A Big East Feast

With an emphasis on game-film and the Eye Test rather than the stat sheet, IrishEyes offers its Big East post-season awards extravaganza.

Writing pre-game scouting reports for 18 Big East games can be time consuming, and copious amounts of game-film were consumed in the process (gotta love those Rutgers/St. John's matchups in early February…)

But at least one universal good came from that research: I was able to ignore the stat sheet when making my picks for Conference honors.

Below is the only 2010 league review you'll need. Also, this isn't Little League or "Everybody Gets a Trophy Day." Five players on a basketball court...five players per All-Star team.

First Team All-Big East

  • Forward: Wesley Johnson (Syracuse): The best player on the league's best team. Johnson is an athletic difference-maker, one of the league's most versatile players, and the main reason Syracuse finished first rather than sixth, as forecasted in a pre-season poll of Big East coaches. The junior-transfer was more productive in the season's first half but his across-the-board contributions over the course of the season shouldn't be overlooked.
  • Forward: Lazar Hayward (Marquette): Hayward possesses the best combination of mental and physical toughness among Big East frontcourt players. A lock for first-team All Defense honors, the 6'6" Hayward regularly matched up with opposing big men for the undersized Golden Eagles.
  • Forward: Luke Harangody (Notre Dame): I agree with the prevailing sentiment that Notre Dame has improved as a basketball team since Harangody was lost to injury on February 11 at Seton Hall. Then again, the W/L column shows 6-5 with him and 4-3 without him, so maybe it was just the coaching staff that stepped up its game and finally figured out how to use the gifted Carleton Scott. I'll take Harangody's 24 points and 10 boards per game on my side anytime.
  • Shooting Guard: Dominique Jones (South Florida): My choice as the Big East Player of the Year. Jones averaged 23.4 points (ranked 2nd) and 6.5 rebounds (18th) in conference games. He single-handedly brought the previously lowly Bulls from the conference doormat to a ninth-place finish with an outside chance at an NCAA Tournament berth. His 46-point, 10-rebound, 8-assist, 3-steal effort in a 109-105 win at Providence was the best individual performance of the season.
  • Point Guard: Scottie Reynolds (Villanova): I had Reynolds penciled in for the Big East MVP award two weeks ago but Jones meant more to an overachieving group this season than did Reynolds to the wildly talented ‘Cats. One of the league's most clutch performers, Reynolds missed a The Wildcats had wide-open game-winning three-point shot in overtime that would have locked up the No. 2 seed for Villanova in the season-finale vs. West Virginia. He's a four-year star for the Wildcats and the most dangerous little man in the league.

Second Team All-Big East

  • Swingman: Andy Rautins (Syracuse): Team leader, knockdown shooter, tremendous half-court passer, canny zone defender, and integral part of the league's best team.
  • Swing Man: Da'Sean Butler (West Virginia): The leader and glue of an otherwise highly dysfunctional, but talented group of Mountaineers.
  • Center: Greg Monroe (Georgetown): By default. Monroe is maddeningly passive at times but he's a better choice here than his closest competition, Louisville's Samardo Samuels.
  • Shooting Guard: Jeremy Hazell (Seton Hall): The scariest shooter and scorer in the league when he gets on a role/is properly motivated.
  • Point Guard: Tory Jackson (Notre Dame): His omission from the official voting can only be explained by selectors looking at the stat sheet rather watching the actual basketball games. Jackson is Notre Dame's team MVP this season and the winner of the Big East's Sportsmanship award by vote of the league coaches.

Third Team All-Big East

  • Forward: Devin Ebanks (West Virginia): The enigmatic Ebanks can guard four positions and is able to dominate the glass. Has some concentration lapses, especially vs. what he perceives to be lesser competition.
  • Forward: Jimmy Butler (Marquette): Ranks with Tim Abromaitis and Ashton Gibbs as the conference's most improved players. An excellent offensive rebounder and efficient scorer.
  • Center: Samardo Samuels (Louisville): A space-eater that is personally responsible for the team's sixth-place finish due to his 36-point effort in a double-overtime win vs. 7th place Notre Dame. Samuels should be a much better collegiate rebounder.
  • Shooting Guard: Austin Freeman (Georgetown): Improved across the board as a junior. Freeman is a shooter that could propel the underachieving Hoyas to great heights in both of the team's upcoming tournaments.
  • Point Guard: Kemba Walker (Connecticut): The quickest player in the league with the ball in his hands. Walker is a competitive sophomore on a fledgling, wildly underachieving team. The Huskies will be his team next season and it will show in their improved play.

Honorable Mention:

