SEC basketball yet again struggled in March, but this group of point guards are a good bet to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Ranking the starting point guards or any position, really, of a certain region or conference is just not an easy task. Any position lower than #4 on the list is seen as bulletin board material, but in reality, it’s not the case. Every player on this list is good, as to be a starting point guard for a Power 6 conference, you have to have a certain level of skill.
The rankings obviously will change throughout the season, and it’s a surefire bet that not every name on the list will even be the starting point guard on their team by the end of the year. As with all preseason lists, this one comes with a disclaimer. Just because a player is in the bottom half of the list doesn’t mean he’s a bad player or a bottom-half talent. It could be for a myriad of reasons, including injury concerns, lack of playing time, or just not a great fit in their coach’s offensive scheme.
There are no definite tiers of players or a rigid stratification of each individual ranking, but there is enough to separate each likely starting point guard into a slot, and that’s what today’s ranking entails.
14. Austin Nunez, Ole Miss Rebels
Someone had to be 14th. In Nunez’s case, the Arizona State transfer is just one of a couple of point guard options Ole Miss has to pick from. They have a fantastic guard in Matthew Murrell, but he’s not a true point guard, but rather just a really good shooting guard. Brandon Murray, also more of a shooting guard, might not be eligible to play this year due to the need of a transfer waiver. (He’s on route to play for three schools in three years.) Jaylen Murray could spend some time at point, but SEC basketball is a big change in scenery for the former Saint Peter’s guard. Amaree Abram likely would’ve had the green light at some point to start the season, but he transferred away after Kermit Davis was fired and Chris Beard was brought in.
For Nunez himself, he’ll likely be given the chance to grasp the point guard reins, and he does have the potential to hold it down long-term. 247Sports’ No. 71 prospect in the class of 2022, the 6-2 guard averaged just 4.5 PPG and 0.9 APG in 16.3 MPG with the Sun Devils. In a relatively small sample size, he shot 37.7% from deep and 81.8% from the line. Lining up behind Frankie Collins and DJ Horne, Nunez couldn’t carve out a significant role in Tempe as a freshman, but he’ll likely see an expanded role in Oxford this year. The offensive burden will fall on Matthew Murrell and (possibly) Brandon Murray, so Nunez will likely have to settle for being a distributor and part-time spot-up shooter.
He flashed potential, scoring 15 against Michigan and recording double-figures against VCU, Creighton, and UCLA. However, he also had spells of not being able to keep the ball safe, committing a turnover in 24 of 28 games, as well as recording more turnovers than assists in almost half of his games. If Nunez wants to keep his tentative starting point guard role, he’ll have to take care of the ball and provide more spark than just being an outside shooter. He has potential but hasn’t realized most of it yet, and might be starting due to a lack of other options rather than just ability.
13. El Ellis, Arkansas Razorbacks
Normally, averaging 17.7 PPG for a Power 6 program would slot a point guard in the upper tier of their conference’s position rankings. When that Power 6 program is 4-28 Louisville, then the stats are to be taken with a few grains of salt. Ellis is one of many guards brought in this offseason to Fayetteville but might be the best true point guard brought in. Davo Davis returns but is a classic high-energy shooting guard. Khalif Battle from Temple is another great guard, but a much more natural fit at the shooting guard position.
Hometown recruit Layden Blocker will likely need some time to grasp the college game before receiving a larger role, but Tramon Mark has transferred in from Houston. If there’s a guard Eric Musselman will try and slide into the 1 spot when Ellis is out, it’s Mark. An absolute dog on the court, he may very well cut into Ellis’s minutes at the one, especially with the jam at shooting guard. If Mark wasn’t more of a shooting guard, he’d be on this list, and he’d be higher than Ellis.
Ellis, though, does have the potential to show up and grab the starting reins. After spending two years at JUCO in Tallahassee, he spent two years at Louisville, the second of which he broke out. Going for 17.7 PPG and 4.4 APG, the stats on paper favor a good season for Ellis. However, his outside shooting numbers weren’t great at just 31.9%. His scoring inside the arc was much better at 47.1%, and that’s where most of his points came from. That bodes well for Eric Musselman’s group this year, but there are two liabilities when it comes to Ellis, starting with defense.
