Top Returning ACC Guards: #2 – Tyrece Radford, Virginia Tech

It’s not often you see a guard lead his team in rebounding, but that’s exactly what Tyrece Radford did for the Virginia Tech Hokies. At 6’2, Radford is the third-shortest player on the roster, yet he collected 6.2 boards per game, to go with 10.2 points on 60% shooting. Radford did virtually all his damage inside the arc, leading to highly efficient outputs from the Louisiana product. That efficiency was the mark that caught our attention, and it landed Radford as the #2 guard on our top returning guards to watch in the ACC.

Radford didn’t get a lot of minutes at the start of the year, only playing 20+ minutes in three of the Hokies’ first six contests, but he averaged nine points and nine rebounds in those games on 70.6% shooting. As his opportunities to crash the basket and boards expanded, so did Radford’s production. In an early January ACC contest against NC State, Radford poured in 18 points and 9 rebounds, which he followed up with a 21 point, 13 rebound, and 4 steal effort at Wake Forest.

Teammate Lander Nolley did damage beyond the arc and combined with Radford to deliver a large portion of the Virginia Tech offense. When he got more than five shots a game ,Radford averaged over 13 points per game, and his consistency improved greatly throughout the year, averaging 14.6 points in his final ten regular season games, also improving his averages in rebounds (6.4), assists (2.6), and steals (1.3), becoming an impact player all over the court for the Hokies. Amidst his various contributions, he maintained his efficient shotmaking and took good care of the ball, turning the ball over less than once per contest. 

In the ACC, versatility and the ability to impact the game in different ways is critical and with just one year of collegiate basketball under his belt, the best is yet to come with Radford, who should be a dynamic player for the Hokies in 2020-21. 

Top Returning ACC Guards: #3 – Jose Alvorado, Georgia Tech

We are officially past the halfway point of our top returning ACC guards countdown, and slotting in at #3 is Jose Alvorado of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. A three-year starter out of Brooklyn, New York, Alvorado shot 45% from the field last season and bumped up his scoring average to 14.4 points per game, to go with a team-leading 4 assists per game, as well as 3.4 rebounds. Alvorado’s bread-and-butter is his defense, as he lead the ACC with 2.2 steals per game, racking up as many as nine in a single contest. His versatility and production on both ends of the court earned him the #3 spot in our countdown of top returning ACC Guards. 

Alvorado was not exactly on a tear out of the gate last season, but as the calendar flipped to 2020, and ACC play began in earnest, the junior guard turned up the heat. In the first game of the new year, Alvorado, after not scoring more than 14 points in any game to that point, poured in 25 against UNC, while dishing out seven assists for the road victory. 18 and 20-point efforts against Duke and Virginia soon followed, and Alvorado began to tear it up on the court. He posted his lone double-double of the year at #6 Louisville (13 points, 10 rebounds) and torched NC State for 26 points, 9 steals, and 8 boards. 

Georgia Tech spent most of the season wallowing in the bottom half of the ACC standings, but behind the consistent and dynamic play of Alvorado, the Yellow Jackets skyrocketed up the standings in the final weeks of the regular season. Entering that aforementioned NC State game, Alvorado and Co. sat at 3-6 in conference play, but they used that big win as a launch pad, winning 8 of their final 11 ACC contests, and six of their last seven. In that stretch, Alvorado averaged 19 points a game to spur the ‘Jackets, and he boasted a four-game streak of at least 3 steals in each contest, highlighted by a 7-steal effort against Miami. Georgia Tech finished 11-9 in ACC games, their first winning record in conference play since 2003-04. 

Alvorado is evidently an elite defensive contributor, but he brings a versatile set of tools to the offensive end of the court as well, as he can shoot the three decently (35% in that 11-game stretch, 33% on the year), and he’s deadly efficient when he gets inside the arc, making shots at a 53% clip. At the free throw line, Alvorado sinks 80% of his efforts, and he posted some clutch performances at the charity stripe, including a 13-15 outing against Wake Forest to seal a critical road conference victory. A defensive stud and steady offensive contributor, Alvorado could be the driving force behind a potential Georgia Tech run back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010.

