Predicting the 2014-15 Big East All-Conference Teams
The Big East sent four teams to the NCAA tournament last season, but it's primarily players from teams that missed last year's tourney who are the early favorites to be named to the All-Big East First Team.
D'Angelo Harrison from St. John's and Georgetown's D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera could be two of the highest-scoring guards in the entire country, as they look to make up for just missing the 2014 tournament.
Villanova should be well-represented in the All-Big East teams, as the Wildcats vie for a second straight regular-season title, but could Creighton get shut out entirely after producing the player who won virtually every national award last season?
In the fifth week of our second seven-week series of the summer, we took a look at Big East rosters and projected standings to forecast the first, second and third All-Big East teams—as well as a handful of honorable mentions.
In addition to those teams, we also projected Freshman of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year and Coach of the Year.
In case you'd like to reference them in the discussion, here are the projected Big East standings from early July.
These are the players who won't receive quite enough votes to get onto one of the three all-conference teams but will get enough votes to have their names mentioned at the bottom of the press release as "Others Considered":
- Ryan Arcidiacono, SG, Villanova
- Alex Barlow, PG, Butler
- Devin Brooks, PG, Creighton
- Austin Chatman, SG, Creighton
- Dee Davis, PG, Xavier
- Tommy Hamilton IV, C, DePaul
- Todd Mayo, SG, Marquette
- Chris Obekpa, C, St. John's
- Daniel Ochefu, C, Villanova
- Jabril Trawick, SF, Georgetown
Kris Dunn, PG, Providence
Dunn hasn't yet gotten a chance to shine. He missed the first month of the 2012-13 season while recovering from a torn labrum, and he played just four games this past season before undergoing surgery on the same shoulder.
Before the injuries, though, he was a McDonald's All-American in 2012 and widely regarded as one of the best incoming point guards in the nation. Hopefully he can finally stay healthy this year.
Roosevelt Jones, SF, Butler
If Dunn can make third team, so can Jones.
Jones missed the entire 2013-14 season after a wrist injury in August that necessitated season-ending surgery.
The Bulldogs missed him dearly, as they went 14-17 and won just four games in their first season in the Big East.
He won't score a million points—and he definitely won't shoot many three-pointers after attempting just three in his first two seasons—but he's the type of player who can stuff the stat sheets to the tune of the occasional night with 15 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals.
Billy Garrett Jr., PG, DePaul
The Blue Demons don't have much going for them, but they do have a guard who can score in bunches.
As a freshman last season, Garrett averaged 12.4 PPG and 3.0 APG. With Brandon Young running out of years of eligibility this summer, Garrett is one of DePaul's only remaining scoring options.
Garrett won't lead the team to many victories, but he might lead the Big East in scoring average.
Josh Hart, SF, Villanova
Hart did a fantastic job as Villanova's sixth man last season, and he should be rewarded with a starting job now that James Bell has graduated.
He's the type of glue guy that any college coach would covet. There isn't one particular facet of the game in which Hart excels, but he does a little bit of everything without making many mistakes.
Isaac Copeland, PF, Georgetown
A versatile big man with range beyond the three-point line, Copeland might be the best incoming freshman few people are talking about.
He probably won't beat Isaiah Whitehead for the honor of Big East Freshman of the Year, but he should be one of John Thompson III's most valuable players.
Sterling Gibbs, PG, Seton Hall
Seton Hall had four players average at least 10.0 PPG last season. One was Gibbs (13.2 PPG), and the other three were seniors.
Gibbs was something of a professional at getting to the free-throw line, attempting nearly as many free throws (232) as field goals (271) last season.
In addition to scoring free points, Gibbs was a great ball-distributor. He averaged 4.2 assists per game.
LaDontae Henton, SF, Providence
Lost in the madness of Bryce Cotton averaging 39.9 minutes, 21.8 points and 5.9 assists per game last season, Henton was pretty darn valuable in his own right for a third consecutive season with the Friars.
