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November 26, 2012In watching Pac-12 basketball games over the last several weeks and discussing the league's teams with various people, a open question seemed to linger. It's something that other media types and scouts already appear to be considering as well: Is Arizona State freshman Jahii Carson already the league's best point guard?
It's a legitimate possibility.
Carson, who was forced to sit out last season after being academically ineligible out of Mesa High, where he was the No. 33 overall prospect and No. 7 point guard nationally, is currently second in the Pac-12 in scoring at 21.0 points per game, and third in assists at 5.0 per game.
Among the league's undefeated teams, Cal is playing very impressively but starting point guard Brandon Smith is averaging 4.3 points and three assists, and Arizona and Colorado don't really have true point guards.
The Wildcats have a good backcourt with Xavier transfer Mark Lyons and Nick Johnson, but neither is a pure point and neither averages more than 12.7 points or 4.2 assists. Colorado is very talented with Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker at its guard positions, but Booker's 17.2 points and team-best 2.8 assists per game come mostly off the ball.
UCLA's Larry Drew leads the Pac-12 with 7.3 assists per game, but a lot of close observers believe he isn't even the best point guard on his team, with talented freshman Kyle Anderson forced to play minutes on the wing. But neither is anywhere near a double figure scorer and the Bruins just lost to Cal Poly.
USC point guard Jio Fontan is a catalyst for his squad, but its a 3-3 team that doesn't look to be going anywhere and Fontan's 6.0 assists and 7.7 points per game are offset by a dreadful .226 field goal percentage.
Washington's Abdul Gaddy probably should be the stiffest competition for Carson, a highly regarded recruit who hasn't had the best of luck in his collegiate career to this point. But despite averaging 14.6 points and 2.6 assists, the Huskies have lost to Albany and were recently blown out by Colorado State.
Washington State, Stanford, Oregon and Oregon State don't have point guards who belong in the conversation.
Carson's best competition might be little-known Utah point guard Jarred DuBois, a Loyola Marymount transfer who is averaging 12 points and four assists with a remarkable 3:1 assist to turnover ratio for the 4-1 Utes.
At .484 from the field, .462 from the 3-point line and .755 from the 3-point stripe, Carson is shooting the ball very well and can score at all levels. His average assist-to-turnover ratio is probably the only thing that makes this a conversation at all, especially when you consider ASU's improvement as a team year over year.
Against No. 14 Creighton on Saturday in the Las Vegas Invitation championship, Carson became the first ever Sun Devil freshman to score 30 points away from Wells Fargo Arena in an 87-73 losing effort. Only senior Carrick Felix turned in a reasonably good game to support Carson, but the Sun Devils were able to keep the game close until very late against an opponent capable of making an NCAA Tournament run this season.
With three straight 20-plus point games and his team's 4-1 record, Carson is quickly becoming one of the biggest storylines in the conference. Importantly, he's doing this in his first college season while none of the others in serious consideration can say the same. It makes for a legitimate possibility that he's only going to improve more relative to his peers in the year ahead.
So the question remains, is Carson already the best point guard in the Pac-12?