Eliis is simply not a good defender. On a very bad team (4-28) he had the worst defensive box plus/minus at -2.5. He had 0.0 defensive win shares and a block percentage of 0.2%. Ellis’s defensive rating was an absurd 117.6, a number saved from being the worst on the team by the coach’s son, Zam. But ultimately, the biggest liability, especially from a point guard, is turnovers.
Turnovers can be good. Both the defensive variety and apple variety are widely appreciated. But they are a big no on the offensive side of the ball. A bigger no when, out of thousands of players, you rank 5th in the country in the number committed. That’s the predicament El Ellis found himself in at the end of last season, committing 120 turnovers, also good for tops in the ACC. As a point guard in the SEC, committing 3.8 TOVPG is unacceptable. Even last year’s turnover leader Anthony Black only averaged 3.0 per game. With a plethora of guards on the roster, Ellis will have to take care of the basketball early on this season, or he won’t be on this list at the end of the season.
12. Justin Hill, Georgia Bulldogs
Hill played his first year at Georgia this past season after spending two years with Longwood and saw backup point guard duties behind Terry Roberts. His efficiency ratings and statistics per 40 minutes roughly matched up evenly with Roberts’ numbers. That isn’t to suggest Hill is a carbon copy of Roberts. Hill is three inches shorter than Roberts and didn’t take nearly as many shots this past season. Roberts was also a formidable perimeter defender, and while Hill isn’t the worst on defense, it’s certainly something he can improve upon.
Hill may face competition for the starting point guard position, as Niagara transfer Noah Thomasson could play either guard spot well, and freshman Silas Demary Jr. will find himself rotational minutes, as he is too good for Mike White to keep off the court. Hill is the leading returning scorer from last year’s Bulldog squad, but given the portal additions of Thomasson, RJ Sunahara, RJ Melendez, VCU transfer Jalen DeLoach, and freshman recruits Mari Jordan, Dylan James, Blue Cain, and the aforementioned Demary Jr., he’s not likely to see a jump in PPG.
Hill is a capable floor general, similar to Jimmy Garoppolo or Andy Dalton on the gridiron. He’s not overly flashy but he’ll get the job done most of the time and can be reliably called on off the bench if need be. A very good shooter from the line, if Hill can consistently draw fouls he can certainly provide an expanded role compared to last year.
Ultimately, it may shape up to be a point guard by committee this season for the Bulldogs, as Mike White does like to have a balanced rotation. (7 of 12 players last season averaged between 18-23 MPG and every player played 10+ MPG.) Due to Hill’s veteran presence compared to the rest of the guard room’s unfamiliarity with White’s scheme, he’ll likely start the season as the Georgia Bulldogs’ point guard, and if he plays well enough, it could be his job for the entire season.
11. Zyon Pullin, Florida Gators
Pullin, a veteran guard who spent four years at UC Riverside, finally joins the high-major ranks. He averaged 12.0 PPG over his career with the Highlanders, including 18.0 PPG this past season. Lengthy for a PG at 6 -4, he’s elite at distributing, placing top 20 in the Big West in assists per game every season with UC Riverside. His 27.5% assist percentage placed 3rd in the conference last season, while his turnover percentage remained low at 12.9%.
However, it’s not just passing that Pullin excels at. A talented scorer, Pullin scores most of his points from within the arc, taking almost six times as many 2PA than 3PA this past season. His 176 makes from two-point territory this past season ranked 2nd in the conference, but it doesn’t mean he can’t make a three when he needs to. His career mark of 35.1% from behind the arc isn’t bad, and Todd Golden will need his guards to make the occasional three this year.
