I’ve spent the last week watching every Conference USA exhibition that was streamed online. In watching these games I noticed something that stuck out for the majority of the top tier Conference USA teams. They all feature strong point guard and shooting guard duos.

Of the 14 Conference USA men’s basketball teams, I’ve selected 10 that feature a pair of guards that in my opinion are extremely vital to the team’s success.

I’m going to use some statistics from last season, as well as some statistics from the exhibition games. Yes, I know statistics are likely inflated from the exhibitions given the opponents.

For some of these duos all I have to go by is their exhibition performances due to the players either not playing with their current team last season or receiving little to no playing time.


10.

I’m coming hot out of the gate with Quinton Campbell who is probably closer to a forward than a guard. It’s my article so I’ll make the rules.

The Golden Eagles escaped in double overtime Saturday against Mississippi College. Campbell led the way with 17 points in 45 minutes of action. The senior went 3-of-7 from behind the arc to help Southern Miss escape what would have been a terrible way to tip off the season. He’ll need to, and should have, big nights like this regularly for Coach Doc Sadler this year.

This is Khari Price’s team. He’ll need to lead the team in scoring as well as maintain his 4.5 assists per game from last season if they want to increase last seasons win total. The senior played just two minutes in their win Saturday night for reasons I’ve yet to find out. Assuming he’s *healthy, he and Campbell should be responsible in helping this team take another step forward in their rebuild.

*According to Southern Miss’ beat writer he is in fact injured. No word on the extent of the injury or any timetable.

9.

I wouldn’t have considered adding these two to the list before watching Old Dominion’s two exhibitions. Baker, while averaging 25 minutes per game last season was always second fiddle offensively to Trey Freeman and Aaron Bacote. B.J. set out last season after transferring from Virginia.

In exhibition one, Baker played 24 minutes while knocking down two 3-pointers. This is a big deal. Even with Freeman and Bacote last season the Monarchs were never a threat from behind the arc.

In exhibition two, Baker showed that maybe his perimeter shot is to be respected hitting 3-of-5. The senior also dished out four assists which is a unique skill set for a guard who plays as a forward at times.

Put Brandan Stith’s fearless and strong mindset in a guards body and you have B.J. At 6-foot-5 he’s a match-up nightmare and his basketball IQ is off the charts. For the UAB fan’s, imagine a stronger Robert Brown.

Stitch averaged 14 points over the two scrimmages and hit a 3-pointer in each. He’s a devastating slasher who seeks contact, which yielded him four trips to the line during their second scrimmage.

8.

Let me stop you now Mean Green fans. I’m well aware of Keith Frazier’s existence. What I don’t know is what to expect when he’s integrated into the roster in December.

What we do know is Reese and Johnson combined for nearly 30 points a game last season. Reese handles the point duties and Johnson is the 3-point specialist. Even with Frazier’s insertion there’s no reason to believe both won’t have strong senior seasons.

North Texas didn’t play a scrimmage this year, but we have a large sample size to work with Reese and Johnson. Both averaged more than 30 minutes a game last season and they’ll likely be taking on a that type of work load again this year.

7.

I ranked this Bulldog duo ahead of some solid players for one reason — they have to be good.

Alex Hamilton’s monster statistics and point guard leadership are gone and Derric Jean is the next one up for Coach Eric Konkol.

So what did Jean do in his point guard debut Thursday night? He put on a Alex Hamilton-esque performance dishing out 6 assists and hitting two 3-pointers on his way to a 12 point outing. As usual in Ruston it’s next man up for the point guard duties. It looks like they are going to be just fine again.

When I found out Qiydar Davis was granted a medical hardship waiver after last season’s injury I was psyched for La Tech fans. The combination of a couple key guys transferring and Hamilton graduating was painting a dire picture for this year’s team.

The best way to describe Davis is he’s just a do-it-all kind of player. He’s the glue guy every team needs. I nearly put Jacobi Boykins in his place given he’s arguably the more proven player for La Tech. But, Davis is a senior and I think his 14 point showing during their exhibition last Thursday is an indicator of a special season ahead.

