Top 50 Players in the Big East: #30-21

(Photo by Ryan Messier/Paint Touches)

For the fourth year in a row, Paint Touches is taking a look at the top 50 players in the Big East. This started as a small project that I did completely on my own. Last year, I added some other Marquette folks to the fun to try and get some more balance in the rankings. This year, we went a little bigger. We reached out to contributors from all 10 Big East teams. We asked them to pick the top 5 players from their squads. Then we took that list of 50 and sent it to all 10, and asked them to rank the 45 players not from their home team. We averaged those scores to get a truly neutral picture on the top 50 players in the greatest basketball conference in the land. Here are our contributors for this undertaking:

Butler: Lukas Harkins
Creighton: Matt DeMarinis & Patrick Marshall
DePaul: Lawrence Kreymer
Georgetown: Andrew Geiger
Marquette: Yours Truly
Providence: Richard Coren
Seton Hall: Adam Baliatico
St. John’s: Norman Rose
Villanova: Eric Watkins
Xavier: Brad & Joel Dobney

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

30. Sean McDermott of Butler
6-6 195 RSSR SG
28.0 mpg, 9.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.2 bpg, 0.7 tpg, 59.4 eFG%
Avg. Rank: 25.14
High Rank: 12 (Dobney – XA)
Low Rank: 38 (Rose – SJU)

Few snipers in college basketball have been more feared than Butler’s Sean McDermott. He doesn’t offer much beyond his sniping ability, but when you are as good at it as he is, it is the only skill you need. He is a career 40.8% 3P shooter with 135 makes to his name. Inside the arc, he is just as efficient but significantly less prolific as he has yet to break the triple digit threshold despite a three-year career. Even though every defense knows where he wants the ball, he still gets his shots off by moving away from the ball very well. Defensively, McDermott lacks the athleticism to be a dynamic defender. On the perimeter, quicker guards could rock him to sleep for open threes or easy blowbys. Seven spots ago we had zero Bulldogs and now they are the first non-DePaul team to have four players appear on this list. It’s a good summary of Butler’s outlook for this season. A group of solid players led by a stud in Kamar Baldwin. How this group of four works together to support their star will determine the outcome of Butler’s season.

29. Sandro Mamukelashvilli of Seton Hall
6-11 240 lb JR PF
29.2 mpg, 8.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.6 apg, 0.6 spg, 1.2 bpg, 1.5 tpg, 49.4 eFG%
Avg. Rank: 24.86
High Rank: 11 (Jackson – MU)
Low Rank: 42 (Coren – PC)

With Seton Hall’s Big Four graduating, many expected Seton Hall to take a huge step back. Instead the Pirates made a run to the Big East championship game and a (shortlived) return to the NCAA tournament. A big part of that was the development of their Georgian seven-footer, Sandro Mamukelashvilli. Mamu went from Angel Delgado’s backup to one of the top rebounders in the Big East. He eclipsed the double-digit mark in rebounds eight times including 14 and 18 rebound performances against Big East champion Villanova. His ability on the boards is his best asset as both his scoring and defense are solid though not elite. On offense he tries to fill the role of a stretch 4 but lacked the accuracy to truly excel. He’s at his best when he rolls off a pick for an easy layup or midrange jumper. Despite being near seven-foot, he has no offensive game in the post and most of his damage is done away from the rim. As a defender, he put up decent block numbers but too often let his man get around him for a bucket. The addition of Ike Obiagu will present an interesting challenge as Mamu will need to guard the 4 rather than the 5 position. He can guard the post fine but get him any kind of space and it spells trouble for the Pirates. If Coach Willard can find a way to match those pieces on defense, it will mean two high level shot blockers on the floor at the same time, allowing their guards to be aggressive on the perimeter.

28. Quincy McKnight of Seton Hall
6-4 185 lb RSSR PG
28.5 mpg, 9.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.9 apg, 1.6 spg, 0.2 bpg, 2.5 tpg, 48.7 eFG%
Avg. Rank: 24.71
High Rank: 13 (Geiger – GT)
Low Rank: 33 (Hankins – BU)

Quincy McKnight had next to no attention when he was being recruited out of Bridgeport, CT. His D1 offer list was slim at best and he ultimately became a Sacred Heart Pioneer. He was a starter as a freshman before being the go-to guy at Sacred Heart by the time he was a sophomore. He turned that performance into a Big East scholarship offer and made his Pirate debut last season. The jump from the NEC to the Big East is a steep one and McKnight performed admirably. As a Pioneer he was, known for his offense. As a Pirate he changed his game and gained a reputation as a lockdown perimeter defender. At 6’4”, he has tremendous size for the 1 position and used that to slow down some of the best offensive weapons in the game. While Myles Powell got all the attention, McKnight was the unsung hero of the Hall’s win/rock fight over Marquette in the Big East semis. He put up 18 points while holding Markus Howard to a miserable shooting night. McKnight will never be the scorer that Powell is, but his passing and defense make him an excellent wingman in the Pirate backcourt.