  • Forward: Jamine Peterson (Providence): Numbers put him on the first team. A nine-game losing streak precludes the possibility.
  • Forward: Stanley Robinson (Connecticut): I penalized because he should be so much better.
  • Forward: Tim Abromaitis (Notre Dame): Was a candidate for third-team honors prior to the season's final three contests.
  • Forward: Kevin Jones (West Virginia): Another on a long list of improved Big East front court players as a sophomore.
  • Swingman: Jerome Dyson (Connecticut): The league's best defensive guard and a bull in penetration. Too bad he can't shoot.
  • Swingman: D.J. Kennedy (St. John's): Undervalued for the second consecutive season. Kennedy is solid on both ends of the court.
  • Center: Herb Pope (Seton Hall): The league's leading rebounder is a key component to the free-wheeling Pirates. Limited offensively.
  • Center: Hamady Ndiaye (Rutgers): Dominant on one end of the floor. He'd be even better if Rutgers had decent perimeter defenders alongside him.
  • Power Forward/Center: Rick Jackson (Syracuse): Key backline defender and underrated low-post scorer for the top team in the conference.
  • Shooting Guard: Ashton Gibbs (Pittsburgh): The official winner of the Big East's Most Improved Award…which basically means no one was paying attention late last season. Gibbs is a one-man zone buster with his chin-level set-shot.
  • Shooting Guard: Darius Johnson-Odom (Marquette): Can beat defenders off the dribble or from beyond the arc as easily as anyone in the nation.
  • Point Guard: Sharaud Curry (Providence): Solid college point guard on a terrible team.
  • Point Guard: Corey Fisher (Villanova): Unsung hero allows Reynolds to play off the ball. Fisher has improved, but is still not a great defender.

All-Freshman Team

  • Dane Miller (Rutgers): Can score and hit the glass. The proof will come when Rutgers becomes a competitive team that shows up more than once every two weeks.
  • Brandon Triche (Syracuse): Will be under the microscope with the toughest job in basketball in the coming weeks: a freshman point guard that's expected to lead his team to the Big East and NCAA Championships.
  • Maalik Wayns (Villanova): The best future college player of the group.
  • Lance Stephenson (Cincinnati): The best future pro and/or D-League player of the group, depending on his focus level over the next 2-4 years.
  • Vincent Council (Providence): Will step in and run the show full-time for the up-tempo Friars next season.

All-Defensive Team

  • Reggie Redding (Villanova): Capable of destroying opposing shooters. Back-to-back selections for the 'Cats stopper.
  • Lazar Hayward (Marquette): Hayward might be my first league choice around which to build a team.
  • Hamady Ndiaye (Rutgers): The Human Eraser and default pick as the Big East's Defensive Player of the Year, but...
  • Jerome Dyson (Connecticut): I'd go with Dyson as the conference's top defender. A dominant, angry defensive big guard.
  • Tory Jackson (Notre Dame): Draws the toughest assignment every night and is regularly asked to defend point guards, sharpshooters, penetrators, and opposing small forwards.

Honorable Mention All-Defense

  • Small Guards: Jason Clark (Georgetown); Joe Mazzulla (West Virginia); Malik Brooks (St. John's); David Cubillan (Marquette).
  • Swingmen: Jermaine Dixon (Pittsburgh); Wesley Johnson (Syracuse); Da'Sean Butler (West Virginia); Andy Rautins (Syracuse); Devin Ebanks (West Virginia – when he feels like it).
  • Big Men: Gary McGhee (Pittsburgh); Rich Jackson (Syracuse); Antonio Pena (Villanova); Carleton Scott (Notre Dame – inline for 1st Team honors with more playing time next season).

Most Improved Award (in order)

  • Tim Abromaitis (Notre Dame): From sophomore redshirt season to top tier scorer and one of the nation's best shooters as a junior. How could anyone else have been considered for this award?
  • Jimmy Butler (Marquette): Tremendous athlete that plays bigger than his frame.
  • Ashton Gibbs (Pittsburgh): Gibbs showed flashes of brilliance last season.
  • Austin Freeman (Georgetown): A dangerous player in the coming weeks (Freeman would rank higher but he was intermittently solid last year as well).
  • Jason Clark (Georgetown): One of the best on-ball defenders in the league and now a productive offensive player.
  • Kevin Jones (West Virginia): Took a few too many games off to rank any higher.
  • Chris Howard (South Florida): Unsung hero of the competitive Bulls. Howard should probably join the honorable mention list of defenders as well.

Sixth Man Award

Coach of the Year

  • Jim Boeheim (Syracuse): Picked 7th, finished first, and was forced to replace Johnny Flynn, Paul Harris, and Eric Devendorf.
  • Buzz Williams (Marquette): Picked 12th, finished 5th, and had to replace three of the program's all-time greats in Jerel McNeal, Dominic James, and Wesley Matthews, Jr.
  • Jamie Dixon (Pittsburgh): Picked 9th, finished 2nd, and had to replace Levance Fields, Sam Young, and DeJuan Blair.
  • Mike Brey (Notre Dame): Picked 8th, finished 7th, and completely revamped a dying team in mid-February after losing the program's best player. Brey might have ranked among the bottom half of coaches through the first two months of the season, but was easily the league's best over the last three weeks.
  • Stan Heath (South Florida): Guided the Bulls to a 9th place finish (picked 14th) and played 11 conference games without center Augustus Gilchrist.

Projected Breakout Players for 2011

(Last year's selections for breakout players):

  • Kemba Walker (UConn) – Yes
  • Yancy Gates (Cincinnati) – Ehh…no.
  • Chris Wright (Georgetown) – Much better than last season, but I thought he'd be more consistent.
  • Devin Ebanks (West Virginia) – Yes
  • Marshon Brooks (Providence) – Was probably better last year
  • Corey Stokes (Villanova) – Yes
  • Ashton Gibbs (Pittsburgh) – Yes, won the league's Most Improved Award.
  • Brad Wanamaker (Pittsburgh) – Yes
  • Ben Hansbrough (Notre Dame) –Yes
  • Jason Clark (Georgetown) – Yes
  • Henry Sims (Georgetown) – Definitively No
  • Tyrone Nash (Notre Dame) – Yes

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