The addition of Walter Clayton Jr. and the return of Riley Kugel and Will Richard, along with the presence of sophomore guard Denzel Aberdeen may cut into Pullin’s minutes, and it’s likely a sure bet he won’t play 34 MPG again. But he is the team’s best bet at the starting point guard position as of right now, and the Gator rotation will likely show that.
Defensively, Pullin is above average but not particularly great. His defensive metrics have dropped each of the past two years after a stellar sophomore season guarding the perimeter. He’ll need to get back to that earlier level defensively, especially as his strength of schedule gets exponentially more difficult. Offensively, his past season was his best yet, which included games of 26, 27, 28, and 30 points against conference opponents. While Idaho isn’t at the same level of talent as Arkansas and Alabama, Pullin is still a safe bet to score 9-12 PPG this season for the Gators while sprinkling in around 3-4 APG.
10. DJ Wagner/Rob Dillingham, Kentucky Wildcats
The two five-star guards in Wagner and Dillingham are Coach Cal’s latest iteration of one-and-done point guards. Cason Wallace filled that role diligently last season, even if the team’s overall season was a bit of a disappointment. (Coach Cal to Texas rumors were floating around for about a week.) As opposed to other schools with a point guard committee, it appears Kentucky might actually give the two equal playing time at the 1 spot, so we’ve listed them as a duo.
Wagner was ranked as the No. 6 overall prospect according to 247Sports, and Dillingham was ranked at No. 21. They’re similar in size, but Wagner will have the edge in terms of adapting to the college game. Wagner at 6-3 is listed at 175 pounds, and Dillingham is listed at 6-2 but only 160.
Wagner has a great motor, and can score from both inside and outside, but will need work on his outside shot-making at the SEC level. Wagner has the maturity to be a lead guard at a Power 6 school already. While Dillingham will need to improve defensively, he’s a better passer than Wagner at this point in time. Both are talented scorers, but they probably won’t see the court much at the same time.
Somehow, due to Kentucky’s loaded class (although the overall 2023 class is a bit down compared to previous seasons), neither Wagner nor Dillingham will likely even be the best freshman on the Wildcats. That distinction will likely go to Justin Edwards at the wing spot. If Wagner and Dillingham can continue to improve with passing the ball, that connection of the three freshmen could be very strong on the offensive side.
Realistically, stars are nothing without stats, however, and it’ll take real game reps to properly evaluate the two freshmen guards. They probably won’t reach the same level that Cason Wallace was producing, and won’t be immediate game-changers at the college level, but it’s hard to imagine these two five-stars not fitting the Calipari point guard mold and succeeding to some degree.
9. Aden Holloway, Auburn Tigers
This is all presumptive, so Auburn fans please do not throw a fit over this. But despite all the hype surrounding the five-star guard, the hype has yet to play against SEC basketball defenses. That’s a sentence that could come back to haunt the author, especially if all of the War Eagle message board content is actually true. For what it’s worth, Holloway certainly has the potential to become recognized on the All-SEC freshman team at the end of the season. If the starting guard spot is a choice between K.D. Johnson and Aden Holloway, Holloway should be chosen 9 times out of 10. (The one outlier is the random game in which Johnson goes off for 20+ points, as he does once or twice a season.)
The reality is that SEC basketball has a deep group of point guards this year, and a player who has already familiarized himself with SEC defenses and has shown proven success will be ranked over a freshman who has yet to go up against Wade Taylor IV, Mark Sears or Ezra Manjon in an iso situation unless that freshman is Cason Wallace or Cam Thomas.
As a prospect, he’s an absolute shot-maker from the guard position, which Auburn has been in desperate need of over the past two seasons. Pairing Holloway in the backcourt with FIU transfer Denver Jones could wash away all of the previous problems Auburn has had with inconsistent guards. That’s the hope, at least. Auburn hasn’t had an outside threat like Holloway since Bryce Brown. A McDonald’s All-American, he’ll be Auburn’s first since Jabari Smith.
