Ladontae Henton

Jahlil Okafor, Frank Kaminsky (AP Photo)

Player of the Year Power Rankings: We have a new leader!

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Jahlil Okafor, Frank Kaminsky (AP Photo)

Every Tuesday, we will be providing you with a breakdown of the top ten candidates for National Player of the Year. You can read through the older posts here.

1. Jahlil Okafor, Duke
2. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin

Jahlil Okafor and Frank Kaminsky went head-to-head last Wednesday as Duke and Wisconsin squared off in the Kohl Center. Okafor’s team got the best of the Badgers, as Duke won 80-70, but it was Kaminsky that ended up with the better line, finishing with 17 points, nine boards and two assists to Okafor’s 13 points and six boards.

We wrote plenty about the different ways that Mike Krzyzewski and Bo Ryan utilize their all-american big men in the lead-up to the game, but the irony of it all was that the way that Coach K schemed basically took the two out of it and turned this into a battle of the guards. Duke switched all exchanges defensively, meaning that anytime there was a screen — or even two players running by each other — Duke would switch, regardless of size.

This meant that Wisconsin couldn’t invert their offense, that they couldn’t run what they wanted to run and couldn’t take advantage of their size relative to Duke. But it did mean that Wisconsin’s bigger, slower defenders had to try and cover Duke’s quick, talented perimeter players.

The upper image shows you an example of what a typical Wisconsin possession devolved into. The bottom image is a screen grab of power forward Nigel Hayes, matched up with Justise Winslow, reaching instead of moving as a help defender, allowing Quinn Cook a lane to drive and find Okafor for a layup:

Screengrabs via Synergy

The irony of it all.

The two best individuals matchup in the best game of the season and it was decided by coaching and maximizing the ability of role players.

And Duke won out.

I can’t be the only one hoping for a rematch in March, can I?

3. Jerian Grant, Notre Dame: Mike Brey has harped, over and over again, on the fact that Grant’s return is so important because Grant is this team’s “closer”. The Irish lost nine games by single digits after Grant was suspended last season, and that would have changed seeing as he’s the guy they go to down the stretch of games. Notre Dame has played two close games this year. In the final eight minutes of regulation in a win against Michigan State, Grant had ten points and an assist and, had the refs called a foul on this … :

… likely would have been the hero as well.

In the final 12 minutes of a loss to Providence, Grant had 12 points and four assists, setting up all of the final 25 points the Irish scored in that game. Notre Dame lost by one. Grant did not take the final shot, but it did look like he got fouled on a drive a few seconds before that.

4. Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga: Like I said earlier, we talked last week about just how good — and efficient — Pangos has been for the Zags this season, but he learned the hard way that Tucson is where efficiency goes to die. Pangos was 3-for-10 from the floor with four turnovers in an overtime loss to Arizona. He did hit a big three in overtime to cut a deficit to 64-63, but he wasn’t that effective down the stretch. He turned the ball over in a tie game in the final minute of regulation, down by one with 1:15 left in overtime and then, down by one on the ensuing possession, was stripped and lucky to get the ball back on held possession.

5. Caris LeVert, Michigan: LeVert is averaging 18.6 points, 5.6 boards and 4.4 assists this year, and while the Wolverines did just lose to NJIT at home, LeVert did his best to make sure that didn’t happen, finishing with 32 points and making big shot after big shot late. He’s demanding the ball at the end of games, which is something that he hasn’t done before.

6. Georges Niang, Iowa State: You see how versatile Niang is as a scorer by the numbers, this is a quintessential Georges. Slip a high-ball screen (1) and receive a pass on the right wing, using a pump-fake (2), a nasty behind-the-back move (3) and another pump-fake (4) to get all the way to the block and score over a shot blocker that’s bigger and much more athletic:

Screengrabs via ESPN

Ok, Georges

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7. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville: All that talk about Montrezl Harrell adding a three-point shot during the offseason appeared to be supported by the 6-foot-8 center hitting three threes in the season-opener against Minnesota. In the six games since, he’s 0-for-9 from beyond the arc.

