Thursday, February 17, 2005

20 Backcourts that will make a Difference in March

Everyone knows that guards win games in the NCAA Tournament. A team can have the best forwards in the country, but if they don't have a perimeter that can knock down shots and handle the ball, they are ripe for an upset in the early rounds. Conversely, if a lower seed is stock full of talented guards, their chances to pull of an upset and make a run in March increase greatly. Who has the best perimeters in the country? Starters in italics

North Carolina (Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants, Melvin Scott, Quentin Thomas): The depth behind Felton may be a little weak, but you can not argue against a backcourt with two of the top players in the nation at their respective positions. Scott is a veteran former starter that can come in and stroke the three ball.

Duke (Daniel Ewing, JJ Redick, Sean Dockery, DeMarcus Nelson): The overachieving Blue Devils have perimeter talent to hang with anyone. Ewing and Redick are two of the best scoring guards in the country, as well as two of the best leaders. Dockery is a defensive pest, and Nelson has been a stellar freshman off the bench.

Wake Forest (Chris Paul, Justin Gray, Taron Downey): Besides getting blitzed by Illinois' backcourt, Wake's backcourt has outplayed everyone else. Paul is probably the best guard in the country, and a legit player of the year candidate. Gray is vastly underrated, and Downey would start on every other team in the country, except the Deacons.

Georgia Tech (Jarrett Jack, Will Bynum, BJ Elder, Isma'il Muhammed, Anthony Morrow, Mario West): Even though this is the deepest perimeter group in the country, the Jackets have underachieved this season. Jack is a top 10 point guard, Bynum and Elder are great scorers from the wing, and Muhammed can jump out of the gym.

Miami (Fl.) (Guillermo Diaz, Robert Hite, Anthony Harris): Probably the most underrated backcourt on this list, the Hurricanes have two of the top 4 scorers in the ACC (Diaz and Hite) and the 4th leading assist man in Harris. If these guys can combine for 55 points or better, Miami has a good shot at pulling an upset or two.

Connecticut (Marcus Williams, Denham Brown, Rashad Anderson, Antonio Kellog): If Anderson comes back healthy from the injury to his leg, the Huskies have one of the most talented teams in the country. Williams has developed into one of the top three passers in the nation, and Anderson and Brown are good scorers from the wings.

Notre Dame (Chris Thomas, Chris Quinn, Colin Falls): This group can shoot the lights out. When all three of them are hitting their shots, the Irish are nearly impossible to beat. Thomas has loads of experience, and Quinn has developed into a very good scorer. Falls is the best three point shooter in the Big East.

Villanova (Mike Nardi, Allan Ray, Randy Foye, Kyle Lowry): The Wildcats live and die by their backcourt. Ray is similar to another player that balls in Philadelphia: Allen Iverson. He shoots from anywhere, and more often than not, hits from anywhere. Foye can get to the basket on anyone, and Nardi is a very good deep shooter.

Illinois: (Dee Brown, Deron Williams, Luther Head, Rich McBride): Unless your cable has been turned off or you have been living in dungeon somewhere, you obviously know that the Illini have the best backcourt in the country, bar none. All are conference player of the year candidates. Brown is one of the quickest players in the nation, Williams is the calming influence on the team, and Head is a slasher and shooter that can get points in a hurry.

Michigan State (Chris Hill, Drew Neitzel, Maurice Ager, Kelvin Torbert, Shannon Brown): Since half of the Spartan roster plays the wing, their perimeter is deep and rivals Georgia Tech in terms of overall talent. Hill and Ager can shoot the three with profiency. Brown and Torbert can also shoot but also get to the basket very well. Neitzel has moved into the starting lineup and performed well.

Kansas (Aaron Miles, Keith Langford, JR Giddens): The experienced Jayhawks are led by Wayne Simien inside, but the backcourt is who they rely on in the clutch. Miles and Langford have been there forever, and are playing better than ever this season. Giddens is inconsistent from behind the arc, but if he gets hot--watch out.

Texas Tech (Ronald Ross, Jarrius Jackson, Martin Zeno): I take back that comment about the Miami backcourt-- this perimeter is the most underrated in the country. They are three of the top 15 scorers in the Big 12, and can really get hot and carry the Red Raiders. Ross is one of the best scorers in the country, and Jackson and Zeno are under the radar players that can beat you if too much is concentrated on Ross.

Louisville (Taquan Dean, Larry O'Bannon, Francisco Garcia): If the Cardinals are to make a deep Tournament run, it will be as a result of these three guys. Dean is a great three point shooter, while O'Bannon has a very good mid-range game and can get to the basket well. However, Garcia is where this team lives and dies. He has struggled of late, but can turn it around, and be a Carmelo Anthony-type player for the Cardinals.

Arizona (Mustafa Shakur, Salim Stoudamaire, Chris Rodgers, Jawann McClellan): Usually overrated, this batch of Wildcats has been overlooked as one of the elite teams this season. Stoudamaire is, hands-down, the best three point shooter in the country. He is hitting a ridiculous 55 percent of his threes. Shakur has not lived up to his expectations, but still ranks 4th in the conference in assists.

Washington (Nate Robinson, Tre Simmons, Wil Conroy, Brandon Roy): If not for Illinois and Wake Forest, this would be the best perimeter in the nation. Robinson is a human highlight filmand Conroy is the best passer on the West Coast. Roy has returned from injury to become the go-to player he was last season. Simmons puts up over 16 points per game.

Florida (Anthony Roberson, Matt Walsh, Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, Lee Humphrey): The Gators seemed to have shed their selfish label and are going to be a tough out in the tourney. Roberson has developed into a conference player of the year-type player, while Walsh still can score in bunches when he is determined. Brewer has been one of the top freshman in the SEC this season, and creates matchup problems with his size.

Alabama (Ronald Steele, Earnest Shelton): With a lack of quality depth behind these two, the Crimson Tide have relied on them heavily throughout the season. Steele has done a great job as a freshman point guard, and is third in the SEC in assists. Shelton combines with Kennedy Winston to form a great wing duo. He is the one player the Tide can not live without.

LSU (Tack Minor, Darrel Mitchell, Antonio Hudson): Even though the Tigers rely on their great post duo of Brandon Bass and Glen Davis, this trio is the key to the team. Minor has cut down on his shoot-first ways and now leads the conference in assits. Mitchell and Hudson are solid 13 point per game scorers from the wing. If they are productive, the Tigers can compete with anyone.

Southern Illinois (Darren Brooks, Jamaal Tatum, Stetson Hairston): The cream of the crop when it comes to mid-major backcourts, the Salukis proved last season they are a tough out in the Tournament. Brooks is improving on his conference player of the year campaign a season ago. Tatum is a very good second option on offense, and Hairston can do a little bit of everything.

UCLA (Arron Afflalo, Jordan Farmar, Dijon Thompson, Josh Shipp): None of the aforementioned players were on the Bruins a year ago. Afflalo, Farmar, and Shipp are freshman, and Thompson transferred in. Farmar has been the best freshman on the west coast, second on the team in scoring, and second in the league in assists. Thompson plays bigger than his size, averaging almost 19 points and 8 rebounds a game. Shipp and Afflalo provide solid scoring and rebounding.

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