Big East writers have no doubts about the five best teams in the Big East. Pitt, Villanova, Syracuse, Georgetown and West Virginia were listed in that order on nearly every ballot. Pitt was picked no lower than second on any ballot.
If only picking the player of the year were as simple.
As tabulated by Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Standard, seven different players received at least one vote for player of the year. Georgetown’s Austin Freeman eventually got the nod by virtue of being named on six ballots. The rest?
Other players receiving mention as Player of the Year candidates included Syracuse’s Kris Joseph, Villanova’s Corey Fisher, Pittsburgh’s Ashton Gibbs and Connecticut’s Kemba Walker. Those four plus Freeman comprised the writers’ preseason All-Big East first-team.
West Virginia’s Kevin Jones also received two Player of the Year votes, but wound up on the writers’ second team. Similarly, Seton Hall’s Jeremy Hazell picked up one vote for Player of the Year, but also found himself on the second team.
There’s really no wrong answer in that group. The best players from the five top teams, along with perhaps the best pure point guard (Walker) and the league’s best scorer (Hazell). Any of ’em could take top honors.
But if I had to pick one, I’m picking Jones.
Only Joseph can match Jones’ mix of size and athleticism. Jones is bound to put up better overall stats and earn himself plaudits by being more valuable to his team. Sure, defenses can focus more attention on Jones without De’Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks around, but he can handle it. Jones was a marvelously efficient scorer last season who also hit the boards and hit 40 percent of his 3-pointers. I expect him to score 20 points and grab 10 boards a game.
Not enough? Let’s try a different approach. Check out this simple equation: No Butler and Ebanks + Joseph’s better supporting cast = Jones primed for better year.