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Top 50 Players in the Big East #20-11

Xavier

(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.

You can see the other entries here: #50-41, #40-31, #30-21, #10-1.

20. Nate Fowler of Butler
6-10 240 lb SR C
17.4 mpg, 5.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 0.6 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0.7 tpg, 63.3 eFG%

Nate Fowler fits the mold of the project big man. A slow developing center who bides his time, works on his game all while waiting for his opportunity. Now that former Butler center Tyler Wideman has graduated, it is finally Fowler’s time to step into the spotlight. Fowler has always had elite level efficiency on offense, finishing with an eFG% north of 60% in each of the past three seasons. He has a solid array of post moves but offers intriguing potential when facing the basket. Fowler shoots accurately from mid-range and even has 10 career 3PMs to his name, with a career accuracy around 40%. If that is a skill that he can use consistently, he could create some nightmare matchups for his opponents.

In previous seasons, defense is always what held Fowler back. Well, defense and the fact that he had a pretty good player starting ahead of him. Fowler put in the work last offseason and it showed. His DRtg was third on team, he led the team in blocks, and most impressively his dPPP was in the 92nd percentile of Division 1. He was able to do this in limited minutes, but it bodes well for his ability as the lead rim protector for the Bulldogs. Where he still needs to improve is his rebounding. While not terrible at either end of the glass, he doesn’t grab as many rebounds as you would expect for his size.

19. Quentin Goodin of Xavier
6-4 194 lb JR PG
29.7 mpg, 8.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 4.9 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.2 bpg, 2.3 tpg, 48.5 eFG%

Quentin Goodin has been the starting PG for the Xavier Musketeers for the past season and a half. As a freshman, he received a baptism by fire, being thrust into the starting role after Edmond Sumner went down with an injury. Since that time, he has helmed a team that has gone to the Elite Eight and earned a 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Now he wasn’t the main cause of either of those accomplishments, but they couldn’t have done it without his distribution skills. Goodin is a pass first PG with a knack for finding open shooters. His assists per game have been top six in the conference in each of the past two seasons. Of course, it helps when you have elite scorers on your team such as Trevonn Blueitt and JP Macura.

Goodin has played the role of distributor well the past two seasons but his game is going to need to evolve for this upcoming campaign. Xavier has lost Bluiett, Macura, and Karem Kanter leaving Goodin at 8.7 points per game as the highest returning scorer from last season. Scoring has never been his strong suit and he will need to be able to put up more points on the board than he has in previous years. His eFG% was last on the team and that was with him being the 4th or 5th scoring option on the floor. Will he be able to improve now that defenses will be targeting him? One thing that is for sure, his leadership and passing ability will be essential as players like Naji Marshall, Tyrique Jones, and Paul Scruggs take on larger roles and as they try to work in 3 mid-major grad transfers. Goodin’s presence will make every one of them more successful.

18. Marvin Clark Jr of St. John’s
6-7 230 lb RSSR SF
30.9 mpg, 12.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.2 spg, 0.2 bpg, 1.8 tpg, 56.3 eFG%

Two summers ago, Chris Mullin made a huge splash on the transfer market picking up two big names. Justin Simon got the most fanfare as former 5-star recruit but Marvin Clark Jr proved himself to be an impact player in his own right. Clark Jr spent his first two seasons as a Michigan State Spartan. He was an efficient scorer and rebounder off the bench but was never likely to earn a starting spot with the constant influx of high rated freshmen coming to East Lansing. Clarke Jr brings sharpshooting and accuracy not possessed by any of the other members of the Red Storm. He was the second leading scorer after Shamorie Ponds and took his game to a new level at the end of last season. Over the last 9 games, Clark Jr averaged 16.3 points and 6.2 rebounds a night.

