The most integral part of a team is its backcourt. In order to be a threat to win the national championship, a good perimeter group is necessary. Without superior guard play, you can kiss a Final Four appearance goodbye. A team can have the best forwards in the country, but if they don't have a perimeter that can knock down shots and handle the ball, they are ripe for an upset in the early rounds. Who has the best backcourts in the country? Starters in italics
1. Villanova (Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes, Reggie Redding, Maalik Wayns, Dominic Cheek): The Wildcats are looking to repeat their Final Four appearance last season, and will have to do it on the backs of their guards. Jay Wright has already said he wants to play four guards -- he will have to in order to accommodate all this talent.
2. Kansas (Sherron Collins, Tyshawn Taylor, Xavier Henry, Brady Morningstar, Elijah Johnson): If the off-court problems that plagued the Jayhawks in the offseason are behind them, this group is going to be stellar. Collins is an outstanding point guard, while Henry is one of the top incoming freshman in the country.
3. California (Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Jorge Gutierrez, D.J. Seeley): Randle and Christopher might comprise the best -- and most underrated -- guard duo in the country. Randle can shoot the lights out from behind the arc and Christopher is a big-time scorer on the wing.
4. Michigan State (Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers, Chris Allen, Korie Lucious): The Spartans could move up higher if their stud junior class breaks out as expected. Lucas is one of the best point guards in America, and Summers could be primed for a huge year. Allen and Lucious provide great depth.
5. Mississippi (Christ Warren, Terrico White, Eniel Polynice, Zach Graham, Trevor Gaskins): If this group stays healthy, look out. Warren, Polynice and Gaskins all missed most or all of last season with injuries, but White stepped in and became one of the best guards in the country.
6. Connecticut (Kemba Walker, Jerome Dyson, Darius Smith, Jamaal Trice): The Huskies do have to replace A.J. Price and Craig Austrie, but Walker is likely to develop into one of the best point guards around, while Dyson is a great two-way player if he is fully recovered from a season-ending injury.
7. Oklahoma (Tommy Mason-Griffin, Willie Warren, Tony Crocker): With all of the losses in the Sooners' frontcourt, it's up to the perimeter group to take charge. Warren is arguably the best two-guard in the country, while Crocker can shoot. Mason-Griffin steps in immediately at the point guard spot as a freshman.
8. Texas (Jai Lucas, J'Covan Brown, Avery Bradley, Dogus Balbay, Justin Mason, Varez Ward): The way the perimeter minutes are divvied up will be interesting to see. The only guarantee is that freshman Bradley will start. Last year's starters, Mason and Balbay, could lose spots to freshman Brown or Florida transfer Lucas.
9. Washington (Abdul Gaddy, Isaiah Thomas, Venoy Overton): This is going to be a fun backcourt to watch -- and this ranking could be too low by the end of season. Gaddy is an outstanding freshman point guard, while Thomas is a big-time scorer. Overton is a pest defensively who will likely reprise his role as sixth man again.
10. Purdue (Lewis Jackson, Chris Kramer, E'Twaun Moore, Keaton Grant): An outstanding quartet that needs to put the ball in the basket a bit more this season. Moore is a stud offensively, Kramer is very tough and an outstanding defender, Jackson is the quickest player on the team and Grant can shoot.
11. Gonzaga (Matt Bouldin, Steven Gray, Demetri Goodson): Sure, Jeremy Pargo is gone, but anyone who watched Goodson's last-second shot to beat Western Kentucky last season in the NCAA Tournament knows the Bulldogs will be fine on the perimeter. Gray can really shoot and Bouldin is one of the top guards in the country.
12. Kentucky (John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Darnell Dodson, DeAndre Liggins, Darius Miller): If Wall is as good as advertised -- he is -- the Wildcats are going to be loaded in the backcourt. Bledsoe is another big-time freshman recruit, and Miller is reportedly primed for a breakout season on the wing.
Others to Watch:
Maryland: Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes are back again for the Terrapins, while Adrian Bowie is solid.
Cincinnati: Deonta Vaughn is an all-Big East player, but freshman stud Lance Stephenson is the reason for this mention.
Notre Dame: Tory Jackson is a very good all-around point guard; Miss. St. transfer Ben Hansbrough is eligible to play.
Kansas State: Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen are both shoot-first guards, but they get the job done for the Wildcats.
Georgetown: The Hoyas don’t have guards that will jump out at you, but Chris Wright and Austin Freeman are both very solid.
Louisville: If Edgar Sosa or Peyton Siva takes control of the PG slot, Jerry Smith will get more open shots on the wing.
Seton Hall: The Pirates have the perimeter talent to match up with anyone in the conference, led by Jeremy Hazell.
Missouri: J.T. Tiller and Zaire Taylor are an outstanding defensive duo; Marcus Denmon and Kim English do the scoring.
Mississippi State: The big men will get the attention for the Bulldogs, but don't overlook Dee Bost and Barry Stewart.
Xavier: The Musketeers are deep and talented on the perimeter. Indiana transfer Jordan Crawford is the headliner.