1 - Eric Devendorf (Syracuse): 12.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.3 apg. Most of the guards on this list can be classified as either shooters or scorers. Devendorf is both. This 6’4” sophomore had an excellent freshman year. He is a tremendous offensive talent who can shoot from behind the arc (38%)) and can drive to the hoop and finish in traffic. His overall shooting percentage (45%) should climb somewhat this year since at times last season he forced shots. His rebounding stats are not impressive, but on this team, with three excellent rebounders on the front line, he doesn’t need to rebound much. Devendorf has to use better judgment in terms of passing as he averaged 2.3 turnovers per game. Because the Orange play zone defense most of the time, it’s difficult to assess what kind of man-to-man defender Devendorf is. Still, based on offensive production and potential, he leads the pack among returning off guards.
P-5 score = .683*
2 - Jerel McNeal (Marquette): 11.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.7 apg. Some other 2 guards are better shooters than McNeal and a few will likely average more points per game this season. But there won’t be many, if any, who contribute to their teams in so many different ways. The 6’2” sophomore is fearless driving to the hoop and almost impossible to stop when he gets there. His perimeter shot needs work (28% on treys), but he has a solid mid-range game, including a step-back jumper, which he need to use more frequently. He is also an excellent passer, though he must cut down on turnovers as he led the league in this category. What separates McNeal from most other off guards are his defense and his rebounding. Not only did he finish second in the league in steals, but he is a lock-down, on-ball defender. Add to that the fact that he averaged 5.2 rpg in conference games last season, second highest of any guard in the league. McNeal, quite simply, is a “stat stuffer” who is a warrior on both ends of the court.
P-5 score = .720
3 - Brandon Jenkins (Louisville): 11.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.9 apg. The 6’3” senior played at the point most of the time last year, but he will likely switch to off guard when he returns from a broken foot that is supposed to keep him out at least three months. Jenkins is a solid, all-around player. He’s a good shooter (39% from behind the arc) though he doesn’t drive much. He’s a decent rebounder for a guard, and he is a very good defender despite not being super quick. He also takes care of the ball (1.7 turnovers per game). Jenkins will have to take over the leadership role on this team as he is the lone senior with significant experience. The Cardinals’ success this year could depend as much on Jenkins’ ability to handle this role as on his ability to score points, grab rebounds, and hand out assists.
P-5 score = .619
4 - Daryll Hill (St. John’s): 12.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.6 apg. Hill missed 11 games due to injury last year and played hurt in the games he did play in. As a sophomore, he averaged over 20 ppg for the Red Storm. If healthy this season, he could easily end up averaging 15-16 ppg, though probably not more because St. John’s has much better balance than it has the past few years. Hill is not a very good shooter as his averages of 36% overall and 16% from behind the arc illustrate. Still, he is dangerous with the ball because of his superb quickness. He is a decent rebounder for his height, and he gets a respectable number of assists. However, he turns the ball over too frequently - 3.6 turnovers per game - second highest average in the conference. Hill is quick enough on defense to cause his man problems, but he also has difficulty guarding taller, stronger guards. Overall, though, if fully recovered, he should have a strong senior season.
P-5 score = .683
5 - Draelon Burns (De Paul): 11.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.6 apg. Statistically, Burns had a surprisingly good sophomore season, much better than most De Paul fans had expected. Burns is a very good athlete who uses his athleticism to score in a variety of ways, primarily driving to the hoop or hitting mid-range jumpers. His range is limited, however, (29% from behind the arc). If he becomes more consistent on treys, he could become one of the most dangerous offensive players in the league. He has the physical tools to be a very good defender, but that has not always been the case as he sometimes seems to lose focus on the defensive end. It will be interesting to see how much playing time Burns gets this year since freshman point guard Will Walker joins five returning perimeter players who got significant minutes last season. Walker’s presence will cause one or two holdovers to lose some minutes, but I’ll be surprised if Burns is one of them. If Walker does manage to make his way into the starting lineup, then Sammy Mejia will start at the 2, and Burns will come off the bench
P-5 score = .767
6 - Jamar Nutter (Seton Hall): 12.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.7 apg. Nutter blossomed last year as the third option on offense. He was the Pirates’ primary long-range threat, and he responded with 38% shooting from behind the arc as he averaged 14.6 ppg in league play. The question he will have to answer this year is whether he can still be effective when he is the focal point of opposing defenses. He may not get some of the relatively open looks he had last year when Kelly Whitney and Donald Copeland were around. The rest of Nutter’s game is respectable as he is a decent ball handler, passer, rebounder, and defender. One area he needs to improve this season is his assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.7/1.0. Still, his primary challenge will be to score. If he doesn’t, the Pirates’ will be in trouble since there is little offensive firepower on the interior, and incoming freshman point guard Eugene Harvey is not know as a shooter.
