It all starts in the backcourt, where we have floor generals running the offense to wings who can shoot the lights out or a combination thereof. With a tremendous incoming freshman class and so much returning talent still with room to grow, we've compiled our list of our top ten backcourts and what a competitive process it was:
10) Temple Owls
Temple hopes to build off of Fran Dunphy's first NCAA Tournament win behind the success of its backcourt led by the future first-team all A-10 picks Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez. Moore and Fernandez have the ability to knock down the 3 ball, get into the lane and finish at the rim or even find teammates like Scootie Randall, who is returning from a foot injury that pretty much cost him the final quarter of the season, and Khalif Wyatt, the A-10's sixth man last year. Incoming freshman point guard Will Cummings should get some minutes at point off the bench, shifting Fernandez and Moore over and creating mismatches across the backcourt.
9) Washington Huskies
Terrence Ross averaged just 8 points per game last season, but was often held back due to the Huskies' other prolific offensive threats- Isaiah Thomas, Matthew Bryan-Amaning and even Justin Holiday. All three have moved on this season giving reason to believe that Ross will breakout this season. He has last season's starting point guard Abdul Gaddy, a former high school All-American, returning from knee injury, along with five-star incoming freshman Tony Wroten Jr. Both Gaddy and Wroten Jr. are pass-first guards that make plays to set up teammates and should be sure to find CJ Wilcox, Scott Suggs and Hakeem Stewart spotting up on the perimeter.
8) Louisville Cardinals
Although the Cards lost leading scorer Preston Knowles, the team's top perimeter scorer, the lethal Kyle Kuric and playmaker and clutch performer, Peyton Siva are back in uniform. Knowles launched 261 3s last season, so without him, there will be plenty more shots to be had, especially from the perimeter for Kuric and 40-percent 3-point shooter Chris Smith. Mike Marra is strictly a 3-point shooter, where he had five times as many 3-point field-goal attempts as 2-points attempts last season. The success of these shooters is directly related to Siva's development as a point guard. If he can continue to utilize his quickness and shiftiness to get into the lane, he'll open up windows for his teammates to get his shots off.
7) Syracuse Orange
Jim Boeheim's only major loss is big man Rick Jackson, so expect big things from veterans Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine who will share point guard duties and play atop that 2-3 zone on defense. Jardine took big strides last season, using his quickness to create turnovers and spark transition offense for the Orange and with his playmaking, expect him to take a much larger role in the team's offense again this season. Rising sophomore Dion Waiters has the potential but couldn't hit his groove in his action last season. Along with incoming freshman shooting guards, high school All-American Michael Carter-Williams and Trevor Cooney, this group of guards are limited back their consistency in knocking down perimeter jumpers.
6) Missouri Tigers
The Tigers might not have their coach back, but they return nearly every impact player from last year's backcourt. This team is fit to run with Flip Pressey and his brother Matt Pressey running the point. Michael Dixon handles some of the point guard duties as well and doubles as one of Missouri's five double-digit scorers as well. But the real weapons on this team are Kim English, whose deteriorating outside shot had his numbers down across the board, and Marcus Denmon, the team's most complete scorer who can slash through the lane or knock down 3-point shots with high accuracy (44.8 percent). If Missouri continues to run under Frank Haith, the talent and depth of this team will be served well.
5) Kentucky Wildcats
Coach Cal has done it again- bringing in another fantastic point guard in Marquis Teague, one of the nation's top two or three incoming guards. Teague will have a tremendous impact right off the bat, taking over where Brandon Knight left off last season as both a steady scoring option and distributor. Playing next to him will be two of the SEC's most reliable perimeter threats- Doron Lamb and Darius Miller, the third and fourth scorers on last year's Final Four team. With some of the nation's top frontcourt players returning/entering school, this backcourt will have a great impact this upcoming season.
