The Big East MBB has been incredibly competitive this year and has had a lot of surprises compared to analysts’ and coaches’ initial projections. Xavier has somehow been better than expected, jumping out to a conference-best 8-1 record behind the stellar play of Souley Boum. Kam Jones has been phenomenal for Marquette, a team not too far behind the Musketeers. After a season averaging six minutes per game, Bryce Hopkins has taken over the alpha role for Providence, helping them stay on the national stage. Or what about UConn’s own Adama Sanogo? He’s the league leader in scoring and came in as the preseason POTY. Who of these deserves to take home the POTY so far? The DC Sports section discusses this in this week’s roundtable…
Associate Sports Editor
Sanogo has been solid this year, improving on his 15 points a game up to 17, while keeping his rebounding figures relatively stable. Even though his Huskies are not at the top of the conference, the argument could be made that he’s still the best player. He leads the league in scoring and has put together a number of commanding performances against good teams in the league — Creighton and Xavier. It’s been a bit tougher for him to perform with the defenses circling his name as the main focus–the result of being named BE Preseason POTY — but he’s still managed to weather the storm and play well. Not to mention his improved (37% vs. 0%) shooting from deep, which has really stretched out opposing defenses. With a promising stretch ahead for Connecticut, Sanogo looks primed to make a comeback on the award he was initially favored for.
It is not that people do not respect the St. John’s Red Storm, they went 10-1 in non-conference play and received Top 25 votes, it is that Soriano does not receive enough attention for his performance. He has taken big strides this season, and is one of two Big East players in the top 10 in both scoring and rebounding (Sanogo is the other). On top of being a force in non-conference play, Soriano has been one of the best players in conference action. Heading into Wednesday’s matchup against the Creighton Blue Jays, Soriano has garnered a double-double in all but one Big East game and has 20+ points in three of them. Without his contributions on both ends of the floor, the Red Storm most likely find themselves in a worse position than they currently are, especially following the departure of Julian Champagnie. Even if he does not win Player of the Year (he will make an All-Big East Team), he will be in discussions about who will win the Most Improved Player award.
The Marquette Golden Eagles sit at No. 2 in the Big East, and that is in large part due to their prime playmaker, Tyler Kolek. Jumping out from the stats-sheet is the fact that he has averaged the third most assists per game in the NCAA with 7.9. This was boosted by a 15-assist game against the Georgetown Hoyas, as well as an 11-assist game against the Baylor Bears. This performance against the Bears, who are No. 17 in the AP Rankings, was especially impressive in showing his playmaking ability. He has also shown that he can be a key asset in big games, which will be key for Marquette as the season progresses. His 29-point game against Providence, and his 25-point game against Big East leaders Xavier show that he has the capability of scoring well against tough opposition. With big games still to come against the top teams in the Big East, Kolek should definitely not be overlooked as a player who can get the Golden Eagles to one of the top seeds in the conference, and just may pick up some awards in the process.
Xavier has been a surprise as of late, surrendering just one loss in conference play and a lot of their success can be attributed to guard Boum. On the season, Boum is averaging 16.6 points per game with 5.1 assists and 1.4 steals. With his help, this Xavier team was able to reshape itself from their 8-11 conference record from last year and currently led the Big East Conference. A transfer from UTEP, Boum has closed games out for the Musketeers whether he needs to score himself or facilitate the Xavier offense. He’s the guy teams are circling in this conference to try to contain, but he still continues to play some of the best basketball in this conference. Boum is having career best in 3-point percentage (43.0%), free throw percentage (87.9%), field goal percentage (47.4%) and assists, and has been displaying his talent all season long.
The Creighton Bluejays aren’t the team most projected them to be at the beginning of the year. Despite their lackluster non-conference play, the Bluejays are 5-3 in the Big East, losing to three teams on the road, all of whom are ranked. A large part of their success stems from their offensive leader Ryan Kalkbrenner. In 16 games, the junior averages 14.9 points, 7.0 rebounds and a conference-leading 2.2 blocked shots per game. While his point totals don’t compare with some of the other stars mentioned here, it’s worth noting that Kalkbrenner is the most efficient shooter in the conference, boasting a field goal percentage of 72.9%. Even with the reputation of a top big man in the conference, the Big East Preseason First Team selection has certainly been carrying his portion of the team’s load and is worth being in the conversation for Big East Player of the Year.