In terms of individual performances there have been some major surprises this season in the Big East. Quite a few players who were picked to earn all-conference honors prior to the season did not live up to expectations, while others who were relatively unheralded have had outstanding seasons. Some players, of course, did live up to their advance billing and deserve to be considered for post-season awards.
Here are my choices for the Big East All-Conference First Team of 10 players. I’ve decided to include two point guards, two off guards, four forwards, and two centers something the official all-conference team will almost certainly not do.
I doubt my selections will mirror the official Big East first team, partially because those selections will not be position-conscious. Also, I’ve tried to disregard all pre-season hype and focus exclusively on player performances during the 16-game conference season.
First Team All-Conference Big East Selections
Point Guard – Dominic James (Marquette): 13.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 5.3 apg - Even though his shooting has been off, James has contributed to his team’s success in other ways. His average of 5.3 apg ranks fifth in the conference and his assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.4/1.0 ranks second. His defense has also been outstanding.
Point Guard – Scottie Reynolds (Villanova): 18.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 4.1 apg – The only freshman on the first team, Reynolds has become the leading offensive weapon on the Wildcats. At times recently he has been unstoppable. His improvement during the conference season has been remarkable.
Off Guard – Eric Devendorf (Syracuse): 15.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 4.5 apg – The sophomore from Michigan had a couple of poor games, but, overall, he’s been very productive. He can score from the perimeter or drive to the hoop. He’s also recently shown an ability to set up teammates.
Off Guard – Jerel McNeal (Marquette): 14.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 3.8 apg – Statistically, McNeal has been the most productive off guard in the conference this season. He is also one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. He has a motor on both ends of the court that just doesn’t stop.
Small Forward – Curtis Sumpter (Villanova): 15.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg – The fifth-year senior can do it all. He can drive, post up, or hit the outside shot. He’s an excellent rebounder on both ends of the court as well as a terrific defender. He is one of the most difficult match-ups in the conference.
Small Forward – Russell Carter (Notre Dame): 16.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg – Like Sumpter, the 6’4” senior possesses the complete package. He can score inside or outside, which creates tremendous match-up problems for opponents. He is also a tough defender even when defending taller players. Had he not suffered a hip injury, he would have contended for conference scoring honors.
Power Forward – Jeff Adrien (Connecticut): 13.4 ppg, 9.3 rpg – The 6’6” sophomore is simply a beast around the hoop. He’s not one of the top scorers in the conference, but his offensive game has improved. Most importantly, he may be, inch for inch, the best rebounder in the league.
Power Forward – Jeff Green (Georgetown): 15.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.5 apg – The 6’9” junior is probably the most talented all-around player in the conference. He can score in a variety of ways on offense, but he is also a terrific passer. At times he can simply take over a game.
Center – Herbert Hill (Providence): 19.9 ppg, 9.8 rpg – Hill is probably the biggest surprise of the season. He has become a dominant player for the Friars. In his last three games he averaged 28.0 ppg and 12.3 rpg. He is also one of league’s top shot blockers. Hill was, quite simply, the best center in the Big East this year.
Center – Kentrell Gransberry (South Florida): 16.4 ppg, 11.3 rpg – The LSU transfer has been almost impossible to stop on the offensive end of the court as he’s had eight double-doubles in conference play. In his head-to-head match up with Aaron Gray, Gransberry had 14 points and nine boards to Gray’s seven points and five rebounds as the 7’0” Pitt center got in foul trouble trying to defend him.
It’s difficult to imagine an all-Big East first team without Aaron Gray and Roy Hibbert, especially one that includes 10 players. However, if one wants a TEAM that includes all five positions, the reality is that both Hill and Gransberry have been more productive and more consistent than either of the other two more highly-publicized post players. This is not to take anything away from either player, both of whom will almost certainly be playing for pay in the near future. However, neither one showed the kind of consistent dominance that Hill and Gransberry displayed during the course of conference play.
There are many other fine players who would be relegated to second team or honorable mention, including point guards Sharaud Curry, Eugene Harvey, and Levance Fields, off guards Draelon Burns, Alex Ruoff, and Colin Falls, small forwards Brian Laing, Geoff McDermott, Terrance Williams, and Demetris Nichols, power forwards McHugh Mattis, Lamont Hamilton, and Wilson Chandler, and centers David Padgett and Darryl Watkins.
To help me gauge “productivity” I examined players’ P-5 (Potential Point Production & Prevention Profile) scores. A P-5 score is calculated by adding a player’s points scored, rebounds, assists (times 2), steals, and blocks, then subtracting the number of turnovers. This figure is then divided by the number of minutes played.
Here is a quick look at the top P-5 scores for each position for players who were regular starters and averaged at least 24.0 minutes per game in league play. Readers may be surprised at how relatively productive some under-publicized players were and how relatively unproductive some highly publicized players were.
Of course, the P-5 score is not the only criterion I looked at in selecting my all-Big East First Team. But it did play a role.
Final P-5 Scores - Conference Games Only
(The overall P-5 rank for the Top 25 scores is in parentheses after the individual score)
1. Reynolds (Villanova) - .842 (4)
2. James (Marquette) - .792 (9)
3. Sosa (Louisville) - .707 (23)
4. Harvey (Seton Hall) - .692
5. Fields (Pittsburgh) - .689
6. Jackson (Notre Dame) - .675
7. Vaughn (Cincinnati) - .642
8. Curry (Providence) - .626
9. Nichols (West Virginia) - .618
1. McNeal (Marquette) - .820 (7)
2. Devendorf (Syracuse) - .768 (12)
3. Burns (DePaul) - .705 (24)
4. Ruoff (West Virginia) - .703 (25)
5. Dyson (Connecticut) - .663
6. Falls (Notre Dame) - .663
7. Efejuku (Providence) - .660
8. Nardi (Villanova) - .618
1. Sumpter (Villanova) - .826 (6)
2. Williams (Louisville) - .789 (10)
3. McDermott (Providence) - .754 (15)
4. Carter (Notre Dame) - .741 (17)
5. Laing (Seton Hall) - .736 (18)
6. Nichols (Syracuse): .708 (22)
7. Matthews (Marquette) - .668
8. Mejia (DePaul) - .668
9. Young (West Virginia) - .663
10. Anthony Mason, Jr. (Cincinnati) - .642
1. Green (Georgetown) - .802 (8)
2. Mattis (South Florida) - .764 (13)
3. Hamilton (St. John’s) - .756 (14)
4. Chandler (DePaul) - .746 (16)
5. Alexander (West Virginia) - .727 (19)
6. Adrien (Connecticut) - .722 (20)
7. Kurz (Notre Dame) - .714 (21)
8. Roberts (Syracuse) - .676
9. Williamson (Cincinnati) - .627
10. JR Inman (Rutgers) - .616
1. Gransberry (South Florida) - .957 (1)
2. Hill (Providence) - .952 (2)
3. Gray (Pittsburgh) - .913 (3)
4. Hibbert (Georgetown) - .829 (5)
5. Padgett (Louisville) - .781 (11)
6. Hill (Rutgers) - .675
7. Watkins (Syracuse) - .635
8. Barro (Marquette) - .605