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Top 50 Players in the Big East #10-1

Marquette Men’s Basketball

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 past entries here: #50-41, #40-31, #30-21, #11-20.

10. Justin Simon of St. John’s
6-5 215 lb RSJR SG
36.1 mpg, 12.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 5.1 apg, 2.5 spg, 0.8 bpg, 2.9 tpg, 49.7 eFG%

It took him some time, but Justin Simon finally lived up to the 5-star ranking that he was given coming out of high school. Simon was a can’t miss prospect who originally committed to the Arizona Wildcats. He got minutes but barely as he was the ½ man in Arizona’s 8 and ½ man rotation. With more talent being recruited at his position, Simon flew cross country and transferred to St. John’s where he became arguably the best stat sheet stuffer in the Big East. Simon led the Red Storm and was top 5 in the Big East for rebounds, assists, and steals per game. While he’s never achieved it, he was a nightly triple double threat falling 1 assist short against St. Joe’s, 1 point/1 rebound/2 assists short against Mizzou, 2 rebounds short at Seton Hall, and a few other times when he was just a few plays away.

Simon will return to his role as Shamorie Ponds’ sidekick. Ponds does the heavy lifting on the scoreboard but its Simon’s rebounding and passing that makes it all possible. One area that Simon can improve in is his own scoring. Simon is a slasher though not a terribly efficient one. Over half of his points came at the rim. He showed some flashes of being able to pull up and score from outside and was accurate in limited attempts from beyond the arc. If he develops that shot some more, it will in turn improve his slashing game. St. John’s loses a ton of size and Simon is their leader in returning blocks. The Red Storm will feature a fast and furious four guard lineup much of the season with Simon playing the role of largest guard. The key to St. John’s success this season may be ensuring that opponents adjust to their speed and lack of size rather than the other way around.

9. Martin Krampelj of Creighton
6-9 235 lb RSJR PF
23.2 mpg, 11.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.2 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.7 bpg, 1.3 tpg, 69.3 eFG%

Few had a better case for most improved player in the country than Martin Krampelj. The Slovenian Sensation came into last season averaging less than 7 minutes a game in two injury plagued seasons. Finally healthy, Krampelj wasted no time. No Big East player had a more efficient non-conference season. Krampelj was relentless on the glass and unstoppable when cutting to the basket. Then, disaster. A seemingly inconsequential play led to a tear in one of Krampelj’s ACLs. This was Krampelj’s third ALC tear, two in one knee, one in the other. His season ended just as he was taking it to another level. In his first five Big East games, Krampelj averaged 15.2 points and 10.8 rebounds a game.

Krampelj is our top ranked Blue Jay and his lofty ranking is dependent upon his health. Combing back from a torn ACL is never easy and coming back from your third torn ACL takes a special kind of grit. But all reports seem to indicate that Krampelj should be 100% by the start of the season. Krampelj played the role of starting center last season but don’t mistake him for a back to the basket player. He is a very mobile big man who can put the ball on the floor and beat a defender to bucket. He doesn’t just have the ability, he does it an elite level. His points per possession of 1.212 scored in the 99th percentile of all Division 1 players. His range theoretically extends out to the three-point line. He has 9 career 3PM though he has never been accurate. Krampelj will spend some time at the five but for the first time, he and Jacob Epperson will play together in the same game. Together, they will make one of the most athletic and intimidating frontcourts in the conference.

8. Max Strus of DePaul
6-6 215 lb RSSR SG
35.6 mpg, 16.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.5 bpg, 2.6 tpg, 50.5 eFG%

If there is one thing that most Big East fans could agree on last season, it was that they were tired of Dickey Simpkins declaring that the “Strus was loose” during broadcasts. Max Strus comes from humble beginnings, playing his first two seasons as a Lewis University Flyer. He was a stud at the Division Two level, but not even the most optimistic DePaul fans expected him to compete as well as he did in his first season in the Big East. After his mandatory redshirt year, he immediately claimed the title of DePaul’s best player. He led the team in scoring and was among their leaders in almost every other traditional stat. His true value came on the defensive end of the court. He is extremely quick laterally and has ideal size for guarding all but the biggest of post players. He specializes in shutting down the pick and roll. In 45 pick and roll attempts against Strus, he only allowed 14 points total. Behind his scoring and defense, DePaul turned in its best season of the (second) Dave Leitao era.

First the first time since we started these lists, DePaul has a player in the top 10. Unfortunately, even with a top talent like Strus in the fold, we still don’t see DePaul escaping the basement of the Big East. However, Strus managed to put up huge numbers despite a down year from former best Blue Demon Eli Cain. If Cain returns to sophomore year form and the addition of Jalen Coleman-Lands spreads out the floor, it could take the pressure to do it all off of Strus. It’s hard to see his usage going up from the already high 24.1% that it is at. If Strus can maintain this usage while increasing his efficiency on offense, it might just mean that DePaul won’t finish in dead last this season.

