Point guard play typically determines how far a team can go in March. Without a true floor general, college teams often become stagnant on the offensive end and break down far too easily defensively. Here is a look at the top-five point guards in college basketball for the 2013-14 season.
Marcus Smart, sophomore, Oklahoma State
Smart could've turned pro after his freshman campaign and would've likely been a top-three pick. He surprisingly elected to return to Stillwater, giving the Cowboys the top floor general in the country next year.
At 6'4 with a 6'10 wingspan, Smart has the size to be a matchup nightmare for opponents. He led Oklahoma St. in scoring (15.4 points per game), assists (4.2 per game) and was second in rebounding, bringing down nearly six boards each night. He also ranked as one of the top defensive guards in the nation, averaging three steals per contest.
Smart's return makes the Cowboys a top-15 team, and they will be the biggest threat to dethrone Kansas atop the Big 12. He's already announced his intentions to turn pro after this season, which puts even more pressure on OSU to make way while the sun is shining and make a deep run into March.
Aaron Craft, senior, Ohio State
Craft will never be a guy who stuffs a stat sheet with a ton of points. That's not his game. He is, however, arguably the winningest point guard remaining in college basketball and a lockdown defender.
After reports surfaced that he held his own against Kyrie Irving in Team USA workouts, folks began to wonder just how good he is on the defensive end. In what should be a loaded Big Ten conference once again, the Buckeyes will turn to Craft to be their leader and floor general once again.
He averaged 10 points, 4.6 assists and 3.6 rebounds a game last season. Ohio St. will lose quite a bit from last year's Elite 8 team, meaning Craft will have to take on a larger role. Look for him to wrap up his senior campaign in a big way as the Buckeyes challenge for another Final Four bid.
Shabazz Napier, senior, Connecticut
Napier flew under the radar last year as UConn faced NCAA sanctions, but he put together as impressive a season as any point guard in the country. He averaged 17.1 points, 4.6 assists and 4.4 rebounds, shooting 40 percent from behind the arc and 44 percent overall.
If the Huskies are going to contend for the new Big East title, Napier will need to take yet another step forward. While his scoring output increased last year, his assists-to-turnover ratio took a turn for the worse and his intensity on the defensive end was up for much debate. Along with fellow undersized guard Ryan Boatright, UConn's backcourt will be in good hands this season with Napier running the show.
Jahii Carson, sophomore, Arizona State
Carson didn't earn a ton of national publicity last year while playing for a pretty average Sun Devils squad, but it was no fault of his own. The lightning-quick freshman averaged 18.5 points and 5.1 assists per night, leading ASU to the NIT. He was once even considered as a darkhorse to take home Pac-12 Player of the Year honors before the team started to struggle late in the year.
Carson is best in the open floor and loves to push the tempo. He did play too fast at times last season and will need to cut down on his turnovers (3.5 per game), though there's no denying he's one of the more exciting players in today's game. If he has another big year, the Sun Devils could compete for an NCAA Tournament bid.
Yogi Ferrell, sophomore, Indiana
Ferrell was often overlooked in Bloomington last season as Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo stole most of the headlines. That didn't stop him from really developing throughout the year, averaging 7.6 points and 4.1 assists a night.
With Zeller, Oladipo and a good majority of Indiana's Sweet 16 team now gone, coach Tom Crean will look to Ferrell to take the next step in his development as a player. He did not shoot the ball particularly well last year, hitting just 40 percent of his shot attempts while making 30 percent of his threes.
Reports are that Ferrell has spent the summer living in the gym, adding strength to his frame while working on his offensive game. If the Hoosiers are going to really compete in the Big Ten, they'll need a big year out of their young floor general.