as a freshman. Buford, the team's best backcourt scorer and second-best NBA prospect after Jared Sullinger, passed on the draft to make another run at a national championship.
Teague is the latest in coach John Calipari's parade of elite freshman point guards to hit Lexington, and will likely follow the John Wall-Brandon Knight route of one-and-done to the NBA. Lamb is one of the country's most dangerous perimeter shooters, and Miller, a 6-7 senior, will be the only upperclassman in the starting lineup.
In terms of sheer volume of scorers, the Gators' backcourt has no peer. Boyton and Walker already formed a duo that took Florida to the Elite Eight; Rosario was a prolific shot taker at Rutgers, and Beal, a 6-foot-4 freshman, is the best NBA prospect of the bunch. Will there be enough shots to go around, especially without a true point guard on the floor at most times?
Rivers, whose father is Celtics coach Doc Rivers, is expected to be one of the college game's most electric scorers as a freshman. Curry, who had to take a backseat to star Nolan Smith last season, can light it up as well, and Dawkins is a sharpshooter who spreads the floor. If Cook and Thornton can give the Blue Devils quality minutes at the point guard spot, they'll be even scarier.