It’s impossible to overstate what a shooter like Holloway means to Bruce Pearl. That’s why it’s so important for this to work. As a passer, Holloway has room to improve, especially against SEC defenses. As competitive as EYBL games can get, they can’t prepare a player for a Mississippi State trap press or a perimeter defense like Missouri’s.
It’s worth questioning if Holloway is physically ready to make such a large impact. Listed at a generous 6-1, 178, (his 247Sports profile lists him at 6-0, 155) he could struggle against more physical guards as he adjusts to the college game. Nonetheless, if a player can create separation on the outside and make shots, it doesn’t matter how tall or big he is.
Ultimately, Holloway is a very good prospect and a possible one-and-done. But until he shows his abilities against college opponents, it’s tough to give the benefit of the doubt to a score-first freshman point guard.
8. Sean East II, Missouri Tigers
East is crucial to the Tigers’ fortunes this season. There is sometimes a certain thought process about basketball players, one that states the absence of great qualities directly corresponds with a lower-level of player. Sean East II is everything that proves that statement false. East’s greatest strength is that he does everything well enough. Nothing spectacular, nothing popping off the screen during post-game film rewatches. Just hooping. Nothing wrong with that.
East won’t have full control of the point guard position, as he’ll likely split time with Nick Honor, another pure hooper. Honor played against Zion Williamson in the AAU ranks, (he’s on the older side) and last season he hit a game-winning, stepback, contested three-pointer while Missouri was down just one point in overtime. But enough of Honor, as much as we love him. East is worthy of his own praise.
No tournament team is complete without their glue guy. With Missouri last season, the team formed a group cohesive substance together rather than there being a solidified individual glue stick on the court, but if someone was forced to name a singular Elmer’s glue product on Missouri’s roster, Sean East II is the answer. He holds the backcourt together by doing exactly what is expected of him every time he steps on the court.
Fourth on the team in minutes despite starting just one game, East is the returning leader in defensive win shares and assist percentage, and he doesn’t commit a ton of turnovers or fouls often. (He’s only fouled out once in his career, and it was before the COVID-19 pandemic even started.) Last year against Southeast Missouri State, East recorded 21 points, 6 assists, 4 steals, and 4 rebounds while shooting 8-12 from the field. The ultimate hooper box score.
A career 81.2% shooter from the line, East is dependable in the clutch and perfect fit for coach Dennis Gates and the Missouri basketball program. As the roster undergoes turnover, as transfers and freshmen enter the program, East is staying in the Midwest to make sure the program doesn’t go south. With him and Nick Honor manning the backcourt, the Tigers look like they’re here to stay.
7. Dashawn Davis, Mississippi State Bulldogs
Defense matters. It’s 50% of the game of basketball. That’s the modus operandi in Starkville, and Davis embodies that. Transferring from Oregon State last season, Davis started in 29 of 31 games played and proceeded to place top 10 in the conference in both steal percentage and assist percentage. Davis also placed 15th in SEC basketball in defensive box plus/minus, despite being 4th in that stat category on the team. (Which speaks to the level of how good the Bulldog defense was.)
On the offensive side, he wasn’t the best shooter from distance at just 33.9%, but somehow that was good enough to rank 1st on the team. (No other player on the team averaging more than 10 MPG shot better than 28%.) His inside-the-arc shooting also fell from 51.6% in 2021 to just 41.7% last season, almost a drop of 10 percentage points. Davis’s free throw shooting success rate went up from 65.5% at Oregon State to 76.5% last year, but it didn’t seem to make its way into other aspects of shooting in-game.
Distributing the ball, however, was a different story. Despite the overall anemic offense as a team, Davis managed 3.5 APG for the Bulldogs to just 1.8 TOVPG. A very talented distributor, Davis recorded 8 assists against Florida in the SEC Tournament, while also six assists in one game five different times last season. The Bulldogs went 4-1 in those games, as well as beating Florida in the aforementioned contest.
