Home 9 Insights 9 Top10 backcourt duo in college basketball

Top10 backcourt duo in college basketball

Autore: Stefano Russillo
Data: 19 Nov, 2016


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In modern basketball the backcourt of a team is as important as ever, not only because smallball lineups are now a common sight, but also because of the guards’ key role on offense. Guards have the task to initiate the offense, set the pace, run plays and be the first line of defense on the other side. Beside, there’s nothing as exciting as a dynamic duo of guards making highlight plays.

That is why we will have a look at the Top 10 backcourt duos in college basketball. All the statistics mentioned here go as far as last season, given it is still too early to have more up-to-date numbers. Players like Markelle Fultz and Dennis Smith Jr are not listed in here, although it’s not their fault. They just lack an elite sidekick to run with them.

Maurice Watson

Maurice Watson

Honorable mentions

·         Maurice Watson Jr (5 ft 10, 170 lb – 14.1ppg, 3.4rpg, 6.5apg, 1stl, 47.5%FG, 29.7%3P) e Marcus Foster (6 ft 3, 210lb – 12.5 ppg, 2.3rpg, 1.9apg, 0.6stl, 38.8%FG, 34.7%3P) – Creighton.

·         Joel Berry II (6 ft 0, 195 lb – 12.8ppg, 3.4rpg, 3.8apg, 1.5stl, 44.6%FG, 38.2%3P) e Nate Britt (6 ft 1, 175 lb – 5.4 ppg, 1.5rpg, 1.7apg, 0.6stl, 38.4%FG, 32.1%3P) – North Carolina.

·         Nigel Williams Goss (6 ft 3, 190 lb – 15.6ppg, 4.7rpg, 5.9apg, 1.1stl, 44.2%FG, 25.6%3P) e Jordan Mathews (6 ft 4, 200 lb – 13.5ppg, 3.4rpg, 1.3apg, 0.5stl, 42.2%FG, 41.6%3P) – Gonzaga.

·         Trey Kell (6 ft 4, 210 lb – 12.6ppg, 3.7rpg, 1.4apg, 0.8stl, 40.5%FG, 38.4%3P) e Jeremy Hemsley (6 ft 3, 190 lb – 12ppg, 2.4rpg, 1.8apg, 0.7stl, 43%FG, 35.6%3P) – San Diego State.





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#10: Emmett Naar e Joe Rahon – Saint Mary’s

(6 ft 1, 195 lb – 14ppg, 3.7rpg, 6.4apg, 1.3stl, 48.7%FG, 41.8%3P)

(6 ft 2, 195 lb – 10.7ppg, 4.5rpg, 5.4apg, 1.3stl, 43.8%FG, 36.6%3P)

Emmett Naar e Joe Rahon (Saint Mary’s)

Emmett Naar and Joe Rahon (Saint Mary’s)

“They are what our team is about. They make us what we are”, that’s what coach Randy Bennett said about the them. If there’s an explanation to the Gaels being a top team in college basketball, this is probably it. Naar and Rahon are a two headed monster that stays on the court for almost the entirety of the game (respectively 12th and 15th in the nation in percentage of minutes played) thanks to their smart&calm style of play. They are not as fun to watch as other teams, with the ball slowly rotating around the court in search of the best possible shot, running down the shot clock. Still, they are extremely efficient, as their 25 points and 12 assists combined can attest. Naar is the last talented Australian who took the trip from Sydney to Moraga, easily recognizable on the floor for his terrible yet effective shot mechanics.

[gifanimata]bPVYxb9iYbLXi[/gifanimata] Great court vision and horrible shooting mechanics


The other recognizable mark is his ferocious defense, built modeled around his countrymen and ex Gaels Matthew Dellavedova style of play. Rahon is the kind of guard who’s not scared of anything, and plays the same style of defense of his Australian teammate. He does not hesitate when possessions matter or when he is facing better competition: he averaged 15.4 points per game in the games against Gonzaga, California and Stanford.

[gifanimata]1EGFPTAMGZtOU[/gifanimata] In clutch time, the ball is in Rahon’s hands





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#9: Juwan Evans e Phil Forte III – Oklahoma State

(6 ft 1, 185lb – 12.9ppg, 4.4rpg, 4.9apg, 1.1stl, 47.1%FG, 47.5%3P)

(5 ft 11, 195lb – 15ppg, 2.1rpg, 1.7apg, 1.9stl, 42.4%FG, 38%3P) – stagione 2014/2015

Juwan Evans e Phil Forte III (Oklahoma State)

Juwan Evans and Phil Forte III (Oklahoma State)

They are the BasketballNcaa underdog duo in this ranking, because they are the right mix of talent and experience. If it wasn’t for the elbow injury that had Forte suffered in his third game and that sidelined him for the remainder of the year, they would have been elite. Evans was the lone positive in an otherwise awful season for the Cowboys, finished with a 12-20 record. He was impressive in his 29 minutes per game and he had a few signature games, like going for 42 points against Buddy Hield and Oklahoma, or his 22 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists in the win against Kansas, making him the Big 12 Freshman of the Year.

