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November 1, 2010

Preseason Power Rankings: Point guard

Although a heralded freshman class has garnered much of the attention leading up to the season, a look at the nation's top point guards reveals senior leadership still means plenty.

Freshmen do fill three of the top seven point guard slots in the preseason Rivals.com Power Rankings, which measure the nation's top performers at each position. But seniors are in the top three spots.

The senior emphasis becomes more apparent further down the list. Fourteen of our top 25 point guards are heading into their senior seasons.

Deciding on the nation's top point guard was easy. We already had narrowed our choices to Kansas State's Jacob Pullen and BYU's Jimmer Fredette, two high scorers who also can set up their teammates.

It just so happens that Pullen and Fredette faced off in the second round of last season's NCAA tournament. Pullen scored 34 points and shot 8-of-15 in Kansas State's 84-72 victory, while Fredette mustered 21 points and shot 5-of-13. That gave the edge to Pullen, who will move from shooting guard to point guard this season as the Wildcats attempt to replace Denis Clemente.

One big name is missing from our preseason list. Kansas freshman Josh Selby was the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2010 recruiting class and certainly would have cracked the top five of our preseason point guard rankings, but we chose not to include him until the NCAA makes a ruling on his eligibility.

Here are the top 25 point guards entering the season.

1. Jacob Pullen (6-0/200, Sr.), Kansas State: Pullen moves from shooting guard to point guard after averaging 19.3 points, 3.4 assists, 2.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals last season. He scored 34 points against BYU and 28 against Xavier in back-to-back NCAA tournament games.

2. Jimmer Fredette (6-2/195, Sr.), BYU: Fredette, a two-time first-team All-Mountain West selection, led the conference in scoring at 22.1 points per game and also averaged 4.7 assists per game last season. He's a threat to lead the nation in scoring this season.

3. Malcolm Delaney (6-3/190, Sr.), Virginia Tech: Delaney led the ACC in scoring at 20.2 points per game and ranked sixth in the league at 4.5 assists per game last season as a unanimous first-team all-conference selection. He scored at least 20 points in 19 games.

4. Kyrie Irving (6-2/180, Fr.), Duke: The No. 4 prospect in the 2010 recruiting class has the type of game that has drawn comparisons to 2002 Naismith and Wooden Award winner Jason Williams, who also made the move from a New Jersey high school to Duke.

5. Kalin Lucas (6-1/195, Sr.), Michigan State: The former Big Ten player of the year would rank even higher on this list if we knew how well he would bounce back from a torn Achilles' tendon. He still was named the Big Ten preseason player of the year.

6. Brandon Knight (6-3/185, Fr.), Kentucky: The second-leading scorer in Florida high school basketball history will try to continue John Calipari's tradition of producing outstanding freshman point guards.

7. Cory Joseph (6-3/185, Fr.), Texas: Joseph starred the past two years at Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep, one of the nation's top high school programs. He won the 3-point shooting contest at the McDonald's All-American Game.

8. Shelvin Mack (6-3/215, Jr.), Butler: This third-year starter ranked second on his team in scoring (14.1) and assists (3.0) and averaged 1.9 3-pointers per game while helping Butler reach the NCAA tournament final last season.

9. Ashton Gibbs (6-2/190, Jr.), Pittsburgh: Gibbs averaged 15.7 points per game while demonstrating a knack for hitting clutch shots at the buzzer and for making nearly all his attempts from the free-throw line as the Big East's most improved player last season.

10. Kemba Walker (6-1/172, Jr.), Connecticut: Walker averaged 14.6 points, 5.1 assists and 2.1 steals last season. The Huskies are relying heavily on Walker this season, as he's one of the lone experienced performers on a team that must replace Jerome Dyson and Stanley Robinson.

11. Demetri McCamey (6-3/200, Sr.), Illinois: McCamey ranked second in the nation with a school-record 7.1 assists per game last season, and he also ranked 10th in the Big Ten in scoring (15.1) and eighth in steals (1.5).

12. Talor Battle (6-0/170, Sr.), Penn State: Battle heads into his senior year just 612 points away from the 55-year-old school scoring record held by Jesse Arnelle. He's also 25 rebounds away from becoming the first Penn State player ever with 1,000 career points, 500 rebounds and 400 assists.

13. Chris Wright (6-1/209, Sr.), Georgetown: Wright averaged 15.2 points and a team-high 4.1 assists per game last season. He should team with backcourt mate Austin Freeman to help Georgetown become a more perimeter-oriented team this season.

14. Corey Fisher (6-1/200, Sr.), Villanova: Fisher averaged 13.3 points and a team-high 3.9 assists last season, but his numbers should go up quite a bit this season as the Wildcats replace Scottie Reynolds. He showed his scoring ability in August by pouring in 105 points in a New York City summer league game.

15. Kevin Anderson (6-0/175, Sr.), Richmond: Anderson scored 16.6 points per game two years ago and followed that up by averaging 17.8 points last season. He was named the Atlantic 10 player of the year last season.

16. Chris Warren (5-10/168, Sr.), Ole Miss: Warren made an SEC-leading 113 3-pointers last season to break his own single-season school record. He also ranked third in the SEC in scoring (17.2) and seventh in assists (3.5).

17. Isaiah Thomas (5-9/185, Jr.), Washington: Thomas already has scored 1,134 points, more than any other Washington player in his first two seasons. He earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors last season and was named the most outstanding player of the conference tournament.

18. Tu Holloway (6-0/185, Jr.), Xavier: He showed his ability to deliver in big games last season by scoring 26 points in a win over crosstown rival Cincinnati and matching that total in a West Regional semifinal loss to Kansas State.

19. Randy Culpepper (6-0/165, Sr.), UTEP: Culpepper averaged 17.9 points, 1.8 steals and 1.9 assists last season, when he was the Conference USA player of the year. He already owns a school record with 252 career 3-pointers.

20. Scoop Jardine (6-2/190, Jr.), Syracuse: Jardine averaged 9.1 points and 4.3 assists while providing a spark off the bench last season. Those numbers should go up this season as Jardine moves into the starting lineup.

21. John Roberson (5-11/168, Sr.), Texas Tech: This durable fourth-year starter averaged nearly 36 minutes last season and played at least 40 minutes in eight games. He averaged 14.5 points and 5.4 assists.

22. Juan Fernandez (6-4/180, Jr.), Temple: Fernandez led the Atlantic 10 in 3-point percentage (.453) and averaged 12.6 and a team-high 3.6 assists last season. He was named the most outstanding player of the Atlantic 10 tournament.

23. Dairese Gary (6-1/205, Sr.), New Mexico: This fourth-year starter earned first-team All-Mountain West honors and also made the conference's all-defensive team last season. He averaged 13.3 points and 3.9 assists last season, and he played his best basketball in February and March.

24. Michael Thompson (5-10/190, Sr.), Northwestern: Thompson played 37.7 minutes per game last season to rank fourth in the nation. Thompson ranked second in the Big Ten in assist-turnover ratio (2.40-1) and 3-pointers per game (2.6), and he was fourth in the league in assists (4.1).

25. D.J. Cooper (5-11/165, Soph.), Ohio: Cooper broke his school's single-season records for steals (93) and assists (218) as a freshman. He really made a name for himself in March, as he averaged 19.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.5 steals in two NCAA tournament games.

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.

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