When Davis has a great day on both ends, the team does well. When he recorded 8+ steals and assists in one game, Mississippi State went 4-0. Regardless of his scoring output or shooting, his defense and playmaking ability are top-tier in this conference. It’s possible to be a good point guard with shooting prowess and limited defense, but in order to be a great point guard, one must be able to pass the ball efficiently and guard it on the other end, qualities that Davis certainly has.
6. Ta’Lon Cooper, South Carolina Gamecocks
Perhaps the best distributor in the conference, Cooper placed 7th nationally among all players last season in APG with 6.3. The Minnesota Gopher transferred to his hometown state of South Carolina this offseason and brings a true veteran point guard to Lamont Paris’s second Gamecock squad.
South Carolina hasn’t had a playmaker in this mold since the golden age of Frank Martin. (2016-2017.) It’s possible Cooper hasn’t reached his ceiling yet, either, as he actually improved his stats moving up a level from Morehead State to Minnesota. Even though the Golden Gophers were one of the worst Power 6 teams last season, their strength of schedule in-conference makes Cooper’s per-game numbers even more impressive. He actually bumped his PPG rate up from 9.1 in non-conference to 10.3 PPG in-conference, while his APG stayed high at 5.7 per game against Big Ten opponents.
A taller guard at 6-4, Cooper was an iron man last season, playing the most minutes per game in the conference at 36.7, good for 17th nationally. Make no mistake, however, as his high assist numbers weren’t just due to volume. His 35.8% assist percentage ranked 3rd in the Big Ten and 12th nationally. A career 36.1% shooter from deep, Cooper can score inside at the basket or on the perimeter. Defensively, he averaged more BPG (0.9) than SPG (0.8) last season, which is almost unheard of for a guard.
Lamont Paris should be excited about this transfer portal pickup, and he’s filling a big need for the team. The Gamecocks should be competitive this season, and Cooper will be a big reason why. If there is an area where he needs to improve, however, it’s at the line. After shooting 79.5% on free throws as a freshman, his percentage has not reached 70% in a season since. South Carolina as a whole was horrific from the line last season, and Cooper will need to hit the practice gym to get that rate up.
Ultimately, however, this a clear upgrade for a point guard room that had natural shooting guard Meechie Johnson manning point most of last year. Getting Cooper onto the court means a more natural role for Johnson, possibly the Gamecocks’ best player, and a better-flowing offense.
5. Jalen Cook, LSU Tigers
Jalen Cook has already been to the Bayou, spending his freshman season at LSU under Will Wade. Seeing limited playing time in the odd, pandemic-affected 2020 season, he transferred to Tulane and Ron Hunter and immediately took off as one of the best players in the AAC, averaging 18.0 PPG his sophomore year and 19.9 PPG this past year with the Green Wave.
A two-time All-AAC first-team selection, Cook’s decision to move an hour down I-10 clearly paid dividends. Now on his way back up the interstate, he’ll reunite with one of his former teammates, Mwani Wilkinson, but a lot has changed over two years in Baton Rouge. Will Wade is gone, courtesy of the FBI, and Matt McMahon now holds the reins. This is actually one of the best scenarios for Cook, as McMahon oversaw the development of Cam Payne, Shaq Buchanan, and of course, Ja Morant while at Murray State.
If there is a concern about Cook’s game, it’s a decline in 3P% and defense. Cook had one of the bottom three defensive ratings on Tulane’s team last year and compiled a -0.3 defensive box/plus-minus. While some stats can be misleading, it’s typically not a good sign if any of them are in the negatives. His shooting behind the arc dropped from 39.1% as a sophomore to 34.5% this past year. The latest number isn’t even bad, it’s actually quite average, but it’s still somewhat of a sharp drop from a very good number the year before.
Ultimately, however, his offensive prowess is enough to offset any possible concerns regarding the drop in shooting or his defense. Now with a full year of roster management under his belt, McMahon has the surrounding talent to make Cook’s defensive shortcomings a non-issue, while allowing him to showcase his offensive talent. Cook will continuously find open Tigers while providing quite a few buckets himself. A statline around 13 PPG and 3 APG certainly isn’t out of the question, and if Cook can smooth out his issues defensively, the sky’s the limit for him. LSU is bound to finish better than 2-16 in conference games this year, and Cook is a big reason why.
