Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Compiling a list of the best point guards the college game will offer up in 2014-15 is an arduous task.
With more teams playing increasingly complicated offensive schemes, a true floor general can make a huge difference, and it shows in which teams succeed and which ones fail.
However, despite the glut of talent across the nation, there are some who stand above the rest.
Ryan Boatright (Connecticut) - The argument could be made that Boatright and Shabazz Napier shared point guard responsibilities last season for the national champion UConn Huskies. Obviously Napier was the top option, in more ways than one, but Boatright's consistent play, incredible speed and ability to play off of Napier did not go unnoticed. Now, with Napier in the NBA, Boatright will be flying solo in Kevin Ollie's offense. At 6-feet tall and possessing a well-rounded skill set, Boatright embodies the mold of a true point guard. He is not a player that will take over with his own scoring (12.1 ppg), but he does an excellent job of moving the ball and pestering opposing guards on the defensive end. Even more importantly, he knows how to win and brings a championship pedigree to the table. A look at numbers instead of intangibles shows that Boatright averaged 3.4 assists per game last season, but that is an impressive number considering Napier posted 4.9. A leap in production across the board can be expected this season.
Juwan Staten (West Virginia) - There are not many programs in the country that have a player that is a triple-double threat every time he steps on the floor. West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins is fortunate to have that kind of performer in Staten. Standing at 6-foot-1 with a solid frame, Staten is an impressive performer in every sense of the word. He can score nearly at will (18.1 ppg), shoots well from beyond the arc (.400), hits the glass well from his spot in the backcourt (5.6 rpg) and, most importantly for his position, has no issue getting his teammates involved (5.8 apg). An early contender for Big 12 Player of the Year, Staten, who led the league in scoring last season, was a key component of the Mountaineers' upsets of Iowa State, Oklahoma and Baylor. As a senior, there is no doubt he has the skill and versatility to lead his team to even greater success.
Marcus Paige (North Carolina) - Roy Williams has certainly coached his share of talented point guards. At North Carolina alone he has had three players win the Bob Cousy Award, which is given to the nation's top point guard. Hoping to join his predecessors (Ty Lawson, Raymond Felton and Kendall Marshall) is the supremely-talented Paige. A prolific scorer, the 6-foot-1 junior has been just as consistent as a distributor, averaging more than four assists per game in each of his first two seasons. Still, Paige's biggest strength is his ability to put the ball in the net. If the Tar Heels are going to return to the rarified air they are used to breathing, they will certainly need Paige to play like he did at the end of last season. Paige hit a lull at the end of the campaign, scoring a combined 16 points against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame. However, he went on to average 22.3 ppg in the team's final four games, including a pair of 19-point efforts during the Tar Heels' impressive showings against Providence and Iowa State in the NCAA Tournament.
Fred VanVleet (Wichita State) - The Shockers have had an unprecedented run of success the last few years. After making a stunning run to the 2013 Final Four, they pulled off another incredible feat in 2014 when they became the first team to go 30-0 in the regular season. It would be impossible to pick one player off of those squads that was the most important, but if you had to, VanVleet would be a good choice. A leader far beyond his role as the team's point guard, VanVleet topped the Shockers in minutes (31.7 pg) and assists (5.4 pg) last season, after serving as a contributor off the bench in 2012-13. However, VanVleet's real strength comes in his ability to see plays develop and to limit mistakes. Despite spending a ton of time on the court and handling the ball as often as he did, VanVleet only committed 48 turnovers in 2013-14, while tying Creighton's Jahenns Manigat for eighth in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (4.0). VanVleet is now entering his junior year, which means the Shockers will be in good, and careful hands, for a tad bit longer.
Keifer Sykes (Green Bay) - College basketball fans were robbed last March, when Green Bay (24-7) did not receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. While arguments can certainly be made as to the reasons why, the biggest crime was that a lot of people missed out on the opportunity to watch Sykes play. Like Staten, Sykes is a do-it-all performer for the Phoenix, providing plenty in terms of individual scoring (20.3 ppg), while also racking up impressive numbers with regard to assists (4.8 pg), rebounds (4.4 pg) and steals (1.2 pg). Sykes also brings some hardware into this season, having been named the 2013-14 Horizon League Player of the Year. At 5-foot-11, he is a bit undersized, but he has improved in each of his first three seasons in Green Bay, boosting his scoring average by nearly five points per game last season, while shooting a career-best 46.8 percent from the floor. If the trend continues, Sykes would be even better in 2014-15, which could in turn help the team make its NCAA Tournament dreams a reality.
Honorable Mention: T.J. McConnell (Arizona), Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga), Kevin Ferrell (Indiana), Isaiah Taylor (Texas), Olivier Hanlan (Boston College), Angel Rodriguez (Kansas State), Siyani Chambers (Harvard), Austin Chatman (Creighton)