Wednesday, March 2, 2016

My Picks for the All Big East Men's Basketball Teams for 2015-2016


With the 3rd Season of the "New" Big East just about in the books, it's time to look back on the season and hand out some awards to the players.  Before we get into the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Teams, let's get the main awards out of the way.

Player of the Year: Josh Hart (Villanova)
Defensive Player of the Year: Kris Dunn (Providence)
Offensive Player of the Year: Ben Bentil (Providence)

I elaborated on the three guys a little more in their All Big East Team selections below but I created the Offensive Player of the Year award to go alongside the Defensive Player of the Year award to balance things out.  Kind of like how the NFL has an MVP award and an Offensive MVP award.

My All-Big East 1st Team only has 1 guy on it who was picked to make the first team in the preseason.  That's a good sign of how well some of these guys played listed below this season.  These All-Big East teams were actually much harder to pick than I had first anticipated.  There were a ton of players/teams who exceeded their expectations (hello Seton Hall) and a couple of guys/teams who came up short (*cough* Georgetown *cough*).

I split the team into 3 backcourt (BC) players and 2 frontcout (FC) players as that's really how positions are made up on teams in this day and age.

Without further ado, here's a look at the 1st team.

1st Team
BC – Kris Dunn (Providence)
BC – Josh Hart (Villanova)
BC – Isaiah Whitehead (Seton Hall)
FC – Henry Ellenson (Marquette)
FC – Ben Bentil (Providence)

Kris Dunn may not have lived up to some people's lofty and almost unattainable expectations that were levied on him in the preseason after claiming both Co-Player and Co-Defensive Player of the year awards at the end of last season but don't let that diminish how incredible he was this year.  Dunn surprisingly came back to Providence College, foregoing a projected lottery selection in last year's draft and managed to stuff the stat sheets across the board on both ends of the court.  Dunn is currently top ten in the conference in steals (1st, by almost double Roosevelt Jones in 2nd place), points (4th), and assists (2nd). 








Josh Hart, my conference player of the year, was great at pretty much every aspect a basketball player can be great at.  On the Regular Season Champion Villanova squad, Josh Hart was the best player on the both sides of the floor for the Wildcats.  He has a very balanced inside-out game in which he was able to be in the top ten in the league in scoring (8th) but also managed to shoot over 50% from the floor and be 6th in the conference in rebounding.  That's pretty impressive for a 6'5'' small forward.  He can shoot the three ball well enough for you to respect his shooting ability but is also extremely efficient on his shots closer to the rim.  He is the perfect all around player for what may very well be a number 1 seed come NCAA tournament time.




Isaiah Whitehead is unafraid of every single player on the basketball court and the fearlessness to take the big shot.  He had the confidence to lead a very young Seton Hall team that was picked to finish 7th in the conference and speed up their development plan by a whole year where they are now in sole possession of 3rd place in the conference.  After the Pirates recently beat a top 5 ranked Xavier squad, they most likely secured themselves a spot in the Big Dance.  Whitehead is currently 2nd in scoring in the conference and 3rd in assists.  The young squad filled with stand-out Sophomores is going to be extremely tough to beat next year and getting a taste of some big games this season will go along way to their growth as a team.





Henry Ellenson, another projected lottery selection in this year's draft, was maybe forced to take on too much responsibility on a young Marquette Eagles team that plays a lot of Freshmen big minutes.  Coach Wojo's squad will continue to develop as a couple of these young guys look like they're going to be really good players in years to come.  They probably needs another recruiting class to help out and this year's crop of Freshmen and for the current roster to get a little more seasoning.  Ellenson's long distance shooting looks a little worse than you might expect at just 28.1%, but he has shot at a 33% clip from three-point land over the last 10 games.  I think his long range shooting will continue to improve at the next level as he doesn't have so much of a scoring burden or shoot so many contested threes.  One thing is for sure, the guy can rebound and currently leads the conference in boards at just a tick under 10 a game (9.9).  Ellenson went down with an ankle injury last night against Georgetown, so let's hope that it's not too serious and he can go in the Big East Tournament. I want to see what he can do under the Bright Lights of New York on the big stage.






