It is hard to tell from just looking at the 5’11”, 157-pound senior, but once upon a time Butler point guard Tyler Lewis was a McDonald’s All-American. Despite limited size, his creativity as a passer and fearlessness in attacking the basket caught the attention of multiple high-major schools, including his ultimate destination, North Carolina State. With playing time fluctuating over two seasons in Raleigh, Lewis decided to transfer to Butler, where a promising start to his junior season gave way to decreased importance after the new year. Lewis entered his final season in college basketball as the only significant holdover in Butler’s backcourt. He has not disappointed.
Butler’s Tyler Lewis (USA Today Images)
The Bulldogs are off to an impressive 7-0 start this season and their senior facilitator is a major reason why. The veteran floor general is only averaging a pedestrian eight points per game, but he has been one of the more efficient guards in college basketball through the first couple weeks of the season. Lewis’ offensive rating of 133.3 is the second highest on the Butler roster and is good enough for 83rd nationally. He is also shooting a blistering 77.3 percent from two-point range (24th), and is 5-of-11 on three-point attempts so far this season. Furthermore, his effective field goal percentage of 74.2 percent ranks among the top 20 in the sport.
From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans.Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.
We knew Mark Lyons was going to be watched under a microscope the moment it was made public he’d transfer. There have been just a handful of grad transfers and he’s amongst the highest profile school swappers of that nature. All of this you know. What we did not know is whether Lyons would fit in with his teammates; whether bringing in a player of his caliber and hubris would be cancerous or auspicious; whether Mark Lyons could be a point guard? Much had been made of the third Lyons conundrum this week as the argument was made that the senior was struggling. Following his performance in Lubbock, he found himself with an underwhelming 0.8 A/T ratio. Not good. But knowing this fact, not once did it dawn on me that Lyons might be struggling, despite subsequently reading threedifferent articles (third was an ESPN insider) regarding his struggles. I disagreed and proposed why he wasn’t struggling. Turnovers are a concern but that alone does not a point guard ruin.
Mark Lyons’ Game Has Been Under Attack This Week, But While He May Not Be A Traditional Point Guard, He Helps His Team Win (Luke Adams)
Then this week’s Burning Question was proposed: Who is the best point guard in the Pac-12? So I sat down to begin my research, punched my password into KenPom and pulled up the Pac-12 cumulative stats; and then I realized I had no idea what I was looking for. Assist to turnover ratios? Assist rates? Turnover rates? Points scored or the lack thereof? It began grinding at me that I had no idea how to quantify a point guard. After all, we live in the era of Nate Silver so everything must be quantified. But as I burrowed further and further down the rabbit hole of advanced stats, looking into each of the conference’s point guards, I could find no continuity to the statistics. Dinwiddie led in ORtg and eFG%; Larry Drew II in assist rate; Ahmad Starks in turnover rate; Dominic Artis in steal percentage. Conversely, Dinwiddie and Starks don’t rack up many assists, Drew barely scores, and Artis does a little of a lot. And I hadn’t even begun to look at Justin Cobbs, Chasson Randle, Jahii Carson, Jio Fontan, or Lyons. Just on name recognition, I’m taking one of that second crew (I’d eventually pick Randle just because I really like his game). Alas, the BQ and my early week reading-and-rebutting had me stewing on Lyons and what makes a point guard. His oh-for-the-game, 4/2/2 and three turnover performance against Southern Miss on Tuesday then did nothing to help his cause. Or did it? Lyons played 29 minutes in that game and all of the critical ones. Statistically speaking, Mark Lyons struggled. But he continued to play, Sean Miller opting to keep the senior on the floor. It was in this tiny but all-important fact that I think I found my answer.
No beating around the bush on this one, we’re going to get right to the point as we discuss who the league’s best floor general is.
Who is the best point guard in the Pac-12?
Adam Butler: This is an interesting question in and of itself. When it was first proposed to me, I responded with, “What makes a good point guard?” Traditionally we say assists defines a guard and to that point you might argue Larry Drew II. Well that’s not how I’m defining my best point guard. I’m taking Chasson Randle. I love his game as I can watch him do things the other kids can’t. He gets to the rim with an ease few possess. And look, I’m going to struggle to statistically make this argument. He’s ninth in the conference in assist rate (good) and top 15 in the conference in ORtg for players with a usage greater than 24%. To boot, he’s grabbing a handful of boards (3.2) and steals (1.8) per game while playing 30 minutes a night. He gets to the free throw line, too; shooting about six per contest. Maybe I’ve gotten ahead of myself calling him the league’s best PG a month deep, but he’s my guy when push comes to shove. Just you wait and see. I like how the team goes as he goes, to me dictating leadership and that he’s indeed the facilitator of this squad. Every team needs a tone setter and I appreciate that Stanford’s has the ball in his hands more often than not.