7. Kamar Baldwin of Butler
6-1 195 lb JR SG
34.0 mpg, 15.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.5 bpg, 1.5 tpg, 49.4 eFG%

In true Butler fashion, a former three-star recruit has greatly outperformed expectations and will now be leading the Bulldogs. Kamar Baldwin was a unanimous selection to the 2017 All Big East Freshman team. He got there by terrorizing opposing guards to the tune of 1.7 steals a game and having elite level finishing ability inside the arc. As a sophomore, his minutes increased along with his usage and he became the clear second banana behind one man wrecking crew Kelan Martin. His increased role did come with some drawbacks as he saw his shooting accuracy and o-rating plummet. Even his steals per game went down, though he was still known as an absolute nightmare for opposing ballhandlers, leading the Bulldogs in d-rating.

The biggest question mark facing Butler fans this season is how they will replace all the scoring of Kelan Martin. With him gone, this is clearly Baldwin’s team to lead. It’s hard to imagine Baldwin having the ball in his hands even more than he did last season. The hope is that rather than increase his usage above the already high 25.6% it’s at, he works on his efficiency while maintaining his role. If he could return to the 55.7% eFG% he shot as a freshman, he would make All Big East first team without breaking a sweat. Aaron Thompson is the closest thing that Butler has to a true PG, but Baldwin will see plenty of time running the offense as well. He can play either guard position though he gives up some size to the opponent when he must defend 2 guards. His dPPP against spot up jumpers ranked in bottom 15% of all Division 1 players, mostly due to taller players being able to shoot over him. However, they do so at their own risk. It is just as likely that Baldwin will pick their pocket and be heading the other way for an uncontested layup.

6. Myles Powell of Seton Hall
6-2 200 lb JR SG
31.7 mpg, 15.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.2 bpg, 2.0 tpg, 55.2 eFG%

The Pirates may have had the best fourth scoring option in the NCAA last season. While opponents were occupied trying to stop the Hall’s trio of high scoring seniors, Myles Powell was eviscerating opponents from beyond the arc. The Jersey native came to Seton Hall with a reputation as a sniper. As a freshman, he was more a volume shooter than sharpshooter. He threw up 205 long range attempts and made 33% of them. Last season he kept the volume but increased the efficiency. He was top 10 in in conference for both attempts and makes and punctuated an already strong Pirate offense. While his three-point shooting is his most stand out talent, he is far from a one trick pony. Powell has enough ball handling skills to break down the defense and loves to run opponents off screens to set up drives to the hoop or pull up jumpers. He also developed his distribution skills last season and learned to play a little PG.

With the graduation of four senior starters, Seton Hall is now undeniably Myles Powell’s to lead. He is the only returning starter and scored more points for Seton Hall last season than the rest of the roster combined. Scoring is something Powell can already do at an elite level and he has a good chance to challenge Shamorie Ponds and Markus Howard for the Big East scoring title. The key for Powell will be learning how contribute in other ways. His rebounding numbers are very poor, he has some passing ability but has never been a PG, and his defense is closer to a turnstile than a brick wall. Powell will lineup alongside transfer Quincy McKnight and rising sophomore Myles Cale in the backcourt playing at the 2 position. Unless true freshman Anthony Nelson is ready to effectively backup McKnight at the point, Powell may have to occasionally slide over and try to facilitate the offense. If Powell can learn to be a more well-rounded player and not just a scorer, he will secure his place on the All Big East first team.

5. Eric Paschall of Villanova
6-8 255 lb RSSR PF
29.8 mpg, 10.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.2 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.6 bpg, 1.7 tpg, 60.0 eFG%

Who would have thought that a three-star freshman at A10 cellar dweller Fordham would one day be a two-time national champion and projected to be the best player on the best team in the Big East? Eric Paschall was a freshman sensation at Fordham, earning the A10 Freshman of the Year (oddly enough, he is the second player with that distinction on this list. See Chartouny, Joseph). He turned his award-winning freshman season into a scholarship offer from the Wildcats. He had to redshirt during Nova’s first championship season but played a vital role in the most recent one. Paschall was the starting stretch 4 in Villanova’s devastating five out lineup. Though he has range, Paschall did most of his damage inside the arc. He was top ten in conference for 2P FG% as well as offensive rebounding%. Villanova didn’t miss many shots but when they did, Paschall was there to clean it up and put it back in the hoop.