8. Justin Anderson, Virginia: The most surprising development of the early part of this season has been the development of Anderson into a knockdown three-point shooter for the ‘Hoos. He’s 20-for-34, or 58.8 percent, through nine games, and in two road wins against VCU and Maryland last week, Anderson was 11-for-16 from the floor, 4-for-7 from three and averaged 18.5 points.

9. Angel Rodriguez, Miami: Rodriguez has come crashing down to earth after a scorching start to the season. In his last three games, he’s shooting 6-for-31 from the floor and 3-for-13 from three with nine turnovers and nine assists during that stretch. The Hurricanes did beat Illinois last Tuesday, but they lost to Green Bay at home by 13 in that game. Rodriguez finished 2-for-15 in the loss.

10. LaDontae Henton, Providence: In his last three games, Henton is 11-for-40 from the floor and 3-for-15 from three in a trio of losses for the Friars. One of those losses was at Kentucky, which is understandable. The second was at Boston College, which is not. The third was at home t0 in-state rival Brown. The fact that he’s still on this list should tell you just how good he was to start the season.

OTHERS THAT WERE CONSIDERED: Ron Baker (Wichita State), Craig Bradshaw (Belmont), Quinn Cook (Duke), Tyler Haws (BYU), Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), Jonathan Holmes (Texas), D’angelo Russell (Ohio State), Wesley Saunders (Harvard), Robert Upshaw (Washington), Tyrone Wallace (Cal), Delon Wright (Utah), Joseph Young (Oregon)

Player of the Year Power Rankings: Kaminsky, Okafor top list, Pangos climbing

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Kevin Pangos (Getty Images)

Every Tuesday, we will be providing you with a breakdown of the top ten candidates for National Player of the Year. You can read through the older posts here.

1. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
2. Jahlil Okafor, Duke: On Wednesday night, Kaminsky and Okafor will square off as No. 4 Duke makes the trip up to Madison to take on the Badgers in what very well could be the best game of the entire regular season. There may not be an individual matchup all season long that is more tantalizing, either. Okafor commands as much attention as any low-post player that has come through the collegiate ranks in a long time, and while Kaminsky is just as big, he’s more of a face-up big man than he is a low-block work horse.

I shouldn’t have to explain this anymore than that. These are the two best big men in the country — and arguably the two best players. If you’re not watching, you’re a lost cause.

3. Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga: We may only be six games into the season, but that doesn’t mean that it is too early to talk about just how good Kevin Pangos has been this season. It’s off the charts. His offensive efficiency, according to, is 166.0, a number that is unheard of. His effective field goal percentage is 75.7, which is extremely high for a guard, and he has an assist rate of 33.0 and a turnover rate of 8.7.

If those numbers don’t do it for you, how about this: He’s played 173 minutes this season, handing out 38 assists while turning the ball over just four times and missing, including free throws, just 17 shot attempts.

Perhaps what Pangos has done best this season is execute in the pick-and-roll. He and Kyle Wiltjer have become borderline-unstoppable on side pick-and-roll actions. Against St. John’s at Madison Square Garden on Friday, he showed a nice rapport with both Domantas Sabonis and Przemek Karnowski, hitting them both multiple times with lobs over the defense as they rolled to the rim.

RELATED: As good as Pangos is, Gonzaga’s bigs remain key

Here is how Pangos’ numbers stack up to the rest of the guard on this list:

(PP(P+A) = points-per-possession plus points-per-assist; P’n’R PPP = PP(P+A) on pick-and-rolls)

Stats via and Synergy

4. Angel Rodriguez, Miami: Rodriguez still has the most impressive individual performance of the season, scoring 20 points and hitting five threes in the final 6:47 in a win at Florida. The Hurricanes are still undefeated on the year, and at this point they look like they will very much be in the mix for an NCAA tournament berth.

5. LaDontae Henton, Providence: Henton was 1-for-8 from the floor for three points in a 58-38 loss to No. 1 Kentucky. He won’t be the only star to get swallowed up by Big Blue this season. He’s averaging 24.3 points in the other six games Providence has played.