Ben Bentil made just about as big of a jump from season to season as I can remember anyone doing recently.  Bentil is leading the Big East in scoring at over 20 points a game (20.9) and has been dealing with multiple ankle injuries (one to each foot) throughout the season.  The Providence Friars rely on Dunn and Bentil in order to be a contending team, but I would say they actually rely more on Bentil than they do Dunn.  With how thin the Friars' frontcourt is, any time that Bentil has been in foul trouble or out with an injury, the team has fallen apart.  Bentil has played himself into a career at the next level, but I'm hoping he knows that there are still some parts of his game that need some additional work before he can succeed at the next level.  He needs to continue to get better at shooting from outside and at times he settles for too many jumpers when he can dominate a guy with his agility and quickness down low.  He's a great free throw shooter (especially for a big guy - 80.5%) and a good rebounder (7.7) but his defense can can hinder the team at times.  This probably has more to do with the fact that his mobility has been limited with his ankle injuries and the Friars desperately need him to stay out of foul trouble for them to succeed.  That forces him to not challenge as much around the rim and to closet that aggressiveness that makes him such a good offensive weapon.  His tenacity gets him to the line 7.6 times a game.  That's a skill that works at every level.







2nd Team
BC – Mo Watson, Jr. (Creighton)
BC – D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (Georgetown)
BC – Trevon Bluiett (Xavier)
FC – Kelan Martin (Butler)
FC - Kris Jenkins (Villanova)

You can probably make cases for interchanging most of the guys on the 2nd and 3rd team, but this is my list and not yours.  Xavier is an interesting team to select guys for these teams off of.  The team is so incredibly deep with talent, that a lot of the numbers for individual players don't jump off the page at you.  However, when you watch them play, the team is so cohesive, well-coached, and unselfish, that you can see why the sum of the parts make up a potential 1 or 2 seed in NCAA tournament.  The one guy who I don't think you can argue is cemented on this team is Kelan Martin of Butler.  He is going to be a monster next season when the keys of the team get handed to him.  He won't have the veterans Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones there to support him, but I think he's talented enough to overcome that.

I think Mo Watson Jr. has earned himself a spot on the 2nd team by grabbing the wheel of an undermanned Creighton squad, leading the Big East in assists and sneaking into the 10th spot for scoring on the season.  Even with a down year for Georgetown, once a preseason player of the year in the conference, D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera has kept up the workload on his side of things for the Hoyas.  Watching him live against Providence probably put me more down on DSR than I might otherwise have been because Kris Dunn is a nightmare matchup for him in both size and quickness and completely shut him down.  Trevon Bluiett is the best player on Xavier and probably the best NBA prospect on the team as well.  He leads the balanced Musketeer team in scoring.  Kris Jenkins may be small for a frontcourt player, but that's what he plays on a small-ball Nova squad, so I'm sliding him into the last spot here.  His 8 three pointers made in his last game tied a Villanova record and made me feel a little better about sliding him int that last spot on the 2nd Team.

3rd Team
BC – Kellen Dunham (Butler)
BC – Myles Davis (Xavier)
BC – Ryan Archidiaccano (Villanova)/Edmond Sumner (Xavier)
FC – Roosevelt Jones (Butler)
FC – Angel Delgado (Seton Hall)

I cheated just a sliver on this one by sharing a spot for Ryan Archidiaccano and Edmond Sumner.  They both mean so much to their two teams that are both a level above the rest of the Big East.  One is a Senior and the other a Freshman, but they both deserve to be on one of these three teams as they add so much to the success of their respective teams.  Angel Delgado has excelled as one of the few legitimate big men in the Big East and has been one of the key reasons for Seton Hall's success this year.  Without an inside presence as good as Delgado, I don't think Seton Hall is as good as they've shown this year.  They definitely have guard power but Delgado gives them a whole other dimension to their team.