This will be the most talented St. John’s team of the Chris Mullin era (even without Mustapha Heron). However, they will have to adapt a new identity. The Red Storm have always been defined by strong interior defense but that is likely to change this season. St. John’s loses 4/5 of its top shot blockers, leaving Clark Jr and his 0.2 bpg as the second best returning shot blocker. At 6’7, he’s the third tallest player on the team and the other two are a 3-star freshman and a high major transfer who averaged 1.1 points per game at his last stop. This could mean that Clark Jr will have to spend some time as the de facto 5. On one hand, that creates some absurdly quick and lethal offensive lineups. On the other, Clark Jr isn’t really built for defending opposing big men. Last season, he led the Big East in personal fouls. Sticking him in the post will only aggravate that.

17. Taurean Thompson of Seton Hall
6-11 215 lb RSSO PF
17.9 mpg, 9.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 0.6 apg, 0.7 spg, 1.0 bpg, 2.5 tpg, 55.3 eFG% (16-17 stats for Syracuse)

Arguably the best traditional transfer coming into the Big East this season will be playing for Seton Hall. The Pirates were a finalist for Taurean Thompson the first time around but lost out to the Syracuse Orange. Most transfers out of a program like Syracuse are due to playing time but that wasn’t the case with Thompson. The big man came off the bench for the non-conference season but entered the starting lineup once ACC play began. He was an offensive force for the Orange, scoring with a variety of post moves and even a limited face up game. Things seemed to be going well but there was some trouble back home in Harlem. Thompson’s mother was dealing with an undisclosed health issue, so Thompson made the decision to trade upstate for South Orange.

For the past four years, Seton Hall has been anchored by the monster known as Angel Delgado. Thompson’s arrival is timely and should help to fill some of the void left by Delgado’s graduation. Thompson brings a lot more versatility to the offensive end than Delgado ever did. He can back down posts, drive to the hoop, and even took a few three pointers in his time upstate. What he doesn’t come close to making up for is the rebounding. First, Delgado was in a class all his own in that department. More pressing for Seton Hall fans is the fact that Thompson’s rebounding was decidedly average at Syracuse. Hopefully, a year of watching and battling the best rebounder in the country has helped him develop that part of his game.

16. Naji Marshall of Xavier
6-7 222 lb SO SF
21.8 mpg, 7.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.6 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.6 tpg, 57.2 eFG%

Naji Marshall wasn’t the prize recruit of Xavier’s 2017 class but he sure played like it. Besides one poor outing against Wisconsin, Marshall was an impact player in almost every game. Even when he wasn’t scoring, he found some way to contribute. He’s a plus rebounder on the wing, disruptive on defense, and willing to dive for loose balls or sacrifice his body for a charge. Last season he didn’t have the quickness to create on his own but was excellent when attacking out of the pick and roll or a cut to the basket. Defensively, he was as close to a lockdown defender as a true freshman could be. His rare combination of size and lateral quickness allows him to cover all but the quickest guards and the beefiest centers.

Well, someone had to be the first team to exhaust all five players and this year it happens to be Xavier. Don’t get it twisted though, we are not a predicting a gloomy season down in Cincy. They have enough talent and depth that they should be a top half of the conference and NCAA tournament team. What we think will hold them back is their lack of a true go to player. Marshall is the closest to fulfilling that role and he should have moments where he looks the part. If he can develop a more consistent outside shot to go along with his rebounding and slashing, Marshall may prove us wrong and end up in All Big East territory.

15. Paul Jorgensen of Butler
6-2 185 lb RSSR PG
27.5 mpg, 10.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.1 spg, 0.1 bpg, 0.9 tpg, 51.5 eFG%

One of the most pleasant surprises in the Big East last season had to be Paul Jorgensen. The New Yorker came to Indianapolis after two unremarkable years at George Washington. As a Colonial, he was a backup PG and not a very statistically good one at that. In yet another testament to the “Butler Way”, Jorgensen put in ton of work during his redshirt year and turned himself into an effective high major player. Jorgensen began the season in the starting lineup and became a fan favorite. He was known for his steady ball handling, flashy passing, and DEEP three pointers. The one thing that eluded him was consistency. He had a scoring tear to end non-conference play but after that was up and down. He’d score 23 in an upset win over Villanova or 2 in a loss to Seton Hall. It was impossible to know what the expect with Joregensen each night.