[gifanimata]Alp8w7utAEpKo[/gifanimata] Evans’s court vision is incredible and spectacular


The real surprise, beside his three-point shooting skills, was his court vision and the ease with which he could find open teammates. That’s good news for Forte, who is great in catch-and-shoot situation and a very good closer. The senior will feast on defenses thanks to Evans’ ability to find the open man, and he acknowledged as much: “My job’s easy, I just have to make sure I’m in his vision when he has the ball.” They might combine for 40 points per game quite easily and both might be among the top scorers in the Big 12.

[gifanimata]cHvkFPQGIEaBy[/gifanimata] They make it look easy, don’t they?





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#8: Rodney Purvis e Jalen Adams – Connecticut

(6 ft 4, 205 lb – 12.8ppg, 3rpg, 2.1apg, 0.9stl, 43.4%FG, 38.5%3P)

(6 ft 3, 195 lb – 7.3ppg, 2.6rpg, 2.4apg, 1.1stl, 42.6%FG, 27.3%3P)

Rodney Purvis e Jalen Adams (Connecticut)

Rodney Purvis and Jalen Adams (Connecticut)

The best backcourt in the AAC and the biggest strength of the two-pointguard system the Huskies employ. Purvis and Adams are a perfect in coach Kevin Ollie‘s system, and they often switch position during the game. The former is Uconn‘s leader, unguardable when he is attacking the rim and capable of punishing any defense from anywhere on the court. He came back to Storrs for his senior season in great shape, thinner and quicker than before, to meet his coach’s request to improve in his rebounding and more importantly, to increase the pace of the team, with Uconn being 292nd in Division I in uptempo, per Kenpom. And he will wear the #15 jersey to honor Tyrek Coger, a childhood friend and ex Oklahoma State player who died last July because of a heart attack. That’s plenty of motivation for the upcoming season.

[gifanimata]PmIsF9VXuIVhu[/gifanimata] Chemistry is not an issue here


Adams is only in his second year, but he is already considered one of the best guards in the nation. He is very good at attacking the rim, he can live at the free throw line, he is a good backdoor cutter and employs a variety of floaters to punish defenders coming at him. To have a measure of the hype surrounding him, in preseason he was included in the top 20 for the Bob Cousy Award. To be one of the finalists he will have to improve on his three-point shooting and decision making and cut down on his turnovers (87 assists to 60 turnovers when he is playing pointguard).

[gifanimata]JAdLjDsP6aFOg[/gifanimata] When he decides to attack the rim, he is unstoppable





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#7: Edmond Sumner e Trevon Bluiett – Xavier

(6 ft 6, 186 lb – 11ppg, 3.4rpg, 3.6apg, 1.3stl, 39.7%FG, 30.1%3P)

(6 ft 6, 205 lb – 15.1ppg, 6.1rpg, 2.2apg, 0.9stl, 42.4%FG, 39.8%3P)

Edmond Sumner e Trevon Bluiett (Xavier)

Edmond Sumner e Trevon Bluiett (Xavier)

Xavier will go as far as its magic duo will carry the team. Sumner is a PG with great upside and closely monitored by Nba scouts for his size and skills. Only a few 6-6 guards have his court vision and explosiveness, and now that he fully recovered from his knee injury, he is expected to take the next step in his development. He will have to prove his jumper is reliable, while his defense is already elite thanks to his nose for the ball and his lateral speed.

[gifanimata]fGAlW2WSu12Xm[/gifanimata] Sumner explosiveness and court vision.


Bluiett is the key to the Musketeers game, and every offensive possession goes through him. He is also taking 25% of the total shot of the team each game. He has the strength and athleticism to be a factor on the boards and he can shoot efficiently from distance. If Sumner had to raise the level of his game and become an honest threat from behind the arc, there will be more room in the paint for Bluiett to attack and score or create for his teammates, turning Xavier offense into one of the best in the nation.

[gifanimata]D1SDLdc8MNKOQ[/gifanimata] Sumner is the director, Bluiett executes.




