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Top 50 Players in the Big East #30-21

Morrow

(Photo by Ryan Messier/Paint Touches)

For the third year in a row, 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. To come up with this list we looked at raw stats, advanced stats, and the good old-fashioned eye test. This year we even splurged on a synergy subscription. This list is the product of a lot of analysis and debate and will hopefully inspire some reaction and discussion. Please let us know in the comments below.

The top 50 is being broken down in to five ten team segments. You can find the other entries here: #50-41, #40-31, #20-11, #10-1.

30. Eli Cain of DePaul
6-6 200 lb SR SG
33.5 mpg, 11.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 4.7 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.3 bpg, 2.4 tpg, 39.8 eFG%

DePaul may have turned in their best season in years, but it was statistically the worst of Eli Cain’s career. Despite getting more minutes and having better weapons around him, Cain saw his averages in points, rebounds, steals, and blocks all drop, along with his various shooting percentages. His season eFG% of 39.8% was not only a career low for him but is also dead last on this list. A lot of this decline can be contributed to a shift in position that he was forced to make due to the injury of another player. When Devin Gage went down, Coach Leitao made the decision to put the ball in the hands of one of his best players, even if he wasn’t a PG. Cain did finish in the top 10 of the Big East for assists per game but the rest of his game struggled.

Theoretically, the return of Devin Gage and the arrival of highly touted Australian Flynn Cameron should allow Cain to return to his more natural position on the wing. Sharpshooting Illinois transfer, Jalen Coleman-Lands, should slide into the SG position and provide so much needed floor spacing for Cain to operate. DePaul lost their interior presence with the graduations of Tre’Darius McCallum and Marin Maric but they have a variety of options to try and take their place. DePaul may feature a few four guard lineups with both Cain and Max Strus providing a deadly combination of speed and shooting. If Cain can return to sophomore year form, the Blue Demons have a shot to move out of their garden level apartment at the bottom of the Big East.

29. Joey Hauser of Marquette
6-9 230 lb RSFR PF
4-star PF, ranked #52 by 247 Composite

If the name and the face of this “true” freshman seem familiar, you are not crazy. Joey Hauser is the younger brother of Marquette stand out Sam Hauser. Despite how much of an impact the older Hauser made in his first season at Marquette, Joey is actually the higher rated of the two. Joey spent the past four seasons racking up state championships with the dominant SPASH high school program. SPASH won the title in each of Joey’s first three years but not his senior year as a football injury kept him from playing during the basketball season. Since he couldn’t play, Joey elected to get surgery on his injured ankle, graduate early, and enroll at Marquette back in January. This redshirt year allowed Joey to get on campus early, get a jump start on academics, and to practice with and learn the team. This extra semester should help him become one of the best freshmen in the conference.

First, we must address the haters. Why is Joey Hauser rated lower then Cole Swider, David Duke, and AJ Reeves by 247 but listed above them here? It’s not collusion we swear. First, we took the redshirt year into account as this should allow him to be a little further ahead than most true freshman. Second, we aren’t the only ones who rated him higher. We used Bart Torvick’s projections when making this list and they have Joey Hauser as one of the top two freshmen in the conference. Like his brother, Joey is a strong and fundamentally sound forward. He has efficient post moves and range all the way out to the three-point line. He is already physically bigger than his brother but just as skilled. He will likely come off the bench for center Matt Heldt but get starter level minutes. Joey’s presence gives Coach Wojo a lot of fun lineups that he can run which will wreak havoc on opposing defenses.

28. Mitch Ballock of Creighton
6-5 205 lb SO SG
21.4 mpg, 7.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.9 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.2 bpg, 1.2 tpg, 52.6 eFG%

Mitch Ballock is sharpshooting rising sophomore. He spent his high school years in Eudora, Kansas, right in KU’s backyard. Ballock even had an offer from Coach Self but he ended up choosing the Jays over the Jayhawks. As a freshman, he played the role of sixth man for Creighton. He provided a scoring spark off the bench with a mix of slashing and three-point shooting. He made an early impression by dropping 22 in Creighton’s neutral court victory over UCLA. The rest of the season was marked by inconsistency. Some games he would score 13, others he would put up a goose egg. He did finish the season on high note, averaging 12.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.7 assists over Creighton’s final six games…though his eFG% was just above his season average at 55%.

