With the season just around the corner, Paint Touches is taking a look at the top 50 players in the Big East. Instead of doing a true top 50, we took the five best players from each team and ordered them one to fifty. Important to note, these are the five best players, not necessarily the five starters from each team. This list is the product of a lot of analysis and discussion and will hopefully inspire some reaction and debate.
The top 50 is being broken down in to five ten team segments. We already did #50-41.
40. Justin Patton of Creighton
7-0 230 lb RSFR C
2015 4 star C, ranked #87 by 247 Composite
Justin Patton was a relatively unknown prospect heading into his senior season. The Omaha native committed to local Creighton before he had truly broken on the national scene. His senior season he averaged pretty much a double, scoring 14, grabbing 9.9 rebounds, and swatting 3.5 attempts a contest. Patton skyrocketed in the rankings, going as high as #24 in some services. He arrived on campus with a lot of fanfare but a significant lack of girth. Weighing only 207 lbs, it was unlikely that Patton was going to be able to hold his own against the beefy bigs featured in the Big East. This combined with the presence of veteran centers Geoffrey Groeselle and Zach Hanson, led Coach McDermott to the decision to redshirt Patton.
This is the first Blue Jay we’ve encountered. Creighton returns most of their core from last year, but they lose starting center Geoffrey Groselle to graduation. This departure leaves a void in the middle that Patton can easily step into fill. Since coming to Creighton, Patton has gained about 25 pounds and according to the official roster, two inches. This extra size will be a necessity if Patton is going to be able to bang around with the likes of Luke Fischer, RaShid Gaston, and Angel Delgado. One thing Patton has on most big men is that he has fairly accurate shot, even 15-20 feet away from the bucket. He will have some limited ability to pull the opponents big man away from the hoop and open some driving lanes for Mo Watson, Marcus Foster, and Isaiah Zierden.
39. Jalen Lindsey of Providence
6-7 220 lb JR SF
26.1 mpg, 7.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 0.7 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.1 bpg, 0.7 tpg, .381 FG%, .733 FT%, .269 3P%
It’s easy to forget that Ben Bentil was not the star of Ed Cooley’s 2014 class. He was the third highest rated player in a class of four. One of the two ahead of him was Tennessee native and Huntington Prep product Jalen Lindsey. Lindsey was ranked #75 in the nation by the 247 composite but was as high as #32 in other services. The athletic wing was pegged as a scorer with multiple tools in his arsenal and the ideal size to guard a variety of positions. His freshmen year, he didn’t quite live up to the expectations many had for him. He came off the bench and was an inconsistent at best and a liability at worst. He saw his role increase in his second year, earning starter level minutes. His numbers got a little better, specifically showing a lot more aggression on the boards. However, his shooting was still a roller coaster. His 3P% dropped to 26.9% on the season. Despite his low percentage from deep, he kept on firing, taking 69% of his FGs from long range. The season was a disappointing one for Lindsey but he did show a spark at the end of the regular season. After failing to hit double digits in points ever in conference play, Lindsey put up 14 against Depaul, 13 against Creighton, before exploding for a career high of 30 against St. John’s. He went 6-9 from deep in that game against the Red Storm. He came back down to earth for the postseason, but that stretch of three games have given Friar fans hope for the future.
Consistency and confidence is the name of the game for Lindsey. He has the ideal size and frame to play an effective stretch four for the Friars. He just needs to find a way to shoot the ball consistently with confidence. Lindsey lacks the quickness to be an effective slasher and the size to score in the post. He needs that outside shot to be respectable enough for defenses to view him as a shooting threat. Lindsey ended up this far down on the list mostly because he is a stretch four who last season couldn’t shoot. Take out the one 6-9 performance against St. John’s and Lindsey’s 3P% drops to an even more embarrassing 24.2%. He will need to have a bigger role this year and if he can get his shot right, then he has the potential to be a very dangerous weapon for the Friars.
