For next year, the basketball starting line-up is pretty set: 4 returning starters, and ..."/> For next year, the basketball starting line-up is pretty set: 4 returning starters, and ..."/>

Position Battle: An early look at the point guard battle


For next year, the basketball starting line-up is pretty set: 4 returning starters, and a ready made Sanders-Frison replacement in Richard Solomon. But it wouldn’t be an offseason without some controversy, and the Basketball Bears have found one at the point guard spot. The incumbent, Brandon Smith, has to be the favorite as we progress the summer, but Minnesota transfer Justin Cobbs is breathing down his neck. Who will take the coveted starting spot?

With Brandon Smith, you know what you’re going to get. He’s a good passer who racks up the assists, handle the ball wall, and get you started with the offense. He can get to the foul line and convert when he gets there, but otherwise he’s not going to create his own shot. I wouldn’t call him a liability defensively, but Smith certainly isn’t a lockdown defender like Jorge. Brandon is more of a throwback point guard, unlike the scoring points of today; he makes the passes, runs the offense, but not a major penetrator. He has Mike Montgomery’s trust.

Justin Cobbs, on the other hand, provides the allure of the unknown. His little time with Minnesota provided little clue on what he’s capable of, so we’re going off of high school reports. He is known to be a good defender and a pure point who can run the team, although I doubt he does it quite at the level of Smith yet. He has long arms and he’s very quick; while the shorter point guard isn’t in style in the Pac-10, but Cobbs is fully capable of disrupting the shorter ones and even the taller guards. The edge he has on Smith is athleticism, as Cobbs can get to the hole and finish like Smith can’t. One thing he lacks is a jumpshot; 3 of 17 from beyond the arc as a freshman does not get it done. While his talents sound intriguing, we have to temper our enthusiasm. He did only average 2.1 points per game as a freshman at an average Minnesota team, after all. But with a redshirt year under his belt, Justin has developed plenty since the last time he stepped on the court during a regular season game.

Breaking down the battle before the team really begins practice is foolish, but the early edge has to go to Smith. He’s entering his third year under the demanding Coach Montgomery, he’s trusted by Monty, and he’s the returning starting point guard on a team who made the postseason. His jumpshot has grown leaps and bounds, and he was the one fighting battles as the scrappy Bears tried to slip by superior opponents. Cobbs’ game also plays better coming off the bench; while Smith provides reliability, Cobbs can provide explosive bursts of ability and athleticism that can spark a team as a 6th man. Cobbs will make things interesting, especially as he gets more seasoning, but at this point we’ll project Smith as the opening day PG (plenty still can change though).

In an offseason that’s been a bit dead, the point guard battle provides plenty of mystery to a team (and program) that’s mostly established. It’ll certainly be something to watch as the two guards battle it out for one spot. May the best man win! Go Bears!