Winning comes down to points -- point guards, that is.
Any college program worth its salt needs a quality point guard who can run the show, lead a team in transition and be a factor on both ends of the court. Shabazz Napier filled that role for UConn on the Huskies' trip to the national title this past year. Scottie Wilbekin was Florida's rudder during the season, just as Marcus Smart was for Oklahoma State, Tyler Ennis was for Syracuse and Zach LaVine was for UCLA. Same goes for Xavier's Semaj Christon, Arizona's Nick Johnson and San Diego State's Xavier Thames.
Of course, as always happens, the NBA will be strip-mining the underclassmen among the top point guards in the country from last season, and those pesky eligibility rules force the seniors to walk away from the college game. Still, college basketball is packed with quality point guards who will turn heads, make fans say "Wow!" and leave opponents shaking their heads.
Here is our countdown of the top five point guards in college basketball for the 2014-15 season.
5. Naadir Tharpe, 5-11, 170, Kansas
Tharpe figures to be a senior leader for the Jayhawks as long as his off-the-court decision-making manages to reach the standards of his work on the hardwood. His punishment for a leaked lewd photo just after the season ended remains to be seen, but when it comes to Tharpe between the lines, he's fantastic. He averaged 8.5 points and 5.0 assists last season, and he shot better than 43 percent from the field. His shooting has improved every season in Lawrence, and his assist numbers have grown as well. Sure, it helps to have Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins on the court, but they will be replaced with incoming freshmen Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre next year, which should help everyone thrive.
4. Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell, 5-11, 178, Indiana
Ferrell enjoyed a breakout year for the Hoosiers and served as their go-to guy when the shot clock was winding down. He's a quality passer who also improved his outside shot from his freshman to sophomore seasons, and he should continue to develop his offensive game. Ferrell can force things at times and has to get out of the habit of going airborne without a plan for the ball, but he's the type of guard who can create his own offense at any time and is fearless going to the rim. Simply playing under control and showing better decision-making skills on the court will allow him to take a huge step. Ferrell's quickness on both ends of the court make him a tough matchup, and he will have an opportunity to be the best point guard in the Big Ten next season.
3. Marcus Paige, 6-1, 175, North Carolina
Paige took a huge step forward offensively last season, averaging 17.5 points and becoming a must-watch player in the second half of games. The biggest difference between First-Half Marcus and Second-Half Marcus was intent. Paige allowed the game to come to him during the first 20 minutes of games, serving as a distributor while only occasionally probing for his own shot. After the break, Paige was far more assertive, and that opened the floor for his teammates. What Paige and the Tar Heels need more than anything is balance. Paige can't constrain himself early in games, and his late-game strategy can't be to simply attack at every opportunity. Paige is a fantastic passer who continues to improve as a shooter, and he's a solid defender. Just finding consistency from possession-to-possession will be critical to his next stage of development because the kid has all the skills he needs to be special.
2. Juwan Staten, 6-1, 190, West Virginia
Staten toyed with heading to the draft, but he's sticking around WVU for another season to give Bob Huggins both a fantastic passer and his top scorer from last year. Staten averaged 18.1 points and 5.8 rebounds a game, and he added 5.6 boards. Staten blossomed with increased playing time last season, and he became a wicked slasher who used the threat of his outside jumper to set up drives to the bucket. But here's the thing. Staten isn't much of a perimeter guy -- he took just 15 threes all year -- but the simple threat kept opponents on their heels. His quickness sets him apart, and if his past development is any indication, he should make a huge splash next season.
1. Fred VanVleet, 5-11, 194, Wichita State
Everyone though Ron Baker would be the Shockers' top ball handler last season, but that was before VanVleet burst on the scene. He moved into the starting lineup last year and wowed everyone with his inside-outside game that allowed him to get to the line, but he also showed great vision on the court and posted a better than 4-to-1 assists-to-turnover ratio last year. VanVleet needs to be more aggressive and look for his own shot a bit more to take the next step, but his ability as a leader and in distributing the ball make him the steering wheel for WSU's attack.