38. Khyri Thomas of Creighton
6-3 205 lb SO SG
18.6 mpg, 6.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.1 tpg, .471 FG%, .521 FT%, .418 3P%
Khyri Thomas was far from a heralded recruit when he arrived in Omaha last summer. He was a three star in most services and ranked in the low 300s by the 247 composite. He was known for a lot of different things well but lacked an elite skill that could set him apart from other recruits. If he had a weakness, it was handle was a bit loose when driving to the basket. Thomas didn’t let the low ranking stop him, he immediately made an impact earning the title of first man off the bench for the Blue Jays. He was the team’s most accurate three-point threat, making 23 out of 55 attempts for a 42% clip. He rebounded extremely well for his size. But where he made his impact known was on the defensive side of the ball. He has extremely long arms and used those to terrorize opponents in the passing lane. He posted the highest steal rate on the team, beating out starter Isaiah Zierden and all-world PG Mo Watson Jr.
This is the pick that is going to get me in trouble more than any other one. Khyri Thomas got selected instead of Marcus Foster for the Blue Jays’ top 5 players. Foster has had a ton of ink written about him this summer, dubbing him one of the top newcomers to the Big East. Foster has the flash but his advanced stats leave a lot to be desired, and I think he will struggle more than most realize. Of course, I am an armchair point guard at very best so I could very well end up eating those words. Thomas will compete with Foster for the starting guard role left open by the departure of James Milliken. Thomas brings a strong defensive presence and very efficient scoring. He posted an eFG% of 54% last season which is extremely impressive for a freshman guard. He will have a larger role this season and his efficiency should drop as a result. However, conventional wisdom teaches that players tend to make the biggest jump in skill between the freshman and sophomore years. I expect young Mr. Thomas to make a similar jump and be one of the surprise players of the 16-17 season.
37. Eric Paschall of Villanova
6-7 250 lb RSSO PF
31.2 mpg, 15.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.4 bpg, 2.8 tpg, .419 FG%, .794 FT%, .315 3P% (14-15 stats for Fordham)
Eric Paschall spent his freshman season as a member of the Fordham Rams. He assembled some gaudy scoring numbers, racking up almost 16 points per game. His efforts unfortunately didn’t do much for the Rams as they limped to a 10-21 season record and 12th place finish in the 14 team Atlantic 10. It worked out well for Paschall however, as he won Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year and converted that into a scholarship offer from Villanova.
Paschall arrives at Nova as a bit of a tweener. He’s a little too short to be a traditional PF but he doesn’t have the quickness to play on the wing. He was a massive 260 lbs at Fordham but despite that, he didn’t do as much damage in the post as you would think. He took about 40% of his shots from beyond the arc, despite only making about 31% of them. Another 25% of his shots came from the mid-range where his accuracy wasn’t much better at 36%. This is problematic for Villanova because with the news about Omari Spellman’s ineligibility, Paschall is now one of the biggest guys left on the roster. The Wildcats will need him to be a more physical presence in the post. At Fordham, Paschall had a ridiculously high 27.30 usage rate. He will reduce that as a Wildcat and should see his efficiency raise as a result. Paschall was a poor defender and rebounder at his last gig but he has the right body and ability to improve. The year off should also help him make an immediate impact.
36. Avery Woodson of Butler
6-2 190 lb RSSR SG
26.3 mpg, 9.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.4 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.3 bpg, 0.7 tpg, .424 FG%, .700 FT%, .430 3P% (stats for Memphis)
With studs Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones leaving, Coach Holtmann turned to the graduate transfer market to address his dearth of guards. The transfer wheel spat out Avery Woodson, a sharpshooting guard formerly of the Memphis Tigers. Woodson played the role of 5th starter and three-point specialist for a weak Tiger squad. Woodson is an elite level outside shooter, making 77 treys a season ago while firing at a 43% clip. He is fairly one dimensional on offense, making 77% of his FGs from beyond the arc. He also rarely found his way to the charity stripe, ranking last on the Tigers in free throw rate.
