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.
20. Andrew Rowsey of Marquette
5-10 180 lb RSJR PG
32.6 mpg, 19.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.9 apg, 1.4 spg, 0.1 bpg, 2.0 tpg, .394 FG%, .921 FT%, .382 3P% (14-15 stats for UNC Asheville)
Andrew Rowsey might be the best transfer in the conference that no one is talking about. Rowsey joined Coach Wojo’s program a year ago and sat out last season per NCAA transfer rules. He comes from a little school in the middle of nowhere call UNC-Asheville. The Bulldogs have never been known as basketball power (though they were a top 125 team per KenPom last season) but it’s hard to question what Rowsey did in his two seasons there. He started from day 1 in Asheville, earned All Freshman his first year, All Conference his second, scored over 1000 career points, and set a school record for most 3PM in a season with 106. That last feat is what makes him especially dangerous, he has over 200 3Ps to his name and a career 3P% of 39.3%. The three-point line doesn’t get any further away in the Big East and he’s had a year to perfect his shot. But he’s not one dimensional, he has blinding speed and is not afraid to take it up against bigger defenders. His FTR of .312 is very respectable and his 92.1% FT% means he makes opponents pay for their fouls. A good comparison for Rowsey could be former Butler Bulldog Rotnei Clark, whose sharpshooting helped Butler to a 6 seed in the NCAA tournament a few years back.
Rowsey walks into a very crowded Marquette backcourt. He played the point at UNC-Asheville but is likely to spend time at both guard positions. He had to be the man for the Bulldogs but will likely be able to pick his spots at Marquette. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him knock down well over 40% of his long distance bombs. The concern for Rowsey is his size. He was able to get his shot off in the Big South but he’ll be defended by a lot bigger guards in the Big East. His defense will also be concerning given his lack of size compared to guards like Billy Garrett Jr and JP Macura. Something tells me though, that Rowsey is not the type of player to be intimidated by size. Rowsey has already become famous among Marquette fans for getting into the face of future #1 overall pick Ben Simmons during a timeout last season. Rowsey has the attitude and the skill to be that protypical player that opposing fans will love to hate.
19. Tyler Wideman of Butler
6-8 240 lb JR PF
24.4 mpg, 7.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 0.8 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.5 bpg, 1.1 tpg, .605 FG%, .604 FT%, .000 3P%
Tyler Wideman was the model of consistency for the Bulldogs of Butler last season. He never exploded against any one opponent (unless you count his 18 point performance against The Citadel in the season opener) but he never had a game where he didn’t make his presence felt on at least one end of the court. Wideman doesn’t have too much versatility on offense. He does most of his damage near the rim by backing down defenders or by scoring on easy putbacks (he led the team in offensive rebounds). You’re not going to see him take many jumpshots and he will make even less. This keeps his efficiency high, his 60.5% FG% was in the top 5 in the conference. On defense, he is a terror. He uses raw motor to get himself into position to block shots and disrupt passes to the interior. He led the Bulldogs in rejections and was behind only Roosevelt Jones in steals.
Butler has a ferocious and deep, though slightly undersized frontcourt. Possibly the best frontcourt in conference. Wideman checks in at #18 overall and is the least of Butler’s forwards. Unless newcomer Joey Brunk is even better than advertised, Wideman should keep his role at starting center fairly easily. While he should get more scoring opportunities this season, he’s never going to overwhelm an opponent with buckets. What he will do is lock down the interior, create space in the post, and put a ton of opponents onto posters with his dunks. I would expect Wideman’s already impressive rebounding numbers to continue to improve. With all the bad shots Kethan Savage is likely to take, he’s going to have a ton of putback opportunities. The challenge for Wideman will be staying out of foul trouble and on the court. His 3.5 fouls per game last season led to him watching the end of a lot of contests.
18. Bashir Ahmed of St. John’s
6-7 210 lb JR SF
31.9 mpg, 20.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.1 bpg, 2.4 tpg, .446 FG%, .747 FT%, .344 3P% (for Hutchinson Community College)
It took a long while, but Bashir Ahmed is finally getting the chance to play basketball in his hometown. The native of the Bronx picked Chris Mullin and St. John’s over offers from the likes of Cincinnati and Louisville. He spent the last two seasons lighting up the scoreboard for the Blue Dragons of Hutchinson Community College. His near double double average helped lead Hutchinson to the NJCAA national championships. Ahmed put up 22 in the championship but it wasn’t enough to overcome Salt Lake Community College. Watching Ahmed at the JUCO level, it was clear that his athleticism was above that of any other player on the court. He could bully his way past defenders for thunderous dunks, draw fouls at an alarming rate, or simply bury a trey at a pretty decent clip. On defense, Ahmed was extremely versatile, often getting the opposition’s best offensive player as an assignment, whether that player was a point guard, a wing, or a post player.
