Basketball season is still 6 weeks away, but for Miami hoops fans the anticipation is beginning to boil over. Today we begin the countdown to basketball season with an analysis of the point guard position in the ACC for 2012-13. The 'Canes return sophomore Shane Larkin, coming off of a very promising freshman year. And while senior Durand Scott will play more off the ball as a result of Larkin's emergence, Scott is an experienced play-maker who can take reigns when needed. Around the league there will be plenty of challenges for Larkin and Scott. While the premier abilities of Kendall Marshall were lost to the NBA., the league boasts 4 of the top 20 incoming freshman point guards in the nation. Also returning is NC State do it all point guard Lorenzo Brown.
With out further delay here are my ACC team point guard rankings for 2012-13:
#1 NC State.
If Kendall Marshall was the consensus top PG in the league last season, then Lorenzo Brown was clearly 1A. Brown averaged 12.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.8 steals last season. Brown has the explosiveness that reminds some of Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, along with the floor game that reminds others of Boston Celtics star Rajon Rondo. The 6'5 junior will surely have NBA suitors whenever he decides to declare, but for now his mission will be running the show in Raleigh for one of the best teams in the nation. When Brown needs a breather the Wolfpack will count on true freshman Tyler Lewis. Lewis is a heady pass first PG (ranked as high as the # 6 PG nationally coming out of high school), who will need time to develop physically in order to endure the rigors of ACC play. But for 2012-13 he will simply need to use his time on the floor find NC State's many talented finishers.
If all goes according to plan, Larkin will break out and establish himself as one of the best players in the conference this year. The son of baseball hall of fame shortstop Barry Larkin averaged 7.4 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.6 steals last season. In addition to playing some of his best basketball at the end of the season, Larkin also proved to a clutch performer. Larkin topped Miami, shooting 86% from the line in his first season in Coral Gables. Perhaps most impressive is Larkin's tenacious style on defense. You would be hard pressed to find a faster PG anywhere in the country. Miami also has the luxury of sliding Durand Scott to the point when Larkin needs a breather. Scott has been one of the best penetrating guards in the conference for 3 years now, and is coming off of a season in which he averaged a 12.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 3.1 assists. In addition the 'Canes can also count on 6'6 senior Garrius Adams to handle the point on occasion. Overall, Coach Jim Larranaga has tremedous depth at the point, but Larkin will be the key.
#3 North Carolina.
While it will be near impossible to replace Kendall Marshall's 9.8 assists per game, no one should feel sorry for UNC. Enter true freshman Marcus Paige (ranked as high as the # 4 PG nationally coming out of high school), a 6'0 Damon Stoudamire look-alike who brings supreme confidence and a sweet left-handed stroke to Chapel Hill. Here's a glimpse of what the young man can do:
Should Paige struggle, The Tar Heels will need veterans Leslie McDonald and Dexter Strickland to step up.
#4 Wake Forest.
Like North Carolina, the Deamon Deacs will be counting on a first year player in Codi Miller-McIntyre to run the show in 2012-13. Miller-McIntyre (rated as high as the #9 PG nationally coming out of high school), is a wiry strong 6'2 point, who is an excellent finisher at the rim. While he may need some to time to develop before bringing back memories of former Wake great Chris Paul, the 6'2 Miller-McIntyre should be one of the better true point guards in the conference this season. Backing him up will be 6'3 sophomore Chase Fischer. Fischer lacks the ideal floor game of a premier point, but is an improving shooter who can knock down shots from long range.
# 5 FSU.
The defending ACC Tournament Champs will count on Ian Miller (10.3 points, 1.3 assists last season) to run the show this season. Miller's raw athleticism and superior range has caught the eye of NBA scouts. With the graduation of Luke Loucks, the 6'3 Miller will need step us his floor game for the Seminoles to repeat last season's success. Word around Tallahassee is that freshman Devon Bookert from Alaska, has impressed Coach Leonard Hamilton and could handle some of the point responsibilities immediately. Sophomore Terry Whisnaut II adds depth.
It will be interesting to see who emerges between Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton as the starting PG for the Dukies. Cook's freshman year was a wash, after arriving in Durham as a highly touted recruit. Expect a significant improvement this year (4.4 points 1.9 assists last season). Thornton is more of a defensive specialist, but can give Coach K solid minutes should Cook struggle. If both fail, the Blue Devils can hand the ball to explosive scoring guard Seth Curry. For Duke to achieve their lofty goals, however, they will need Cook to emerge and Curry to continue doing what he does best: catch and shoot.
Jontel Evans is one of the more underrated players in the conference. And while not having Mike Scott around will make it harder to duplicate the 3.9 assists he averaged last year, Evans should improve on the 7.3 points per game he averaged. Under Coach Tony Bennett the 'Hoos focal point is always defense first, and Evans is no exception. There may not be a tougher point guard in the conference. Evans can be counted on for 30+ minutes every night, but should he need a rest look for 6'5 sophomore shooting guard Malcolm Brogdon to run the point. Brogdon appears more then capable of playing either back court spot with skill.
# 8 Virginia Tech.
VT will need a little bit of everything from senior Erick Green in order to be successful this season. Fortunately for the Hokies, Green is a clutch performer who can both score and distribute. Last season Green averaged 15.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.8 assists. Marquis Rankin and Robert Brown add depth, but Va Tech will go only as far as Green can take them.
#9 Georgia Tech.
Mfon Odofia was a solid performer last season for the Yellow Jackets. A bit of a streak shooter, Udofia averaged 9.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.8 assists last year. Udofia will need to shoot less and look to get others involved more often in his senior season. GT should have more talent around Udofia this season, which could help his assist totals. Sophomore Brandon Reed and Corey Heyward would appear to be the frontrunners to back Udofia up.
It is hard to evaluate the performance of the Terrapins point guards last season considering Terrell Stoglin was such a dominant figure with the ball. Junior Pe'Shon Howard missed time with an injury, but was solid averaging 6.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.7 assists in 14 games. Shooting guard Nick Faust may get some time at the point when Howard needs a rest. Senior Logan Aronhalt and freshman Seth Allen will also vie for time.
#11 Boston College.
Jordan Daniels had an up and down freshman year (6.4 points 2.6 assists) at the point for the Eagles. BC is a very young team, and Daniels' development will be a key in their growth. Two three-star freshman in Joe Rahon and Oliver Hanlan could push Daniels, should he struggle.
The departures of Andre Young and Tanner Smith leaves a big void in the back court for the Tigers. Rod Hall will get the first crack at running the team, but freshman Adonis Filer and Jordan Roper could push for immediate PT. This looks to be a rebuilding year in Death Valley.
Projected ALL ACC PGs:
1st team: Lorenzo Brown NC State,
2nd team: Ian Miller FSU,
3rd team: Shane Larkin UM.
Best of the Rest:
Best Scorer: Erick Green Virginia Tech.
Best Defender: Shane Larkin UM or Jontel Evans Virgina.
Best Freshman: Marcus Paige UNC.
Best Passer: Lorenzo Brown NC State.
And with that we conclude our look at the position of point guard in the ACC this season. Keep a look out for our next installment in the series, when we break down shooting/scoring guards in the ACC in the upcoming days.