Creighton loses 4 of its top 5 players in terms of minutes to a combination of graduation, transfer, and declaration. They have a massive amount of playing time available along with a lot production needing to be replaced. Ballock’s main role next season will be to try and replace the scoring that was lost from last year’s Jays. While he’s no Marcus Foster, Ballock seems like the natural candidate to replace him as lead scorer. Ballock will spend most of his time at the three position alongside PG Davion Mintz and 2Gs Connor Cashaw and Ty-Shon Alexander. Ballock does not bring much in the rebounding, defensive or distribution categories. If he can develop himself to be a more well-rounded player, it will go a long way towards making sure this isn’t a gap year for Creighton.

27. Connor Cashaw of Creighton
6-5 200 lb SR SG
33.6 mpg, 15.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.1 bpg, 2.2 tpg, 46.2 eFG% (stats for Rice)

Connor Cashaw grew up in the Chicago area and was high school teammates with former Villanova Wildcat and two-time national champion Jalen Brunson. Brunson got all the attention and rightfully so, but coaches may have missed a high major talent in Cashaw. He spent his first three years at Rice University and was a starter for all but 15 games in his freshman season. Rice was a solid low major program in Cashaw’s first two seasons when he played the role of 4th or 5th starter. A coaching change led to a mass exodus heading into his junior year and the team was his to lead. Cashaw led the Owls in points, rebounds, steals, and was second in assists but the team struggled. Rice finished 6-24 with one of those six victories coming against a non-D1 opponent. With Rice heading for yet another down year, Cashaw put in the work to graduate in three years, allowing his transfer to the Big East.

Cashaw was big scorer in his last season at Rice, but don’t expect him to fill that role in Omaha. He scored because he had to at Rice and he often forced it. His eFG% of 46.2% is good for bottom 5 on this list and he will be facing a lot tougher opponents than he saw with Rice’s 209th ranked strength of schedule. The role he will play is that of a valuable glue guy for the Jays. He rebounds extremely well for a guard and led Rice in both rebounds per game and rebounding%. He even turned in 6 double doubles. He has good court vision and can play the 1, 2, or 3. He was also the Owls’ best defender and should bring that intensity to the Big East. Cashaw has said that his reason for seeking a grad transfer was to play in the NCAA tournament. With 4/5 of their top 5 players in minutes departing, he has a steep hill to climb to make it to March. If he settles into his role well, he may be able to push the Jays there.

26. Jacob Epperson of Creighton
6-11 225 SO C
14.0 mpg, 6.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.2 spg, 0.9 bpg, 0.5 tpg, 73.5 eFG% (in 12 games)

Jacob Epperson was the highest rated player in Creighton’s class of 2017. Despite his lofty ranking, Epperson was given a redshirt with the directive of spending the year building muscle and improving his fundamentals. After all, the last time they redshirted a skinny FR center he turned into an NBA first round pick. It was a good plan, but no one could have foreseen that Martin Krampelj would tear his ACL (for the third time), leaving the Jays dangerously shallow in the frontcourt. Burning a redshirt with only 10 games left in the regular season is a drastic step but that’s exactly what Coach McDermott did. It’s hard to say if it was the right decision, Creighton went 5-5 before bowing out of both the Big East and NCAA tournament early. But Epperson did show great promise in those 12 games which should make Creighton fans very excited.