Ahmed will be the best in Mullin’s collection of versatile switchables. St. John’s will have a tremendous amount of flexibility within their lineups with players like Ahmed, Darien Williams, Kassoum Yakwe, and Malik Ellison being able to fit in at and defend multiple positions. Ahmed projects most similar to Duran Johnson who led the Red Storm in scoring last season. Ahmed has better size than Johnson and will score in a much more efficient manner than he did, especially because he will have much better teammates surrounding him. The biggest concern for Ahmed will be how he transitions to the D1 level. The JUCO ranks are filled with players who look like Tarzan in junior college and then play like Jane once they get to a four-year institution. If Ahmed can keep up with the quicker wings than he will be a very effective player for the Red Storm.
17. Andrew Chrabascz of Butler
6-7 230 lb SR PF
30.2 mpg, 10.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.9 tpg, .494 FG%, .791 FT%, .369 3P%
While he may not have taken the jump that Butler fans expected for him, Andrew Chrabascz was a very solid player for the Bulldogs last season. With studs like Roosevelt Jones, Kellen Dunham, and Kelan Martin on the squad, it might have been easy to forget about the efficient forward with the hard to spell last name. Chrarbascz did a lot of little things for well for the Bulldogs. He grabbed rebounds, created transition opportunities with his defense, and was an effective passer from the post, often finding Dunham or Martin for an open three. Chrabascz is not the type to physically overpower his opponent. He relies on his high basketball IQ and craftiness to pick up rebounds, assists and easy buckets. He has deceptive quickness and often underestimated body control that allowed him to make some difficult shots. Chrabascz’ scoring did take a backseat in conference play, only averaging 8.9 points a game with a 40.7 FG% and 32 3P%. He helped in other ways though, maintaining or increasing his rebound, assist, steal, and block levels.
Chrabascz was very comfortable being the fourth scoring option for the Bulldogs last season. With a sharpshooter like Dunham, a do it all wing like Martin, and bulldozer like Jones, there wasn’t a need for Chrabascz to be a scorer. He won’t have that option in this upcoming season. Dunham and Jones are gone, and while Martin is all Big East caliber player, he can’t carry the team himself. Transfers Kethan Savage and Avery Woodson will take on some of that burden but both had noticeable flaws at their last stop. As the longest tenured member of the Bulldogs, Chrabascz will be needed to bring leadership and a steadying hand to a roster that is in flux. His stats did not make the jump that Butler fans had hoped for, but he has a very good chance to have that jump this season.
16. Jajuan Johnson of Marquette
6-5 205 lb SR SG
23.7 mpg, 10.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.6 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.6 tpg, .510 FG%, .797 FT%, .385 3P%
It’s been a long wait for less than patient Marquette fans, but Jajuan Johnson may have finally arrived. When Trey J got to Milwaukee, he was the highest rated player in a top 10 recruiting class. To say he didn’t live up to expectations would be an understatement. Buzz Williams left and Marquette fans were hopeful that a new coach would bring out the talent in the Memphis Native. Johnson’s stats increased but his abysmal FG% (.373) and 3P% (.219) showed it was out of necessity not out of improvement on his part. Last season started similarly, a series of lackluster performances that were so bad that he was benched for the game at Villanova. The benching seemed to ignite something in Johnson. For the last 16 games of the seas, JJJ averaged 13.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.8 spg, 0.2 bpg, and 1.9 tpg while shooting 54.5% from the floor and 44.1% from deep. That’s an eFG% of 59.6% for those of you keeping track at home.
Johnson finds himself in the midst of a crowded backcourt for his senior season. He will need to compete with returners like Haanif Cheatham and Duane Wilson as well as newcomers like Andrew Rowsey and Katin Reinhardt for minutes. If he continues at the pace he finished the season on, he will have no trouble securing the starting position on the wing. Marquette brought in a lot of talented shooters during the offseason and will likely be one of the most improved shooting teams in the country. This should open all sorts of space for Johnson to slash to the hoop which is his bread and butter. Johnson isn’t a great on ball defender, but he has terrific instincts and a 6”9 wingspan. Put those two things together and you have a nightmare for opposing offenses. Last season, Johnson boasted the 38th best steal percentage in the entire country. The only player in the Big East who was better? Some guy named Kris Dunn. Johnson could be a force this season and is a dark horse for an all Big East nomination.
