Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Being a decent shooting guard requires a fairly obvious skill ... being able to shoot the ball efficiently.
What separates the good players at the position from the elite ones in the college game, and really any level, is the ability to be categorized as more than just a hired gun.
The following players fulfill that requirement and are thus, the cream of the proverbial shooting guard crop entering the 2014-15 season.
Michael Frazier II (Florida) - Billy Donovan's Gators should be formidable yet again this season, despite losing the SEC Player of the Year in Scottie Wilbekin, and the Defensive Player of the Year in Patric Young. It isn't just because Donovan is a fantastic coach, or that Florida is a prized landing spot for top recruits. There is also great returning talent, and Frazier II is at the top of that list. The 6-foot-4 junior-to-be is absolutely lethal when rising up for a shot. He nailed 118 3-pointers last season, which set a Florida record, and he did so at a 44.5 percent success rate, the 10th-best mark nationally and the best in the SEC. He also ranked among the top-30 players in the country in effective field goal percentage (.631), and led Florida in plus/minus average (13.1). If those numbers aren't enough to sway you, just take a look at the highlights of the Gators' contest against South Carolina on March 4. All Frazier II did in that matchup was drain a school- record 11 treys. Clearly, he lives up to the shooting part of the position better than most.
Ron Baker (Wichita State) - Wichita State may not have much in common with Florida in terms of basketball pedigree or desired geographical location, but the Shockers do possess the same good fortune of having a top notch two-guard on the roster. Baker, who will be a redshirt junior this season, has seen plenty of big-time action in his first two collegiate campaigns. He helped the Shockers to the Final Four in 2012, and to their unprecedented regular season run in 2013. The 6-3 marksman is much more than a role player, as he was one of the more vocal leaders in 2013-14 while playing the third-most minutes per game (29.9) for the club. Intangibles aside, Baker has gotten better as a shooter in each of his two runs with the Shockers. He connected on 38 percent of his shots from 3-point range, and 45.6 percent overall in 2013-14. Both of those shooting rates jumped by more than 20 percentage points from the year prior. Baker is also an effective performer at the other end, posting a defensive ratings of 92.7 in his second campaign. Assuming another boost in production from the shaggy-haired sniper, who has a career effective field goal percentage above .600, is not a stretch by any means.
Aaron Harrison (Kentucky) - Could Harrison have been any more clutch last March? In helping the surprising Wildcats all the way to the NCAA title game, Harrison drained big shot after big shot. He drilled a go-ahead 3-pointer in the final minute against rival Louisville in the Sweet 16. Then he hit almost identical game-winning triples against Michigan and Wisconsin in the Elite Eight and Final Four, respectively. Being able to shoot so well under enormous pressure is a gift, and one Harrison has in abundance. What is even more impressive is that Harrison doesn't always need to be set up for his shot. He excels in creating in one-on-one situations, making him a coveted NBA prospect, although it has hurt his overall shooting percentage (.423 FG/.499 eFG). However, Harrison was just a freshman in 2013-14, meaning, with a year of seasoning under his belt, he should be even better this time around. Add in his enviable size (6-foot-6) and lack of fear in taking the ball to the basket, and the prospects for his second campaign could not be brighter.
Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia) - Based on his offensive numbers, Brogdon may seem like an odd choice here. He shot just 41.3 percent from the field last season and averaged a pedestrian 12.7 points per game. On most teams that type of production would be solid, but not enough to warrant much praise. For Virginia, Brogdon's scoring average was tops on the team. Obviously it didn't hurt the Cavaliers. After all, when you play on a defensive-minded team like Virginia, which only scored 66.2 ppg last season, being an offensive powerhouse is not a priority. Instead, Brogdon's biggest asset was his tenacious play at the defensive end. While helping the Cavs lead the country in scoring defense (55.7 ppg), the 6-foot-5 Atlanta native tied for 11th in the country in defensive win shares (3.0), with a defensive rating of 91.1 for the season. Brogdon is also a strong rebounder, snagging 5.4 boards per game last year, which was a jump of nearly three per game from his first season in Charlottesville. Brogdon was easily one of the best shooting guards in the country last season, although for different reasons than most. He should maintain his place among that group once again.
Chasson Randle (Stanford) - Randle was inconsistent in his first two seasons at Stanford. After impressing as a freshman by shooting 43.8 percent from beyond the arc, he took a step back in 2012-13, netting under 40 percent of his shots from the floor overall. Whatever plagued him as a sophomore seemingly vanished last year, when Randle was one of the most potent scorers in the Pac-12. While shooting a career-high 47.4 percent from the floor and a solid 38.9 percent from 3-point range, Randle netted 18.8 points per game, which was good enough for third in the conference. His improvements were also enough to earn him First-Team All-Pac-12 honors, and was a major reason that Stanford was able to fight its way into the NCAA Tournament. Randle isn't a pure shooting guard, as he plays with the ball in his hands quite often, with a career-high 27 percent usage rate as a junior, which ranked fourth in the Pac-12. However, he recorded a career-low in turnover percentage (13.5), showing his continued maturation as a player.
Honorable Mention: Rasheed Sulaimon (Duke), Caris LeVert (Michigan), D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (Georgetown), D'Angelo Harrison (St. John's), Joseph Young (Oregon), Marcus Foster (Kansas State), Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), Tyler Haws (BYU)