6. Jerian Grant, Notre Dame: You can see Grant’s numbers above. He’s also averaging 18.7 points and 7.0 assists. He’ll climb this list if Notre Dame starts beating some teams worth noting.

7. Jonathan Holmes, Texas: His numbers aren’t other-worldly, but in three games against potential tournament teams, Holmes is averaging 17.7 points and 8.7 boards while shooting 8-for-15 from three. Oh, and he did this:

8. Caris LeVert, Michigan: LeVert is averaging 17.5 points, 6.2 boards and 4.7 assists while shooting 50.0 percent from three. We knew that he was going to have a big year, but what’s been impressive is that he appears ready to takeover the alpha-dog role on this team. He made a number of big, big shots during Michigan’s two games in the Legends Classic.

9. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville: Harrell was unbelievable against Minnesota on the opening night. He’s been solid since then, but those performances have come in games against teams that the Cardinals have beaten by 61 points.

10. D’angelo Russell, Ohio State: We were hardly the only people to pick Russell as one of the freshmen expected to have a massive season, but I’m not sure that I could have predicted this: 18.0 points, 5.4 assists, 4.0 boards and 48.3 percent shooting from three to go along with the numbers you see listed above. Here’s the thing: most of his damage has been done against patsies; he was 2-for-5 with seven turnovers in the win over Marquette. The Buckeyes play Louisville Tuesday night. We’ll see how he does then.

OTHERS THAT WERE CONSIDERED: Justin Anderson (Virginia), Ron Baker (Wichita State), Quinn Cook (Duke), Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), Marcus Paige (North Carolina), Wesley Saunders (Harvard), Shannon Scott (Ohio State), Joseph Young (Oregon)

Player of the Year Power Rankings: A familiar face on top, but a few surprises behind him

Frank Kaminsky (AP Photo)
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Frank Kaminsky (AP Photo)

Every Tuesday, we will be providing you with a breakdown of the top ten candidates for National Player of the Year. You can read through the older posts here.

1. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin: Frank the Tank has played like it early on this season, averaging 19.3 points, 10.3 boards, 2.8 assists, 2.8 blocks and 1.3 steals while shooting 44.4 percent from three. All of those numbers are career-highs, and while much of it can be attributed to the fact that Wisconsin has yet to really play quality competition, the fact of the matter is that you can see the improvement in Kaminsky if you watch him play. Could he make this play last season?:

Ok, Frank

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2. LaDontae Henton, Providence: Buckets got buckets over the weekend, scoring 62 points as he led the Friars to a title in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off. He went for a career-high 38 points in the title game against Notre Dame. I’m not sure how long Henton will remain at the top of this list, but through a week-and-a-half of the season, there haven’t been many players better than him.

3. Angel Rodriguez, Miami: Rodriguez scored 20 points in the final 6:47 — including making five threes — in a come-from-behind win at Florida. He also led the Hurricanes to a win in the Charleston Classic, but whatever. Do you realize how difficult this shot is?!?:

You think he’s happy to be home?

4. Jahlil Okafor, Duke: What’s made Okafor so good this season won’t show up in the box score. He’s averaging 15.8 points and 8.0 boards and is just 11-for-30 from the floor in his last two games. He’s not an elite shotblocker and he’s not an elite rebounder, either, but his presence in the post offensively opens up everything for Duke on the offensive end of the floor. I’ll dive into this more later in the year, but the easy way to explain it is that the myriad of talented guards and wings on the Blue Devils roster are going to get easy looks from three and opportunities to attack close-outs all season long as defenses worry about the behemoth on the block.

Jerian Grant, LaDontae Henton (AP Photo)

5. Jerian Grant, Notre Dame: I know that Notre Dame lost to Providence on Sunday afternoon, but that was hardly Grant’s fault. In the last 12 minutes of that game, he was responsible for creating all 25 of Notre Dame’s points. He had 12 of his own while handing out four assists, three of which led to threes, as well as setting up Zach Auguste for the two free throws he hit. He’s averaging 18.4 points and 7.2 assists this season, but more importantly, Notre Dame has their closer back.

6. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville: He’s slowed down since that monster opening night performance against Minnesota, but Louisville hasn’t played anyone since then. Does Harrell really need to be a factor when they’re winning games 87-26?

7. Georges Niang, Iowa State: Through three games, Niang is averaging 22.7 points, 8.7 boards and 3.7 assists. And he struggled in the 23-point win over Georgia State.

8. Norman Powell, UCLA: Powell spent his first three seasons at UCLA getting overshadowed by more talented teammates. That isn’t happening this season, as he’s averaging 21.3 points.

9. Jonathan Holmes, Texas: We’ve written quite a bit about Holmes over the last couple of days, from how he has used the ‘Chaminade Crew‘ to change the culture surrounding the Texas program and how important his size at the small forward spot is to Texas this season. He averaged 20.0 points and 9.0 boards in wins over Iowa and Cal.

10. Caris LeVert, Michigan: LeVert hasn’t shot the ball all that well yet this season, but he’s averaging 16.3 points, 7.0 boards and 5.0 assists for the Wolverines through four games. He’s been their best player.

OTHERS THAT WERE CONSIDERED: Justin Anderson (Virginia), Ron Baker (Wichita State), Quinn Cook (Duke), A.J. English (Iona), Sterling Gibbs (Seton Hall), Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), Stefan Nastic (Stanford), Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga), Shannon Scott (Ohio State), Joseph Young (Oregon)

Weekly Awards: LaDontae Henton, West Virginia with notable performances

LaDontae Henton (AP Photo)
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LaDontae Henton (AP Photo)

Player of the Week: LaDontae Henton, Providence

I wrote a feature on Henton, the new star of the Providence Friars, on Sunday evening after I watched him go for 38 points — including seven points and two go-ahead baskets in the final two minutes — in a win over Notre Dame in the finals of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off. That came a day after Henton went for 24 points as the Friars blew out Florida State in the semifinals of that matchup.

It’s early, I know, but Henton is the best player in the Big East right now, the guy that will be taking over Bryce Cotton’s role as Ed Cooley’s go-to guy. He’s a bit undersized to be a power forward, and he’s not quite quick enough to be a full-time off-guard. But that doesn’t change the fact that Buckets can get buckets.

The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team

  • Angel Rodriguez, Miami: Angel Rodriguez scored 20 points in the final 6:47 — including this game-winner — to beat Florida in Gainesville. Rodriguez averaged 16.8 points, 5.3 assists and 3.0 steals while shooting 10-for-22 from three. He’s happy to be home.
  • Jonathan Holmes, Texas: Holmes was terrific for Texas at Madison Square Garden this week as the Longhorns picked up two wins in the 2K Sports Classic.
  • A.J. English, Iona: Iona went just 2-1 this week, but they won at Wake Forest and at North Texas while English averaged 28.7 points. He hit 13 threes this week.
  • Shannon Scott, Ohio State: The Buckeyes beat Marquette and Sacred Heart this week. Scott finished with 30 assists and five turnovers.
  • Brad Waldow, Saint Mary’s: The Gaels won three games against quality mid-major competition, and Waldow led the way, averaging 23.3 points and 8.7 boards.
  • Notables: E.C. Matthews (Rhode Island), Quinn Cook (Duke), James Blackmon (Indiana)
Juwan Staten (AP Photo)

Team of the Week: West Virginia Mountaineers

The Mountaineers finally looked like a team that is coached by Bob Huggins this week. They’re now 5-0 on the season after winning the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, and it’s not just Juwan Staten stealing the show. The biggest difference with this team has been the play of Devin Williams and Jonathan Holton up front. WVU is defending, they are rebounding, they are getting physical in the paint. The highlight thus far? a 78-68 win over UConn where WVU looked like old school Huggy Bear, wearing down the Husky guards with some full court pressure.