The Statistics May Not Show It, But Chasson Randle’s Skills May His Whole Team Better
Andrew Murawa: It’s early in the year, and early in his career, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Jahii Carson is already the best point guard in the conference, for quite a few reasons. First and foremost, he has been put in a position to succeed by Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek. While there is some talent on this team, Sendek realized last year while Carson was sitting out as a partial qualifier that he needed to put the ball in Carson’s hands from day one. He is the one guy on this team who can not only create scoring opportunities for himself, but also get good looks for his teammates. With Carson putting pressure on the defense either in transition or as a threat off the bounce in the halfcourt or even knocking down jumpers from beyond the arc (though his jumper isn’t always a work of art, he’s hitting better than 40% of his attempts from deep), guys like Carrick Felix and Jordan Bachynski are having their best offensive seasons in part because Carson gets them the rock in position to make plays, and in part because the opposing defense needs to keep one eye on Carson when those guys have the ball. And, while he’s struggled plenty with turnovers in the early going (he’s turning it over on nearly a quarter of all used possessions), he’s bought into his role. After exploding for 30 (while still handing out seven assists) against Creighton’s dubious defense, Carson laid off looking for his own shot against teams like Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Sacramento State in an effort to get Evan Gordon going and to keep Felix going. While he’s still got plenty of room for improvement (you can bet Sendek is encouraging him to take better care of the ball), Carson is my pick for best point in the conference as well as the most valuable individual player to his team.
Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist. You can find him @evanJacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.
As is the case every year, guard play dominates college basketball. A lead guard’s responsibilities – facilitating offense, team leadership, and defensive execution – are essential to a team’s success. In Monday night’s exciting matchup between Xavier and Vanderbilt, the point guards essentially decided the outcome. In crunch time of a tight game, Vandy’s Brad Tinsley made poor decisions for his team; while Xavier’s Tu Holloway dominated on both ends of the court to lead his team to an overtime road win. He’s already had his name in the conversation since preseason, but tonight Holloway made an early statement for why he — not Kendall Marshall, not Jordan Taylor, not anyone else — is the nation’s best point guard. The senior displayed in Nashville why he’s he capable of leading Xavier to a special season.
Xavier's Tu Holloway Shot His Team Past Vanderbilt on Monday Night (Credit: Mark Humphrey, AP)
Holloway is one of the true do-it-all players in the country, and he makes it look easy with his poised demeanor. He plays the game at his own, controlled speed and knows when to kick it up an extra gear for big moments. Tonight was a clinic in that respect, as Holloway sealed the game with back-to-back three-pointers in overtime, where he poured in 10 of his game-high 24 points. He also totaled five rebounds, four assists, and just one turnover in 42 minutes while hitting nine of his ten free throws. His 6-20 shooting line wasn’t the most efficient offensive output you’ll see from him, thanks in part to a solid defensive effort by Vandy, but his command of the floor and complete contributions ultimately led his team to a road win in Nashville.
Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing each of the Pac-12 teams as we head into the season.
California Golden Bears
Strengths. In a league filled with teams looking to freshmen and sophomores for leadership, seniors Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kamp will lead this team. Both of them earned all-Pac-10 honors last season as well, so the talent is definitely there. Sophomore guard Allen Crabbe is also back, meaning that California returns their top three scorers from last season. One of the Pac-12’s most improved is also back at point guard in junior Brandon Smith. Smith is an assist machine and a great manager of tempo, whether the Bears want to slow it down or speed up. Challenging him for the starting point spot will be Minnesota transfer Justin Cobbs. Cobbs is known for his solid passing ability, but he lit it up with his jumper against UC San Diego last Tuesday. Cobbs led all scorers with 17 points in the exhibition.
Gutierrez will be looked at to lead the Golden Bears this season
Weaknesses. The Bears lose forward Markuri Sanders-Frison, meaning they will have a drop of almost two rebounds per game to their next highest returning rebounder. For a team that has aspirations of a three seed or higher in the NCAA Tournament, they certainly did not make it easy on themselves with their nonconference schedule. They will play neutral site games against Georgia and either Notre Dame or Missouri, a home game with Weber State, and road games against San Diego State and UNLV.
Nonconference Tests. If they can get out of the five-game stretch mentioned above with a 2-3 record, the Bears will be fine going into Pac-12 play. The neutral site games are part of the CBE Classic, which means the Bears will have a chance to prove they belong with a few of the nation’s best on a national stage. The SDSU meeting is a return game from last season, while the matchups with the Wildcats and Runnin’ Rebels are the beginning of a new series. The rest of their slate should all be easy victories, as you could make a good case that George Washington is the toughest team left on the schedule. Read the rest of this entry »
Real games start TONIGHT, but it was all about the exhibitions this weekend. On Saturday night in Pullman, Washington State hammered Lewis-Clark State, 88-41. Considering that the Cougars were without their best player, junior point guard Reggie Moore, this was a great result for Ken Bone’s team. Moore went down with a groin injury in a scrimmage against Montana on Oct. 30. He and senior shooting guard Fasial Aden, who suffered a concussion in the scrimmage, are both questionable for the Nov. 14 season opener at Gonzaga. In Moore’s place was freshman combo guard DaVonte Lacy, who led the Cougars with 21 points. Another newcomer, Fresno State transfer Mike Ladd, had 14 points for the Cougs.