Villanova lost its four best players to the NBA draft and will now turn to Paschall to lead them to yet another Big East Championship. Paschall has played the role of best player on the team back when he was with Fordham. Villanova is obviously on a much different level, but that experience of being relied on to sometimes carry a team could be valuable as Paschall tries to transition from being the fourth or fifth scoring option. Paschall can fill it up from outside though his 3P% of 35.6% is deceivingly average. Paschall started last season 1/25 from range before the switch flipped. From that point on, Paschall shot a blistering 46.1%, including 45.5% in Nova’s NCAA tournament run. If that becomes Pascahll’s new normal, then Big East defenses are in for another long season. One area that Paschall can improve is his defensive rebounding. He is a force on the offensive glass but is mediocre when going for defensive rebounds. Paschall is not the top player in the Big East, but he has all the telltale signs of a player in for a monster year. While not our pick for Big East Player of the Year, he could be a contender simply by being the best player on the best team in the conference.

4. Sam Hauser of Marquette
6-8 225 lb JR SF
32.6 mpg, 14.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.9 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.5 bpg, 1.2 tpg, 63.5 eFG%

Marquette’s pair of micro-guards stole all the headlines last season, but many Marquette fans would tell you that Sam Hauser was actually the best player for the Golden Eagles. The rising junior is known for his silky-smooth shot, sound defensive fundamentals, and an uncanny ability to hit the dagger shot right when it’s needed. Hauser led the Big East in 3P% and was 3rd in all of Division 1. Where he truly shines is in transition, where his go to move is to leek out to the three-point line for an easy corner three. In 43 transition attempts, Hauser scored 73 points, for a points per possession of 1.698, which led the entire country. In addition to increasing his long-range proficiency as a sophomore, Hauser added a more diverse game inside the arc, often taking his man in isolation and posting up smaller wings. He finished with an overall points per possession of 1.158, which was in the 98th percentile for all Division 1 players.

With the departure of Andrew Rowsey, Marquette has a significant chunk of points that need to be replaced. Hauser looks to be in a prime position to take on that role with his absurd efficiency levels but humble usage. He was only 4th in the team in usage at 18.6%, meaning he has a lot of room to be more aggressive in his shot selection. While it does open more opportunities, Rowsey’s graduation may impact him more negatively than most. His signature move in the half court was the pick and pop and Rowsey was responsible for over 80% of the assists that Hauser received. It will be vital that Hauser establishes this same rapport with Howard and grad transfer Joe Chartouny. One last point that should be particularly scary for opposing defenses. Hauser was playing hurt the entirety of last season. He injured his hip in August and while he was cleared to play, the injury got progressively worse as the season went on. Hauser described himself as being in pain on every single play during the second half of the season. He had corrective surgery after the season and by all reports it was a 100% success. If Hauser did what he did last season with a bum hip, what can he do this season without one? A Big East Player of the Year Award is a possibility, though his low usage will likely hold him back.

3. Markus Howard of Marquette
5-11 175 lb JR PG
31.5 mpg, 20.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.1 bpg, 2.5 tpg, 57.2 eFG%

Marquette fans were excited when they landed the commitment of this pint sized four-star out of Arizona, but no one expected him to develop into the scoring savant that he has become. He led an NCAA bound Marquette squad in scoring in his first year and took it to a whole new level the next season. He elevated his scoring to 20.4 ppg, which was good for fourth in the Big East. He got there by diversifying his offensive game. As a freshman, he led the NCAA in 3P%, hitting over 54% of his 150 attempts. As a sophomore, he kept the long-range shooting (though at lower accuracy) but added a lethal slashing ability to his arsenal. He doubled the amount of 2P FGs he was taking and hit them with 53.3% accuracy. He has tremendous body control, an unstoppable floater, and got better at finishing through contact as the season went on. If an opponent did make the mistake of putting him at the line, he made them pay with his NCAA leading 93.8% FT%. There was no better example of Howard’s prowess than his 52-point explosion against Providence where he single handedly led Marquette to a come from behind victory. If you want to stop him, you might check the tapes of his games against DePaul. Two of his three single digit scoring games came against the Blue Demons.

Howard loses his fellow micro-sized dynamo in Andrew Rowsey but it’s hard to imagine Howard taking on even more of the scoring load. Where he can help is with some of the distribution that Rowsey brought. Howard has always been more of a scorer than a passer, but his assist% as a freshman was top 10 in the conference. If he can keep his scoring while looking to find his teammates for more opportunities, he could become a much more well-rounded player. Where Rowsey’s departure may be a blessing is on the defensive end. When Howard and Rowsey were on the floor together, Marquette gave up an absurd 1.17 points per possession. However, with just Howard on the floor, Marquette’s defense put up elite numbers, allowing only 0.95 points per possession. It would be foolish to expect that 0.95 number for the upcoming season, but it could mean that Marquette’s defense is in for a boost. While third on this list, Howard may be a favorite for Big East Player of the Year. Most pundits have Marquette finishing second or third in the conference, and the POY usually comes from one of those top teams. If Howard leads Marquette to a top 3 finish in the Big East, he could end up taking home some high quality hardware.

