Having a player who can create a quality shot on his own is a hugely important asset for any college basketball team at the end of games.Here are five of the best in the land.
R.J. Barrett, Duke
No, we haven't seen Barrett have to carry Duke during crunch time yet. With the way the Blue Devils played against Kentucky at the Champions Classic, they may not find themselves in many of those situations.
But Barrett is already the best shot creator in college basketball. There are few defenders who have the size, speed and smarts to stay in front of him one-on-one. At 6-7, Barrett has a nifty handle and can score from all three levels. He gets to his spots on the court. Oftentimes at the end of games, we see guys settle for contested, stepback jumpers.
Sometimes they go in, and they look pretty when it happens. But that's a low percentage shot. Barrett has shown a unique ability to be able to finish through contact and is an excellent foul shooter. Another factor: he's tall and has good enough vision to be able to find teammates once he's in amongst the trees. There are just so many things defenses have to worry about when Barrett has the ball in his hands.
We'll see how he does when (or if) Duke finds itself in this situation.
Markus Howard, Marquette
Howard, specifically, is the guy you'd want to have the ball if you needed a 3-pointer. The percentages may not indicate it, but there's an argument to be made that he's the best shooter in the country based on how difficult his looks are.
Howard shot 55 percent from 3 as a freshman and 40 percent as a sophomore, and he's the most lethal pull-up 3-point artist in the sport. But he's more than just a shooter. Howard averaged 20.4 points per game last year and is crafty with the ball. His hesitation dribble is incredibly tough to stop, and he's excellent at drawing contact.
Howard isn't going to go up and explode over anyone. He's not much of a vertical athlete. But he has everything else going for him. Howard is a high-volume, high-efficiency scorer.
Shamorie Ponds, St. John's
Ponds is fearless. Just ask Duke last season.
His handle is absurd. Ponds, who grew up in New York, has a flair to his game that's appealing to watch. But he's also extremely tough to stop off the dribble, and when the game slows down, Ponds is a guy you want with the ball in his hands. He averaged 21.6 points and 4.7 assists per game last year.
If you look at the numbers, Ponds isn't that great of a shooter. He only made 25 percent of his 3s last season. But defenses respect him as if he is, and in a one-possession game, that's half the battle. The threat of a jump shot opens things up for teammates. Ponds can get a bucket for himself or a teammate in a pinch.
Tyus Battle, Syracuse
Battle has a knack for coming through in close games:
Battle isn't the most efficient scorer. He shot a hair less than 40 percent from the floor last season and shot 32.2 percent from 3.
But he had to do just about everything for the Syracuse offense last year, and the Orange made the Sweet 16. Battle was mostly creating his own offense, and he averaged 19.2 points per game on a team that played slow. Like Ponds, he has the ball on a string. Battle can shake and bake with the best of them; he can stop on a dime and rise for a jump shot with ease.
Another reason to like Battle at the end of games is his free-throw rate. He got to the line 5.4 times per game last season and made them at an 84 percent clip. That'll work. Look for more heroics out of Battle in 2018-19.
Carsen Edwards, PurdueYou can't leave Edwards off of this list. Barrett is the outlier in this group based on his size, but Edwards is probably the guy you'd want next. He has a little more burst than Howard and is more efficient than Ponds or Battle.
Edwards averaged 18.5 points on 45.8 percent shooting last year while making 40.6 percent from 3. He'll shoot any time, anywhere. Edwards frequently catches defense off guard, which makes his pump fake all the more lethal. Go under a ball screen on Edwards, and he'll fire a 3 before the defender has time to contest. The math says that's a good shot.
Edwards has everything you'd want for this situation besides size. He can shoot, he's shifty and can pass. The Boilermakers will be counting on him heavily this season.