4) Ohio State Buckeyes
Impact players across the board return for Ohio State including shooting guard William Buford and point guard Aaron Craft. Buford, now a senior, was the team's second-leading scorer a year ago, and will have to pick up the slack even more with Jon Diebler and David Lighty gone to graduation. He played so well off of Jared Sullinger in the low post last season and will continue to spot up and knock down jumpers from all over the court. Starting next to him, Aaron Craft may have been one of the most underrated players in all of the country as he continually harassed opposing guards into turnovers and blowing up teams' offenses. Backing him up is 2011 high school All-American, Shannon Scott; he is a consistent threat to get into the lane and dump the ball off to Sullinger or Deshaun Thomas or kick it out to his perimeter options. He has a great feel for the game and will be an immediate impact player.
3) Florida Gators
Billy Donovan's big men Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin played a key role for last season's team, but without them, this year is all guard-oriented. Enter fantastic freshman Bradley Beal and transfer Mike Rosario. Beal is a lights out shooter that moves so well without the ball that he's difficult to keep track of. Teamming up with Rosario, Rutgers' former leading-scorer, Donovan adds two of his best perimeter shooters since Lee Humphrey. Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker are undersized, crafty guards who have a knack for putting up deep 3-pointers, but have the range to do so. Neither are really pure point guards, which could hurt the effect that Beal and Rosario make, but this is a complete backcourt that can kill teams from anywhere on the court.
2) Duke Blue Devils
Sure, Duke lost Nolan Smith and Kyrie Irving, two first-round talents, but they add the nation's No. 1 guard in Austin Rivers, who may very well be one of the best pure scorers in the country. He can score inside off his penetration or he can certainly shoot the ball from the outside with deep range. Adding him to the mix of perimeter threats Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins and this Duke team could live and die by the 3 ball this season. Coach K also brings in one of the best at his position, Quinn Cook, a high school All-American point guard. Cook should fill the void left behind by Irving as a creator and distributor, but can change gears and get his points too. Expect Cook, Curry and Rivers to start with Dawkins and point guard Tyler Thornton to come off the bench.
1) UNC Tar Heels
It wouldn't be the same if Duke and North Carolina weren't competing for the top spot. What puts UNC over the edge here is PJ Hairston, one of the best shooting guards in this incoming class, who was also being courted by the Blue Devils before they apparently spelled his name wrong. Hairston will come off the bench to provide some perimeter scoring that 2010 high school All-American Reggie Bullock didn't provide. But Bullock will be back in uniform, and not only gives the Tar Heels great talent, if he gets his confidence back, but tremendous depth as well. Kendall Marshall will run the point again, where he was one of the most exciting prospects to watch once he took over for Larry Drew II mid-season. Marshall loves to push the ball in transition and hit his guards spotting up on the wing or thread passes down low to his big men in John Henson and Tyler Zeller. Marshall has two veteran options on the wing in Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald. Strickland is capable of playing some minutes at the point, but his perimeter shooting holds him back from being a more lethal threat. McDonald is one of the team's better perimeter shooters but was limited last season by a back injury suffered in ACC play.
Also receiving consideration: Alabama (Trevor Releford, Levi Randolph, Trevor Lacey, Andrew Steele), Arizona (Josiah Turner, Nick Johnson, Kyle Fogg, Jordin Mayes), Connecticut (Jeremy Lamb, Shabazz, Napier, Ryan Boatright), Florida State (Ian Miller, Michael Snaer, Deividas Dulkys, Aaron Thomas, Terry Whisnant), Marquette (Darius Johnson-Odom, Vander Blue, Junior Cadougan, Derrick Wilson, Todd Mayo), Memphis (Will Barton, Joe Jackson, Charles Carmouche, Chris Crawford), Vanderbilt (John Jenkins, Brad Tinsley, Dai-Jon Parker, Kedren Johnson), Villanova (Maalik Wayns, Dominic Cheek, James Bell, Tyrone Johnson, Achraf Yacoubou)