Top 55 Players in the Big East: #55-31

(Photo by Ryan Messier/Paint Touches)

For the past four years, Paint Touches has been counting down the top 50 players in the Big East. It started as my personal opinion and over time it grew to the point of having representatives from each of our Big East bloggin’ brethren contribute to the rankings for a truly neutral picture of the best of the BEast. This year was supposed to be the biggest yet with the Prodigal Dawgs returning home to the Big East, pushing our top 50 into a top 55. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us (like everyone else) to adapt and we are going a little smaller this year. With the season not being confirmed until mid-September, there simply wasn’t enough time to gather the Magnificent 11, get their picks, and write 55 profiles before the season started. Not only that, but with the NCAA holding a fire sale on transfer waivers (unless your Butler and Xavier), we didn’t really know who was and wasn’t going to be eligible for this list until recently (seriously, Marquette had a guy approved like two days ago). Given this, this year’s list was done solo and the players lower on the list have some pretty short profiles.

A reminder of how this works. This is not a true top 50/55 list. Rather than take the top 55 players from the 140ish players in the Big East regardless of what team they are on, we take the top 5 players from each team and rank them 1-55. We do this because, well, if we didn’t, Georgetown may not have had any players make the list. I usually make that joke about DePaul every year, this is how far you have fallen Hoyas. These rankings are based on how we think each player will do this season and this season alone. This isn’t about who has the most upside, who will make the best pro, or who had the best stats last year. It’s about who will have the best 20-21 campaign…assuming we actually survive 2020.

The first segment is going to be 25 quick hitters. I’ll follow up with two segments of 15 with a little more meat to them. You can find them here: #30-16

55. Chuck Harris of Butler
6-3 190 lb FR PG
3.5-star recruit, ranked #159 by 247SportsComposite

Butler’s top four is solid but the fifth starter is a mystery. It would have been fellow FR Scooby Johnson but he tore his ACL in practice. Chuck Harris is the highest rated FR remaining after Johnson’s injury. Crafty PG from DC with penchant for slashing and pulling up in mid-range. Could be Aaron Thompson’s eventual replacement.

54. Jalen Harris of Georgetown
6-2 166 lb RSSR PG
24.3 mpg, 4.2 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 2.4 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.5 tpg, 45.3 eFG% (stats for Arkansas)

Grad transfer from Arkansas looking to regain a bigger role. Averaged 30 minutes a game as a RSSO before Musselman took over and cut into his minutes. Ball controlling and deliberate PG. Has never been and likely never will be a prolific scorer. Could fill the void left by Terrell Allen’s departure (minus the shooting)…but will likely fall short.

53. Jamari Sibley of Georgetown
6-8 20 lb FR SF
4-star recruit, ranked #101 by 247SportsComposite

Coach Ewing’s top ranked prospect in the 2020 class. A tall wing or a skinny forward depending on who you ask. He is extremely mobile and excels in the open court. He is not strong enough to score consistently inside and his shot isn’t sure enough to be efficient from long range. Will give Georgetown a defensive switchable who’s offense will come with experience….and lots of added muscle.

52. Ray Salnave of DePaul
6-3 205 lb RSSR SG
28.2 mpg, 14.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.2 bpg, 2.7 tpg, 47.2 eFG% (stats for Monmouth)

Spent last season as one half of Monmouth’s two-headed monster. A jack of all trades, he was in the top two of every classic statistical category besides blocks for the Hawks. Co-lead Monmouth to an 18-13 record, but all 18 wins (and all but 4 of the losses) were to sub -145 KenPom teams. Capable outside shooter and defender at the MAAC level, struggled to score inside. Will play the three and D role for the Blue Demons but will need to adjust to high major play.

51. Courvoisier McCauley of DePaul
6-5 211 lb JR SG
31.8 mpg, 20.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.2 spg, 0.3 bpg, 2.4 tpg, 60.5 eFG% (stats for D2 Lincoln Memorial)

It is always hard to judge how a D2 player will transition into the highest levels of basketball. We were conservative with this placement but Courvoisier McCauley could easily Max Strus his way towards the top of these rankings. An electric shooter with a hair trigger who only needs a split second to get his shot off. A man among boys at the D2 level, he could dominate defenders at all three levels, getting buckets at will. McCauley also didn’t play for a normal D2 school. Lincoln Memorial lost their first game of the season in overtime (to a team that finished 32-1) and proceeded to win every single one of their remaining games. Not only that but they dominated most teams they played. They won more games by 40+ (6) than they won by single digits (4). McCauley was a dominant player on a dominant D2 team. Wouldn’t be surprised if he outplayed this humble ranking.