In each of those first three seasons, he averaged roughly 14.0 PPG and 8.0 RPG. With Cotton no longer around to attempt at least 11 field goals per game, Henton should experience a slight uptick in scoring as a senior.
Darrun Hilliard, SG, Villanova
Villanova scored a ton of its points from three-point range last season, and Hilliard is a big reason why.
He shot 41.4 percent from downtown while averaging better than two made three-pointers per game. He led the team in the first category and trailed only James Bell in the second.
Hilliard also plays strong defense (1.3 steals per game) and averaged 2.6 assists per game.
The combination of Hilliard and Ryan Arcidiacono forms a backcourt with two guards who are equally dangerous as shooters, defenders and distributors—not much unlike the one Connecticut had last season.
Matt Stainbrook, C, Xavier
The Musketeers lost an awful lot this summer between Semaj Christon, Justin Martin and Isaiah Philmore, but they do still have their big man in the paint.
Stainbrook didn't play very many minutes (24.5 per game), but he was very valuable during his time on the court.
He averaged 17.4 points and 12.1 rebounds per 40 minutes and trailed only Doug McDermott and Davante Gardner in Player Efficiency Rating in the Big East, according to Sports-Reference.com.
Rysheed Jordan, PG, St. John's
Few college basketball players had a more emotionally challenging year than Jordan.
The freshman point guard was ruled off-limits to the media by head coach Steve Lavin because he had a very difficult time adjusting to being away from home.
A few months before the season began, a close friend of Jordan's was killed by a police officer. Jordan's mother and grandmother each had serious health issues in the early stages of the season.
Then, just as he and St. John's were starting to turn things around, another family member of Jordan's was found dead in a murder-suicide.
And you thought it was hard to maintain a long-distance dating relationship as a freshman in college.
His numbers (9.7 PPG, 3.0 APG, 2.2 TOPG, 27.9% 3PT) didn't exactly scream "One of the best freshman guards in the country," but can you blame him?
If he can avoid the off-court distractions that plagued him all of last season, Jordan, Phil Greene IV and D'Angelo Harrison will make one heck of a backcourt triumvirate.
1st Team No. 5/Big East Freshman of the Year: Isaiah Whitehead, SG, Seton Hall
It's not often that a .500 team can lose three starters to graduation and actually improve, but Seton Hall could be headed in that direction thanks to Isaiah Whitehead.
Unlike other highly rated shooting guards, such as James Blackmon Jr. and D'Angelo Russell, who are lauded for their three-point prowess, Whitehead strikes me as more of a Juwan Staten-type player.
That isn't to say he won't attempt many three-pointers, but Whitehead is a hard-nosed defender who can create for himself and others off the dribble.
His defense and scoring will immensely help Seton Hall fill the void of departing senior Fuquan Edwin, who led the team in scoring (14.5 PPG) and steals (2.7 SPG) last season.
Between Whitehead, Jaren Sina and Sterling Gibbs, the Pirates should have an extremely gifted backcourt. If they can get enough out of Brandon Mobley, Patrik Auda and Angel Delgado in the frontcourt, they could sneak into the NCAA tournament.
1st Team No. 4: Kellen Dunham, SG, Butler
2013-14 was a season to forget for Butler, but it was a breakout year for Kellen Dunham.
He averaged 16.4 PPG as a sophomore, and he really could have done more with a bit of consistency and/or a better supporting cast.
Dunham (420) and Khyle Marshall (368) were the only players on the roster to attempt 200 field goals last season.
Even with opposing defenses focusing almost exclusively on him as one of the only scoring threats, Dunham scored at least 20 points in 10 games last season.
But he also had seven games with nine or fewer points, rarely stringing together any sort of personal hot streaks.
The re-addition of Roosevelt Jones and the introduction of incoming freshman Kelan Martin should remove a lot of weight that was placed on Dunham's shoulders last season.
