Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The point guard position is comparable to the quarterback in football in terms of overall importance and ability to affect a game.
With Kendall Marshall and Damien Lillard moving on, the 2012-13 Bob Cousy Award, which goes to the nation's top point guard, is up for grabs. The following is an early list of the top contenders:
NATE WOLTERS - This senior-to-be came up just short of leading the South Dakota State Jackrabbits to a first-round upset of the heavily favored Baylor Bears in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, but he definitely showed he is a player to keep on your watch list. Wolters led SDSU with 21.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game, and earned the Summit League Championship MVP honors as a junior. The 6-3 point guard was the only player in the NCAA to average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game in 2011-12, and he will be aiming to do even more in his final year of collegiate eligibility. His versatility makes him an outstanding leader on the court.
TREY BURKE - Michigan's point guard set a freshman record with 156 assists while guiding the Wolverines to their best Big Ten Conference record since 1993-94. Burke was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and to the All-Big Ten Second Team after he led the team in scoring with 14.8 ppg. Burke's ability to score paired with his superior court vision makes him nearly unstoppable. Head coach John Beilein was very busy in the off-season, doing his best to surround Burke with even more weapons, which should only benefit him, and the team, moving forward.
RAY MCCALLUM - The two-time All-Horizon League honoree has thrived while playing for his father at Detroit. McCallum led the Titans to the NCAA Tournament with four wins in a row in the HL Tournament. The former McDonald's All-American finished second in the conference in scoring (15.4 ppg) and third in assists (4.0 apg). He is attending Chris Paul's CP3 Elite Guard Camp this summer to hone his skills even further as he prepares to lead Detroit back to the Big Dance.
ISAIAH CANAAN - Murray State's amazing start to the 2011-12 campaign, which yielded a school and conference record 23 straight wins, was due in large part to the play of its stellar point guard. Canaan made his mark early on with a 36-point performance in the Great Alaska Shootout championship game. The junior guard earned the Ohio Valley Conference's Male Athlete of the Year Award after he finished 24th in the NCAA in scoring with 19.0 ppg. The Racers made history last season and expectations are going to be higher than ever with Canaan running the show one more time.
MATTHEW DELLAVEDOVA - Saint Mary's basketball has entered a golden age with Dellavedova leading the way. The Australian point guard came up just short of winning the Bob Cousy Award last season, but was named the West Coast Conference Player of the Year and WCC Tournament MVP after leading the Gaels to regular season and conference tourney titles. Dellavedova led SMC with 15.4 points and the WCC with 6.4 assists per game as a junior in 2011-12. He will be competing for his home country in the 2012 Summer Olympics, which could elevate his game to an even higher level.
D.J. COOPER - Ohio University took a hit when head coach John Groce elected to leave to take over at Illinois after an exciting Sweet 16 run, its first since 1964. However, Bobcat fans have to be excited about another year with Cooper running the show, at least on the floor. The sensational guard led his team in points, assists and steals, and had two great games to push OU past Michigan and USF in the NCAA Tournament. Cooper's junior season ended on a low note as he was completely shut down by North Carolina in the Sweet 16. He is not going to sneak up on anybody this season, but his talent and leadership may have the town of Athens suffering from March Madness once again in 2013.
ANTHONY COLLINS - South Florida was the surprise team of the Big East in 2011-12 due to its emphasis on defense, a great rebounding front line, and its freshman point guard -- Anthony Collins. The rookie floor general became the Bulls' leader down the stretch by scoring in double figures in 10 of the final 11 games. Collins led all freshmen in the league with 5.2 assists per game and seemed to gain momentum after each game. When he began to take better care of the ball and fearlessly drive to the basket, USF began to win. The Bulls expect big things out of Collins as they try to take the next step as a program.
PIERRE JACKSON - Baylor's program has risen to new heights under head coach Scott Drew. Although the Bears had multiple forwards with NBA potential on their roster in 2011-12, Jackson was the little engine that made the team go during the course of its Elite Eight run. BU's point guard averaged 13.3 points and 5.8 assists per game in his first season at the Division I level. Jackson was the MVP of the junior college national title game in the 2010-11, and made the transition to the elite level look easy. His rare combination of speed, court awareness, and shooting ability makes him a nightmare to defend. Jackson will be leaned on more heavily following the departures of Perry Jones III, Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller.
SHABAZZ NAPIER - UConn will not be playing in the postseason in 2013, but that does not mean the Huskies will not be worth the price of admission. Napier is one of the most polished point guards in the nation and will keep Connecticut winning games during the regular season. Napier stepped up when it mattered most last season, posting averages of 15.3 points and 5.0 assists per game in the Big East Conference Tournament before a game-high 22 points and six assists in his team's second-round loss to Iowa State in the NCAA Tournament. The departures of Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond will give Napier a chance to show what he can do as the undisputed go-to guy in the UConn offense next season.
LORENZO BROWN - The 2011-12 Cousy Award winner, Kendall Marshall, came out of the ACC. Now it's Brown's turn to shine, and he made a big leap from a young contributor to an all-around great game manager last season while playing an expanded role for NC State. At 6-5, he is able to see the floor very well which explains his 6.3 apg average, which was second-best in the ACC behind Marshall. Brown is a playmaker on both ends of the court, logging averages of 12.3 points per game and a league-leading 1.8 steals per contest as well. The Wolfpack program as a whole is on the rise, and Brown will be the captain of the ship.
HONORABLE MENTION: Aaron Craft (Ohio State), Peyton Siva (Louisville), Dave Sobolewski (Northwestern), Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga), Deonte Burton (Nevada), Frantz Massenat (Drexel), Justin Cobbs (California), Phil Pressey (Missouri), Christopher Anderson (San Diego), Anthony Ireland (Loyola Marymount), Joe Jackson (Memphis)