50. AJ Reeves of Providence
6-6 205 lb JR SG
21.9 mpg, 7.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.2 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.2 bpg, 1.3 tpg, 47.3 eFG%

This ranking will get me flamed. Started his career as the top freshmen in the 2018 class. Eviscerated Providence’s non-conference opponents to the tune of 14.7 points a game with 45% 3P shooting to go along with that. A freak injury sidelined him for a few games and when he came back he was not the same player. Last season he was a lot closer to post injury Reeves then pre-injury Reeves, averaging 7 points a game with a meh 47% eFG%. He didn’t add much defensively with a PPP allowed that ranked in the bottom 10% of D1. He has shown the upside though so maybe this is the year he puts it all together. His 22-point explosion against top 15 Creighton will continue to give Friar fans hope.

49. Nate Johnson of Xavier
6-4 195 lb RSSR SG
32.2 mpg, 13.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.7 spg, 0.4 bpg, 1.7 tpg, 57.0 eFG% (stats for Gardner-Webb)

A low usage, ultra-efficient grad transfer from low major Gardner-Webb. Just gave him the edge over KyKy Tandy. Not the type to dominate an opponent or take over a game. Instead, knows how to move off ball to get free for the wide-open catch and shoots. Will need to adjust to the speed and strength of Big East level defenders. Last season, the Runnin’ Bulldogs had 16 wins…with 11 of them coming against sub-300 KenPom level opponents. In three games against high majors last season (UNC, Wichita St, and South Carolina) shot an uninspiring 3-15 from long range. Better teammates should mean less attention is paid to him but leave him open at your own risk. His 74 3PM last season ranks fifth on this list, third if your remove players who weren’t playing in D1. Statistically, he appears to be a slightly better version of Bryce Moore from last year’s X-men.

48. Vince Cole of St. John’s
6-6 185 lb JR SG
21.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.2 spg, 0.7 bpg, 2.0 tpg, 62.5 eFG% (stats for JUCO USC Salkehatchie)

JUCO All-American and NJCAA Region X Player of the Year for USC Salkehatchie. Led the Indians to a 27-4 record and the 7th overall seed in the cancelled NJCAA tournament. Was the only player in Division 1 of the NJCAA to join the 50-40-90 club last season (over 50% FG%, 40% 3P% 90% FT%). Excellent size for a guard with a deadeye shot to boot. The transition from the JUCO ranks can be completely unpredictable and St. John’s has recent history with both extremes. LJ Figueroa came in a stud two seasons ago while for JUCO All-American Darien Williams was an utter bust. Which extreme Cole is closer to could determine the Johnnies’ fortunes this season.

47. R.J. Cole of UConn
6-1 185 lb RSJR PG
35.6 mpg, 21.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 6.4 apg, 1.9 spg, 0.0 bpg, 3.2 tpg, 49.5 eFG% (18-19 stats for Howard)

The first of only four sit-out transfers to make this list. Put up logic defying numbers for lowly low major Howard. Scored on everyone in every way at the MEAC level. Will need to become more of a straight up shooter against Big East level defenses. Not just a scorer, also was in the top 30 in the country for assist rate two seasons ago….and that was with almost no offensive weapons to pass to. Defense is the biggest concern here. Was a poor defender against MEAC opponents, lacks the size and strength to go against the much more athletic guards that he will face this season.

46. Jahvon Blair of Georgetown
6-4 190 lb SR SG
26.4 mpg, 10.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.0 bpg, 1.4 tpg, 46.2 eFG%

Nine names in and three Hoyas down…woof. High volume and low efficiency scorer. Will need to take on a bigger role in the offense which usually means a further drop in efficiency…again…woof. Can play both guard positions but is much more of a natural two-guard. Poor defender, not much of a rebounder, but can catch fire and is capable of putting up big scoring numbers. Averaged 16.7 points a game over the last 11 games of the 19-20 campaign…but only shot 35.2% from the floor. Hoyas went 3-8 over that stretch, including losing seven straight to end the year.

