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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Little Big Men Take Control in NCAA

LOS ANGELES -- Toss out the chalkboards and the game plans, and forget about anybody taller than 6 feet 2 inches. Fresno State coach Jerry Tarkanian, who has seen a lot of college basketball, is picking Georgia Tech to win the Southeast Regional. Why? Two words:

Stephon Marbury.

"I'm picking his team," Tarkanian said Wednesday morning from his office, speaking about the freshman point guard who has ripped through the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. "I think he's good enough to win that region.

"I said before the season started that he'd be the best guard in the country. And he didn't have that great of a season, but he's started to play pretty well lately. Maybe you agree with me now?"

Marbury is the youngest, hottest, fastest member of the NCAA's youngest, hottest, fastest breed of player: the dominant, do-it-all point guard.

Look at this season's survivors that were starting the round of 16 Thursday night. Where Georgetown's Patrick Ewing used to command the troops, it's Allen Iverson with the ball, and the game, in his hands; where Danny Manning used to perform Kansas miracles from the post, it's Jacque Vaughn with the responsibility to lead his team to the Final Four.

The tournament, which used to be a tall tale, has been overrun by a small army of turbo-charged point guards, who are as crucial to big-game success now as their bigger brethren ever were.

Point guards have carried their teams to titles before, of course -- Indiana's Isiah Thomas and some tall, thin guy named Earvin Johnson from Michigan State come to mind.

But this year, the depth of the point guard talent -- and the success of the teams who have it -- is eye-opening. A glance at the top guards:

?Iverson, 6-foot sophomore, Georgetown: Coach John Thompson has gone against past tendencies and given Iverson total freedom.

?Marbury, 6-1 freshman, Georgia Tech: Marbury, who is thinking about jumping to the NBA, probably sealed his fate (and a top-10 draft status) with an incredible, 29-point, nine-assist, four-steal and no-turnover performance in the Yellow Jackets' blowout of Boston College in the Midwest's second round.

?Vaughn, 6-1 junior, Kansas: He isn't a big scorer, even though he has improved his shooting, making 47.8 percent of his three-point shots and 51.4 percent overall from the field in the regular season. He's more of a classic ball-distributor, on-court leader and defensive stopper.

?Reggie Geary, 6-2 senior, Arizona: In one of the more anticipated tournament matchups , Geary faces Vaughn and the Jayhawks on Friday in the West Regional semifinal.

?DeJuan Wheat, 6-foot junior, Louisville: An up-and-down shooter in the Cardinals' up-and-down season, Wheat torched Villanova with 17 second-half points in Louisville's second-round upset of third-seeded Villanova in the Midwest.

?Connecticut's Doron Sheffer and Ray Allen; Massachusetts' Carmelo Travieso and Edgar Padilla: None of these four players quite qualifies as a dominant point guard (Allen is a wing player and Sheffer, Travieso and Padilla are complementary players), but these duos have enough combined talent to match up with anybody's backcourt.