There’s incredible talent among the basketball teams across the Big East conference as well as individual players themselves. There are a lot of big names, such as UConn’s Paige Bueckers and Adama Sanogo. The men’s team’s win over Villanova on Tuesday was huge for many reasons, one of which was because star point guard Collin Gillespie showcased his incredible skill while leading the Wildcats for a good fight against the Huskies. In a conference that’s already so competitive, it’s impossible to oversee the players scoring the most points, but it’s even harder to see who else is contributing to their team’s success but not getting the same hype. Who are the most underrated players around the Big East? Our team of writers have their takes:
Tyler Kolek – Marquette
Unless you’re a fan of Marquette or have watched him torch your team with fundamental and flashy passes, you probably don’t know very much about Tyler Kolek. The George Mason transfer and Rhode Island native leads the Big East with nearly six assists per game, but nobody gives him any credit. Yes, he is shooting under 40% on only 7.3 points per game, but his impact as a facilitator is massive. Since Jan. 4, in games that Kolek gets five or more assists, the Golden Eagles are an astounding 9-0. That’s no coincidence. He also provides a solid defensive presence with 1.6 steals per game. The team goes as far as Kolek takes them, serving as one of the best glue-guys in the league. He’s not going to give you 20 points (he’s never scored more than 19), but he’s a winner when he’s on.
Lauren Park-Lane – Seton Hall
I’ll be honest, I didn’t know anything about Seton Hall’s Lauren Park-Lane before doing research for this week’s Big East women’s hoops update. As it turns out, everyone should know who she is because she’s been an absolute beast for the Pirates all season. She leads her team in points and assists per game with averages of 17.2 and 7.3, making her No. 5 and No. 1 in the Big East, respectively. Park-Lane has been an incredible playmaker all season, which was evident when she dished out a whopping 18 assists to guide her team to an 84-55 blowout victory over Butler on Tuesday. She was the recipient of last season’s Most-Improved Player award and rightfully entered this year as a preseason Big East First-Teamer. She’s like a living incarnation of a MyCareer player from NBA2K, and we as basketball fans need to appreciate the show that Park-Lane always provides when she takes the floor for the Pirates.
Noah Horchler – Providence
As of yesterday, only one player has as many rebounds per game as Sanogo, and that is Noah Horchler. Both players have 8.5 RPG, but only one of them has won Big East Player of the Week. As you can see where this is going, the person who isn’t getting as much love is Horchler, who is averaging 10 PPG. Horchler, a transfer from North Florida, is returning to his Osprey form while having a career year from beyond the arc. For a forward of his caliber, what he is able to do is impressive as he is shooting 41.7% from downtown. The biggest reason he does not get a lot of love is because Providence also has National Coach of the Year Finalist Ed Cooley, center Nate Watson, and Jared Bynum leading a “Them Dudes” revolution. Horchler has made multiple Big East Weekly Honor Rolls and should be recognized for his dual-court playing abilities in many more ways.
Brandon Slater – Villanova
Due to playing on such a loaded Villanova Wildcats roster, senior Brandon Slater does not get quite enough credit for how much impact he provides for Villanova. If you want a prime example of that, check out Tuesday’s game against UConn. Slater was a main catalyst in keeping the Wildcats in the game on offense with 15 points and three shots from deep. When Slater wasn’t hitting some of the shots that Villanova needed, UConn was able to take advantage. This is the same player who ranks first in the Big East in true shooting percentage, according to KenPom. His offensive rating is top 10 in the Big East, yet I don’t think he receives quite enough credit for how much offensive production he provides for Villanova. Those marks are incredibly underrated for how little he is talked about compared to the rest of the roster or other players in the Big East.