4. Mark Sears, Alabama Crimson Tide
Mark Sears will have a different role this season compared to last, not as much on the court as in the locker room for the Tide. Sears will enter his second season with Alabama as one of the veteran returnees. Nate Oats brought in two transfer guards while Jahvon Quinerly, Jaden Bradley, and Nimari Burnett all transferred out. That means Sears is the only returning upperclassman guard, and if it wasn’t for Rylan Griffen, he’d be the only returning guard on the roster.
After spending two seasons at Ohio, he transferred to Alabama last year and immediately made an impact for one of the most talented teams in the nation, averaging 12.5 PPG and 2.6 APG while starting every game he played in. While his 3P% dropped from his move to the SEC, Sears actually had a more efficient inside-the-arc shooting performance than the previous year, making 49.6% of his twos. Still a very good outside shooter, his three-point numbers should improve this season as he enters year two in the SEC.
Statistically, Sears was not just one of the most valuable players on the Tide, but also in the conference. He placed top 20 in the conference in points, assists, steals, free throw percentage, three-pointers made, true shooting percentage, win shares, (both offensive and defensive), box plus/minus, offensive rating, defensive rating, and points produced. All across the board, Sears is a solid player. It’s instinctive to call him a glue guy, but he’s so much more. Without Sears, does Brandon Miller get drafted top three? It’s possible the answer is no.
In this era of portal power, roster turnover is much higher than previous years. That means a player like Sears can turn from newcomer to veteran leader over the course of one offseason. This year, transfer guards Aaron Estrada and Latrell Wrightsell Jr. find themselves in the same shoes Sears was in the previous year. While Sears is more than capable of scoring himself, look for his assist rate to jump compared to last season, especially without Miller in the lineup. He’ll remain in the top tier of SEC basketball point guards this year.
3. Ezra Manjon, Vanderbilt Commodores
Manjon is a veteran amongst a roster of underclassmen this year in Nashville. Vanderbilt saw some portal subtractions this offseason, including Jordan Wright, Myles Stute, and Trey Thomas. Liam Robbins ran out of eligibility, which leaves Tyrin Lawrence and Manjon as the only returning veterans. (Lawrence himself tried out the portal but eventually decided to stay.)
An excellent distributor of the ball and natural point guard, Manjon spent 3 years at UC-Davis before transferring to Vanderbilt this past year, where he proceeded to average 10.5 PPG and 3.8 APG, including this dime to Tyrin Lawrence to upset Tennessee. Entering his fifth year in college, there’s no reason to think this won’t be Manjon’s best year yet. He’s averaged 10+ PPG every year he’s played in college and has ranked top 12 in his respective conference in assists all four years as well.
Only 6-0 tall, Manjon has a shiftiness that allows him to drive and connect on midranges and inside. His 2P% actually increased from 46.3% at UC-Davis to 51.6% at Vanderbilt, despite the increase in opponent difficulty. He’s not the best shooter from outside, as his career mark sits at just 26.9%, but his ability to get open looks to his teammates outside the arc negates any possible questions about that part of his game.
His 27.6% assist percentage paced the ‘Dores this past season, and given that 12 of the 17 listed players on the roster are either sophomores or freshmen, Manjon’s veteran leadership will be invaluable to this young squad. Though proven and capable, Manjon’s job this season will be the hardest one yet after the losses of Robbins, Wright, and Stute. But if there is a guard that can navigate those turbulent waters, it’s Manjon.
2. Zakai Zeigler, Tennessee Volunteers
Had it not been for the injury suffered against Arkansas last February, Zeigler would be a spot higher on this list. Because of the nature of knee injuries, not just the physical toll but the mental aspect of returning to the court, it’s difficult to project how much of last year’s production will show up this year, if Zeigler is even at 100%.