Three Upperclassmen round out the 3rd team with Myles Davis, Kellen Duham, and Roosevelt Jones.  All three of these guys seem like their closer to 35 than 25 years old and have been in College Basketball for about 10 years, but all bring both leadership and poise to their teams.  You can count on these guys to always make the smart play, lift their teammates up, and give their teams a bucket when they desperately need one.

Now that the First three teams are in the books, it's time to pay tribute to the incredible Freshman class that introduced themselves to the Big East this season.

All-Freshman Team:
BC – Eli Cain (DePaul)
BC – Jalen Brunson (Villanova)
BC – Edmond Sumner (Xavier)
FC - BC – Haanif Cheatham (Marquette)
FC – Henry Ellenson (Marquette)

Mark my words, Eli Cain is going to be a PLAYER at DePaul.  Fingers crossed that he can lift that team up to the level of the rest of the Big East.  Cain averaged 10.3 ppg on the season, eclipsing the 20 point mark 4 times this season.  Over his last 6 games, Cain has averaged 16.7 ppg and has really come into his own as a scorer.  Maybe most impressive of all, Cain is shooting 44.9% from three this year.

Jalen Brunson was picked as the preseason Freshman of the Year in the conference and probably would have been if not for the emergence of Henry Ellenson.  It's as if Villanova cloned Darrun Hilliard and just inserted Brunson into his role.  The lefty guard is incredibly skilled and is the perfect fit how Villanova likes to play.  He's already inherited the flopping gene from Arch too.  I swear they clone this Villanova guards in some sort of genetic laboratory.  Brunson already has the game feel of an upperclassmen and averaged 10.5 ppg and 2.8 apg.

At 6'5'', Edmund Sumner is large for a guard and athletic as hell.  I feel like this guy never stops running and every time it's at a full sprint on a fast break.  His shot is awkward looking but his shooting numbers don't seem to reflect that it isn't working for him.  Sumner does a little bit of everything and averaged 11.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.3 steals per game this year.  His long frame makes him a tough matchup for most guards and he's able to get his hands in a lot of passing lanes.  He needs to tighten up those turnovers a little bit, but that will come with more experience.

Haanif Cheatham is going to be a really good four year player at Marquette.  I remember reading a tweet from someone that said he's going to be one of those players that your team absolutely hates playing against for a long time in the Big East, and I couldn't agree more. He just has that feel of someone who's going to be annoyingly really good.  Haanif averaged 11.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.3 assists this year.  Cheatham and other Marquette Freshman Traci Carter (who has really come into his own lately) are going to be wreaking havoc against Big East backcourts for what will feel like an eternity once they're here for a couple more years.  Fair warning to everyone, I'm going to be making so many bad puns with Cheatham's last name these next couple of years, so prepare yourselves.

Henry Ellenson, see above.

A couple of more Frosh players that I considered when putting together the All-Freshman Team. Their points/rebounds/assists are listed next to their name.

Khyri Thomas (Creighton) 6.2/3.9/1.4; BC
Jessie Govan (Georgetown) 7.2/4.2/0.7; FC
Marcus Derrickson (Georgetown) 6.5/4.6/1.2; FC
Traci Carter (Marquette) 5.1/2.6/4.6; BC
Ryan Fazekas (Providence) 5.8/2.8/0.3; FC
Malik Ellison (St. John’s) 7.2/2.5/2.4; BC
Federico Mussini (St. John’s) 10.8/2.5/2.3; BC
Kassoum Yakwe (St. John’s) 7.1/5.5/0.4; FC
Mikal Bridges (Villanova) 6.6/3.1/0.8; BC

Based on numbers, you might think that the two St. John's guys should have maybe made the team but if you've watched any St. John's games this season, you'd think otherwise.

I was thinking about making an All-Bench Team for some super-subs but once I realized I would probably have to include J.P. Macura on it, I immediately scrapped that idea.