October 30, 2011

Preseason power rankings: Shooting guards

EARLIER: Point guard rankings

Kemba Walker may have carried Connecticut to the national title last spring, but he certainly wasn't a one-man show by the end of the season.

Jeremy Lamb capped an exceptional freshman season by shooting 58 percent and averaging 16.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game in Connecticut's amazing NCAA tournament run. His huge postseason included a 24-point performance against San Diego State and a 19-point effort against Arizona.

By the time the Final Four rolled around, Lamb no longer was merely one of the nation's top freshmen. He was one of the game's top overall players.

Lamb made such an impact during Connecticut's run to the national championship that he enters his sophomore season as the nation's No. 1 shooting guard in the preseason edition of the Rivals.com College Basketball Power Rankings, which measure the nation's top performers at each position.

Lamb's upside gives him a slight edge over Pittsburgh's Ashton Gibbs, a more proven performer from the same conference. Gibbs, a combo guard, has led Pittsburgh in scoring in each of the past two seasons.

Here's a rundown of our top 20 shooting guards. Our unveiling of the preseason power rankings continues Monday with a look at the nation's best small forwards.

The top 20 shooting guards
1. Jeremy Lamb (6-5/180, Soph.), Connecticut
Lamb averaged 11.1 points and 4.5 rebounds as a freshman, but those numbers don't accurately measure his worth. By the time the postseason rolled around, he had matured into one of the nation's top players.
2. Ashton Gibbs (6-2/190, Sr.), Pittsburgh
Gibbs earned first-team All-Big East honors last season after being a second-team selection the previous season. He has led the Panthers in scoring each of those years. Although he plays both guard positions, Gibbs is expected to spend most of his time at shooting guard this season.
3. Austin Rivers (6-4/200, Fr.), Duke
The son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, Rivers arrives at Duke as the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2011 recruiting class. As a senior at Winter Park (Fla.) High, he won the Naismith and Morgan Wootten national player of the year awards. He also was the Parade and USA Today national player of the year.
4. John Jenkins (6-4/220, Jr.), Vanderbilt
Jenkins arguably is the best pure shooter in the nation. He led the SEC last season in points (19.5) and 3-pointers (3.1) per game. He also made 89.4 percent of his free throws.
5. Marcus Denmon (6-3/185, Sr.), Missouri
Denmon earned first-team All-Big 12 honors last season. He ranked second in the conference in 3-point percentage (.448), third in steals (61), fifth in field-goal percentage (.500) and seventh in scoring (16.9).
6. Darius Johnson-Odom (6-2/215, Sr.), Marquette
Johnson-Odom showed his ability to deliver in the clutch last season by making a key 3-pointer in the final minute of an NCAA tournament win over Syracuse. He averaged a team-high 15.8 points last season as a second-team All-Big East selection.
7. Tim Hardaway Jr. (6-5/185, Soph.), Michigan
The son of former NBA star Tim Hardaway, he came on strong late in his freshman season and finished averaging 13.9 points per game. He spent the summer playing for Team USA in the FIBA U19 World Championships.
8. Brad Beal (6-3/207, Fr.), Florida
Rated as the No. 4 overall prospect in the 2011 recruiting class, Beal was named the Gatorade national player of the year last season at St. Louis Chaminade Prep. Beal averaged 32.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.7 steals as a senior.
9. Doron Lamb (6-4/210, Soph.), Kentucky
Lamb made 14 starts and averaged 12.3 points per game as a freshman. Lamb is deadly from long range, as he went 68-of-140 (.486) from 3-point land last season.
10. Will Barton (6-6/175, Soph.), Memphis
Barton's height makes him a matchup problem for opposing guards. He averaged 12.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists as a third-team All-Conference USA pick last season.
11. Kevin Foster (6-2/219, Jr.), Santa Clara
Foster led the nation last season in 3-pointers made (140) and attempted (380). He also topped the West Coast Conference with 19.8 points per game and set a single-season school record with 766 total points.
12. William Buford (6-6/220, Sr.), Ohio State
This steady senior has averaged 14.4 points per game in each of the past two seasons. He also averaged 3.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists last season to earn second-team All-Big Ten honors.
13. Allen Crabbe (6-6/205, Soph.), California
Crabbe was the Pac-10's freshman of the year last season. He averaged 13.4 points per game overall and went 62-of-155 (.400) from 3-point range. He scored 16.4 points per game in Pac-10 competition.
14. Terrence Ross (6-6/195, Soph.), Washington
Ross made just four starts and averaged 17.4 minutes as a freshman, but his late-season surge suggests he should have a big sophomore season. Ross averaged 15.3 points per game in the Pac-10 tournament and scored 19 points in an NCAA tournament loss to North Carolina.
15. Rodney McGruder (6-4/205, Jr.), Kansas State
The versatile McGruder went 69-of-169 (.408) from 3-point range and led the Wildcats in rebounding (5.9) last season. He also averaged 11.1 points per game. McGruder should score much more often this season now that Jacob Pullen has ended his college career.
16. Ramone Moore (6-4/190, Sr.), Temple
Moore averaged 15.2 points in a breakthrough season that included a 30-point effort in a victory over Georgetown. He will team with fellow senior Juan Fernandez this season to give Temple an outstanding backcourt tandem.
17. Orlando Johnson (6-5/205, Sr.), UCSB
One of the best players in his school's history, Johnson averaged 21.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists last season. He has been named the Big West tournament MVP in each of the past two seasons. Johnson played for Team USA in the World University Games this summer.
18. J'Covan Brown (6-1/197, Jr.), Texas
Although he didn't start a game last season, Brown averaged 10.4 points per game. He averaged 22 points in two NCAA tournament games. Texas doesn't have any returning starters on its roster, so the Longhorns need Brown to deliver a breakthrough season.
19. DeAndre Kane (6-4/200, Soph.), Marshall
Kane earned third-team All-Conference USA honors and was named the league's freshman of the year last season. He averaged 15.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists.
20. Jason Clark (6-2/170, Sr.), Georgetown
Clark moved into a starting role last season and averaged 10.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.4 steals. He will have a much greater role this season as Georgetown attempts to replace Austin Freeman and Chris Wright in the backcourt.

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Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com, and you can follow him on Twitter.


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