2. Jessie Govan of Georgetown
6-10 255 lb SR C
32.7 mpg, 17.9 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.6 spg, 1.1 bpg, 1.7 tpg, 52.8 eFG%

Before the first year of the Patrick Ewing era, things were looking bleak for the Hoyas. If they had any chance of avoiding a last place finish in the Big East, it would require their big man, Jessie Govan to take his game to another level. Fortunately for Georgetown fans, Govan delivered. The native New Yorker had been a solid presence under the basket but always seemed to fall short of reaching his potential. Having one of the best centers in basketball history for a head coach may have finally helped him achieve that next level. With Ewing’s guidance, Govan saw his minutes, points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks all go up significantly. Oddly enough, despite the better numbers many of his efficiency stats like eFG%, assist%, steal%, block%, usage, actually stayed the same or got worse. What did improve was his rebounding numbers (2nd in rebounding% for the Big East), his defense (1st on the team in d-rating), and he stopped committing stupid fouls and turnovers. Despite an extra 11.7 minutes a game, Govan averaged the same number of turnovers and only 0.1 more fouls per game. Cleaning up this part of his game allowed him to stay on the floor longer and become one of the most dominant big men in the country.

It has been a while since we last saw a Hoya on this list. Kaleb Johnson checking in at #31 is the second highest rated member of Georgetown this season. This means that Govan is going to be the first, second, and third priority for every defense that the Hoyas face. Stopping him is easier said than done. He has a variety of weapons on offense. He plays huge in the post and can back anyone down. He’s an elite offensive rebounder and puts back misses with alarming efficiency. He is also mobile enough to face the basket and try to take his man off a screen or a cut. Oh, and he has range out the three-point line and loves the trailing three in transition. There are a lot of unknowns on the roster this season. Freshmen James Akinjo and Mac McClung come in with a lot of hype. Jahvon Blair and JaMarko Pickett both showed flashes as freshmen. If at least one of them can outplay expectations and be a consistent enough threat to compliment Govan, the Hoyas could sneak into the tournament a year earlier than expected. Govan is another candidate for Big East Player of the Year, though he will need to will the Hoyas into the postseason to be considered.

1. Shamorie Ponds of St. John’s
6-1 175 lb JR PG
37.0 mpg, 21.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 4.7 apg, 2.1 spg, 0.2 bpg, 1.9 tpg, 46.4 eFG%

It’s been over a month since we released the first segment of our third annual top 50 and we are finally at the number one player in the Big East. Some years picking this spot is difficult, but not this year. All our contributors on this list unanimously selected Shamorie Ponds as the top player in the Big East. Ponds has been a superstar for the Red Storm since stepping foot in Queens. He led the Big East in scoring and stuffed the rest of the stat sheet to capacity. He rebounds well for his size and was second in the Big East for assist%. Where he really brings value is on the defensive end. His 2.1 steals a game was 2nd in the Big East and his points per possession allowed were in the top 10. He’s not big, he’s not strong, but he has unmatched quickness and unparalleled instincts. Any mistake, any halfhearted passes on the perimeter and Ponds is likely to snatch it and fly down the court for an uncontested bucket. Offensively he uses that quickness to weave through defenses. His go to move is to attack out of the pick and roll. He can take the ball all the way, stop on a dime for a mid-range jumper, or hit one of the many other weapons featured on the Red Storm.

St. John’s will unquestionably be a better team next season, though we are still waiting to see how much better. The eligibility of Mustapha Heron is a huge question heading into the season and could be the difference between a top 3 and bottom 3 finish for St. John’s. Ponds led the Big East in usage last season which means his role is unlikely to increase this year. What this could mean is that he can work on his efficiency. His eFG% of 46.4% was in the bottom 10 of players on this list. He put up huge numbers because he had to do almost everything for St. John’s. With new weapons like LJ Figueroa, Mikey Dixon, and possibly Heron…not to mention improvement from Justin Simon and Marvin Clark Jr, Ponds should be able take better shots and become a more effective scorer. What sets Ponds apart from every other player on this list is his ability to enter “God mode” and take over a game. For the last 9 games of the season, which included St. John’s wins against Duke and at Villanova, Ponds averaged 27.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 2.3 steals per game to along with 36% 3P shooting. When he reaches this level there is simply no stopping him. If he can will St. John’s to a top 3 finish in conference, he will be the Big East Player of the Year. Only thing holding him back is if St. John’s spends another season on the outside of the tournament looking in.

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Categories: Analysis, Home, Offseason

Author:Ryan Jackson

Texas A&M Professional, Marquette Fantatic

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