Arizona State played on the road for its lone exhibition game, something only one other D-I team has done so far this year. The Sun Devils spoiled the opening of Grand Canyon’s new arena, using a 52-point second half outburst to propel them to a 89-69 win on Saturday afternoon. With the lack of a true center, the Devils used a three-guard lineup for most of the game. Three starters — Chris Colvin, Keala King, and Trent Lockett — led the team with 15 points each. Colvin was the biggest surprise, as the Palm Beach CC transfer let everyone know the Devils would be just fine at point for however long Jahii Carson is out. “He played with a lot of confidence,” coach Herb Sendek said. “He does have some good swag to his game.” Next up for Arizona State is their regular season opener against Montana State on Friday.
Seattle Pacific couldn’t possibly do it again, could they? After beating Arizona a couple of weeks ago, they hung with Washington for a half on Friday night, but in the end Tony Wroten, Jr., and company were just too much for the Falcons. The former Garfield High (WA) star stole the show with ten points, six rebounds, and four assists, one of which was an alley-oop that brought all of the 9,481 in attendance to their feet (start at the 5:30 point). Seven freshmen made their debuts in a Husky uniform, but only Wroten, Jr., and wing Martin Breunig had good performances. Breunig had eight points and two turnovers. Next up for Washington is the regular season opener against Georgia State on Saturday.
The surprise of the weekend came in Salt Lake City, where Adams State shocked Utah thanks to a Chris Webber-like technical foul with 11 seconds left. With the game tied, Utah freshman guard Kareem Storey signaled for timeout when the Runnin’ Utes did not have any left, giving Adams State two free throws. Deray Wilson put one of the two away, which would prove to be enough after the Utes threw away the ensuing inbound pass. Even though it is just an exhibition and the players have said all of the right things, this could really hurt a young team’s confidence, especially since they had virtually none to begin with. If they come out with a less-than-stellar performance in their regular season opener against San Diego Christian next Monday, the season might be over before it really even gets started.
Washington point guard Abdul Gaddy was one of the top recruits in the country when he came aboard in 2009, but after a disappointing freshman season and a torn ACL midway through his sophomore year, Gaddy has since fallen off the radar. But while the preseason focus is on guards Tony Wroten, Jr., and Terrence Ross, Gaddy will also be looked at to lead this team because of his experience. Percy Allen has a great feature on Gaddy, which includes some background and an interview with the point guard. The best part of the interview is when Gaddy talks about his summer shootarounds with former Husky Isaiah Thomas where the junior guard says he shot 18,000 jumpers in 22 days.
Fresh and new talent is the name of the game at Oregon this year, as the Ducks welcome in nine new players. Some of them are high school standouts, some of them are transfers, but all of them have Pac-12 talent. From freshman Jabari Brown to Devoe Joseph, the transfer from Minnesota, Oregon has the talent to pull an NCAA Tournament bid if things go well. There are also freshmen Brett Kingma and and Bruce Barron joining Brown and Jospeh as newcomers in the backcourt, both of which were highly-touted recruits in their own right. Barron did miss miss Oregon’s summer exhibition tour, but he is expected to be game-ready by Oregon’s Nov. 11 opener against Vanderbilt. “Bruce is probably just coming into his own” coach Dana Altman said about Barron after his arthroscopic knee surgery. Joseph D’Hippolito breaks down all of the new players here.
California head coach Mike Montgomery is cancer-free after his Oct. 19 surgery. Montgomery was diagnosed a month ago with “high-grade bladder cancer,” he told members of the Pac-12 media on Friday. He said that he will have no physical limitations while coaching, and senior guard Jorge Gutierrez added that the player-coach relationship between them has grown more personal since he learned of the situation. “We didn’t really have much of a connection outside of basketball, but he opened up a little bit more, so I think that helped us to relate with him more,” Gutierrez said.
USC guard Maurice Jones was thought of by many as the nation’s most underrated freshman in the nation last season. Jones averaged 9.9 PPG along with 3.2 APG and is being looked at to lead a USC team that is lacking in the talent department. Seth Rubinroit has a nice feature story on the sophomore standout, the only one in his class to represent a team at Pac-12 Media Day. Jones, the only returning starter from last year’s team, will be asked to carry the load at guard all year long after the season-injury to Jio Fontan. Coach Kevin O’Neill went as far as to tell fans, “Don’t come to the games, it’ll be ugly. Don’t show up. If we don’t have this guy, it’ll be very difficult for us to be competitive in major college games.”