CBS Sports’ Top 100 Players: Big East BreakdownPosted by George Hershey on October 21st, 2013
Jeff Borzello, Matt Norlander and Gary Parrish published a list of their top 100 college basketball players in America this past week. The Big East has six players on the list, led by Doug McDermott at #3. The other players picked, respectively, are Xavier guard Semaj Christon (#19), Providence guard Bryce Cotton (#66), Georgetown point guard Markel Starks (#75), St. John’s forward JaKarr Sampson (#85), and Marquette forward Davante Gardner (#96). McDermott comes in behind two of the top candidates for next year’s #1 draft pick in Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins and Oklahoma State sophomore Marcus Smart. McDermott has been named a first team All-American the past two seasons, and is the most decorated individual in college basketball.
With six players, the new Big East has the least of any of the power conferences. These rankings do not necessarily show each conference’s overall talent and quality of players, but it gives fans a sense of a league’s star power and professional prospects. Having said that, the Big East has lost considerable star power through conference realignment. Last year’s Big East teams would have totaled 16 players on the list this year. Louisville, Syracuse, and Notre Dame each contributes multiple players while new members Butler, Creighton, and Xavier only add McDermott and Christon. The ACC has 15 players on the list, leading all conferences, with several teams having multiple selections. Closely behind that league is the SEC with 14 players and the Big Ten with 13 selections. The SEC is powered by Kentucky, with an astounding seven picks, while Michigan and Michigan State account for more than half of the Big Ten’s spots — seven between the two teams. The Pac-12 has excellent balance with 11 players on seven different teams. The other two power conferences, the Big 12 and AAC, each has 10 players. With only six choices, the Big East is considerably behind the other power conferences. The Mountain West also had six players chosen and the top mid-major leagues such as the Atlantic 10 and WCC, have four each. By this measure, the Big East is profiling more like a high-level mid-major this season than it is one of the seven power conferences.
For the most part, the three writers did a good job placing the six Big East players in the appropriate spots. McDermott is definitely deserving of his ranking. The Preseason Big East POY may not be as highly touted by NBA scouts as some of the other players behind him, but he is an extraordinary basketball player and has been tremendous over three years at Creighton. Christon is probably a little high. He has tremendous talent and is a potential lottery pick next year, but he is ranked ahead of Shabazz Napier and Spencer Dinwiddie, both of whom have accomplished more and led teams with significantly more success. As Parrish says at the beginning, though: “This is about college basketball players – not pro prospects.”
The next four guys on the list are a quartet of extremely talented but often overlooked stars. Starks and Gardner are two guys who have been on exceptional teams their first three years. Both have played very well throughout, but have never been the top option on the team. Starks has run the Hoyas’ offense the past two seasons, but he had the likes of Otto Porter and Henry Sims to defer to. Starks’ ranking is fair, but Gardner should have been higher. Gardner is slotted behind several freshman and players who play against lesser competition. Although he has been known to disappear at times, he has also had games (like against Syracuse) where he showed his skill set with stellar moves and a soft touch. Gardner has the potential to be a double-double player on a consistent basis. Cotton and Sampson are both ranked in very respectable spots. They will be leading teams that are on the rise and have great potential to spur their teams to NCAA Tournament selections this season.
The only player on the preseason Big East First Team who was omitted was St. John’s guard D’Angelo Harrison. The CBS writers got this right. Harrison was suspended at the end of last year and is known to have an affinity for shooting contested jumpers without getting his teammates involved. One player who should have been included on the list is Marquette senior Jamil Wilson. He is a multifaceted player who can score inside and out, rebound, and guard multiple positions. Like Gardner, he has disappeared at times, but in Marquette’s three wins in the NCAA Tournament last year, he averaged over 14 points as well as six rebounds per game. DePaul forward Cleveland Melvin also has a good argument to make after averaging 16.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game last year. Still, he is not the most complete player and has suffered through three losing seasons in Chicago. It is fun watching him play, but on a team that is not as easy to watch.
The Big East may not have as many stars on its teams as the other major conferences, but the teams are still plenty talented and balanced. The league may not be as attractive on paper at this point in the season, but there are a number of players who will step up this year and make their names known throughout the college hoops world.