Butler loses its big man and its heart and soul with the graduations of Kelan Martin and Tyler Wideman but keeps its very talented backcourt together for another season. Jorgensen will return to his role of sometimes on the ball sometimes off the ball guard. Martin’s departure means that there is a lot of scoring that needs to be made up and Jorgensen can provide that with his three-point shooting prowess. More than anything, Jorgensen can provide leadership and experience to a roster with that will be trying to find its identity after losing two key players. He is one of two seniors on the roster and is already an extremely vocal player. If Jorgensen takes the next step, Butler should be safely in the tournament and challenging for one of the top three spots in the Big East.

14. Alpha Diallo of Providence
6-7 211 lb JR SF
30.7 mpg, 13.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.9 tpg, 48.8 eFG%

Last season, it was hard to pick out a clear-cut star player for the Friars. They had a very balanced attack with everyone playing their individual roles very well. Alpha Diallo was probably the closest Friar to being that all around star. He was the highest rated recruit in Providence’s 2016 class. He started coming off the bench as a freshman but eventually forced his way into the starting lineup. His sophomore year started off slowly as he dealt with some minor injuries that caused him to miss games against two cupcakes. As he healed, his numbers got better. After the holiday break, Diallo scored double digits in every game except one (a dreadful 2 point, 0-9 performance in a loss to DePaul) and even collected 5 double doubles during that stretch. He took it to another level during the postseason averaging 19.8 points and 8.0 rebounds in Friars’ three Big East Tournament games and first round loss to Texas A&M in the NCAAs.

As we were making this list, it became evident that there was a significant gap between the top 14 players and #15. All the players from here on out are significant contenders/favorites to finish on the All Big East teams. Diallo earned his spot in the top 14 with elite level rebounding, great passing from the wing, and strong slashing ability. What puts him at the back of the top group is his shooting. His eFG% is bottom ten on this list. He is a career 22% 3P shooter with only 24 makes to his name. This is especially concerning this season because the Friars are losing over 80% of their three-point shooting from a season ago. Without those shooters to open up driving lanes for him, Diallo may find it more difficult to maneuver inside the arc. If he does find that outside shot to compliment everything else he brings, Diallo could find himself not just All Big East, but on the first team.

13. Joe Cremo of Villanova
6-4 191 lb SR SG
35.3 mpg, 17.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.8 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.3 bpg, 2.1 tpg, 55.4 eFG% (stats for Albany)

It’s not often that you will find a Big East ready guard among the ranks of a low major like Albany, but that is exactly what Villanova did when they found Joe Cremo. Cremo didn’t have any high major prospects when he decided to play college ball at hometown Albany. He started his career as a Great Dane by being a microwave type player off the bench, scoring double digits in about 20 minutes a game. He elevated himself to star player as a sophomore and one of the best in country as a junior. He managed to graduate in three years and was widely considered one of the top 2 or 3 grad transfers on the market this offseason. He reportedly had over 30 programs in pursuit but how can you turn down an offer from the defending national champions?

Cremo comes to Philly with a reputation as an elite level scorer. He can create all sorts of havoc with the ball in his hands. His go to move is attacking out of the pick and roll and losing defenders off screens. One particularly terrifying aspect of his game is his ability to post up smaller guards and score. Fans of Villanova’s victims might remember that this was a favorite move of Jalen Brunson in Coach Wright’s inverted offense. As dangerous as Cremo was inside the arc, his outside shot is what made him attractive to high major suitors. He shot a blistering 45.8% from range, which was only 1% lower than his 2P FG%. And this was with him being the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd priority on defense. Imagine the efficiency he will be able to achieve as the 3rd or 4th scoring option for the Wildcats. The obvious concern is how will he adjust to the Big East? In his three years at Albany, Cremo only faced three high major defenses. As a freshman, he was effective in limited minutes against Kentucky. As a sophomore, he was embarrassed by Cincinnati, shooting 40% from the floor and committing 8 turnovers. Last season he put up 18 points on Louisville though it took him 14 shots to get there.