Butler lost one of the most prolific deep threats in Big East history when Dunham graduated. Woodson’s presence helps fill that void immediately. Woodson will stretch opponent’s defenses and will allow fellow transfer Kethan Savage to attack some wide open driving lanes. What Woodson doesn’t replace is everything else Dunham brought to the Bulldogs. Woodson lacks the versatility that Dunham brought to the offense. There has been speculation that Woodson could help at the point guard position. Tyler Lewis is the only true PG on the roster and he left a lot to be desired last season. Unfortunately for Bulldog fans, Woodson has never played the point. He ranked 6th on Memphis in assists last season. The lack of depth at PG is going to be the real Achilles heel to Butler this season.
35. Shamorie Ponds of St. John’s
6-1 170 lb FR PG
4 star PG ranked #45, by 247 Composite
With Omari Spellman of Villanova getting ruled academically ineligible, Shamorie Ponds is now the highest rated freshman in the Big East’s class of 16. The Brooklyn native decided to stay close to home after narrowing his list to Minnesota and fellow Big East programs, Creighton and Providence. Ponds is a short and speedy guard know for his explosiveness and quick first step. He can change the game by being either a passer or a scorer. He has a streaky outside shot but has been known to make difficult looking shots look easy. Ponds does have a low release point on his shot, a problem complicated by his short stature. He also lacks the strength to score in traffic, especially against Big East caliber defenders.
Bringing in Ponds (and MarcQus LoVett) will mercifully allow Federico Mussini to move to the 2 guard position where he will be more effective. While Ponds will have some growing pains, he brings with him an ability to break down the defense and generate scoring for himself and others. That was something that Mussini was never able to truly do last season. He is likely going to be an All Big East Freshmen but will need a year to truly be ready to be a Big East caliber starter. He should develop into a very nice player for St. John’s over the next four years.
34. Kyron Cartwright of Providence
5-11 185 lb JR PG
24.2 mpg, 5.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 4.0 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.4 tpg, .363 FG%,.672 FT%, .364 3P%
Not many teams could claim to have two players that dished out four assists per game, but last year’s Providence squad could. The Friars were of course led by current Minnesota Timberwolf Kris Dunn, possibly the best PG in D1 last season. But playing right alongside him was a diminutive California native named Kyron Cartwhright. Cartwright has an uncanny knack to get the ball to exact where it needs to go, you can find some of the best examples of his work here. The most impressive thing about his distribution ability is how he can do it while limiting the turnovers, committing only 1.4 per game last season. While he is great at creating for others, he struggles to create for himself. He has a respectable outside shot, making 20 threes with 36% accuracy, but was atrocious inside the arc. He barely made 1/3 of his 2 pt. field goals. A lot of this stems from his lack of strength and size.
With Dunn gone to the NBA, Cartwright will have some massive shoes to fill. He will become the primary ball handler and will be without Dunn and NBA draftee Ben Bentil as weapons. Cartwright is no Dunn and I don’t think anyone expects him to be. He however should be able to fill the distribution role that Dunn played almost as well as his predecessor did. It would not surprise me in the slightest to see Cartwright lead the Big East in assists. Where he won’t be able to fill in is with the scoring the Dunn offered. Cartwright has an outside shot but he is very ineffective at slashing to hoop. With defenses being able to key in on him more as a threat, he is not likely to get much better. His opportunities and raw scoring numbers will raise, but his efficiency will drop. However, he did get a chance to learn from one of the best PGs in the country the past two seasons. That knowledge may help him become a pleasant surprise for the Friars this season.
33. Haanif Cheatham of Marquette
6-5 195 lb SO SG
29.5 mpg, 11.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 2.7 tpg, .489 FG%, .820 FT%, .387 3P%
Henry Ellenson may have gotten all of the headlines, but Haanif Cheatham may be the true gem of Wojo’s first recruiting class at Marquette. Cheatham is an aggressive southpaw guard with a lethal first step and a smooth shooting stroke. He made an impact from day 1 at Marquette, earning Wojo’s trust with his early comprehension of the team defense. On offense, Cheatham uses his explosiveness and speed to blow by defenders for easy layups or trips to the free throw line. He heavily favors his left side, almost never driving with his right which made him a tad predictable by the end of the season. Fortunately, his first step is so quick that he was still able to get it done despite the defense expecting it. Cheatham also has an accurate outside shot though he is very selective, hitting 29 treys with 39% accuracy.
