By Kevin Sweeney
Back by popular demand, the mid-major positional rankings are back!
To combat the impossible top-100 player rankings that become so popular this time of year, I came up with the mid-major positional rankings two years ago. The goal was to try to narrow the scope to create a more accurate ranking, compared to the general top-100 that has to balance the elite center recruits heading to Duke and Kentucky with four-year star point guards at mid-major schools.
I’ll be the first to admit that even these rankings are somewhat of a flawed exercise– comparing guys from bubble teams out of the Mountain West and A10 to some players from weaker one-bid leagues is tough, not to mention the increasingly-difficult challenge of classifying what position a player should be housed under in the world of positionless basketball.
That said, let’s get things started with the point guards! This was clearly the deepest position, with 36 players making my initial list of players to consider before having to dwindle it down to 10.
#1. Grant Riller (College Of Charleston)
- Vitals: RS Senior, 6-3, 190 pounds
- Stats: 21.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 4.1 apg, .538/.329/.806
Riller’s best trait is his ability to get downhill and finish at the rim, shooting a ridiculous 141-200 (70.5%!!!!) at the rim last season despite under 16% of those attempts being assisted. Interpreting that: he’s unstoppable in isolation. Riller’s move to running the show from sharing ball-handling duties with Joe Chealey in his freshman and sophomore seasons was certainly a successful one, as Riller did a solid job of taking care of the ball and was a terror in ball screens. He has earned some quiet NBA Draft buzz already despite his age, and a strong showing at the CP3 Elite Guard Camp later this month could bring more interest.
#2. Jordan Ford (Saint Mary’s)
- Vitals: Senior, 6-1, 175 pounds
- Stats: 21.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.5 apg, .489/.412/.800
Like Riller, Ford moved into a primary initiator role last season after the graduation of a star point guard and handled the new responsibilities with flying colors. There are certainly some comparisons to be made between Ford and Steph Curry, as Ford has developed a diverse game off the bounce with an array of runners and floaters that make him more than just a capable threat from the outside. Randy Bennett’s offense puts him in plenty of ball screens with good spacing, further accentuating his dynamic offensive skillset.
#3. Malachi Flynn (San Diego State)
- Vitals: Redshirt Junior, 6–1, 180 pounds
- Stats (2017-18 with Washington St): 15.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 4.3 apg, .413/.338/.846
Fresh off a redshirt year after transferring in from Washington State, Flynn should immediately be one of the best players in the Mountain West. He’s a dynamic shotmaker off the bounce who is also capable of distributing, and made big shot after big shot against Pac-12 foes for two years despite lacking talent around him. Being paired with another high-level ballhandler in KJ Feagin will make Flynn difficult to stop, as defenses won’t be able to send as much help as they did against Washington State.
#4. Jalen Pickett (Siena)
- Vitals: Sophomore, 6–4, 192 pounds
- Stats: 15.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 6.7 apg, .436/.348/.746
After flirting with the NBA this spring, Pickett is back for his sophomore campaign to lead the Saints into the Carmen Maciariello era in Loudonville. His superb freshman stats are even more impressive when you consider that he had never been a full-time point guard before last season, he was often the only ball-handler on the floor, and the Saints played the second-slowest tempo in the country last season. Pickett is a pick-and-roll maestro, an elite passer who turned career role player Evan Fisher into perhaps the MAAC’s best big last season. Pickett’s game will be opened up even more with more talent and a faster pace in his second season, and his presence alone is enough to make Siena among the favorites in the MAAC this season.
#5. Jon Axel Gudmundsson (Davidson)
- Vitals: Senior, 6–5, 190 pounds
- Stats: 16.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 4.8 apg, .460/.353/.826
Few stuff the stat sheet like “JAG”, the Icelandic floor general who has become the latest in the line of great guards for Bob McKillop. The defending A10 Player of the Year rarely left the floor last season, including a five-game stretch in February in which he played 40 minutes three times and 39 minutes in the other two games. Still, Gudmundsson brings more than just durability to the table. He’s a legit triple-double threat whenever he steps on the floor and meshes perfectly with backcourt running mate Kellan Grady.