15. Isaiah Zierden of Creighton
6-3 190 lb RSSR SG
31.7 mpg, 10.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg 2.2 apg, 1.4 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.9 tpg, .403 FG%, .838 FT%, .385 3P%
Not many players can claim a more painful journey through college hoops than Isaiah Zierden. The native Minnesotan has suffered season ending injuries on three separate occasions. There’s been more than one point where Creighton fans have doubted that he could return to basketball. A season ago he didn’t just play basketball, he excelled. The redshirt junior set career highs in minutes, points, rebounds, assists, steals, and 3PM all without increasing his turnover rate. Zierden is your prototypical three and d type player. His offense is focused on the three-point shooting, which accounted for about 2/3 of his FGs last season. On defense, he is unrelenting, often taking on and shutting down the opponent’s best guard. His disruption ability created a lot of transition offense which is where the Jays are at their most deadly.
Creighton is one of the most popular picks for most improved teams not only in the Big East but in the country. If they want to live up to that billing, the Jays won’t necessarily need big improvement out of Zierden, but they will need him to bring the same level that he did last season. With scoring guards like Mo Watson and Marcus Foster in the fold, Zierden doesn’t need to be a do it all scorer. He can remain in his role of lockdown defense and three-point specialist and that should help his team immensely. Of course, if he developed more of a mid-range game, he would be even more effective in his role. The biggest question with Zierden will always be his health. A torn ligament suffered at Marquette last year hampered and eventually ended his season. He has had two separate significant injuries to his knees. If these start to take their toll, Zierden could see his role diminish. Knowing Zierden, he will push himself to play and find a way to a final successful season in Omaha.
14. Khadeen Carrington of Seton Hall
6-4 195 lb JR SG
30.9 mpg, 14.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.2 spg, 0.1 bpg, 2.0 tpg, .418 FG%, .752 FT%, .335 3P%
While the Pirates were known for their physical posts last season, their scoring actually came from a duo of high scoring guards. The better of the two, Isaiah Whitehead, is now trying to earn his spot on the Brooklyn Nets, but the other of the two, Khadeen Carrington, will return to Seton Hall for another season. Carrington was often overshadowed by Whitehead, whose ability to stuff the statsheet was on another level. But Carrington is an elite level scorer in his own right. Carrington has a great inside and outside game. His long range shot isn’t the most accurate but is deadly enough to keep defenders from cheating off him. His true bread and butter is slashing to the bucket, especially in transition. On defense he is a capable defender whose tenacity created a ton of transition opportunities for Seton Hall last season.
Unfair or not, many Pirate fans are looking to Carrington to fill in for the now departed Isaiah Whitehead. While Carrington will certainly have the opportunity to do just that, it is unlikely he will be able to quite reach those levels. Whitehead had a significantly higher eFG%, was much more accurate from deep, and was an elite level defender with more tools in his belt than Carrington has. He also did all this while being the number 1 priority of every defense they faced. Carrington will put up the raw scoring numbers for Seton Hall but won’t be as efficient in getting there. It’s unclear whether or not Carrington will take over at the point. He was the point when Whitehead wasn’t on the floor last season, but he is better off the ball and Seton Hall brings in two transfers in Jevon Thomas and Madison Jones who both played the point for their previous teams.
13. Myles Davis of Xavier
6-2 l87 lb RSSR SG
29.1 mpg, 10.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 4.1 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.9 tpg, .399 FG%, .854 FT%, .381 3P%
Myles Davis is one of those players that just never seems to graduate. Every year since they joined the Big East I have wondered how has Myles Davis not graduated yet? It is probably a testament to how quality of a player he is (or his shockingly receeed hairline). Davis’ senior year is finally here and he will look to build on a very successful junior year. Davis is a heady player who knows how to make his teammates better. For the past two seasons, he has been one of the Big East’s deadliest three point threats, swishing over 60 treys in both seasons at about 38% accuracy. Last season, he transitioned from a pure shooting guard to more of a combo guard. He managed this transition effortlessly, leading the Musketeers with 4.1 assists per game while sharing the point with star redshirt freshman Edmond Sumner. Davis could be inconsistent at times, his 5 point, 0 assist, 1-5 FG stat line from Xavier’s upset loss to Wisconsin in the postseason stands out as an example, but he also has the potential to explode on any given night. Davis torched the Blue Jays on Senior Night to the tune of 24 points and 7 assists. A couple of weeks earlier, Davis recorded a triple double against Providence, the first Xavier had seen since Tu Holloway did it against Fordham in 2011.