As someone who relies heavily on three-pointers (7.1 attempts per game last season), he'll always be somewhat of a streaky scorer. But having other scoring options in the offense should allow him to be more selective and efficient with his shots.
1st Team No. 3: JayVaughn Pinkston, PF, Villanova
As JayVaughn Pinkston goes, so, too, does Villanova's season.
All five projected starters for the Wildcats earned at least an honorable mention, but none will be more crucial to their success than Pinkston as the primary player in the paint.
Pinkston averaged 14.1 PPG and 6.1 RPG last season—numbers that were nearly identical to those of his running mate, James Bell. But with Bell out of the picture, it's up to Pinkston to pick up more of the scoring load.
He's certainly not alone down low. Daniel Ochefu (6'11", 245 lbs) is an excellent rebounder and shot-blocker, but he's constantly getting into foul trouble and rarely getting into the scoring column.
Josh Hart and incoming freshman Mikal Bridges will mix it up in the paint as small forwards, but neither is the type of imposing presence that Pinkston can be.
If the Wildcats are going to continue to be one of the most efficient teams in the country inside the arc on both offense and defense, it will need to be the result of a big senior year for Pinkston.
1st Team No. 2: D'Angelo Harrison, SG, St. John's
Thanks to three straight seasons without an appearance in the NCAA tournament, D'Angelo Harrison has flown pretty well below the national radar in accumulating 1,629 career points for a major conference program.
Just imagine the type of praise he'd be getting if he had averaged 17.4 PPG over the past three seasons for a team like Louisville or Michigan State that always makes the tournament—and imagine how many more career points he would have with those extra tournament games.
Not only has Harrison had a great three-year career, but he's still improving.
Last season was his most efficient yet, shooting 37.0 percent from three-point range and 86.1 percent from the free-throw line while committing just 1.5 turnovers per game.
He led the Red Storm in scoring by no small margin (17.5 PPG), and he is the only returning player who averaged better than 10.0 PPG.
Harrison could be headed for the type of dominant season that Sean Kilpatrick had last season for Cincinnati. Kilpatrick averaged 20.6 PPG en route to 2,145 career points and a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Big East Player of the Year: D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, SG, Georgetown
D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera put up very similar numbers as a sophomore (17.6 PPG, 39.3% 3PT, 87.3% FT, 1.7 TOPG) to those that D'Angelo Harrison posted as a junior, with the major difference being that Smith-Rivera pulled it off while sharing the spotlight in the backcourt with Markel Starks.
Now that Starks has graduated and Smith-Rivera is unequivocally the best scoring option on the team, he could explode for several more points per game as a junior.
Both he and Harrison stand to gain "bonus points" from voters by being the top scorer and driving force that leads his team from 2014 NIT to 2015 NCAA, but I suspect Smith-Rivera will be named Big East Player of the Year because of his contributions in the assist category.
While Harrison shares a backcourt with talented guards in Rysheed Jordan and Phil Greene IV, Smith-Rivera could be a one-man show in Georgetown's backcourt.
The Hoyas' best plan at shooting guard may well be a platoon situation between Jabril Trawick and Aaron Bowen—each more of a small forward than a shooting guard.
As a result, Smith-Rivera's role in Georgetown's offense should be very similar to the one Marcus Paige played for North Carolina last season.
He'll be the team's primary ball-handler, distributor and three-point shooter while playing solid perimeter defense and playing at least 90 percent of the team's minutes.
In the absence of Doug McDermott and Bryce Cotton, that should be more than enough to become the Big East Player of the Year.
Big East Defensive Player of the Year: Chris Obekpa, C, St. John's
When Chris Obekpa changed his mind about transferring away from St. John's, it was just about the best offseason news the Red Storm could have received.
Obekpa didn't just lead the Big East in block percentage—he destroyed all other challengers.