When he’s at 100%, however, Zeigler may be the most talented pure point guard in the conference. Entering his third season in Knoxville, Zeigler led the SEC in assists per game last season with 5.4. His size (5-9, 160) only seems to benefit him on the court, as he plays his role precisely to its maximum ceiling. Able to see angles visible to no one else on the court, (the author is 5-9 as well and understands this ability) it often takes two defenders to contain Zeigler just for him to find the open man right under the bucket. When it comes to distributing the basketball and playmaking ability, Zeigler is the best in the conference.
His assist percentage of 22.8 in his freshman season was good enough for 13th in the conference, but he somehow managed to almost double that mark with an unbelievable 36.8% assist percentage this past year, best in the SEC and 9th in the NCAA.
He’s not just a one-dimensional play-creator, however. He averaged 8.8 PPG as a freshman for a very good Tennessee squad, then backed it up with 10.7 PPG in 30 games this season. His shooting numbers don’t jump off the page with a career 32.9 3P% and 43.7% mark from inside the arc, and that’s a place where he could improve this season. Ultimately, his main priority this offseason will have to be rehabbing the knee injury and getting ready to get back on the court healthy.
The best part of Zeigler’s game, believe it or not, might not have even been discussed yet. He could be the best on-off-ball defender in SEC basketball, and certainly is pound-for-pound. His 5.6 defensive box plus/minus didn’t just rank 2nd in the SEC this past season, it was 6th nationally, out of thousands of players. Only Dereck Lively, Jaylen Clark, Charles Bediako, Caleb McConnell, and Tamin Lipsey placed ahead of the 5’9 Zeigler.
In terms of defensive rating, Zeigler was tops in the conference, even above Bediako. Zeigler was top 10 nationally, again, out of thousands of players, in that stat category. Steals on the perimeter are a huge part of that, and his steal percentage of 4.1% ranked third in SEC basketball.
Overall, when healthy, Zeigler’s the best point guard in the conference. That’s what makes last February’s knee injury such a killer. Hopefully, he’s able to start the season uninjured and back to his ultra-productive self. If he is, it’s a huge boost to Rick Barnes’s squad in what could be a big year for the Vols.
1. Wade Taylor IV, Texas A&M Aggies
Wade Taylor IV is the best point guard in SEC basketball. That is by no means an indictment on any of the 13 point guards listed above, but rather a point to the skill and talent of Texas A&M’s leader. Taylor, entering his third season in College Station, (and possibly his last) could’ve won SEC Player of the Year had it not been for Brandon Miller.
Standing at just 6-0, his height is never a detriment on the court. He almost doubled his PPG output from his freshman year, improving from 8.2 PPG to 16.3 PPG over an increase from 17.5 MPG to 28.7 MPG. His jumps in stats weren’t just due to an increase in role, however. His efficiency improved across the board, shooting 39.6% from the field compared to 34.1% his freshman year, as well as shooting 35.6% from beyond the arc last season compared to an inefficient 27.8% mark as a freshman.
An expert at getting to the line, Taylor IV led the conference in free throws made while shooting it at an 87.8% clip and placed third in free throws attempted last season. He’s not just a free-throw merchant, though. Taylor IV ranked in the top five in the SEC in points, assists, steals, box plus/minus, points produced, win shares, and threes made. A jack of most trades, if Taylor was 6’6, he’d already be in the league. But he’ll likely be there after this season, anyway.
It’s easy to forget Taylor IV is only going into his junior year, but he still has loads of experience under his belt. In just two seasons, he’s played in 75 contests and collected 47 starts. His career assist percentage and steal percentage actually both rank in the top 20 in the conference since the 2009-10 season, out of thousands of players. And there won’t be any slowing down this year, either. Four of five starters from last year’s Texas A&M return, (including Taylor IV) and he’ll be running the offense again this year for what should be a top-15 team to start the 2023-24 season.
Wade Taylor IV is the best point guard in the SEC, and he’s running the best offense in the conference, too. That’s not just by coincidence. Wade Taylor IV is the best.