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#6: Jalen Brunson e Josh Hart – Villanova

(6 ft 3, 190 lb – 9.6ppg, 1.8rpg, 2.5apg, 0.7stl, 42.2%FG, 38,3%3P)

(6 ft 6, 215 lb – 15.5ppg, 6.8rpg, 1.9apg, 1.2stl, 51.3%FG, 35.7%3P)

Jalen Brunson e Josh Hart (Villanova)

Jalen Brunson e Josh Hart (Villanova)

Any hope for the Wildcats to repeat rely on their two guards. Brunson will be the key for Nova, considering he was a four-star recruit a couple of seasons ago, and he will have the unenviable task to replace Ryan Arcidiacono. He will be the main ball-handler, tasked with initiating the offense and taking more of a scorer role without disappearing from the game down the stretch. In his first outing of the season he seemed to be more confident, and if he had to improve on the defensive end as well, Arcidiacono will not be missed.

[gifanimata]TsRBPvbqhqxC8[/gifanimata] Hart and Brunson in two plays.


Hart is the most versatile player in the nation and has a huge impact on both sides of the floor. He is Villanova’s best scorer, rebounder and defender, and he also adds his court vision and slashing ability. His 24.3% usage rate and 6.7 win share, together with his averages in points, rebounds and assists, make him the best player in the Big East and one of the most serious candidate to the Naismith College Player of the Year.

[gifanimata]Nr2K2lZiziumk[/gifanimata] That’s what it means being a slasher




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#5: Monte Morris e Matt Thomas – Iowa State

(6 ft 3, 175 lb – 13.8ppg, 3.9rpg, 6.9apg, 1.8stl, 48.7%FG, 35.8%3P)

(6 ft 4, 197 lb – 11ppg, 4.4rpg, 1.7apg, 44%FG, 43.2%3P)

Matt Thomas e Monte Morris (Iowa State)

Matt Thomas e Monte Morris (Iowa State)

Monte Morris is one of the best and more underestimated guard in the nation. In his three years he has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.48, with averages of 5.2 assists and 1.2 turnovers per game, proving that he is the best decision maker in Division I. Coach Steve Prohm, though, said he wants him to be more of a scorer this season, increasing the pace and the volume of his shots. He might average around 20 points per game this season, given his solid three-point shooting and his ability to attack the rim.

[gifanimata]BQdbHhEFv99Ze[/gifanimata] Morris is in “attack mode”


Matt Thomas will be the player who will benefit the most from a faster pace. “Iceman” Thomas will be a good fit in catch-and-shoot situation when Morris will attack the paint, considering his accuracy from behind the arc, and he will have a real chance to do better than the 89 three-pointers he made last season (while shooting 43.2%). Matt admitted he worked a lot during summer to make the most of the new uptempo system, trying to be quicker on his release, although he was already very fluid. And they are both great on-ball defenders.

[gifanimata]uizWaDhcq3XGw[/gifanimata] Morris finds the Iceman




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#4: Lonzo Ball e Bryce Alford – UCLA

(6 ft 6, 190 lb – 23.9ppg, 11.3rpg, 11.5apg, 5.1stl, 54%FG, 36%3P) – stats of his senior year at Chino High School

(6 ft 3, 185 lb – 16.1ppg, 3.8rpg, 5.2apg, 0.7stl, 38.5%FG, 36.7%3P)

Ball e Alford (UCLA)

Bryce Alford e Lonzo Ball (UCLA)

We are going to make a lot of noise”. Lonzo’s word give a clear picture of what this spectacular duo will do on the court. They would be a top 2 combo, if it wasn’t for their play on the defensive end. Coach Steve Alford’s uptempo system is perfect for the style of this two guards. Ball is considered the best high-school player all time, since he averaged a triple-double for a whole season and led his Chino Hills to a 35-0 record. He could be the best in the nation in court vision as of right now, he is tall for a point-guard at 6-6 and very athletic. His shooting mechanics is not so smooth but he can make it work. He might easily be the most spectacular PG in the nation, and a constant source of highlights.

[gifanimata]jcAr2QLMbbA9G[/gifanimata] Is that a guard or a wing?


The happiest person in the campus for Ball’s arrival is Bryce Alford, coach Steve’s son, who can finally go back to his shooting guard role, after a season at the PG spot that made him less efficient from the floor. He will be free to play off-the-ball and be ready when Lonzo Ball will find him open.

[gifanimata]HxvtL3czAyONa[/gifanimata] A Ball-Alford led offense is very smooth.