Top Returning ACC Guards: #4 – Kihei Clark, Virginia

If you’re a real college basketball fan, you will know Kihei Clark from his insane game-saving, high-IQ play in the 2019 Elite Eight. Clark collected a long rebound and fired a half court dime to assist on a game-tying buzzer beater. Virginia went on to take down Purdue in overtime and win their first ever national championship two games later. But Clark was not a one-hit wonder, and he followed up a solid freshman campaign with a far better sophomore season, and he slots in at #4 in our top returning ACC guard countdown. 

The buzzer beater was great…but do you remember the pass

Clark ranked third in the ACC with 5.9 assists per game last season, and on a low-scoring Virginia squad, he was second on the team with 10.8 points per game. Another sneakily impressive statistic is his 4.2 rebounds per game. Not only is that mark quite solid for a guard, but Clark is 5’9, yet he still collects his lion’s share of boards. With UVA’s top scorer and top two rebounders graduating, Clark will be the key to the Cavaliers’ offense in 2020-21. 

Clark’s gritty style of play was on display from Game 1 this season, as in an ugly season-opening 48-34 win over Syracuse, Clark dropped ten points and grabbed 11 rebounds while playing the whole game. The California product was a consistent playmaker for Virginia all year, and he elevated his game in certain big situations, posting a 13 point, 8 rebound, 7 assist slash line in a road overtime win at Wake Forest, a team that slaughtered Duke. In a visit to #5 Louisville, Clark poured in 23 points on the Cardinals, to go with five rebounds and seven assists. When Virginia ended the abbreviated season on a 8-game winning streak, it coincided with Clark’s most consistent stretches of the season, as he averaged 12 points a game with efforts of 17, 17, and 18 points while continuing to be a defensive stalwart for the stingy Cavaliers. It’s hard to quantify the impact that Clark has on each basketball game, but his clutch factor is undeniable, and his numbers are quickly improving. If he makes similar strides in his junior season, Clark will be even better than this #4 ranking in this countdown. Watch out for Kihei Clark in 2020.

Top Returning ACC Guards: #5 – Prentiss Hubb, Notre Dame

There are few things scarier to an ACC basketball team than playing Notre Dame and seeing Prentiss Hubb make a couple of shots. Because when he’s hot, Hubb rarely misses, and he can change the complexion of a game in a hurry. Called “My Patrick Mahomes” by head coach Mike Brey, Hubb may not have been the highest scorer on the court, but he is a difference-maker for the Irish, and his presence in the backcourt will be relied on heavily with star forward John Mooney graduated. Kicking off our latest countdown, Hubb comes in at #5 of our top returning guards to watch in the ACC. 

Hubb has been a starter since stepping foot on campus, averaging over thirty minutes per game in each of his first two seasons, and his efficiency on offense took a step up last season, as he increased his scoring average by four points to 12.1 points per game, while distributing the ball well –  his 5.1 assists per contest ranked fifth in the conference. And whether it was at the charity stripe (71%), beyond the arc (34.4%) or from two-point range (45%), Hubb’s numbers increased across the board, and he showed flashes of his elite talent during red-hot in-game surges. 

Hubb made his presence known from the get-go of his sophomore season, dropping 22 points in a road season opener at UNC, shooting 5-9 from deep. Hubb was relatively quiet for most of the Irish’s non-conference slate, chipping in where necessary, but against a bevy of weak opponents, he didn’t need to do much for Notre Dame to emerge victorious. In a massive January contest against Syracuse, one of the many teams that clogged the middle of the ACC standings all season, Hubb poured in 22 more points and facilitated the offense, notching nine assists. He also posted huge performances against a top-ten Florida State team – twice scoring 24 points against the Seminoles. 