12. Emmitt Holt of Providence
6-7 230 lb RSSR PF
27.5 mpg, 12.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.8 bpg, 1.4 tpg, 57.5 eFG% (16-17 stats)

It’s been a crazy and odd ride for Emmitt Holt over the past four years. He started at Indiana where the most noteworthy thing he did was hit his teammate with a car. He then spent a year at the JUCO level where he put up respectable numbers for one of the best teams in the NJCAA. He managed to leverage that season into a second chance with a high major program in Providence, and he capitalized. Holt ended up putting up even better numbers for the Friars than he did at the JUCO level, filling in as an undersized but very effective center. He was set to have a monster senior year when an abdominal injury sidelined him for the entirety of the 17-18 season. It took the entire season, but Holt has finally been fully cleared to play and will make his return as a fifth-year senior.

Holt is the fifth and final Friar on our top 50, which makes Providence the second team to have all five players listed. Similar to Xavier, don’t make the mistake of thinking that this means Providence is heading for a down season. They have an extremely well balanced and deep roster that should give them a top half of the conference finish and a sixth straight NCAA tournament appearance. Holt’s placement on this list comes with a huge caveat. This list makes the assumption that Holt is coming back from injury 100% healthy and in basketball shape. In Holt’s case, that may be a huge assumption given that he had to miss over a year of basketball related activities. It may be nothing, but a couple of basketball talking head types have left Holt out of their projected starting five for the Friars. It’s unclear if that’s because they missed Holt being back on the roster or if they know something about how the injury impacted him. Assuming he is healthy, Holt is an offensive swiss army knife who can score every which way and is a plus defender. The presence of Watson and Young should allow Holt to move to a more natural position at the 4 where he will be even more deadly. He can use some improvement on the boards, especially defensively, but not having to play the center should help those efficiency numbers.

11. Phil Booth of Villanova
6-3 194 lb RSSR SG
27.4 mpg, 10.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.9 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.2 bpg, 1.4 tpg, 55.3 eFG%

Of all the major players on Villanova’s championship roster, Phil Booth probably has gotten the least press. He started his career as a highly efficient reserve guard before being called upon to play a bigger role as a sophomore. His efficiency was very poor by Villanova standards, but he earned his minutes by being a hellhound of an on-ball defender. He saved his best that season for the biggest stage, scoring 20 points and playing smothering defense in Villanova’s championship win over the Tar Heels. There were hopes that this performance would give him the boost he needed to take the next step but Nova fans had to wait as a knee injury sidelined him for all but three games his junior year. It was crushing news at the time, but Nova fans are reaping the benefit now as that medical redshirt allows him to stay on as 5th year senior for a team that is short on experience after losing four starters from a championship team.

Booth marks the fourth Wildcat on this list, making this the first time since we started this that Villanova only has one player in the top ten. They are still the top team in the conference…their sixth, seventh, and eighth best players are better than a lot of the players at the back of this list…but it shows just how much they lost after last season. Booth is already an elite defender but will have to take the next step with his offense. Of non-benchwarmers, Booth was dead last in eFG% for the Wildcats…but it was a respectable 55.3%. A 55.3% eFG% was last on the team? Geez, Nova was absurd last season. Booth will have to transition from being an afterthought on the opposing scouting report to one of the top priorities. He will mostly play as the starting off guard but will slide to the one when Quinerley needs a breather.

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Categories: Analysis, Home, Offseason

Author:Ryan Jackson

Texas A&M Professional, Marquette Fantatic

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