They Were Good, too:

  • Miami Hurricanes: Angel Rodriguez and Sheldan McClellan led Miami to a 4-0 week, which included a title in the Charleston Classic and a win at Florida.
  • Creighton Bluejays: Who thought Creighton would be able to bounce back after losing Doug McDermott and the rest of that senior class? Well, they beat Oklahoma at home on Wednesday after erasing an 18 point deficit.
  • Northeastern Huskies: Northeastern won the mid-major version of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off on Sunday. That came after the Huskies knocked off Florida State.
  • Wyoming Cowboys: Larry Nance Jr. appears to be healthy these days, sparking Wyoming’s 56-33 win over Colorado on Saturday.
  • San Diego State Aztecs: SDSU scored a grand total of 104 points in two wins this week, but that’s perfectly fin if you allow an average of 38 points per game.

Providence star LaDontae ‘Buckets’ Henton may be the nation’s most under-appreciated star

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UNCASVILLE, CONNECTICUT — There’s a reason they call him ‘Buckets.’

And if you’re a fan of the Providence Friars, or if you watched LaDontae Henton tear through high school opponents in Lansing, Michigan, for four years, you can probably figure out why: the dude can flat out score the ball.

What you may not know, however, is how he earned that nickname. It dates back almost a decade, back to when Henton was in seventh grade and playing with the U-16 Michigan Mustangs AAU team, back when Henton couldn’t really do all that much on a basketball court. He played exactly the way you would expect a seventh grader to play if he’s thrust onto a floor with 16 year olds. He couldn’t really defend, he couldn’t really rebound, he couldn’t really handle the ball.

What he could do, however, was score, which is why the coaching staff starting calling him Buckets. You know, as in, “that’s the only reason you’re here right now, young’n.”

The name stuck — talk to anyone involved in basketball in the midwest and you’ll never hear him called anything else — as did the ability to score. The 6-foot-6 forward was named first-team all-state four times in high school. He scored more than 2,000 points as a schoolboy — one of just four players from mid-Michigan to do so; Magic Johnson is another — and averaged 22.2 points for his career. He also finished as the fourth-leading rebounder in the history of high school basketball in the state, never averaging less than 14.5 boards in four seasons.

But that wasn’t enough for Henton to garner attention from the big boys from his home state. Michigan never offered. Michigan State never offered, either. Henton was set to head to Dayton to play his college ball, but then Brian Gregory was fired, which is how Ed Cooley was able to land his very first recruit as the head coach at Providence.

It carried over into college, too.

All of it.

Henton has never averaged less than 13.0 points in a season while a Friar, blossoming into arguably the best player in the Big East this season. On Sunday afternoon, in the final of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut, Henton poured in a career-high 38 points, shooting 14-for-19 from the floor in a 75-74 win over Notre Dame.

He wasn’t just the points, either, as Henton made four critical plays in the final two minutes to lead the Friars to victory. With 1:45 left, he hit a jumper to cut Notre Dame’s lead to 71-70. A minute late, Henton hit a three that put Providence up 73-71. After Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant scored an and-one at the other end to put the Irish back in front, Henton got into the paint and drew a foul, hitting both free throws to put the Friars ahead by the final margin.

Oh, and should I mention that he was able to block Pat Connaughton’s would-be game-winning jumper?

“I’m proud of him,” Cooley said of Henton, who is now averaging 23.5 points on the season. “Today it all came together for him and he had one of those senior moments, and I’m sentimental because of how much I’ve seen this kid grow.”

Henton is growing into the role vacated by Bryce Cotton, who graduated after a similarly under-the-radar career as a Friar. He doesn’t play the same position as Cotton, but he’s the Providence go-to guy. He’s the veteran that they lean on to take a shot in crunch time. He’s the guy they run a play for when the team they’re playing is making a run.

But that doesn’t matter, because just as he was in high school and as he was on the recruiting trail, Henton is still overlooked nationally. We’re no less at fault than anyone. How many preseason all-american teams did Henton get put on? How many times was he mentioned on a ranking of the top 100 players in the country? How many people outside of the confines of the Big East have even heard of him?

“He’s the most underrated kid in the country,” Cooley said.