#6. Bryce Aiken (Harvard)
- Vitals: Senior, 6–0, 175 pounds
- Stats: 22.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.6 apg, .434/.398/.855
Aiken finally got healthy after struggling with knee injuries for almost a year, and his return buoyed the Crimson to a 13-4 finish to the year after starting just 7-8. Aiken is as elite a scorer as they come, posting three games with 36 or more points last season. He doesn’t shy away from contact either, taking over 7 free throws a game as a result of his ultra-aggressive style. While his scoring numbers may go down a bit this year with the return of fellow Ivy POY candidate Seth Towns, Aiken should still be one of the best point guards in mid-major basketball.
#7. Marcus Evans (VCU)
- Vitals: Redshirt Senior, 6–2, 190 pounds
- Stats: 13.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.2 apg, .427/.273/.773
Much has been made in recent weeks about how difficult it is to recover from a torn Achilles, which makes the season Evans had last season that much more impressive. It’s clear Evans is still regaining his explosiveness, and he struggled with his 3-point shot last season. Even if he can’t quite get back to the 38% he shot during his sophomore year at Rice, becoming a more consistent shooter would give this VCU offense an element it missed this past season.
#8. Colbey Ross (Pepperdine)
- Vitals: Junior, 6–1, 180 pounds
- Stats: 19.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 7.0 apg, .437/.396/.853
Lorenzo Romar couldn’t have inherited a better foundational piece when taking the Pepperdine job than Ross, the perfect engine to make Romar’s up-tempo system go. Ross’ passing ability opens things up for the entire Pepperdine offense, which should get a further shot in the arm with the additions of transfers MJ Cage and Keith Smith this season. If he continues at this pace, Ross could go down as one of the best players in program history.
#9. Antoine Davis (Detroit)
- Vitals: Sophomore, 6–1, 170 pounds
- Stats: 26.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.6 apg, .400/.380/.857
Probably the toughest player to peg in these rankings, Davis’ scoring exploits make him one of the most exciting players in college basketball. However, he still has work to do in the efficiency, ball control, and defense departments to become a complete player and lead Detroit to the top of the Horizon League. Still, given Davis is one of just four players since 1992 to average 26 points per game as a freshman season, I think it’s fair to say he’s on fast track to stardom.
#10. TJ Haws (BYU)
- Vitals: Senior, 6–4, 170 pounds
- Stats: 17.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 5.1 apg, .463/.352/.868
Haws has improved steadily over his first three seasons in Provo, and we’ll see if he can continue his rise under a new coach in Mark Pope. Pope is lucky to inherit a lead guard like Haws who thrives in space and is a high-level shooter to run his offense in year one. He’s the type of player who can help bring the Cougars back to the Big Dance for the first time since 2015.
Ahmad Clark (Albany), Jalen Crutcher (Dayton), Kyle Lofton (Saint Bonaventure), Sincere Carry (Duquesne), Jacob Gilyard (Richmond), Fatts Russell (Rhode Island), Tyler Hooker (Kennesaw State), Jerrick Harding (Weber State), Holland Woods (Portland State), Harald Frey (Montana State), Carlik Jones (Radford), Jermaine Marrow (Hampton), Kai Toews (UNCW), DaQuan Bracey (LA Tech), Zack Bryant (UAB), Tarkus Ferguson (UIC), Eugene German (Northern Illinois), Darrell Brown (Bradley), AJ Green (Northern Iowa), Grayson Murphy (Belmont), Jordan Burns (Colgate), Sa’eed Nelson (American), Josh Sharkey (Samford), AJ Harris (NMSU), Milan Acquaah (Cal Baptist), Terrell Brown (Seattle)