1. Quinn Cook, JR, Duke
Of the six players with the highest assist rate in the conference last year, only Cook returns. And he returns to a team for which he'll be called upon to be the leader. Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry, and Ryan Kelly are all gone, and Duke's young talent needs a steady hand to guide them. That will be Cook. He struggled with turnover problems early in the season last year – 3.3 per game through the first seven games – but only averaged 1.9 the rest of the way. His coach has a pretty good record with upperclass point guards.
2. Eric Atkins, SR, Notre Dame
There were times last year when Atkins never seemed to come out of the game. Once conference play hit, he only played less than 35 minutes once. He played all 40 minutes four times. And in three overtime games he played 42, 43, and 60. He didn't rack up the gaudy assist numbers like he did early in the season, but coach Brey called on him to be the steady force to guide the team. Jerian Grant (listed as a SR but actually only a JR, because Notre Dame lists their players by academic class just to confuse the hell out of everyone. #goacc) also deserves a nod here, as in Notre Dame's system there's no true point. Both guys make plays for their teammates.
3. Marcus Paige, SO, North Carolina
Paige really struggled at times last year, especially early, but aside from an 8 (!) turnover game vs Maryland, he played well in February in March. With a year in the system he should be much more adept at running the offense. But to really take a major step he'll need to become a much more efficient scorer. Ranking him 3rd assumes that he improves on his awful 37% conversion on 2s (average on 3s: 34%).
4. Devon Bookert, SO, Florida State
Due to injuries last year, FSU sometimes had on the court four true freshman and a JUCO transfer, and it looked like it. With more experience all around, FSU's offense should play at a higher level this year. Also obscured by the injuries to Ian Miller and Terrance Shannon was the fact that Devon Bookert played his entire first season on a bum knee following a preseason scooter accident. That's been cleaned up. On the court, Bookert had one of the better assist rates in the conference, and also led the nation in 3-pt% (53%).
5a. Tyler Ennis, FR, Syracuse
Everyone loves freshmen, and everyone thinks their freshmen should be predicted to do remarkable things, despite all evidence to the contrary. Ennis, however, has the tools and the poise to be one of the better point guards in the conference from day one. He won't have to carry the scoring load as he did with the Canadian U-19 team, and with the talented front court for the Orange, Ennis's savvy ability to get into the lane will lead to a lot more alley oops than his own runners.
5b. James Robinson, SO, Pitt
With Tray Woodall gone, Robinson is now the man. It will be interesting to watch his development. Robsinson's freshman year mirrored Woodall's freshman year, in that they were both low volume play makers. Woodall developed into more of a scorer over time, and Robinson has the tools to do the same.