6.

These two accounted for 176 3-pointers last season. That stat alone is really all you need to know about their importance to Mark Price’s team.

I went a little off script with these two not pairing a point with a shooting guard. Jon Davis, who will run the point for the 49ers this season, should in no way feel snubbed. He’s going to be one of the best underclassmen point guards in Conference USA this season.

For me it’s the potential and expected offensive output White and Ogbueze should put out this season with no real interior depth or experience. They are going to score at will.

You read it here first. These two are going to combine for 200 3-pointers this season. I can’t imagine that’s been done very many times in college basketball.

5.

EGOR BUCKETS. If I lived in Houston I’d be at every game holding up a sign that read that. I’m not going to say he is my favorite player in Conference USA, but you all can read between the lines.

The Owls played NAIA powerhouse (I’m serious) Our Lady of the Lake Saturday night and the Russian Reaper had 23 points and 8 rebounds. He’s the perfect counterpoint to the other half of Rice’s prolific guard duo.

Marcus Evans is going to win Conference USA player of the year. That is all.

4.

Combine the reigning Conference USA 6 man of the year and one of the most reliable point guards in the country and you have this dynamic duo.

Having watched Nick as many times as I have over the years, I’ve learned that he doesn’t have to score for his team to be effective. Scoring is vital to his success.

In UAB’s 33 games last season he scored less than 5 points 10 times, but ranked in the top five in assist-to-turnover ratio in the nation. He’s like every 1960’s NBA point guard your dad loved.

I’ve seen Dirk play twice now in person and I’m here to tell you he is going to lead UAB in scoring this season. He does everything Robert Brown did, but better. And that’s no knock on Robert.

These two guards have the luxury of playing with two elite forwards in William Lee and Chris Cokley. They’ll both have all the spacing they could dream of and should take full advantage of it.

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 3.

When I started this list a couple of weeks ago Artis and Harris weren’t in my top eight – then I watched UTEP’s two exhibitions.

Taking nothing from what these two bring to the court I have them ranked this high because of their value to their team. The guard position takes a significant step back when they are not on the court. There are some talented freshman on the roster, but who knows how quickly they’ll develop.

In UTEP’s most recent scrimmage Artis went for 25 points and six rebounds and Harris had 10 points and 3 assists. What sets these two apart from other guards is Artis’ rebounding ability as a guard and Harris’ defense.

They’ll likely be tasked with averaging around 25-30 points per game given the pieces they have around them. Fortunately for Miner fans they are more than capable of doing it.

2.

I really didn’t know what to expect from Lomomba going into season, and as a result I sorely undervalued him in the pre-season Conference USA awards.

In WKU’s two exhibitions he’s taken the reigns of the point guard duties and has taken on the task well. At Providence he was an off-the-ball guard but due to limited options Coach Rick Stansbury had to look to the graduate transfer.

Lomomba and Thomas played 45 and 48 minutes respectively in their double overtime win last night. Lomomba raked in 29 points and converted 11-of-15 free throws. Thomas scored 24 with none being more important than the one to force double overtime that can be seen below.

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1.

I can’t imagine many of you would have expected I’d rank these two first. Don’t let their boyish looks fool you. They might be the two most competitive and confident players in all of Conference USA.

The combination of D’Antoni’s frantic paced offense and Marshall’s reliance on the two’s offensive production should result in some silly numbers put up by the pair.

At 6-foot-3 both of these guards are better than average rebounders and distributors. Elmore dished out nearly 6 assists per game last season and Browning brought down 148 rebounds in addition to 118 assists.

In Marshall’s exhibition win Sunday the pair combined for 44 points and 11 assists. Coach D’Antoni took the two out for a bit in the first half, which resulted in a 34-17 point deficit with 8:46 left. Browning hit seven threes in the contest and Elmore graced us all with this dunk and follow up shimmy.

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