27. Myles Cale of Seton Hall
6-6 210 lb JR SG
30.1 mpg, 10.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.2 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.4 tpg, 50.0 eFG%
Avg. Rank: 23.86
High Rank: 16 (Dobney – XA)
Low Rank: 31 (Hankins – BU)

One, two, and now three Pirates in a row. No, the voters didn’t collude, that’s just how the votes landed in this case. Myles Cale lands as the second-best Pirate, meaning Seton Hall is the third team (ahead of DePaul and Butler) to have four players appear on this list. Certainly, interesting for a team just picked to win the Big East by the league’s coaches (just a testament to how good their best player is). Cale gets the privilege of being the number two scorer behind the prolific Myles Powell. He is the only other player to average double digits in scoring last season (and he barely hit that mark). Consistency issues are what plagued Cale last season as he was just as likely to go for 2 points on 1 of 7 shooting (@Georgetown) as he was to go for 23 points on 6 of 10 shooting (@Maryland). Some nights he had it, other nights he was no where to be seen. Last season he developed an outside shoot that he didn’t show much of his first season, making 54 treys on 38% accuracy. Inside the arc is where he struggled, shooting a sad 44%. He’s decent at attacking out of the pick and roll but struggled to create his own shot. The opportunity will be there for him as Powell will draw the eye of every defender they face. Another step forward offensively could help the Pirates live up to massive hype they’ve built in the preseason.

26. Koby McEwen of Marquette
6-4 205 lb RSJR SG
32.3 mpg, 15.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.2 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.0 bpg, 3.0 tpg, 48.9 eFG% (17-18 stats for Utah State)
Avg. Rank: 23.57
High Rank: 9 (Coren – PC)
Low Rank: 45 (Watkins – VU)

If you’ve been hanging around the Al McGuire Center the past year, you may have heard some rumors swirling about a 6’4” bull of a guard lighting it up at practice. Koby McEwen will make his debut at the high major level after spending the past two seasons at Utah State. McEwen had the opportunity to start his college career at a high major with offers from the likes of Baylor and Ole Miss but elected to be an instant star at Utah State. Other than Senior Day his freshman year, McEwen started every game in his two seasons as an Aggie. He bullied Mountain West opponents with punishing drives and lights out shooting leading to a 15 a game scoring average. The Mountain West isn’t the Big East, but it is a solid level of competition. McEwen’s best game in his last season was against mid-major darling, Nevada, putting up 32 points in a losing effort. The Aggies didn’t lose often when McEwen went off like that, going 10-2 when McEwen scored at last 18 points. At Marquette, he will team up with Markus Howard and Sacar Anim to form one of the better backcourts in the Big East. Too often, Marquette lacked the slashers to compliment that sweet shooting Howard and McEwen should cure that. He may also help replace some of the rebounding lost by Sam Hauser as he rebounds extremely well for a guard.

25. Mac McClung of Georgetown
6-2 185 lb SO SG
26.4 mpg, 13.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.1 bpg, 2.0 tpg, 45.2 eFG%
Avg. Rank: 22.86
High Rank: 5 (Dobney – XA)
Low Rank: 34 (Jackson – MU)

Mac McClung was a member of the All Big East freshman team last season as well as the winner of the easiest to hate player in the conference. He checks all the classic boxes, a cocky, surprisingly athletic, high scoring white guy who loves to talk trash but can back it up with his play. McClung was known for his high-flying dunks coming out of high school, but it didn’t lead to a high recruiting ranking as most services put him in the 200-300s. He certainly didn’t play like a recruit ranked that low as he was an instant starter and an immediate priority on every defense’s scouting report. The talent McClung brings is in the scoring department. He doesn’t offer much on the boards, passing, or defense but he can put the ball in the hoop with the best of them. Despite his love of putting the ball on the floor, McClung is at his best when he can spot up for an open jumper. He got into trouble when he tried to break down the defense himself. In 35 possessions where McClung attempted a shot in an isolation play, he scored a measly 13 points (0.371 points per possession). Consistency is where McClung needs the most work. He has the capacity to drop near 40 in a night (38 against Little Rock) but can also shoot the Hoyas out of games (2-11 @Villanova). Marquette fans certainly won’t be happy see McClung again as he scored a sweltering 27 points while going 6-10 from three in two games against the Golden Eagles.

