When you look at the top teams across the country, they all seem to have one thing in common: a top-tier shooting guard who is capable of piling up the points on any given night. There are so many good shooting guards across the country, and even mid-major programs have players who are just as good that people never hear about.
With the 2015-16 college basketball season just around the corner, teams are getting ready for their season openers. Players around the country are fine-tuning their skills, ready to leave their mark on the NCAA landscape.
Below, we have compiled a list of the top five shooting guards in college basketball for the 2015-16 season. A guard who took the college world by storm last season as a freshman kicks off the list, a talented senior stands alone at the top, and three other immensely talented guards find spots in the middle.
5. Xavier Rathan-Mayes – Florida State Seminoles
Xavier Rathan-Mayes will be forever known as the player who scored 30 points in a span of 4:38 last season against the Miami Hurricanes, a game that the Seminoles would still lose. He also surpassed the 30-point mark last season three times as a freshman, en route to averaging 14.9 points per game for the Seminoles. Last season, he struggled with his accuracy from behind the arc, hitting only 28% of his three point attempts. The Seminoles have a strong recruiting class coming in this season, thus taking some pressure off the shoulders of the sophomore shooting guard. With less pressure, he should see an increase in his three point accuracy, which will in turn lead to more points and a better overall performance from the Canadian.
4. Grayson Allen – Duke Blue Devils
In the regular season last year, Allen averaged just 4.4 points and 1.0 rebound per game while coming off the bench on a Duke team that was loaded with talent. He enjoyed a coming out party in the NCAA Championship game against Wisconsin, recording 16 points in 21 minutes of court time. Coming out of high school, Allen was a highly-coveted prospect who ultimately chose to play with the Blue Devils. We got glimpses of his potential last season, but nothing consistent over the course of the year due to him coming off the bench. This season, Allen will be a top option on offense for Duke as they look to win another NCAA championship. He is a strong shooter and has a ton of athleticism that allows him to finish at, or above, the rim with a high level of intensity. With more experience comes greater responsibility with the team, which will in turn make him more dangerous and allow for basketball fans everywhere to see the true Grayson Allen in 2015-16.
3. Malcolm Brogdon – Virginia Cavaliers
Virginia is known around the NCAA for being one of the top defensive teams in the country, and a big reason why over the past few years has been the play of guard Malcolm Brogdon. He is a stalwart on the defensive end of the floor, constantly making it almost impossible for his opponents. He only recorded 24 steals and 12 blocks last season, but was still on the ACC All-Defensive Team as the 2nd-highest vote-getter. He doesn’t have the stats to back it up, but Brogdon is really, really good on the defensive end of the floor (like, REALLY good). On offense, he needs to improve his jumper, but he did average 14.0 points per game as a junior. If he can develop a more consistent jumper, he could move even higher on this list. In Tony Bennett’s defensive-minded schemes, Brogdon is a perfect fit with the Virginia Cavaliers.
2. Ron Baker – Wichita State Shockers
Ron Baker suited up for Team USA at the Pan American Games over the summer, and was arguably the best player on a team filled with top collegiate players and veterans who had previous NBA experience. He’s been to a Final Four and on a team who went undefeated in the regular season before losing in the Round of 32, but he hasn’t ascended to true stardom in the NCAA as of yet. (The key word there is ‘yet’). Last season, he averaged 14.7 points and 4.5 assists per game and people speculated as to whether or not he would depart Wichita State for the NBA Draft. Baker and fellow guard Fred Van Vleet both opted to return for their senior seasons, and both made the right decision for their careers. Baker will be the go-to option on offense for Gregg Marshall this season, and he could reap the benefits and put up career numbers in advance of the 2016 NBA Draft. This is the year that Baker will become a true star in college basketball.
1. Buddy Hield – Oklahoma Sooners
You’d be hard-pressed to find anything bad to say about Buddy Hield’s game on the hardwood. Hield is the type of player who will give you 110% game in and game out, and he comes ready to play. Oklahoma’s offense has a heavy focus on the three pointer, and Hield is the number one option in their attacks, meaning he will take a lot of them in a given year. He made at least one three pointer in all but one game last season (Baylor), and at least two long balls in 27/35 contests. All in all, he averaged 17.4 points and 5.4 assists per contest for the high-powered Sooners. Hield comes to the arenas each night and is a consistent shooter for Oklahoma. He’s the type of player coaches want to have on their team, and he’s the top shooting guard in the country for the 2015-16 season. If he can put up big numbers again this year, he could be in the running for the Wooden Award and Oklahoma could have a strong chance of knocking Kansas off as Big 12 Champions.
Narrowly Missed the List: Malik Newman (Mississippi State); Caris LeVert (Michigan); D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (Georgetown); James Blackmon (Indiana); Eron Harris (Michigan State)