There is quite a bit to talk about coming out No. 25 St. John’s 81-68 win over No. 14 Villanova.
The Johnnies picked up a huge road win as they have all but proven themselves one of the best teams in the Big East and continue to climb up seed lines in the NCAA Tournament. Villanova is on the other end of the momentum spectrum, as they have now lost four of their last five games in the Big East to fall to 9-7 in league play.
But that’s not what I’m going to write about.
I want to write about Dwight Hardy.
There has not been a better player in the last month than “The Baddest Man on the Planet”. In his last eight games, Hardy is averaging 28.2 ppg. That includes his 34 point performance against Villanova, the third time in the past six games that he has set his career-high. During that stretch, St. John’s has gone 7-1 (7-0 in Big East play). They’ve beaten Duke, Pitt, UConn, and Villanova. And, most importantly, they have moved into sole possession of third place in the Big East, pending the outcome of tomorrow’s game between Pitt and Louisville.
This St. John’s resurgence has been a bit of a surprise.
Before this recent eight game stretch, the Johnnies had lost five of six game, culminating in a 77-52 beatdown at the hands of the Georgetown Hoyas. During that six game stretch, Hardy averaged a measly 9.8 ppg.
It raises the question — where does Dwight Hardy stand in the Big East player of the year conversation?
Two months ago, even questioning Kemba Walker’s candidacy would be consider blasphemy. But Walker has turned into a ball-hogging gunner. The perfect example in the 27 points he had against Marquette as he single-handedly cost UConn that game down the stretch. Marshon Brooks may be the best player in the Big East, but can you award the Big East player of the year to a guy that plays for a Big East team that has never been considered an NCAA Tournament candidate? Ben Hansbrough is another terrific option, but he has never been as dominant this season as Hardy has been the past month.
On the season, “Buckets” (you know you are nasty when you have two different nicknames) is averaging 17.9 ppg. He’s the most reliable scorer on a roster that desperately needed someone to become a go-to guy coming into the season. If the last 14 games have proven anything, its that Hardy is as valuable to his team as anyone in the conference.
As of today, there may not be a better option for the Big East player of the year.