24. Josh LeBlanc of Georgetown
6-7 213 lb SO PF
24.4 mpg, 9.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.9 spg, 1.1 bpg, 1.1 tpg, 64.3 eFG%
Avg. Rank: 21.86
High Rank: 10 (Jackson – MU)
Low Rank: 35 (Baliatico – SH)

First this segment featured three consecutive Pirates, now we’ve got back to back Hoyas. Josh LeBlanc was the second of Georgetown’s trio of All-Big East freshmen from last season. While McClung and James Akinjo got all the pub due to their high scoring and flashy plays, LeBlanc was doing the garbage work, all the gritty things that needed to be done to put Georgetown in position to win games. He collected a double double in his first game as a Hoya and added 5 more the rest of the season to go with several more double-digit rebounding games. LeBlanc isn’t overly large or strong, he simply has an endless motor and a good understanding of how a missed shot is going to come off the rim. Offensively, he doesn’t have any range but converts with elite level efficiency. His eFG% is second highest on this list, behind only Christian Bishop who got limited scoring opportunities in his eight minutes a game. LeBlanc’s defense is based on disruption. He has an absurd wingspan and quick feet that allow him to poke away entry passes and swat away pull up attempts. He will never get the hype his two running mates do but he may be the most valuable player the Hoyas have.

23. Jermaine Samuels Jr. of Villanova
6-7 220 lb JR SF
22.0 mpg, 6.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.4 spg, 0.8 bpg, 1.0 tpg, 54.9 eFG%
Avg. Rank: 20.29
High Rank: 8 (Geiger – GT)
Low Rank: 27 (Hankins – BU)

What a difference one game can make for a player. Jermaine Samuels arrived in Philly with top 50 fanfare and predictions that he could be the next Josh Hart or Mikal Bridges. But from his first game in 2017 all the way up to February 26, 2019, that promise remained unfulfilled. Samuels was getting minutes for his defense and rebounding but he was averaging a sad 4.4 points a game while barely shooting 30% from range. In his three last games, Samuels looked scared to even shoot the ball as he scored a whopping 0 points on 0 of 2 shooting across three contests. Then what does this dude do? He goes off for 29 points against my Golden Eagles. Wojo and Co. held 4 out of 5 of the Villanova starters to 8/37 (21.6%) shooting but Samuels hit from everywhere and led the Wildcats to victory. After that, something clicked for Samuels. In the last eight games of the season, Samuels averaged 13.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 2.4 made threes a game to go along with a 38.8 3P%. This was in addition to the defense he was already known for. If this is the new Jermaine Samuels, then he will end up being a lot higher than this middle of the pack ranking. If not, Villanova could be in danger of losing its crown this season.

22. Theo John of Marquette
6-9 255 lb JR PF
19.7 mpg, 5.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.3 spg, 2.1 bpg, 1.1 tpg, 60.2 eFG%
Avg. Rank: 19.57
High Rank: 15 (Baliatico – SH/Watkins – VU)
Low Rank: 32 (Hankins – BU)

There was a moment during the first Marquette/Creighton broadcast last season where Fox went inside the huddle with Coach McDermott. Coach McD was drawing up an offensive gameplan for attacking MU’s defense and said with emphasis “don’t challenge the monster in the post.” That monster is Marquette’s Theo John and he haunted the dreams of slashers in the Big East all last season. John led the Big East in blocks despite averaging under 20 minutes a game. If a guard managed to get past Marquette’s perimeter defenders there’s a good chance that ball was going to be sent flying back the way it came. John’s weakness is fouls, committing a whopping 7.4 per 40 minutes. Some of that is justified and some of it comes from John’s reputation as Marquette’s enforcer. John is never shy about staring down an opponent or getting in their face, especially after Markus Howard or one of the other shorter players ends up on the floor. When John managed to avoid foul trouble, good things happened for Marquette. The Golden Eagles were 14-3 when John played 19 minutes or more and 15-2 when he managed 2+ blocks. The addition of Jayce Johnson should give Coach Wojo more fouls to work with to help keep the monster in the post.

21. Marcus Zegarowski of Creighton
6-2 180 lb SO PG
28.6 mpg, 10.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.4 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.0 tpg, 57.5 eFG%
Avg. Rank: 19.38
High Rank: 7 (Watkins – VU)
Low Rank: 30 (Baliatico – SH)

It is not often that you turn over the keys to a true freshman ranked outside the top 100 and the result is a flamethrower offense like what the Jays rolled out last season. Marcus Zegarowski was the main distributor for Coach McDermott last season. He’s a wizard of running the pick and roll, using teammates to get clear driving lanes only to find one of the many Jays open on the perimeter for a three. He’s a scorer himself, making over 60 long balls with 42% accuracy. What should scare Creighton’s Big East brethren is that Z was playing hurt all last season. He missed three games due to a broken hand (in which the Jays went 0-3) but in addition, he had a long-term hip injury that hadn’t been addressed. Zegarowski got surgery this offseason and didn’t play in the team’s Australia tour as a result. He may be rusty at first without having a full offseason, but Zegarowski says he feels 100% for the first time since becoming a Jay.

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Categories: Analysis, Home, Offseason

Author:Ryan Jackson

Texas A&M Professional, Marquette Fantatic


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One Comment on “Top 50 Players in the Big East: #30-21”

  1. Baxter Bryan
    November 1, 2019 at 8:12 am #

    The more you sleep on McClung the more it fuels his fire, and the better he seems to get.

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