But Buckets won’t tell you that. He doesn’t want to talk about how underrated he is. He’ll tell a reporter that getting overlooked by the in-state programs while in high school is “a little bit of fuel to the fire” or that he thinks that he’s probably better than his national perception would have you believe, but it’s not something that he wants to discuss at length, not when he gets asked about it all the time.

And he doesn’t need to talk about himself to get people to notice.

“38 points,” he said, “speaks for itself.”

2014-15 Season Preview: Villanova is the heavy favorite in an uncertain Big East

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source: Getty Images
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Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 college hoops preview package.

Today, we will be previewing the Big East.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

The 10-team Big East debuted during the 2013-14 season. The relaunch season featured national player of the year Doug McDermott, who went on to be a lottery pick, and Villanova, which ended up being a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. Villanova will remain a top-15 team heading into the 2014-15 season. After the Wildcats, there are several teams with questions that also have the tools to solve them over the course of the next five months.


1. Villanova will build off last season: The Wildcats had a disappointing finish to their 2013-14 campaign, but heading into this year, Jay Wright will have a more seasoned team. He gets four starters back, including Darrun Hilliard, JayVaughn Pinkston and Ryan Archidiacono. Villanova will be the flag bearers for the Big East as the only team ranked in the preseason. The Wildcats can make a statement in the non-conference, as they did last season, with games against VCU (potentially Michigan), Illinois and Syracuse.

2. St. John’s will go dancing again: In Steve Lavin’s first season at St. John’s, the Red Storm reached the NCAA tournament — Mike Dunlap, now at Loyola Marymount, was coaching while Lavin battled cancer — and hauled in a heralded recruiting class. The Johnnies won 20 games last season, but they did no favors by digging themselves into an 0-5 hole to begin Big East play. It’s been three seasons since St. John’s went dancing, and it would take some heat off Lavin and help the growth of the new Big East if the Red Storm could get back in 2015. And, if everything comes together, they should. D’Angelo Harrison, Phil Green IV and Sir’Dominic Pointer — all part of that heralded recruiting class — are now seniors. Chris Obekpa reversed his decision to transfer and, most importantly, x-facotr Rysheed Jordan is coming off a promising freshman campaign.

MORE: Can Kris Dunn ever be the player that he was coming out of high school?

3. Despite significant losses, Xavier has plenty of depth: Semaj Christon was drafted in the second round and Justin Martin decided to use his last year of eligibility at SMU. Despite the losses, Chris Mack will have plenty of options with six returners and seven newcomers — six freshmen and Indiana transfer Remy Abell. Seniors Matt Stainbrook and Dee Davis are back while Jalen Reynolds and Myles Davis could both be in line for big seasons.

4. Providence adds McDonald’s All-American: Kris Dunn was rated the top point guard in 2012 by Rivals. His collegiate career has gotten off to a slow start thanks to nagging shoulder issues that occurred before the start of his freshman season, limiting him to 29 games in two years. A redshirt sophomore, Dunn is finally healthy, giving Ed Cooley a lead guard to help fill the void left behind by Bryce Cotton. Add in LaDontae Henton, an all-conference caliber forward, and the Friars have a nice one-two punch.

5. March failure: The mark of a conference is how it fares in March. The 1985 Final Four featured three Big East teams, serving as the benchmark of NCAA tournament success. In 2014, the new Big East had 40 percent of the league dancing, only to hear the music stop playing after the first weekend. Xavier lost in the First Four, Providence nearly upset North Carolina, Creighton was caught in an unfavorable matchup against Baylor and Villanova was bounced by the eventual national champion UConn Huskies. Success in March will continue to be a topic of discussion for the Big East.

RELATED: The Big East will be better than their second season

D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (AP)

PRESEASON BIG EAST PLAYER OF THE YEAR: D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown

As a sophomore, the 6-foot-3 Smith-Rivera averaged 17.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists en route to all-Big East second team honors. He finished top 10 in scoring and was one of the best rebounding guards in the conference. This season, with the graduation of Markel Starks, Smith-Rivera will also be tasked with handling the ball for the Hoyas.