With John Mooney and fellow senior TJ Gibbs gone, Hubb is the top returning scorer for the Irish, so he will get plenty of chances to put up big numbers. One concern is whether Hubb can be a little less streaky  – he had a one month stretch where he shot just 25% from three-point range, but if he can play to his full potential for a majority of the season, Hubb will be a scary player to face in the ACC this coming season. 

Mid-Major Top Returning Guards: #1 – Terry Taylor, Austin Peay

If you were to gaze at the Austin Peay men’s basketball statistical leaders in major categories, you may think you were simply looking at the statistics for Terry Taylor. The rising senior led his squad in points, rebounds, steals, and blocks as well as field goal percentage among regulars. Taylor has dominated the Ohio Valley Conference for two years now, and when he announced his decision to return to Austin Peay for his senior season, the Governors must have breathed a sigh of relief. With the announcement of his return, Taylor became our #1 returning mid-major guard in the country, finishing off our countdown. Although Taylor played minutes at forward, he is listed by ESPN as a guard, and he’s one of the most versatile players in the country. 

Taylor has been a difference-maker since his debut collegiate campaign, and his production has only increased in the subsequent seasons, improving from 15.6 points and 8.6 rebounds as a freshman to 21.8 points and 11 rebounds last year, fuelling the Governors as they battled in a heated three-team race of the Ohio Valley Conference. And it wasn’t just the OVC falling victim to Taylor’s talent, as the mid-major star proved himself against a bevy of Power-5 squads. He dropped 18 points and 9 rebounds on Georgia and combined for 39 points and 12 boards against West Virginia and Arkansas before entering conference play. Once there, Taylor was nearly automatic, as he racked up double-doubles, earning 18 on the year, a mark which ranked 7th in the nation.

 Against conference-leading Belmont, Taylor posted an absurd 26-point, 23-rebound effort in a tough road loss, and when it came time for the postseason, Taylor didn’t slow down; in two conference tournament games, the Bowling Green, Kentucky product poured in 27 points in both contests, to go with a combined 22 rebounds. A 55% shooter, Taylor did a lot of his damage inside the arc, but if he unlocks his shot from beyond the arc, he boasts All-American talent and versatility. On the defensive side of things, Taylor led the Governors in both steals and blocks per game, making him an impact player on both ends of the court. 

Taylor’s tremendous versatility and production on both offense and defense for one of the best teams in the Ohio Valley Conference earned him the #1 ranking in our top returning mid-major guard countdown.

Mid-Major Top Returning Guards: #2 – Loren Cristian Jackson, Akron

We are into the stretch run of our top mid-major guard countdown, as we continue our rankings with our #2 guard in Akron’s Loren Cristian Jackson. Jackson was the key cog behind Akron’s MAC-winning season last year, leading the team in points per game, assists, and three-point percentage. Entering his senior year, the Chicago product looks primed to be one of the best guards both in the MAC and in the country. 

Jackson’s averages of 19.8 points and 4.5 assists, along with his 43% shooting from three-point range, all ranked in the top-four in the MAC in the 2019-2020 season. His averages have improved in each of his three collegiate seasons, and he was one of the most efficient players in the country by Player Efficiency Rating, and he did it all while being an absolute workhorse for the Zips, averaging almost 35 minutes per game. 

Not only did Jackson post some superb averages, but he flashed his ability to have some big-time games, both against MAC-competition and Power-5 squads. In a road game at West Virginia, Jackson dropped 16 points and 6 assists on the Mountaineers, followed by a premier performance at #2 Louisville, where the rising senior notched a 20 point, 6 assist, 6 rebound effort, as Akron nearly stunned the Cardinals. Jackson got stronger as the season wore on, averaging nearly 24 points per game in the Zips’ final eight contests, highlighted by three efforts of 30+ points. In three games against the next two best teams in the MAC – Buffalo and Bowling Green – Jackson poured in 35, 35, and 28 points, helping lead Akron to a regular season conference title. And Jackson isn’t a one-trick pony, shooting 50% from inside the arc and an astounding 88% from the free-throw line, closing out numerous wins for the Zips at the charity stripe. 