45. Greg Williams Jr of St. John’s
6-3 200 lb JR SG
23.4 mpg, 5.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.4 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.0 tpg, 47.1 eFG%

First man off the bench for Coach Anderson last season. While not a regular starter, he earned starter level minutes with his defensive intensity. Often drew the opponent’s best player as his assignment and usually held his own. He has quick hands and is always looking to rush opposing guards and force them into turnovers. His 3.2% STL% was in the top 125 in the country last season. His offense needs work but is a capable 3P shooter and has shown some ability to get to the rim. Out of nowhere at the end of last season he had two explosive offensive performances, 21 points against Creighton and 17 against Marquette, both upset wins for the Red Storm. If that is a promise of things to come for Williams, he will end up a lot higher on this list.

44. Jair Bolden of Butler
6-3 210 lb RSSR SG
21.4 mpg, 8.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.4 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.1 bpg, 0.8 tpg, 52.2 eFG%

Journeyman combo guard who fits a little more naturally at the two-guard position than the point. Started his career at George Washington and parlayed a successful sophomore campaign into a high-major offer at South Carolina. At USC, he played exclusively as a SG and was the one and only deep threat for the woefully inaccurate Gamecocks. Began the season in the starting lineup but was permanently demoted to sixth man halfway through the season. Has shown flashes of explosive potential such as 22 points at Virginia and 19 points in a win at Texas A&M but lacks the consistency. Will be expected to take on a big chunk of the scoring lost due to the graduation of Kamar Baldwin. The last former Colonial to transfer to Butler ended up overperforming in a big way, so don’t count Bolden out.

43. Shavar Reynolds Jr of Seton Hall
6-2 185 lb RSSR PG
15.8 mpg, 4.2 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.0 bpg, 0.7 tpg, 54.8 eFG%

When I first put together this list, I had Takal Molson penciled in as the 5th Pirate to make the cut. It wasn’t until I dove into the stats that I decided to bump Molson in favor of Reynolds Jr. There are few stories better than Reynolds Jr.’s. He started as walk on, earning a scholarship his sophomore year with his hard work and dedication both on the court and in the classroom (3-time all-academic team). He’s a completely unselfish teammate with an extremely low usage but an efficiency that is hard to match. He doesn’t bring much to the slashing department but he shot close to 50% on three pointers last season. His real value is on the defensive end. His dPPP ranked in the 83rd percentile of all D1 and from personally watching him shut down Markus Howard I think it was even better than that. Molson will undoubtedly get more minutes and score more points, but I think Reynolds’ leadership and defense brings more value to the Pirates.

42. Qudus Wahab of Georgetown
6-11 237 lb SO C
14.7 mpg, 5.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.9 bpg, 0.8 tpg, 58.3 eFG%

Triple woof. Four Hoyas before any other team has three names on the list and before three teams even have their first appearance. Things look bleak down DC way. If there is reason for Hoya fans to hope for an overperformance, it probably rests with Mr. Wahab. An opposing force built like the Georgetown centers of old. He played the role of Yurtseven’s ultra-efficient backup last season. He doesn’t have nearly the range of Yurtseven but he has a surprisingly soft touch around the rim to go with his overpowering physicality. His ORtg of 112.5 was good for top 15 in the Big East last season. Defensively, he boasts a Blk% of 7.1%…for those who don’t know, that’s VERY good. I hate to pick the low hanging fruit but fouls will be a major concern for Wahab. He’s due for a huge minutes increase but his fouls per 40 of 6.5 will keep the minutes limited if he’s not careful.

41. Jared Bynum of Providence
5-10 180 lb RSSO PG
36.6 mpg, 11.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 4.5 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.2 bpg, 1.9 tpg, 47.3 eFG% (18-19 stats for St. Joe’s)

It seems Coach Cooley has developed a taste for diminutive former A-10 point guards. The last one worked brilliantly and Jared Bynum will attempt to follow in his shoes. There wasn’t much for Hawk fans to cheer for in the 18-19 season, Bynum was the lone bright spot. A freshman with a humble ranking closer to 400 than 300, Bynum took the starting point gig from day 1 and never let it go. He’s not much for scoring but is certainly capable. 4.5 assists per game is high but his assist rate wasn’t as high as you might think due to the sheer number of minutes he stayed on the floor. In fact, one of his best assets is his ability to defend without fouling, a rare ability for someone of his height. The move to the BEast will likely lead to lower scoring numbers but better assists. If he can be the steady PG that allows Duke to attack from the two-guard position, the Friars will have a lot of success.