P-5 score = .626
7 - Marquis Webb (Rutgers): 9.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.7 apg. The 6’5” senior has been a complementary player his entire career at Rutgers. That may change. With Quincy Douby’s departure for the NBA, Webb will likely move back to the 2 (unless Courtney Nelson can crack the starting lineup at point guard causing Anthony Farmer to swing to the 2). Webb has played in Douby’s considerable shadow the past two years. This season he will have to raise his scoring average to at least 12-13 ppg and become the primary leader on and off the court for the Knights’ younger players. Webb is a terrific defender, one of the best in the league, but his offensive game has to climb a level or two. He’s a decent outside shooter (36% on treys), but he has to look for his shot more often this year. Of course that’s true of everyone else on the team as well.
P-5 score = .503
8 - Ronald Ramon (Pittsburgh): 8.0 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 2.2 apg. Ramon’s stats are not overly impressive. However, Pitt was so deep last year – nine players averaging double-digit minutes per game – and there were so many potential scorers, Ramon did not have to look to score. Still, he shot 42% from behind the arc for the season and 50% on three-pointers during the conference season. He also took excellent care of the ball as he had only 36 turnovers in 34 games and an admirable turnover-to-assist ratio of 2.1/1.0. This year, with Krauser gone, Ramon will likely start at the 2 with Levance Fields taking over the starting job at point. Ramon will still be a complementary player as teammates Aaron Gray, Sam Young, and Fields take over the scoring duties. But Ramon will still be a key to the Panthers’ success doing what he did last year – hitting the trey when it’s there, protecting the ball, and playing solid defense.
P-5 score = .543
9 - Kyle McAlarney (Notre Dame): 6.6 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 2.5 apg. It wouldn’t surprise me if McAlarney ends the year ranked among the top five returning shooting guards, up four spots from the present ninth-place ranking. I really like his game. He is an outstanding shooter (47% overall and 43% on treys). Playing alongside Colin Falls will enable the Irish to stretch opposing defenses. With Chris Quinn – and his 367 shots – having departed, there should be more shots available for the Irish holdovers. However, McAlarney has to diversify his offensive game as he took only 38 shots inside the arc in 29 games last season (1.3 per game). If he does, he will get to the line more often (33 free throws in 29 games), where he is a 91% shooter. Although McAlarney is quicker than he looks, on defense, he’ll never be a lock-down, on-ball defender. Still, he can be adequate though he could have trouble staying with some of the bigger, quicker off guards in the league. McAlarney will also see time at the point and could start there instead of the 2 if Tory Jackson shows he’s not ready to run the Irish offense. Whether he plays at point or off guard, I think Big East fans will see a significantly-improved Kyle McAlarney this year.
P-5 score = .545
10 - Weyinmi Efejuku (Providence): 7.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.9 apg. With Donnie McGrath having graduated, Efejuku will likely start at the 2, unless last-second recruit Dwain Williams can show enough to merit a starting guard spot. If that happens, Efejuku will switch to the 3, which is where he played last year. Either way, Efejuku’s playing time should jump at least five or six mpg from the 22.3 mpg he averaged last season. One area he has to improve is his overall shooting percentage (35%). Plus, during the conference season, he made only seven three-pointers in 24 attempts (29%). I anticipate moderate improvement in his game this season, but not enough to make him more than a complementary role player.
P-5 = .609
11 - Jessie Sapp (Georgetown): 2.8 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 0.6 apg. Sapp averaged only 16 mpg last season, and when he did see the floor, he deferred to his more experienced teammates, at least on offense. Consequently, he didn’t take many shots – only 2.8 shots per game. Still, he wasn’t a very efficient shooter (41% overall and a substandard 20% from behind the arc). He did have a very respectable assist-to-turnover ratio (2.1/1.0). However, how much time he receives as a sophomore will likely depend on his ability to hit his outside shots since that’s the primary area of concern for the Hoyas. Sapp’s primary role will be to keep opposing defenses honest. If he can do that, he should get in the vicinity of 24-25 mpg.
P-5 score = .369