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March Madness: 6 backcourts worth watching in 2023 Men's NCAA Tourney


Anyone trying to fill out their NCAA Tournament brackets oughtto start by figuring out which teams have the best backcourts.

This has been a guard’s event for years.

When Kansas’ Ochai Agbaji helped the Jayhawks win the nationaltitle last season, he became the ninth straight guard to beselected as a Final Four’s most outstanding player. The liststarted with Duke’s Tyus Jones in 2015 and continued withVillanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono, North Carolina’s Joel Berry II,Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo, Virginia’s Kyle Guy and Baylor’sJared Butler.

Occasionally a big man can dominate the college basketballlandscape the way Anthony Davis did while leading Kentucky to the2012 title, but they’re the exceptions. The NCAA Tournamentgenerally is all about guard play.

Here’s a look at six backcourts that merit watching.

BAYLOR: L.J. Cryer, Adam Flagler and KeyonteGeorge.

Baylor won the NCAA Tournament two years ago behind itsoutstanding backcourt and will try to do it again with a differentset of guards. All three of them score at least 14.5 points pergame. Flagler was one of five finalists for the Jerry West Awardgiven to the nation’s top shooting guard. He also earned APfirst-team all-Big 12 honors. George, the best pro prospect in thetrio, was a second-team all-Big 12 pick. Baylor ranks second inDivision I in adjusted offensive efficiency, a metric measured bycollege basketball stats guru Ken Pomeroy that essentiallytranslates to points scored per 100 possessions when adjusted forthe level of competition.

HOUSTON: Marcus Sasser and Jamal Shead.

Sasser is one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith Award givento the national player of the year He’s eager for this NCAATournament showcase after a foot injury ended his 2021-22 seasonafter just 12 games. He injured his groin in the American AthleticAssociation Tournament and didn’t play in Sunday’s championshipgame, so it remains to be seen how close he is to full strength.Sasser has scored over 17 points per game each of the last twoseasons. Shead has nearly three times as many assists asturnovers.

KANSAS: Gradey Dick, Dajuan Harris and Kevin McCullarJr.

The defending national champions had to replace virtually theirentire nucleus from last year but still put together an outstandingbackcourt to complement forward Jalen Wilson, the AP Big 12 playerof the year. Dick, a freshman, is a Jerry West Award finalist,scoring nearly 15 points per game; he arguably is more a smallforward at 6-foot-8, but Kansas lists him as a guard. Dick andMcCullar both were AP second-team all-Big 12 selections. McCullar,a Texas Tech transfer, has scored in double figures three straightseasons and is pulling down over 7 rebounds per game. Harris isdishing out over 6 assists per game and ranks third among allDivision I players in assist-turnover ratio.

MARQUETTE: Kam Jones, Tyler Kolek and StevieMitchell.

Kolek, a Naismith Award semifinalist and the Big East player ofthe year, has 7.7 assists per game and has well over three times asmany assists as turnovers. He was named the Big East TournamentMVP. Jones, a second-team AP all-Big East selection, leadsMarquette in scoring and makes nearly three 3-pointers per game.Mitchell has over 7 points per game but is best known for hisdefense. This group helped Marquette win its first Big Eastoutright regular-season title and first Big East Tournamentchampionship.

MIAMI: Jordan Miller, Nijel Pack and IsaiahWong.

This trio helped Miami win a share of the Atlantic CoastConference regular-season title and earn the No. 1 seed in the ACCTournament for the first time since 2013. Wong is a Jerry WestAward finalist and AP first-team all-ACC pick. He was named ACCplayer of the year by a 75-member panel including coaches and mediarepresentatives. Wong, Miller and Pack are each scoring over 13points per game.

XAVIER: Souley Boum, Colby Jones and AdamKunkel.

This trio helped Xavier lead all Division I teams in assists pergame. Boum and Jones are each averaging over 4 assists per game,while Kunkel has 3 per game. They’re also scoring about a combined42 points per game. Boum, an AP first-team all-Big East selection,ranks second in the conference in scoring. Jones was an APsecond-team all-Big East pick.

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