College Court Report 2017-18 Preseason Awards: Big East

Jalen Brunson is entering his junior season, and will look to lead Villanova to another NCAA Championship this year.

CANMORE, Alta. — The 2017-18 season tips off on November 10th, which means the final month without college basketball is finally upon us.

Fans all across the country are gearing up for another exciting college basketball season, and with the recent scandal involving the FBI and several power conference programs across the NCAA, the level of anticipation is through the roof.

Conference preview pieces are starting to circulate from various media outlets, and conferences are hosting their annual media days and announcing their preseason polls and award winners. It’s always interesting to see how coaches and media rank teams in their respective conferences.

With the season right around the corner, we are starting to release our Preseason Player of the Year awards for each conference, along with three All-Conference teams. Picked at random, we will release two sets of awards each day.

In recent years, the Villanova Wildcats have had a stranglehold on the conference, and their dominance culminated in a National Championship in 2016. The biggest question coming into the 2017-18 season in the Big East isn’t who will win the conference, but rather who has the best chance of knocking the Wildcats out of the top spot.

A handful of teams have a chance to do so, including Chris Mack and the Xavier Musketeers. They look to have the best chance to bump Villanova out of the top spot in the Big East standings. Regardless, the Big East is home to a plethora of talented players, and the race for the conference title will be an exciting one.

Take a look below at who we have picked for our Preseason Big East Player of the Year, along with our All-Big East teams as the season approaches!

2017-18 Player of the Year: Trevon Bluiett, Xavier Musketeers

Picking the Big East Player of the Year is like splitting hairs when trying to choose between Trevon Bluiett and Jalen Brunson. A simple tweet from Jon Rothstein pushed us to the side of Bluiett.

Bluiett averaged 18.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game last season as a junior. If he’s in the best shape of his life this season, then those numbers could very well increase to an average of almost 20 points and seven rebounds per game. He is a dark horse candidate in the race for National Player of the Year to boot, and if the Musketeers can put together a strong season and contend with Villanova until the very end, then he could realistically walk away with both awards.

Ever since he became a Musketeer, the 6’6” Bluiett has been a factor for Chris Mack and company. He’s averaged at least 11.0 points and 4.2 rebounds per game in each of his first three seasons. He has worked on his three point jumper over the summer, and should flirt with a 40% mark from beyond the arc.

On paper, the Big East Player of the Year award is a two-man race. In the end, we see Bluiett coming out ahead of Brunson at year’s end.

2017-18 All-Big East Teams

In Bluiett, the Musketeers have themselves the best player in the Big East. He’s a big guard who can shoot from long distance with relative consistency, or he can battle in the paint with the big men for points around the basket or to grab rebounds. A big year from Bluiett and company could lead Xavier to the top of the Big East standings.

Over the course of the year, Jalen Brunson was one of the best in the country. However, in Big East Play, the 6’3” guard took his game to another level. Brunson averaged 14.7 points and 4.1 assists per game over the entire season, but increased that to 16.1 points and 4.6 assists against conference opponents. Brunson has a knack for making the big plays for Jay Wright’s crew, and is rock solid on the back end for a Villanova team that should contend for a national title in 2017-18. One could pick either Brunson or Bluiett for Big East Player of the Year, and nobody would think they were crazy for doing so.

After an up-and-down two seasons with the Kansas State Wildcats, guard Marcus Foster found himself with the Creighton Bluejays. In his first season with the team in 2016-17, Foster led Creighton with 18.2 points per contest. He is known as being one of the top scoring guards in the country, let alone the Big East, and he showcased his talents last season. In Foster’s first game with the Bluejays, an 89-82 win over the UMKC ‘Roos on the first day of the season, he went for 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the floor, and 4-of-9 shooting from three point range. As a senior, and the top weapon for the Bluejays, expect a big year from Foster.

Looking back at last season, it’s unclear as to how many people realize what forward Andrew Chrabascz meant to the Butler Bulldogs‘ program. With him out of the picture, senior big man Kelan Martin becomes the undisputed focal point in the paint. The 6’7” forward averaged a team-high 16.0 points per game last season, despite playing under 29 minutes per night out. Martin is as consistent as they come on the offensive end of the floor, as he scored in double-figures in all but three games a season ago.