Jackson has been an absolute beast for Akron, and if college basketball returns in full force, look for him to be one of the best guards in the country and leading the Zips to their first NCAA Tournament since 2013.

Mid-Major Top Returning Guards: #3 – De’Torrion Ware

We’re heading into the weekend, and with that, we’re getting into the final stages of our top returning mid-major guards heading into the 2020-21 season, as today we feature our #3 guard in De’Torrion Ware of Jacksonville State. Ware largely functioned as the sixth man for the Gamecocks last season, averaging 20.8 minutes per game; however, despite the limited minutes, Ware was second on the team in both scoring (11.9 points per game) and rebounds (5.3). With leading scorer Jacara Cross graduated, Ware looks likely to see a significant uptick in his minutes and scoring opportunities, making him a dangerous player to watch, both in the Ohio Valley Conference, and in the nation as a whole. 

As mentioned before, Ware had limited opportunities to shine in his sophomore season, but when the Kentucky product had his chance, he thrived. In his lone game that he played over 30 minutes, Ware tortured conference-leading Belmont for 25 points and 14 rebounds, punctuating a three-game stretch in which Ware scored 73 points on 63% shooting. It was his best stretch of the season, but Ware proved to be a force when offered extended time on the court – he averaged 16 points per contest in which he played 25+ minutes. 

Ware has also proven to be more than competent against tougher competition outside the A-10 – in the early-season Emerald Coast Classic, Ware dropped 43 points and 23 rebounds against the tradition-laden VCU program, Purdue, and Chicago. His efficient performances came despite just 35% shooting from three on the season, but Ware flashed a much more potent deep shot throughout the year, delivering performances of 7-11, 5-8, and 5-9 during the year. As Ware evolves into a more consistent threat from beyond the arc and continues to crash the boards and get to the basket effectively, he will continue to grow into a truly dynamic threat for Jacksonville State, as the Gamecocks look to improve on their 7th-place finish in the OVC this past season.

MID-MAJOR TOP RETURNING GUARDS: #4 – Jhivvan Jackson, UTSA

We’re continuing our top mid-major guard countdown today, and slotting in at #4 is Jhivvan Jackson, of the University of Texas at San Antonio. A rising senior, Jackson has been one of the most prolific scorers in the country regardless of conference, and he has only improved his numbers in each of his three seasons thus far. After 18.4 points per game his freshman year, Jackson improved that mark to 22.4 in his sophomore season, before shooting up to 26.8 points per game, ranking second in the country in the 2019-2020 season. 

Jackson played for a UTSA team that mustered just a 7-11 record in Conference-USA play, leading the team in scoring while ranking second in rebounds (5.6 rpg) and assists (2.4 apg). He recorded five double-doubles last season, scoring 30+ points on 12 occasions with a season-high of 45. Jackson notched some impressive performances against Power-5 competitions, including UTSA’s season opener at a very solid Oklahoma squad, when he dropped 24 points and 13 rebounds on the Sooners. Against Oregon State, Jackson posted a 28 point, 5 rebound, and 5 assist stat line, entering C-USA play on a hot streak that he kept alive for the majority of UTSA’s conference slate. One of his most impressive performances of the season came in a big home game against Louisiana Tech, who finished the year 13-5 in C-USA play and was one of three 20-win teams in the conference. Jackson put up a monster performance, scoring 37 points led by his 8-15 shooting from 3-point range. He also brought down five rebounds and dished out six assists to lead the Roadrunners to an upset victory. In his three chances against the top three teams in the conference  – North Texas, Louisiana Tech, and Western Kentucky – Jackson averaged just under 34 points. 