One, two, and now three Blue Jays in a row. This wasn’t planned or done for effect, but as the list came together it just seemed like this is where these three needed to be. Epperson should be the starting center for the Jays all season. He has already put on a significant amount of good weight which should excite Creighton fans. In his short tenure last season, he showed an elite ability to score in the post. Had he played in enough games, his eFG% would have been #1 in conference. His go to move is throwing down an alley oop after rolling off a pick. In one particularly dominate performance he scored 14 points on 7/7 shooting in a mere 8 minutes against Marquette. Why he didn’t play more in that game will forever be a mystery. His rebounding was pedestrian for a man of his size, but the added muscle may help with that. Epperson has an absurd level of upside. If he develops quicker than expected, he could end up a lot higher on this list.

25. Ed Morrow of Marquette
6-7 235 lb RSJR PF
23.4 mpg, 9.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.3 spg, 1.1 bpg, 2.0 tpg, 51.4 eFG% (16-17 stats for Nebraska)

If you like garbage man type post players and believe that power forwards should play with their back to the basket instead of on the perimeter, then you are going to be a big fan of Ed Morrow. Morrow played high school ball for Simeon, one of the top basketball programs in Chicago. His family had ties to Nebraska, so he ended up a Cornhusker for two seasons. He was an efficient freshman in limited minutes before establishing himself as one of the best rebounders in the country as a sophomore. His rebounding% was in the top 30 of all Division 1 players. He was especially deadly on the offensive glass. His offensive rebounding% was number one in the Big 10 and he finished putbacks with elite level efficiency. On the other end, Morrow was an excellent rim protector, using his strong foundation to stop often much bigger opponents. His block% was also top ten in the conference.

Morrow brings in a level of toughness and physicality not yet seen in the Steve Wojo era of Marquette. He’s an odd fit because Wojo’s game plan has always focused on perimeter offense and Morrow is a back to the basket forward. At the time of his transfer, he said that he didn’t want to play center the way he needed to at Nebraska. It will be interesting to see how his game has developed and if he has added more moves facing the basket. One thing that may have held him back at Nebraska was injury. Morrow missed 4 games as a freshman and 7 as a sophomore. He returned from the sophomore year injury but was playing hurt and his numbers went down. He has now had a year and a half to heal and if the injuries were holding him back…that could mean big things for the Golden Eagles. One thing we do know, Marquette doesn’t miss many shots. Having an elite offensive rebounder to clean up those few misses could give Marquette an even deadlier offense this season.

24. Tyrique Jones of Xavier
6-9 235 lb JR PF
15.0 mpg, 7.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.6 bpg, 0.8 tpg, 62.7 eFG%

You would be hard pressed to find a more intimidating looking player than Tyrique Jones. He’s 235 lbs of muscle and elite athletic ability. Xavier had a crowded frontcourt last season meaning Jones had to fight for every minute he got. He carved out 15 minutes a game and made the most of every one of them. Jones led the team in several key stats including eFG%, FTR, and rebounding%. So why isn’t Jones higher on this list? Short answer is defense. He looks every bit a brick wall of a defender but never put all together. He’s disruptive and had the steal and block stats to prove it, but his 1 on 1 defense left a lot to be desired. His dPPP allowed is bottom 5 on this list, mostly due to the absurd rate he committed fouls at.

Xavier is going from a crowded frontcourt to a near empty one. Stretch four Kaiser Gates and centers Karem Kanter and Sean O’Mara have all been lost to graduation. Not only that, but 7-foot freshman Jake Walter had his scholarship rescinded for an “undisclosed legal issue.” That leaves Jones and grad transfers Ryan Welage and Zach Haskins as the only three players taller than 6’7 on the roster. Both have talent, but both are transferring up from much lesser programs and will face a steep learning curve. If Jones can find his stride defensively and avoid stupid fouls, he has the potential to be the most dominant big man in the Big East not named Jessie Govan. The opportunity will be there, we will see if Jones can seize it.

