By Kevin Sweeney
Yesterday, I began my preseason mid-major positional rankings with the point guards. As I wrote yesterday, I believe that ranking players by position is the most accurate way of ranking players. As always, be sure to comment below or tweet me your thoughts (handle is @CBB_Central) on these rankings!
#1. Kendrick Nunn (Oakland)
Stats (2015-16 at Illinois): 15.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.7 apg, 39.1% 3-pt FG%
Nunn is the type of talent that rarely, if ever, lands at the mid-major level. A proven dynamic scorer in his 3 years at Illinois, off-the-court issues led to his eventual dismissal from the Illinois program, and he resurfaces this year at Oakland for his final year of eligibility. Nunn should absolutely dominate the Horizon League in his only season, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he winds up with his name on NBA Draft boards after his senior campaign.
#2. EC Matthews (Rhode Island)
Stats: 14.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.5 apg, 33.7% 3-pt FG%
After missing the 2015-16 season due to a torn ACL suffered in the season opener, Matthews returned to action for the 2016-17 season. Overall, he lacked a bit of consistency and explosiveness coming off the injury, but seemed to come into his own as the season wore on. I expect his late-season form to continue into his senior campaign as he tries to lead the A10 favorite Rams to the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive season.
#3. Shavar Newkirk (St. Joseph’s)
Stats: 20.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.5 apg, 39.6% 3-pt FG%
If not for concerns about his health, I’d probably have Newkirk at #1 on this list. In the 12 games he played in before tearing his ACL in December, Newkirk was nothing short of extraordinary, as you can see from the numbers above. As of late July, Newkirk had resumed some basketball workouts but had yet to be cleared for full basketball activities. If he returns to form, he is nothing short of an unstoppable offensive force. However, as we saw last year with Matthews, he may not be fully himself for much of this season.
#4. Giddy Potts (Middle Tennessee State)
Stats: 15.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.0 apg, 38.4% 3-pt FG%
Potts, who burst onto the national scene in March of 2016 when he helped lead the Blue Raiders to a stunning upset victory over Michigan State, is one of the elite shooting guards in mid-major basketball. He’s a lights-out shooter who actually shot over 50% from 3 in his sophomore season (2015-16), and has improved his all-around scoring ability every season of his career. With a pair of stars in Jacorey Williams and Reggie Upshaw graduating, it is now definitely Potts’ team, as he looks to bring the Blue Raiders to their 3rd straight NCAA Tournament in his senior campaign.
#5. Tyler Hall (Montana State)
Stats: 23.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.8 apg, 42.9% 3-pt FG%
What’s so remarkable about the numbers Hall put up last season is how efficient he was. To shoot 48% from the field and 43% from downtown despite receiving all the attention from opposing defenses is incredible. Hall has already blown past 1,000 career points for his career and could hit 2,000 at some point this season, further etching himself into the record books at Montana State.
For more on Hall’s story, check out this piece by Ellie Lieberman of SB Nation from last week.
#6. Matt Mobley (St. Bonaventure)
Stats: 18.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.6 apg, 37.9% 3-pt FG%
Often overshadowed by his backcourt mate Jaylen Adams, who came in at #1 in my mid-major PG rankings, Mobley is a terrific player in his own right. Not only did he lead the country in minutes per game last season at over 38 per game, he’s also a terrific scorer capable of creating off the bounce and connecting from outside. He may not get the headlines that Adams gets, but Mobley shouldn’t be forgotten as one of the top guards in mid-major basketball.
#7. Cameron Morse (Youngstown State)
Stats: 22.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.1 apg, 31.9% 3-pt FG%
Morse is fourth among all returning players in scoring average from a season ago, and those prolific numbers could go up even more in his senior campaign with a new coach in Jerrod Calhoun.
“Coming into my last year, I’m really excited,” Morse said in a piece published on thejambar.com. “He wants to play an up-tempo style. He sold me when he said that we were going to average 85 points a game. Scoring is what I do, so I’m feeling confident in him.”
Morse needs to regain his 2015-16 3-point shooting form (41% from downtown), but if he does, the sky is the limit for him this season.
#8. Victor Sanders (Idaho)
Stats: 20.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.3 apg, 43.9% 3-pt FG%
Sanders is one of the best pure shooters in the college game. A season ago, he connected on almost 44% of his outside shots despite drawing tons of attention from opposing defenses. He has prototypical size for the position at 6-5, and he’s improved every year of his career in his ability to break his man off the bounce and score at the rim. One of the stars who simply doesn’t get enough attention in college basketball, Sanders & the Vandals should be a top contender in the Big Sky this season.
#9. Ehab Amin (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi)
Stats: 16.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 2.9 apg, 28.9% 3-pt FG%
While Amin put up excellent offensive numbers, it’s his defense that was the deciding factor in him cracking this list. He led the nation in steals per game at 3.4 per contest, and was the defensive catalyst for a team that won 24 games last season. He’s a bulldog of a guard who isn’t afraid of contact, and is more than willing to go into traffic to rebound the ball. The best way to sum up Amin is that he’s a winning player who every coach would want on their roster.
#10. Joshua Braun (Grand Canyon)
Grand Canyon’s immediate success in their transition to Division 1 has been one of the great stories in college basketball of the past few years, and Braun is a huge reason why the Lopes are where they are today. Braun played second fiddle this past season to superstar PG DeWayne Russell, but it will be his team this year. Look for a WAC Player of the Year-type senior campaign for Braun has he hopes to bring GCU to the NCAA Tournament.
Just Missed the Cut
- Jairus Lyles (UMBC)
- Garrison Matthews (Lipscomb)
- MaCio Teague (UNC-Asheville)
- Gabe Vincent (UCSB)
- Justin Wright-Foreman (Hofstra)
- Omega Harris (UTEP)
- Jordan Brangers (Western Kentucky)
- Tyler Nelson (Fairfield)
- Jaylin Walker (Kent State)
- Brenton Scott (Indiana State)
- Prentiss Nixon (Colorado State)
- Darian Anderson (Fairleigh Dickinson)
- Devin Sibley (Furman)
- Ria’n Holland (Mercer)
- Matt Mooney (South Dakota)
- Joe Rosga (Denver)
- Ike Smith (Georgia Southern)
- Sidy Ndir (NMSU)
- Josh Perkins (Gonzaga)