According to Sports-Reference.com, Obekpa blocked 15.7 percent of two-point attempts while he was on the court. Second place in the conference in that category went to Georgetown's Mikael Hopkins at 8.8 percent.
Obekpa only played 20.1 minutes per game, but he averaged 2.9 blocks per contest. And that ended up being a pretty big disappointment compared to the way he started the season, averaging 5.5 blocks per game for the first month of the year.
In one of the few games in which he actually played a lot of minutes, he had six points, seven blocks and 13 rebounds in an overtime loss to Penn State.
With Jakarr Sampson and Orlando Sanchez both graduating this summer, Obekpa's playing time should increase considerably.
Two seasons ago, Obekpa averaged 4.0 blocks per game while playing 26.0 minutes. I'm expecting a slight increase on both of those numbers in his junior year.
Big East Newcomer of the Year: Matt Carlino, PG, Marquette
Marquette (17-15) had a rough 2013-14 season, and 2014-15 could be even worse after losing four of its six leading scorers and the head coach.
The addition of BYU transfer Matt Carlino could help soften the blow for Steve Wojciechowski and the Golden Eagles.
While playing second fiddle to Tyler Haws, Carlino averaged 13.7 PPG, 4.3 APG and 1.7 SPG in just 27.3 minutes per game.
He's the type of scrappy team leader on both ends of the court who will perfectly embody the player his coach used to be.
If you wish to instead dole out this award to someone who may play for a team that actually makes the NCAA tournament, St. John's picked up an important JUCO transfer in Keith Thomas.
Jakarr Sampson was one of the Red Storm's most important players last season, but Thomas should fill that void at power forward nicely after averaging 15.3 PPG and 15.7 RPG last season at Westchester Community College.
Big East 6th Man of the Year: Aaron Bowen, SF, Georgetown
Picking the team that should win this award wasn't anywhere near as difficult as picking an individual player.
Georgetown's roster is absolutely loaded with quality players who aren't guards.
Not only are the Hoyas bringing in three very talented forwards in Isaac Copeland, L.J. Peak and Paul White, but they still have Aaron Bowen, Jabril Trawick, Reggie Cameron, Mikael Hopkins and Joshua Smith as returning players on the roster.
My guess is that four of the spots in the starting lineup go to D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Trawick, Copeland and Hopkins, and the fifth spot goes to either Peak or Smith depending on how big they want to go.
Given the remaining options, I like Bowen to be the Big East's Sixth Man of the Year.
Though this will be his fifth season at Georgetown, he wasn't really given much of a chance to play until this past year. He played just 245 minutes in his first three years combined as opposed to 669 last season.
Bowen is a strong defender who can fill in at either shooting guard or small forward. He doesn't have much of a long-range shot, but he shot 60.2 percent from inside the arc last season and was a solid rebounder.
Big East Coach of the Year: Kevin Willard, Seton Hall
Jay Wright was chosen as the 2013 Big East Coach of the Year.
Even though I fully expect Villanova to win the regular-season title for a second consecutive season, it's hard to believe the Wildcats will be even better than last year—which is really what it takes to win consecutive Coach of the Year awards.
Georgetown figures to finish in second place in the Big East, but is anyone really giving John Thompson III a Coach of the Year trophy until he improves upon his 2-5 record in the NCAA tournament over the past seven years?
Eliminating those coaches from the discussion narrows the playing field to probably Steve Lavin (St. John's), Chris Mack (Xavier) and Kevin Willard (Seton Hall).
All three of those teams have a very good chance at making the 2015 NCAA tournament, but I suspect we'll be most impressed if Seton Hall gets there after eight seasons without an appearance.
And Willard may well be coaching for his career at Seton Hall. He has led the Pirates to just a 66-66 record over the past four seasons and has yet to take a team to the NCAA tournament in his seven years as a head coach.
Having "10 years as assistant to Rick Pitino" on a resume looks great, but at a certain point the apprentice needs to start replicating the master, right?
Other conferences covered in this series:
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.