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Best Backcourts in the Country

December 7, 2001 Columns No Comments

Best in the Nation? I think not . . .

by Bill Thayer

All summer, we were bombarded with propaganda from other sites and preseason
magazines. I finally lost it. I couldn’t deal with reading one more story
about how good Chris Duhon had become. I didn’t want to hear any more
pro-Duke articles, especially about the backcourt. One website (not naming
names, but I’m looking in the direction of Bristol, CT) had the audacity to
call Williams and Duhon the best backcourt EVER.

To say Williams and Duhon were even in the top five backcourts of all time
is a major stretch. Honestly, I don’t think you can even say they are in
the top five backcourts currently playing.

Williams is an amazing talent. If my team is tied in the final moments of
the game, he is the player that I want to have the ball. However, Williams
is not a player who can dominate for 35 minutes every night. He’s not the
world-beater that some people play him up to be. He is not the best pure
talent in the nation (Kareem Rush), the best shooter in the nation (Casey
Jacobsen), or the best pure point guard in the nation (Jameer Nelson). He
is becoming a leader on the court, something I wasn’t sure I would ever say
from watching him last season.

Williams tends to drift in and out of games mentally. A player with as much
talent as he has should not spend so much time pouting on the court, looking
like a child who wants another cookie. When he needs to get the job done,
Williams steps up. When the first half is 12 minutes old and Duke is up
four, Williams does just enough to get by.

Duhon may be a good player eventually. For now, he’s a quick player without
a position. He’s not a good enough shooter to be considered a true two
guard, and with Williams running the show, he isn’t the point guard. Duhon
is a good defender and does fit in well on a team loaded with offensive
weapons. He’s not a bad player to have as your fourth option, but he hasn’t
developed into the type of player I would build a team around.

The Duke tandem is very good, but in terms of talent, I would take the St.
Joseph’s combo of Jameer Nelson and Marvin O’Connor over them. Nelson is
the best pure point in the nation. He’s a jet, maybe the quickest player in
terms of getting the ball from baseline to baseline. He makes his teammates
better with his ability to penatrate and dish.

O’Connor is the type of player who will burn you if you give him an inch of
space. His coming-out party in the NCAA Tournament (37 points against
Stanford) was just a glimpse of what he can do. A-10 followers will point to
a game against La Salle last season in which O’Connor lit the Explorers up
for 37 points, including an amazing 18 in the final minute, in a 91-90 loss.

The ACC has a backcourt that I would consider to be better than Duhon and
Williams. Maryland’s Steve Blake and Juan Dixon are a huge factor in the
Terrapins’ success. Dixon has the quickest hands in the nation and has
become the go-to guy in their offense. He hits plenty of big shots and is
surprisingly strong on the glass.

Blake’s ability to see the court on the fast break is a huge asset in Gary
Williams’ offense. Blake is strong on the defensive end, stepping up his
play when he has faced Jason Williams. In last year’s game in Cole Field
House, Blake forced ten Williams turnovers before fouling out. Blake can
hit the open jumper and isn’t afraid to take a big shot late in the game.

Surprisingly, the best backcourt based on early season results isn’t in
Philadelphia, College Park or Durham, it’s in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
Ryan Sidney has emerged as a star for the Boston College Eagles. With Troy
Bell returning from an early season injury, the Eagles have a one-two punch
that is among the best in the nation. Against Michigan this past weekend,
Sidney and Bell were both on fire, leading the Eagles to a win. An expected
slip may not be in store for the Eagles this season if Sidney can keep
defenses from double teaming Bell.

It’s amazing to think how quickly college basketball has turned into a guard
dominated game. There are plenty of other good backcourts out there that I
haven’t mentioned. As UCLA and North Carolina have proven this year,
success starts at the point, and as these teams have proven, greater success
can come with some help at the two.


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