The scariest thing about Jackson’s prolific output in his junior season is that he was somewhat inconsistent from beyond the arc. As shown in some of his biggest games, when he was hitting long-range shots at a high rate, the UTSA standout was an absolute game-changer and one of the most lethal shooters in the country. In twelve games that Jackson shot the 3 at a 40% clip or better, he averaged over 32 points per game, so if he irons out some of his accuracy issues, he could be one of the best scorers in recent NCAA history. Last season, Markus Howard led the country with 27.8 points per game, and nobody has eclipsed 30.1 for a season since 1997. If Jackson returns for his senior season locked in from distance, he might light up Conference USA and single-handedly push UTSA back towards the top of the conference. 

Ultimately, Jackson’s steady improvement of three collegiate seasons and his prolific scoring ability, even when shooting at less efficient clips, landed him at #4 on our countdown of the best mid-major guards in the country.

Mid-Major Top Returning Guards: #5 – Grayson Murphy, Belmont

Today, we’re starting our countdown of the top 5 mid-major guards returning to college basketball for the 2020-2021 season. Starting off the countdown at #5 is Grayson Murphy, entering his junior season for the Belmont Bruins. Murphy has been a consistent contributor for the Bruins over his first two collegiate campaigns, averaging a touch under 30 minutes per contest and shooting over 50% for his career. 

The biggest strengths that landed Murphy on our list is his efficiency – he was a top-100 player last year in efficiency rating and one of the top-ranking guards – and his versatility. Although he is just Belmont’s third-best returning scorer at 9.8 points per game, Murphy led the Bruins with 6.2 assists and 7.4 rebounds, the latter being a mark that ranked him around the best rebounding guards in the country. 

With three plus skills in his scoring, rebounding, and distribution, Murphy’s career has been marked by his consistency and ability to constantly impact games one way or the other. He posted five double-doubles last season, coming very close to a triple-double on several occasions. In an early January road contest at UT Martin, Murphy dropped 19 points on 80% shooting, dished out 12 assists, and collected eight rebounds, leading the Bruins to a key conference victory. 

Another one of the reasons I’m high on Murphy heading into the 2020-2021 season is he ended his sophomore campaign playing some of his best basketball of the season. Over the final month, including Belmont’s Ohio Valley Conference Championship run, he kept his rebounding and assist averages around the same, while improving his scoring total to nearly 12 points per contest. With Belmont returning most of their conference champion team, Murray figures to be a key contributor for the Bruins once again, and he may get a chance to display his versatile skill set in front of a national audience if Belmont can return to March Madness. 

Murray’s consistency, efficiency, and versatility on a highly successful Belmont squad are noteworthy, and it earned him a top-5 spot in our countdown of the best mid-major guards in the country.

Mid-Major Report: Top 5 Returning Forwards/Centers

Mid-majors are an integral part of college basketball, moreso than virtually any other sport. Responsible for magical Cinderella runs in March, stunning upsets, and – as shown by Monmouth – some of the best bench antics in the country, mid-major stars can either explode (like Obi Toppin), or run quietly under the radar, putting up big game after big game while the spotlight shines elsewhere. So, that led us to consider, who are the top returning mid-major players in the country. As we did yesterday in our Big 10 and ACC lists, this is covering Forwards/Centers, as we will rank returning guards in another article. Without further ado, here are the top five returning mid-major big-men. 

#5. Gaige Prim, Missouri State

Despite only playing a little over 21 minutes per game, Prim became a consistent scoring threat for Missouri State in his first season at the NCAA level. A JUCO product, Prim showed out early in some non-conference action, dropping 18 points on Miami, although some of his early-season results were inconsistent, as was his playing time. However, as the season wore on, Prim’s consistency improved greatly, as he finished his 2019-2020 campaign by scoring at least 10 points in their final 13 contests, and in 18 of their last 19. Prim dropped a season-high 23 points in two different games, including a 23 point, 12 rebound effort against Drake. In a critical late-season victory over Loyola-Chicago, who finished second in the Missouri Valley Conference, Prim showed out with 16 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks and a steal. Prim’s steady improvement as he got adjusted to the college game is a great sign for the Bears heading into next season, as he already is looking like one of the best post players in the MVC, and potentially one of the best post players in the country. 

