By Matt Youmans
VSiN senior editor
When the pressure is cranked up in postseason tournaments, the importance of point guards is magnified. It’s wise to invest your money in the best ones, and Kansas senior Frank Mason III arguably leads the class in college basketball.
An experienced, talented point guard conducts an offensive orchestra. A team without a floor leader turns into a band of off-tune misfits.
“For years, the NBA was predicated on big men. The Golden State Warriors kind of changed that,” VSiN oddsmaker Vinny Magliulo said. “In college basketball, it’s all about the point guard because he’s got the ball in his hands the most and he’s the coach on the court.”
Mason has started all 103 of the Jayhawks’ games the past three seasons. He’s only 5-foot-11 in high heels, but he’s a big reason Kansas is 8-2 in games decided by five points or fewer this season.
Toughness in tight games is one of Mason’s most admirable qualities. He usually gets to the rim or makes the right play when it matters most. Mason is averaging 20.2 points and 4.9 assists while shooting 50.4 percent from 3-point range and 77 percent on free throws.
“I think Mason is probably the Player of the Year,” Magliulo said. “If I were to put up a futures book on the Wooden Award, he’s the one.”
Josh Jackson has been a freshman sensation, but Kansas’ 13th consecutive Big 12 regular-season championship is due mostly to Mason’s leadership.
“The best point guards and a couple of other factors bear watching in the tournament,” said Magliulo, referencing team defense, rebounding and making free throws. “Teams like Kansas have been in battles and close games all year, and that’s what makes them so dangerous.”
After more than two months without a close game, No. 1 Gonzaga (29-1) collapsed in the final two minutes of a 79-71 loss to Brigham Young on Saturday night. But the Bulldogs still boast one of the nation’s top point guards in Nigel Williams-Goss.
North Carolina’s Joel Berry II, UCLA’s Lonzo Ball and Villanova’s Jalen Brunson are obvious choices as bet-on floor leaders. Five other lesser-known point guards to watch when it’s money time in March:
Paris Lee, Illinois State; JeQuan Lewis, Virginia Commonwealth; Shake Milton, Southern Methodist; Emmett Naar, Saint Mary’s; Scoochie Smith, Dayton.
Yes or No?
South Point sports book director Chris Andrews posted Yes/No propositions on 17 teams to win the NCAA championship. The top eight contenders:
Arizona Yes plus-800/No minus-1,400
Duke Yes plus-700/No minus-1,100
Gonzaga Yes plus-550/No minus-800
Kansas Yes plus-600/No minus-900
Kentucky Yes plus-800/No minus-1,400
Louisville Yes plus-1,800/No minus-3,500
North Carolina Yes plus-1,000/No minus-2,000
UCLA Yes plus-650/No minus-1,000