Ranking Big East Basketball's 10 Best Players This Season
The Big East boasts potential future NBA players like Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams or Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng, but are they the best players in the conference this season?
Well, maybe. When ranking these players, I took into account their statistics, value to the team, consistency and overall playing ability. This isn’t about the best NBA potential of Big East players, but a ranking of their production and value to their teams.
With a conference as deep as the Big East, it’s a daunting task to narrow down to the 10 best players. Obviously there will be players left off the list, but that’s simply because there isn’t enough room.
All statistics are current as of Jan. 29.
So, let’s get this started.
10. Fuquan Edwin, Seton Hall
2012-13 Statistics- 17.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.9 APG, 2.5 SPG, 47.8% FG 45.9% 3PT, 68.2% FT
Junior swingman Fuquan Edwin is best known for his defense, as he led the NCAA in steals last season, averaging 3.0 per game.
This season Edwin has become the go-to guy for Seton Hall. He can drive to the lane to create his own shots, but is also deadly from beyond the arc, shooting about 46 percent.
Edwin’s versatility is one reason why the Pirates hold an overall record of 13-7. As the leader of the team, Edwin has carried the Pirates and had them in position to win games. He can catch fire at any instant during a game.
He’s been a constant threat offensively all season, and in only two games has Edwin not scored in double figures for the Pirates.
9. Cleveland Melvin, DePaul
2012-13 Statistics- 17.1 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 48.3% FG, 66.7% FT
Junior forward Cleveland Melvin would be better recognized for his talents if he played on a better team.
Perennially in the basement of the Big East’s standings, DePaul really has nothing to brag about except the play of its junior forward.
Melvin uses his athleticism to finish strong in the paint, and has helped carry DePaul to a 10-9 overall record and 1-5 in conference play.
Despite his relatively lanky frame (6' 8" and 208 pounds), he’s able to use his length to help rebound over bigger and stronger opponents.
8. D'Angelo Harrison, St. John's
2012-13 Statistics- 19.8 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.1 APG, 42.9% FG, 32.8% 3PT, 77.8% FT
Sophomore guard D’Angelo Harrison is an absolute stud.
In 13 of the Red Storm’s 21 games, he’s scored at least 20 points. There have been only two games in which he didn't score in double figures.
Harrison is second in the conference in scoring, and is an offensive threat that opens up opportunities for teammates Sir’Dominic Pointer and JaKarr Sampson.
The team looks to him in late-game situations, where he thrives. In a 71-67 victory over Seton Hall on Jan. 27, Harrison scored 11 of the teams last 13 points in the final five minutes of action.
7. Otto Porter Jr., Georgetown
2012-13 Statistics- 14.7 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, 50.5% FG, 44.4% 3PT, 69.7% FT
Sophomore forward Otto Porter Jr., is the most athletic big man in the conference. He’s still a raw talent down low, but his athleticism is unmatched.
Porter is also a three-point threat. When he’s open, he’ll knock them down on a consistent basis.
His versatility is really what makes him one of the best players in the conference. How do you guard him?
If coaches put a big man on him, he can use his quickness to beat the defender to the basket or step back and knock down a three-pointer. If coaches put a quicker player on him, he can use his strength to over-power the defender.
6. Jack Cooley, Notre Dame
2012-13 Statistics- 14.4 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 59.2% FG, 67.3% FT
Senior forward Jack Cooley, 6’9” and 246 pounds, is an absolute force in the paint.
He has a knack for corralling rebounds by using his strong, athletic build to box out taller and stronger opponents. Cooley’s deceptive quickness allows him to sneak inside on the offensive glass. He’s the only player in the Big East who averages a double-double.
Once he gets the ball, whether by rebound or by a pass, he knows what to do with it. He’s shooting almost 60 percent from the floor.
Being a senior, Cooley also brings veteran leadership to the Fighting Irish. Something most other Big East teams don't have.
5. Shabazz Napier, Connecticut
2012-13 Statistics- 16.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 4.1 APG, 43.5% FG, 37.4% 3PT, 83.0% FT
Junior guard Shabazz Napier is a do-it-all guard, and is one of the most dangerous players in the conference.
Because he is a shooter, Napier may have a few bad games here and there, but if he catches fire, there’s almost no hope for an opponent.
One of the best traits Napier possesses is the ability to finish a game at the line. Shooting 83 percent from the charity stripe, Napier gives Connecticut a solid option to put the game away.
He uses his athletic ability to his advantage. At 6’1” he can rebound with the biggest guys. Napier is also not afraid to take a big shot at the end of a game, but also has the awareness to pass to an open man.
Although Connecticut has had an average start to the year, (13-5 overall) Napier’s skill has helped the Huskies be competitive in all games.
4. Bryce Cotton, Providence
2012-13 Statistics- 21.7PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.1 APG, 47.8% FG, 41.8% 3PT, 76.9% FT
Junior guard Bryce Cotton has burst into the spotlight this season, as he is the conference’s leading scorer.
The only reason he isn't higher on the list is because teammate Vincent Council, who averages 6.7 assists per game, creates many opportunities for Cotton. Council was named to the Preseason All-Big East First Team.
Regardless, Cotton can score almost at will. He’s scored at least 20 points in 15 games, and in two of those he’s scored at least 30. He shoots a good percentage for a guard at 47.8 percent, and has a great three-point shooting percentage at 41.8 percent.
3. Russ Smith, Louisville
2012-13 Statistics- 18.4 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.7 APG, 41.2% FG, 31.4% 3PT, 79.1 FT
Junior guard Russ Smith has improved tremendously for Louisville, increasing his points per game average by 6.9 points.
He takes much of the pressure to score away from senior Peyton Siva, which allows Siva to serve his predominant role as a facilitator for the offense.
In games against Villanova and Georgetown during the Cardinals’ three-game losing streak, Smith struggled offensively, shooting just 6-22 combined from the floor.
Despite those two games, Smith has been a consistent scoring threat for Louisville. To show for it, he is fourth in the league in scoring.
Smith has an incredible ability to take over a game if the Cardinals need him to.
2. Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati
2012-13 Statistics- 18.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 42.9% FG, 34.7% 3PT, 72.2% FT
Junior guard Sean Kilpatrick is a great all-around guard for Cincinnati.
He’s the Bearcats’ primary choice offensively, but is not afraid to get physical in order to secure rebounds.
Kilpatrick’s athletic ability allows him to sneak into the paint and out-jump bigger opponents for a rebound.
The only negative in Kilpatrick’s game is his lack of assists (1.9 per game), but that doesn't take anything away from what his consistent play brings for the Bearcats.
The third-best scorer in the conference is the epitome of consistency, as he’s failed to score in double figures only once this season.
As the go-to guy, Kilpatrick almost never disappoints.
1. Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse
2012-13 Statistics- 12.6 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 8.9 APG, 3.0 SPG, 36.5% FG, 28.0% 3PT, 70.7% FT
Were you really expecting anyone else?
Sophomore guard Michael Carter-Williams is the best player in the conference, hands down.
The 6’6” point guard is fast, which allows him to operate well in fast-break situations. The combination of size and speed gives him the ability to drive through the lane.
Many of those fast breaks are started by one of his league-leading 3 steals per game.
Carter-Williams also leads the Big East in assists, averaging 8.9 per game. His ability to create for his teammates has led to the success of the first-place Orange.
Not only does he create, but he takes care of the ball, averaging 2.3 assists for every one turnover.
There is no better pure point guard in the conference right now.
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