Sure, it’s only July 24 and plenty is bound to change in the next few months. But what’s going to keep this offseason moving better than a little speculation and prediction? Thanks to NYC Buckets (follow on Twitter here) for the idea, John Templon gave his own “Way Too Early: All-Big East Teams” yesterday which you can find here, and we decided to do a list of our own.
As always, critique away. We’d love to hear your picks in the comments section below.
Player of the year: Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton — The 6-foot-8 scorer made the decision to return to his father — head coach Greg McDermott — and the Blue Jays for his senior season and immediately became the best player in the conference, if not the country. He averaged 23.2 points on 55 percent shooting last season, including 49 percent of his 3-pointers and added 7.7 rebounds. He’s perhaps the easiest pick of any, and a change of conference won’t mean much of a difference to the coach’s kid. He’s the real deal.
Bryce Cotton, G, Providence — He’s the best player returning from the Catholic 7 schools and the junior is progressing at a phenomenal rate. What he lacks in size — he’s just 6-foot-1 — he makes up for with a deadly outside shot, the ability to draw contact at the basket and play an underrated brand of defense.
D’Angelo Harrison, G, St. John’s — The controversial sophomore was suspended the last six games of the season last year, but he’ll return with a clean slate as an upperclassman needing to prove his worth. The numbers have always been there — he averaged 17.8 points per game — now it’s time for it to produce wins for Steve Lavin’s group. If he keeps his head on straight, admittedly a big “if,” he’ll earn First Team honors.
Kadeem Batts , F, Providence — The most improved player in the Big East last season made a gigantic jump in Year 3, upping his points from 6.2 to 14.8, and his rebounds from 4.2 to 7.2 in 12 additional minutes per game. Ed Cooley will lean on Batts in the frontcourt and the 6-foot-10 forward’s skills will be a useful tool.
Cleveland Melvin, F, DePaul — Another player who, like Harrison, must have his numbers match win totals, Melvin is looking to improve on a junior season where he didn’t make a major leap from that as a sophomore. The ball will be in his hands plenty, leaving room for him to put up a big year for the Blue Demons. DePaul’s 11-21 record a year ago left him off the All-Big East teams, but Oliver Purnell’s group will be better due to a lack of competition. That will help the 6-foot-8 forward.
Markel Starks, G, Georgetown — Like most Georgetown point guards, Starks’ numbers won’t pop out in the box score. But don’t for a second deny the senior’s importance to the Hoyas. John Thompson III’s team will compete for a Big East title in 2013-14, and Starks’ successes will be a big reason why. He made a nice jump from his freshman to sophomore season, and shooting nearly 42 percent from beyond the arc will help a Hoyas’ offense that always seems to be in desperate need of points. Georgetown will have a player on the All-First Team ballot; there’s a good chance it’s Starks.
Brandon Young, G, DePaul — Oh, what could have been if the 6-foot-4 point guard had chosen Marquette over DePaul. As it stands, one of the better court generals in the Big East will have success in the new conference. He isn’t a terribly efficient shooter yet, like Melvin, the ball will be in his hands often. He showed progression in Year 3 and, with Syracuse, Louisville and others gone, defensive resistance won’t be as steep. That should help scorers like Young.
Jamil Wilson, F, Marquette — Perhaps no player in this year’s conference needs a “prove it” season more than Wilson. His numbers haven’t been poor, though they haven’t matched the hype he arrived with as a top-30 recruit who transferred from Oregon after his freshman season. As a fifth-year senior, Wilson is now the unspoken leader of a team destined for March success. Once he lights the fire underneath him, the sky’s the limit for this switchable.
Jakarr Sampson, F, St. John’s — Last year’s Big East Rookie of the Year performed admirably and will need to be Harrison’s No. 2 for a St. John’s team that, shocker, will again be one of the youngest in the country. He’s more athlete than basketball player and another offseason of work and understanding of the game will do him good. He averaged 14.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game last year. His sophomore numbers should look even better.
Fuquan Edwin, F, Seton Hall — The biggest snub in last year’s All-Big East teams was Edwin, arguably the best defender in the conference while averaging 16.5 points on 41.2 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Now in his junior season, Edwin should get the respect he deserves on a Pirates team that will be much better than a year ago. He deserved Second Team honors last year, so it’s only fitting he’s on the ballot here in 2013-14.
Davante Gardner, F, Marquette — Last year’s Sixth Man of the Year, Gardner’s biggest statistical jump in his junior season was averaging 21.5 minutes and playing in all 37 games. He’ll need to do even more as a senior, especially with Vander Blue’s scoring out of the picture.The 6-foot-8 big seems to have slimmed down, making 25 minutes per game a real possibility. If he can continue his production at that mark, he’ll fight for First Team honors.
JayVaughn Pinkston, F, Villanova — With Mouphtaou Yarou out of the picture, the frontcourt is now Pinkston’s to flourish in. He averaged 13.3 points and 5.0 rebounds a year ago and is beginning to diversify his game. Jay Wright will rely on his big man to do the dirty work down low, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him improve his averages even further in his junior season.
Semaj Christon, G, Xavier — The A-10’s Rookie of the Year in 2012-13 averaged 15.2 points and 4.6 assists as a freshman and will be called upon to carry the Muskateers. He made just 7 of 28 3-point attempts, a number that must improve, but there’s plenty of room for the 6-foot-3 guard to make good on just that. He’s a real name to keep an eye on as one of the top newcomers in the league.
Grant Gibbs, G, Creighton — Like Chris Otule, Gibbs was granted a sixth year earlier this month and will have the luxury of passing the ball to the best pure scorer in the country. He averaged 5.8 assists per game last year and should improve on that mark. He’s also a highly efficient shooter, making better than 53 percent of his shots and 39 percent of his 3-point attempts.
Rysheed Jordan, G, St. John’s — One freshman had to make all-conference honors, so why not Jordan? The 6-foot-3 point guard chose the Johnnies over UCLA and enters the fold as the 17th best prospect in the 2013 class, the highest-ranked newcomer in the conference. He’s a powerful scorer who runs the break well but must show he can run a team. Given the minutes he’ll likely need to play, he should do just that.
LaDontae Henton, F, Providence — The best rebounder in the conference, Henton snagged 8.4 boards per game last year, behind only Jack Cooley and Gorgui Dieng. His 13.0 points were a nice addition to his line, but he’ll need to shoot far better than the 40.3 percent mark he averaged a year ago. Still, the upside here is huge for the 6-foot-6 sophomore, and Cooley utilizes his players well.
Honorable mention candidates
Ryan Arcidiacono, G, Villanova
Khyle Marshall, F, Butler
Kellen Dunham, F, Butler
D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, G, Georgetown
Eugene Teague, C, Seton Hall
Chris Obekpa, C, St. John’s
Jajuan Johnson, G, Marquette
*Editor’s note: Eli Carter transferred to Florida.
Nate Lubick, F, Georgetown