Davis hopes to return to his role of combo guard to form the best backcourt in conference along with Sumner and All Big East First Team member Trevonn Bluiett. Davis coming back is only a hope at this point and not a certainty because over the summer, Davis found himself in some legal trouble. Per the Cincinnati Enquirer, Davis has been charged by a former girlfriend with damaging a $200 cell phone. The charge of criminal damaging carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Davis has plead not guilty, but he did agree to an order of protection to stay away from the accuser. The former girlfriend has alleged several instances of verbal and electronic threats and harassment. The case itself however is just over the damaged cell phone. Davis has been suspended indefinitely, and there is no word on when or if he will return. While there is no proof to back this up, it seems likely that Davis will miss some games, but will probably be available for Big East play. At this point, it should only be hoped that justice is done.
12. Luke Fischer of Marquette
6-11 250 lb SR C
28.2 mpg, 12.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.5 spg, 1.4 bpg, 1.7 tpg, .608 FG%, .680 FT%, .000 3P%
No team in the Big East enjoyed the size of their frontcourt more than the Golden Eagles of Marquette. Their starting lineup featured the Ivory Towers of Henry Ellenson and Luke Fischer. Ellenson is gone to the Detroit Pistons but Fischer returns for his senior season. The Milwaukee suburb native was the less versatile but more physical of the duo. Fischer spends almost all of his time in the paint. Thunderous dunks and an incredibly reliable jump hook are Fischer’s calling card on offense. His post moves led him to a 60.8% FG% which was good for third best in the conference. On defense, Fischer either guards the opponent’s big man or sits in the middle of the zone. He was top 10 in blocks in the conference with 1.4 a game. He had an excellent ability to disrupt shots, making them more difficult, even if he couldn’t block them. Butler is still reeling from the 5 rejections he posted against them in Marquette’s home victory.
In the course of one offseason, Marquette has gone from the largest frontcourt to one of the smallest. Ellenson is off the NBA, and there are no obvious replacements for him at the PF position. The only player besides Fischer taller than 6”7 is sophomore Matt Heldt, who saw limited playing time last season. Fischer will have to be an iron man for Marquette, staying in the game as long as possible to avoid a major size disadvantage. He will also need to avoid foul trouble. His 2.9 fouls a game weren’t bad for a starting center, but he did seem to have a knack for 2 of those fouls being called in the first 10 minutes of the game. Wojo will run a lot of 4 out 1 in lineups to try and take advantage of what should be a terrifying ability to bombard opponents from deep. This will create a lot of space for Fischer to operate and put up even better scoring numbers than last season. The biggest concern for Fischer is his defensive rebounding. He has been great on the offensive glass, he was top 70 in the country last season, but his defensive rebounding rate was terrible for a guy his size. Part of this was his running mate Ellenson being so good. But with Fischer being the man in the frontcourt, he will need to step it up in this area if Marquette hopes to win.
11. Cole Huff of Creighton
6-8 220 lb JR PF
22.2 mpg, 11.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 0.6 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.3 bpg, 0.8 tpg, .434 FG%, .790 FT%, .363 3P%
It just wouldn’t be Creighton basketball if there wasn’t a 6”8 guy popping threes in the corner. Last season, that role was filled by Cole Huff. Huff arrived in Omaha as a transfer after spending two seasons as a member of the Nevada Wolfpack. The non-conference season started off well for Huff before he hit a slump at the start of Big East play. That slump included to games where he failed to score and one where he only managed a free throw. This disappeared in a big way the last 9 games against Big East competition. Huff averaged 15.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.4 steals a game while shooting 51% from the floor and 43.9% from range. This streak was capped off by a booming 35 point, 9 rebound, 7-11 from three stat line in a losing effort against Seton Hall in the Big East tournament. While unlikely to continue that pace next season, such a torrid end to last year’s campaign should have Creighton fans excited.
Huff will return to his role as the Jay’s stretch four and should be in for a monster year. He may have only averaged 11 points and 5 rebounds last season, but he did it in limited time, only getting 22 minutes per game. If his minutes increase, his numbers should go up significantly. The big caveat with Huff will be his health. Over the summer, Huff got surgery to repair some cartilage in his knee. During the surgery, doctors found more damage than they anticipated. Huff has been cleared to practice but the staff is being careful with him for obvious reasons. If Huff comes back 100%, he has All Big East potential.