40. Caleb Daniels of Villanova
6-4 210 lb RSJR PG
33.9 mpg, 16.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.3 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.3 bpg, 2.9 tpg, 50.5 eFG% (18-19 stats for Tulane)

The Wildcats have arguably the best group of top four players in the Big East. But picking that fifth starter is a little trickier. Cole Swider may have the edge early due to his longevity with the program, but Caleb Daniels has the higher upside. Daniels most recently played for a putrid Green Wave team that finished the season 4-26 (including a 20-game losing streak to end the season) despite Daniels’ heroics. Daniels was the first, second, and third priority on every opponent’s scouting report but he still scored seemingly at will. Will be interesting to see how his athletic, break ‘em down style will translate to the organized and meticulous Nova way.

39. Romeo Weems of DePaul
6-7 215 lb SO SF
30.1 mpg, 8.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.8 bpg, 1.6 tpg, 48.7 eFG%

He was the highest ranked FR to commit to DePaul in a very long time. Earned a starting spot from day one and ended the season as a member of the Big East All-Freshman team. His best asset is his ability to create transition opportunities on defense. The Blue Demons struggled to score in the half court but they could create havoc on the break. Weems’ brought size to the wing without sacrificing speed, allowing him to bully smaller assignments into turnovers. What Weems lacks is consistency. Weems could put up big numbers (19 vs. Georgetown, double doubles vs BC and Marquette), but had ten games last season where he scored four points or less. He has to avoid disappearing for entire games If DePaul is going to take the next step towards the basement stairs.

38. Theo John of Marquette
6-9 245 lb SR C
20.9 mpg, 5.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 0.7 apg, 0.4 spg, 1.8 bpg, 0.9 tpg, 54.9 eFG%

Theo John was arguably the most feared (and hated) defensive big man in the conference his sophomore season. His shot blocking and paint enforcement had coaches across the Big East scheming ways to avoid sending their guards to face the monster in the post. His junior season, he saw his minutes rise slightly but his raw numbers go down. His rebounding remained about the same but his scoring and shot blocking both took a slight hit. MU fans are hopeful that offseason surgery has fixed the hand injury that nagged him all of last season so he can return to the force that he was during his sophomore campaign. One positive from John last season was he learned to cut down on his fouling, dropping his fouls per 40 from an atrocious 7.4 as a second year to a manageable 5.2 as a junior. Marquette will need him out there with Jayce Johnson gone and no other true centers on the roster.

37. Zach Freemantle of Xavier
6-9 225 lb SO PF
20.6 mpg, 7.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 0.6 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.7 bpg, 0.9 tpg, 49.0 eFG%

Zach Freemantle was a pleasant surprise for fans of the X-men last season. He was ranked just inside the top 150 by most services but made an instant impact as a freshman, finishing as a member of the Big East All-Freshman Team. His game mostly revolves around the basket but he has the ability to step out of the paint and knock down face up jumpers. He even showed decent accuracy from the three-point line on very limited attempts. He spent time at both forward positions, backing up both Jason Carter and Tyrique Jones. The latter’s graduation should mean more time at the 5 for Freemantle which could create some fun mismatches against some of the more traditional centers found on other Big East squads.

36. Myles Cale of Seton Hall
6-6 210 lb SR SF
23.0 mpg, 6.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 0.9 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.1 tpg, 45.9 eFG%

Started most of the season for the Pirates over Jared Rhoden but eventually lost his spot in the starting five. Was a very solid player his sophomore campaign but looked like a different player as a junior. He actually increased his efficiency when attacking the basket but spent the entire season in a shooting slump from range, losing nearly 10% on his 3P%. Despite the offensive struggles, he earned his time by being one of the better on ball defenders in the conference. His steal% was in the top 400 in the country and his tweener frame allows him to guard positions 1-4. With Powell and McKnight’s departures, there is ample opportunity for Cale to regain his spot in the starting five, if and only if he can find his range again.

35. Jamal Cain of Marquette
6-7 200 lb SR SF
18.4 mpg, 5.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 0.8 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.4 bpg, 1.0 tpg, 57.3 eFG%

For three years, Jamal Cain has looked the part of a future pro without actually showing it on the court. He has the size, length, and athleticism that is coveted by NBA GMs but a combination of mental mistakes and what from my comfy armchair looks like a lack of confidence, has kept him from excelling. He has never had as golden (eagle) of an opportunity as right now. Brendan Bailey has taken his talents overseas, Sacar Anim has graduated, the starting wing spot is his for the taking. Cain is a career 40% 3P shooter and has a career eFG% of 56.8% but has dropped his usage every season. Defensively, he is a solid one on one defender who can guard multiple positions. He excels on the boards, when he goes for a rebound, he grabs that sucker at the peak of its arc. What kills him is the turnovers. He did have the lowest season TO% of his career last season…it was 18.1%. That’s brutal as a career low. What’s worse, his turnovers weren’t the nitpicky travelling kind, they were the headscratching “why did he do that?” kind. If Cain can put it all together and cut down on the unforced errors, he could be one of the most improved players in the conference.