#4. Ahsan Asadullah, Lipscomb

Playing 14 minutes a game his freshman year, Asadullah’s numbers were solid, if pretty modest. However, in his sophomore season, Asadullah became the primary post player for Lipscomb, and he became a monster in the paint for the Bisons. After averaging a little over 7 points and 4 rebounds per contest in his rookie year, Asadullah’s number skyrocketed to over 18 points and 10 rebounds per game, joining a short and exclusive list of players to average a double-double for the whole season. Asadullah scored more than 20 points on twelve different occasions, including a 40-point explosion against Florida Gulf Coast in the Atlantic-Sun quarterfinals. Asadullah didn’t back down from the spotlight, following his monster game against FGCU with a 27-point, 19-rebound onslaught, leading Lipscomb to a semifinal upset of North Florida. Although the Bisons ultimately fell short in the conference championship, it was hardly due to Asadullah, who dropped another 22 points and collected nine rebounds. Asadullah showed out all season, and he upped his game as the lights got brighter, so look for him to be one of the top big men at the mid-major level, and in the country, as Lipscomb looks to go dancing. 

#3. Douglas Wilson, South Dakota State

Another JUCO product, Wilson played his first collegiate season last year, although you would hardly know it from his numbers. Shooting 63% from the field, Wilson averaged 18.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, exceeding double digits in scoring in his final 19 games of the year, topping 30 points several times. He came out of the gate strong, posting 15 points against Power-5 programs USC, Nebraska, and #14 Arizona. In Summit League play, Wilson consistently put up huge numbers. The Jackrabbits were firmly entrenched in the top three in the Summit League, and facing fellow tournament favorites North Dakota State and South Dakota, Wilson scored 20 points in each contest, along with a 25-point, 10-rebund performance against Oral Roberts, the fourth-place team in the Summit League. With a bevy of strong performances already under his belt, it’s scary to think of what Wilson will be doing next year, having already played a full collegiate season. 

#2. Michael Hughes, Duquesne

In terms of experience, few can match Hughes on this list, as the Duquesne star has played three seasons, including over 24 minutes per game in his past two campaigns, shooting close to 60% in both his sophomore and junior years. Entering his final year, Hughes looks primed for an explosion in a very strong A-10, especially with Dayton stud Obi Toppin leaving the conference for the draft. Hughes’ battles against Toppin showcased some of his potential, as Hughes didn’t back down from one of the top players in the country, posting 29 points and 14 rebounds in two clashes with the Flyers. He posted a season-high of 23 points, and if Hughes can avoid the falls (7 foul-outs last season), I fully expect him to be one of the top mid-major players, and the best post player in the Atlantic-10. 

#1. Filip Petrusev, Gonzaga

Save your debates about whether Gonzaga should count as a mid-major for another day. They are not in a power-6 conference, so Petrusev qualifies for this set of rankings, the Serbia native was a relatively easy choice to claim the #1 spot. After being a role player in his freshman season, Petrusev began to truly showcase his abilities last season, averaging 17.5 points per game, paired with 7.9 rebounds. The Bulldogs traditionally load their non-conference schedule to make up for their lackluster West Coast Conference slate, so Petrusev got a chance to show out in some high-profile games, and he didn’t fail to rise to the occasion. In an overtime victory over #11 Oregon, Petrusev went off for 22 points and 15 rebounds, and in back-to-back contests against ranked Arizona and Washington squads, the Gonzaga star combined for 33 points and 17 rebounds. In the regular season finale and conference championship clashes with St. Mary’s, Petrusev posted 37 points and 20 rebounds, putting up elite numbers through the season’s end. Gonzaga figures to be a national title contender next season, and expect Petrusev to be a major factor in their championship chase.