23. Sean McDermott of Butler
6-6 195 lb RSJR SG
23.8 mpg, 7.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.2 bpg, 0.9 tpg, 65.7 eFG%

His stat line might not be much to look at, but Sean McDermott was one of the key contributors to Butler’s run to the Sweet 16. At risk of sounding cliché, McDermott was the Bulldog’s glue guy who was willing to do the little things to make a victory possible. Make the extra pass? Done. Set a screen on the wing to free up another player to score? No problem. Fly out of nowhere to tip in a last second shot to force overtime against Georgetown? Did that in spades. What makes McDermott stand out is his scoring efficiency. His eFG% of 65.7% is third overall on this list and first among players who didn’t play center for Creighton. McDermott didn’t shoot often but when he did, he made sure it was a good one. Almost all of McDermott’s points came in wide open catch and shoot situations.

The biggest question for Butler going into the season is who will make up for the scoring of Kelan Martin? Transfer Jordan Tucker will certainly help, and guards Kamar Baldwin and Paul Jorgensen are poised to take on bigger roles. However, if Butler is to be successful, McDermott will have to find a way to take the step from key glue guy into significant offensive threat. McDermott’s usage of 13.7% was second to last on the team last season, ahead of only Henry Baddley. McDermott will need to let the shots fly more often. If he can keep his efficiency levels up with increased usage, he could be one of the deadliest sharpshooters in the conference.

22. Mikey Dixon of St. John’s
6-2 170 lb RSSO PG
29.8 mpg, 16.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.3 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.1 bpg, 2.2 tpg, 53.3 eFG% (16-17 stats for Quinnipiac)

Sometimes stud players can reveal themselves in the most unlikely of places. Mikey Dixon was a relatively unknown recruit from a small town in Delaware. He committed to Quinnipiac over the likes of Iona, Canisius, Maine, and Robert Morris. He arrived on campus without fanfare but it wasn’t long before he was making noise on his own. It took his coach a while to realize it as Dixon came off the bench at first, but by the time MAAC play started Dixon was in for the opening tip. He responded to starting by putting up four consecutive 20+ points games. By the time the season was over, Dixon had captured the school record for points scored by a freshman.

Scoring is what Dixon can bring to the Red Storm. He’s an average rebounder, a so so distributor, and an ok defender but has an elite ability when putting the ball in the bucket. He’s extremely quick which makes him the perfect partner for Shamorie Ponds in St. John’s up-tempo offense. He can fill it up from deep making 60 3PM at a 37% clip. Now that he will be the fourth scoring option rather than the top defensive priority, Red Storm fans can expect his already good efficiency numbers to rise. If there was a concern for Dixon it is that he is relatively untested against high major competition. He was held to 1/6 against Gonzaga and for some reason only played 8 minutes against Seton Hall. Other than that, all his numbers were put up against low major oppoinents.

21. Jahvon Quinerly of Villanova
6-1 170 lb FR PG
5-star PG, ranked #29 overall by 247 Composite

The rich get richer as Villanova landed the top-rated freshman in the Big East’s class of 2018. Jahvon Quinerly is a super smart and savvy PG out of New Jersey. He is a true floor general whose focus is on making his teammates better. He reads defenses extremely well and is shifty enough to break them down before putting the ball in the hands of a wide-open shooter. He is a pass first guard but that doesn’t mean he can’t score the ball. He shoots the ball decently and has a devastating floater. He doesn’t have the athleticism that most 5-stars have which may limit his long-term potential, but his intelligence and high basketball IQ will more than make up for that.

As most know already, Quinerly was not a Villanova recruit initially. He committed to Sean Miller at Arizona but then the FBI probe became public knowledge. Quinerly is allegedly the recruit that got Arizona in trouble, supposedly taking a $20,000 bribe in exchange for his commitment. Quinerly decommitted and Villanova immediately pursued him. The FBI probe has quieted down recently, and we can assume that Villanova’s lawyers have done their due diligence. Quinerly will likely be handed the keys to the potent Villanova offense from day 1. While he’s only the second Wildcat on this list, he may be the most important one in determining their success. He doesn’t have to be a scorer, but he will need to be a capable distributor and run the offense. If nothing else, he should be the heavy favorite to win Big East Freshman of the Year.

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Categories: Analysis, Home, Offseason

Author:Ryan Jackson

Texas A&M Professional, Marquette Fantatic

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