34. Nate Watson of Providence
6-10 260 lb SR C
18.9 mpg, 9.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.6 bpg, 1.0 tpg, 51.1 eFG%

This is the second Friar ranking that is going to get me flamed. I swear I don’t have a Providence bias but I simply don’t get the Preseason All-Big East selection for Watson. He has been a force on offense ever since he stepped foot in the Dunk. He has a variety of post moves that can unbalance and embarrass even the most sure-footed of big men. When those fail, he can simply overpower defenders with his 260lb frame and likely get a trip to the foul line. If the ball ends up in his hands, he’s likely putting up a shot. Watson boasts a high usage for a big man and rarely passes out of the post. In 96 career games, Watson has exactly 4 games where he recorded more than 1 assist. Even more valuable than his scoring is his work on the offensive glass. He only averaged 4.6 total rebounds a game but most of those came on the offensive end, giving the Friars two, three, or even four cracks at the bucket in a single possession. Unfortunately for Watson, basketball requires that he play on both sides of the ball. Despite his imposing frame, Watson was more of a grate than a wall on the defensive end. Even rebounding on defense was a struggle for Watson as he averaged less than 2 defensive boards a game. Kalif Young is no longer there to do offense/defense switches with Watson so expect him to score more…and give up more points than last year.

33. Jason Carter of Xavier
6-8 227 lb SR PF
29.4 mpg, 6.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.4 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.7 bpg, 1.6 tpg, 44.8 eFG%

Carter was considered one of the top grad transfers into the Big East last season if for no other reason than he had two seasons of eligibility left. He was a stud at the MAC level but faced an obvious learning curve as member of the Musketeers. His stat line does not jump off the page at you but Coach Steele threw him out for 29 minutes a game, third most on the team, for a reason. That reason is his defense. In the 204 times that Carter’s assignment took a shot, they only scored a combined 129 points. That’s a points per possession allowed of .632 which ranked in the 93rd percentile of D1. Carter is not overly athletic or fast but he understands defensive fundamentals and his role in the team defense. His defensive leadership will be invaluable for a Xavier squad trying to work in several new pieces to the rotation.

32. Rasheem Dunn of St. John’s
6-2 190 lb RSSR SG
28.7 mpg, 11.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.4 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.0 bpg, 2.0 tpg, 40.5 eFG%

Rasheem Dunn was a very pleasant surprise for the Red Storm faithful last season. Dunn had most recently played in the NEC, arguably one of the worst, if not the worst, conferences in D1. The transition to the Big East was going to be a steep one but Dunn showed himself to be an effective starter even at this high level. Even more surprising was Dunn emerging as a legitimate point guard for the Johnnies. He had always played off the ball at St. Francis (NY) but ended up leading St. John’s in assists. While the passing was appreciated, his scoring was more of a double-edged sword. His eFG% of 40.5% is dead last on this list of 55. He had the ability to shoot St. John’s both into and out of games. The departures of Mustapha Heron and LJ Figueroa means a lot of scoring needs to be made up. Dunn does not necessarily need to increase the volume of his scoring, he would be better served working on his efficiency.

31. Bryce Golden of Butler
6-9 260 lb JR C
21.4 mpg, 7.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.1 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.3 tpg, 53.0 eFG%

In true Butler fashion, Bryce Golden went from seldom used back up to a bonafide starter in the space of a single offseason. He started every game for the Bulldogs and quickly gained a reputation as Kamar Baldwin’s favorite screen setter. Golden’s bread and butter on offense was to set a screen up top and roll for the easy layup as defenses overcommitted to the electric Baldwin. Golden has some post moves but they aren’t as strong as some of the other Big East bigs. Golden can also face the basket and shoot but has yet to find a consistent stroke from anywhere outside of the paint. For a big man, Golden did not grab many boards and he is certainly not an enforcer in the post. He is however a solid post defender who may not block shots but knows how to alter them and make life difficult for cutting guards. According to Butler’s official roster, Golden gained 15lbs from last season. Provided that’s not quarantine weight, we could see a more physically dominating Golden than we did last year.

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Categories: Analysis, Offseason

Author:Ryan Jackson

Texas A&M Professional, Marquette Fantatic

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