Cheatham ends up as Marquette’s fifth best player due to a combination of high expectations of their incoming transfers and possibly getting unfairly punished for turnovers. Cheatham turned the ball over at an alarming rate last season, 2.7 times a game to be exact. That number was good for most turnovers on Marquette who was one of the worst teams in the BEast at hanging onto the ball. Cheatham should see that number reduce drastically this season as he will no longer have to play out of position at the point and will be utilized soley on the wing where he is most comfortable. Marquette has huge depth at guard, possibly more than any other BEast squad. Cheathem will compete with several talented players for time which should push him to be on his game.
32. Ish Sanogo of Seton Hall
6-8 215 lb JR PF
27.9 mpg, 5.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.4 spg, 1.1 bpg, 1.2 tpg, .500 FG%, .575 FT%, .000 3P%
While not high scoring, there was no frontcourt that Big East teams dreaded facing more, than the Pirates of Seton Hall. The Hall featured two absolute bruisers, the first of which is Ish Sanogo. Sanogo is an old school type forward. Lunch pail kid, garbage man, those are all accurate descriptors for the 6-8 junior. He rebounds at a ridiculous high rate especially on the offensive end where he nabbed an impressive 90 boards. Where he truly made his presence felt was on the other side of the ball. Sanogo use his length to both defend the paint and disrupt passing lanes. He was second on the team with blocked shots at 1.1 per game. He was also second in steals per game with 1.6. More than that, he is just a physical tough player. What he can’t do is hit the ocean with a ball that he threw from the beach. Sanogo does all of his damage at the rim, get him further than 10 feet and he isn’t going to shoot with confidence. Hack an Ish is a serious strategy in close game situations.
Seton Hall’s frontcourt returns a year older and stronger. Sanogo will continue to start alongside double double machine Delgado to make up the most physical pair of forwards in the Big East. With his versatility he can be moved around on defense to maximize his ability disrupt the opponents’ offense. While Sanogo can’t score from more than 10 feet away from the basket, he is useful in the high low game and create some space for the likes of Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez.
31. Jalen Brunson of Villanova
6-2 190 lb SO PG
24.0 mpg, 9.6 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 2.5 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.0 bpg, 1.8 tpg, .452 FG%, .774 FT%, .383 3P%
Arriving on Villanova’s campus, Jalen Brunson already had his fair share of awards and accolades. As a senior he lead his high school to a state championship title, won Mr. Baksetball for the state of Illinois, won the FIBA U19 championships, was named MVP of the FIBA U19, and got himself a near consensus top 20 ranking from scouting services. He then continued this streak by starting for the Villanova Wildcats and winning a national championship. Brunson had a pretty darn good 2015-2016. He played the role of 5th starter for the national champions, providing some quality outside shooting and taking over as PG when Arcidiacono needed a spell. He faded a bit towards the end of the year, and both his productions and minutes were reduced as some the older, more confident players took over.
With Arcidiacono gone, the role of full time PG will now be handed over to Brunson. His minutes should see a big hike and he will need to be a focal point of the offense. Last season, he was about the 5th most dangerous threat on the court so defenses weren’t usually keyed in on him. That will change this upcoming season. Brunson’s highlights last season were his because of his effectiveness on offense. He had a 51.7% eFG% and a 55.8% true shooting percentage in conference play, both very good numbers for a freshman guard. If he can keep those level while increasing his production he will have a very good year. One area he will need to improve is on defense. He wasn’t bad by any stretch but there were moments where he looked lost and overmatched, and now he’s going to be expected to guard the opponent’s lead guard.