  • D’Angelo Harrison, St. John’s: Harrison is the conference’s top returning scorer, trailing only Doug McDermott and Bryce Cotton in points per game at 17.7 in 2013-14.
  • Darrun Hilliard, Villanova: The Big East Most Improved Player from a season ago averaged 14.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists for the conference’s top team.
  • JayVaughn Pinkston, Villanova: The 6-foot-7 forward’s points, rebounds and shooting percentage all went up from sophomore to junior seasons. Arguably the best big man in the Big East.
  • Matt Stainbrook, Xavier: The Western Michigan transfer made an immediate impact last season with six double-doubles. The 6-foot-10 center will take on a greater role after the Musketeers lost several key players this spring.


  • Kellen Dunham, Butler
  • LaDontae Henton, Providence
  • Rysheed Jordan, St. John’s
  • Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova
  • Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall

BREAKOUT STAR: Deonte Burton, Marquette

The former four-star recruit saw only 12.6 minutes of action a night, but was able to score 6.9 points per game during his freshman season at Marquette. The 6-foot-4 power wing showed what he could do in extended minutes last season with a season-high 23 points (in 24 minutes) in the last game of the year against Xavier in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals.

COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Oliver Purnell, DePaul

There are several coaches feeling the heat heading into this season. But the hottest seat in the Big East belongs to Oliver Purnell at DePaul. The Blue Demons are 9-57 in the Big East over the last four years. And it’s not like he’s stockpiling young talent either. A handful of players have signed their letter of intent to play at DePaul, only to never play a single game.

ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING … : This league could be in line for five bids, but what if they only get one?

I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT : A rivalry starting … somewhere … anywhere

At Big East Media Day I asked Georgetown head coach John Thompson III, who’s been around the Big East basketball since he was a child, about rivalries in the new league. “You know, the Georgetown-Syracuse rivalry didn’t happen in one year,” he said. It took battle after battle to develop those fiery rivalries back in the 1980s. In Year 2 of the Big East relaunch, hopefully we’ll start to see the foundation set for a new rivalry whether it be close game followed by an even better rematch, or controversial call that the losing team doesn’t forget the next time those two teams meet. Sooner or later a new rivalry will unfold.


  • Nov. 24, Villanova vs. VCU at the Barclays Center, Brooklyn
  • Nov. 26, Georgetown at Florida
  • Dec. 6, St. John’s at Syracuse
  • Dec. 10, Georgetown vs. Kansas
  • Dec. 20, Butler vs. Indiana at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis



1. Villanova: The unanimous pick to finish atop the conference standings for the second season in a row. Jay Wright has four starters back, as the Villanova adapts to having the target on its back.
2. Georgetown: With arguably the conference’s best player, the Hoyas look to bounce back from their 8-10 record in conference. Big question: how much of an impact will Josh Smith have?
3. St. John’s: Maybe the league’s most talented team, St. John’s has the pieces to not only finish in the top half of the conference, but could also be a threat to heavy favorite Villanova.
4.  Xavier:  The league’s deepest team will benefit from having seniors Dee Davis and Matt Stainbrook. That senior leadership can help the Musketeers reach their eighth NCAA tournament since 2007.
5. Providence: A healthy Kris Dunn helps combat the loss of PC’s two starting guards. Ed Cooley will have several young players who will need to make an impact. Come March, Friars could be back in the top 3.
6. Marquette: Hiring Steve Wojciechowski was a good move in the long run, but his Golden Eagles could surprise the rest of the league behind graduate transfer Matt Carlino and potential breakout star Deonte Burton.
7. Seton Hall: With five-star shooting guard Isaiah Whitehead, the Pirates bring in the conference’s top recruiting class.
8. Butler: Having Kellen Dunham back and Roosevelt Jones healthy is big for the Bulldogs, but for a program that has gone through a whirlwind of changes over the last five years, is this another transitional season?
9. Creighton: Greg McDermott and Co. are bound for a rebuilding season after graduating Doug McDermott and three other starters.
10. DePaul: The cellar is the likely destination for DePaul once again this season. Sophomore Billy Garrett Jr. is worth watching, though.