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#3: De’Aaron Fox e Malik Monk – Kentucky

(6 ft 3, 187 lb – 31.3 ppg, 7.2rpg, 3.9apg, 2.8stl, 52%FG, 34%3P) – stats of his senior year at Cypress Lakes High School

(6 ft 3, 200 lb – N/A)

Malik Monk e De’Aaron Fox (Kentucky)

Malik Monk e De’Aaron Fox (Kentucky)

Someone went as far as calling them the best freshman duo in the backcourt in history. As of now, it would be more cautious to say they are the most complementary and spectacular in the nation. Fox is a PG who can dribble the length of the court in a heartbeat, and he has already been compared to John Wall. He is great at attacking the paint and finishing at the rim, and his on-ball defense is already elite. If he was shooting as well as he runs the floor, he would be the first pick in the draft, hands down.

[gifanimata]38fAg6ymRRnKo[/gifanimata] Talk about speed while dribbling through the court


Monk is a perfect fit near him, he can stretch the floor very well and defense must respect him from behind the arc, but he can also rely on his athleticism and verticality to finish at the rim. They developed a strong chemistry over time, since it was Fox who helped Calipari in the recruitment while at the Nike Eybl in Bahamas in 2015, when Monk was leaning towards Arkansas. They started a good friendship on that occasion that continues off the court, while on the court they went to win ex-equo the Mvp in the Jordan Classic. Thety complement each other, they are fast and smooth on the court and bold in calling themselves the best backcourt in Wildcats history, ahead of the John Wall-Eric Bledsoe pairing.

[gifanimata]12G51nxbsShOeY[/gifanimata] The most spectacular duo in the nation?




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#2: Frank Jackson e Grayson Allen – Duke

(6 ft 3, 205 lb – 28ppg, 11rpg, 3apg, 1stl) – stats of his senior year at Lone Peak High School

(6 ft 5, 205 lb – 21.6ppg, 4.6rpg, 3.5apg, 1.3stl, 46.6%FG, 41.7%3P)

Frank Jackson e Grayson Allen (Duke)

Frank Jackson e Grayson Allen (Duke)

They certainly are the best athletic duo, two versatile combo guards with great verticality and very explosive in transition. Jackson is the less celebrated top recruit ever in Durham because of an exceptionally talented freshman class, but his early season performances made him the cover-boy for the Blue Devils. He brings his instant offense off the bench, thanks to his ability to attack the paint and finish at the rim and his efficiency in catch-and-shoot situation. His 6-7 wingspan makes him a good defender who can strip opponents and get his team going in transition. In a team that lacks a real PG, though, he will be asked to initiate the offense and facilitate for his teammates, once Giles, Tatum and Bolden will be back.

[gifanimata]fzKil8U5CMPcc[/gifanimata] That’s great chemistry


Allen is the best and most hated player in college basketball. He played at a very high level last season and he can beat any opponent any way he wants. If he had to improve his mid-range game, something opposing defenses are more than happy to allow him, he would be unstoppable. Once Duke is healthy again he will not be free to take as many shot as he did last season, but he might improve his efficiency, since defenses will not be free to help off of his teammates.

[gifanimata]R1AY2uEVi4w2A[/gifanimata] Allen’s talent and energy in one play




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#1: Frank Mason III e Devonte’ Graham – Kansas

(5 ft 11, 190 lb – 12.9ppg, 4.3rpg, 4.6apg, 1.3 stl, 43.4%FG, 38.1%3P)

(6 ft 2, 185 lb – 11.3ppg, 3.3rpg, 3.7apg, 1.4stl, 46%FG, 44.1%3P)

Frank Mason III e Devonte’ Graham (Kansas)

Frank Mason III e Devonte’ Graham (Kansas)

Why are they number one? Because they are the best defensive duo in the nation and a top 3 offensive duo. They are both natural leaders and both capable of winning games on defense before doing it on offense, with their defensive rating below 100 and a 2.2 defensive win shares. Coach Self said they are better together than separated, that must be the reason why they stay on the court for over 34 minutes per game. Mason is the one who sets the pace for Kansas, the toughest guard to play against, despite being undersized for his position. He never suffered the opponents advantage in size and he always has something left in the tank to be the best Jayhawk on the other side of the floor. He is the team’s closer, and he will always take the shots when the game is on the line.

[gifanimata]I9vAtlwCFdyHC[/gifanimata] Mason&Graham in one play


Graham is the perfect running mate for Mason, since he is very effective off-the-ball and a dangerous shooter in catch-and-shoot situation. The best of Devonte’ is yet to come, especially on offense, after flashing his skills in the second half of the season last year. If Kansas will win once again the Big 12 and will reach the Final Four, it will be in large part because of them.

[gifanimata]wm2ZDWHMLp20g[/gifanimata] Looking for a winning shot? Give Mason the ball.



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