Over his first three seasons with the Seton Hall Pirates, forward Angel Delgado has been a model of consistency on both ends of the floor. Over his career, Delgado has averaged at least 9.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, while shooting at least 54% from the field in each season. Delgado was a double-double machine last season, recording 27 such performances over the course of the season. On January 22nd against the St. John’s Red Storm, Delgado had his best game of the season. He finished with 21 points, on 10-of-17 shooting, and 20 rebounds in the Pirates’ 86-73 win. Delgado followed that up with a 12-point, 22-rebound performance the next game.

Seton Hall returns their top four scorers from a team that went 21-12 overall, finished tied for 3rd in the Big East standings, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Guard Khadeem Carrington led the way, averaging a team-high 17.1 points to go along with 3.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. The Pirates are a senior-heavy team this season, which had led to some increased hype around the program in the off-season. With Carrington leading the way on the back end, another top three finish for the Pirates should be expected in 2017-18.

Simply put, scoring runs in the Howard family. Jordan Howard has been doing his thing for three years with the Central Arkansas Bears, and his brother made a name for himself as a freshman last season with the Marquette Golden Eagles. Guard Markus Howard shot his way to stardom last season in the Big East, hitting on 54.7% of his three point attempts, and 50.6% of all field goals. Howard put up 13.2 points, good for the top mark on the team. With Howard alongside Andrew Rowsey, the Golden Eagles have arguably the top scoring guard tandem in the Big East

The 2017-18 season is a big one for senior guard Kyron Cartwright. Not only does the 5’11” point guard want to end his career with a Big East title and a trip to the NCAA Tournament, he will also be tasked with mentoring freshman guard Makai Ashton-Langford for the Providence Friars. Cartwright had himself a strong junior campaign, averaging 11.4 points and 6.7 assists per game, and is one of the top floor generals in the Big East. He will be looked upon to lead the team on the court, and provide mentorship to the Friars’ point guard of the future.

Heading into the 2017-18 season, a lot of attention will be placed on Marcus Foster when teams take on Creighton. That bodes well for junior scoring guard Khyri Thomas, who will take on an expanded role this season and be looked upon to be another strong scoring option, especially with the departure of Maurice Watson, Jr. Thomas averaged 12.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game as a sophomore, and is the second-highest returning scorer for the team this season.

Some have Mikal Bridges listed at 6’6” and a guard, while others have him at 6’7” and a forward. Regardless of how tall he stands, or where he plays, the junior from Malvern, PA is in prime position for a breakout season in 2017-18. The departure of Josh Hart has left a void on the offensive end that needs to be filled, and Bridges should see plenty of opportunities early on to step into an expanded role. He averaged 9.8 points per game last season, while shooting 54.9% from the field. The potential is there, without question, it’s just a matter of Bridges seizing the opportunity.

Butler has found themselves a future star in sophomore guard Kamar Baldwin. He opened up his freshman campaign with three straight double-digit point performances, and had five such games over his first six contests. Baldwin will be a key piece to the puzzle for the Bulldogs over the next three seasons.

Some thought we were crazy when we named Shamorie Ponds to the All-Big East Third Team last season as a freshman, then he went and put up 17.1 points and 3.1 assists per game. He was named to the Big East All-Rookie Team for his efforts. This season, the sharp-shooting Ponds is back on the Third Team, and if he averages numbers like those from last year, this pick will be much too low.

Like Bluiett, J.P. Macura looks stronger than ever heading into his senior season with the Musketeers. The 6’5” guard has steadily improved on both ends of the court over his first three seasons in the NCAA, and looks poised for a career year as a senior. Last season, he averaged a career-best 14.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.

Desi Rodriguez is the second of two talented big men that Seton Hall will deploy in the paint this season. The 6’8” Rodriguez can stretch the floor with his shooting range, and he hit 35.5% of his jumpers from beyond the arc. He averaged 15.7 points per contest, which trailed only Carrington for the team lead.

Villanova fans had to wait an extra year, but former five-star prospect Omari Spellman will suit up for the Wildcats this season. Spellman was the 19th-ranked prospect in the Class of 2016, but was deemed an academic red-shirt by the NCAA in September of last year. He practiced with the team, but didn’t see game action. This season, as he tries to make up for lost time, the 6’9” forward is ready to wreak havoc on the rest of the conference.

– T. Bennett