Unless a fireball consumes the earth at some point in the next five weeks, Creighton's Doug McDermott will be named the 2013-14 Big East Player of the Year. He's been named Player of the Week six of the 12 weeks so far this season, and no one else has even earned that honor twice. McDermott leads the league in scoring by nearly four points over Providence's Bryce Cotton, ranks sixth in rebounding at just a shade over 7.1 boards per contest, and he's fourth in three point percentage. I can't even comprehend what would be necessary for someone to overtake him.
And yet, Creighton is only tied for first place in the Big East with Villanova, and now they face the task of going back through the league and letting everyone take a second crack at defending them. So the possibility exists that someone could go on a tear and prove themselves worthy of the mantle of Player of the Year.
Let's take a look at the five most likely candidates:
1. Bryce Cotton, Providence
As mentioned earlier, Cotton is second in the league in scoring and joins McDermott as the only player in the Big East averaging more than 20 points per game. Cotton is also destroying the rest of the conference from a helping perspective, dishing 5.6 assists per game. He's not doing it through reckless behavior, either, as Cotton's carrying a 2.6/1 assist-to-turnover ratio, fourth best in the conference. He's earned one of the stray six POTW honors, and he's been on the Weekly Honor Roll six times, more than any other player in the league. He does all of this while essentially playing every single minute for the Friars, which is a bold strategy to say the least.
2. James Bell, Villanova
I actually like Bell's chances slightly more than Cotton's. I don't know how long Providence can sustain their run with five guys playing over 30 minutes a game and only one other player averaging more than 7 mpg. A collapse down the stretch by the Friars will likely disqualify Cotton, but Villanova has shown no sign of slowing down. Even when they got firebombed by Creighton, the Wildcats averaged more than a point per possession.
Earlier this season, I was surprised to find out that Bell is VU's leading scorer. He still is, by just more than a point more than JayVaughn Pinkston. Bell is also second on the team in rebounding average (5.8), just one-tenth of a rebound fewer than Daniel Ochefu. Those numbers have Bell in the top 12 in the conference in both categories, and if Creighton stumbles down the stretch and Villanova wins the regular season title by two or more games, I could see a scenario where the coaches vote for Bell as the best player on the best team over McDermott.
3. Semaj Christon, Xavier
Christon hasn't missed a beat after winning the Atlantic 10's Rookie of the Year award last year before Xavier moved to the Big East this season. His scoring (5th in the Big East) is up and his rebounds are essentially the same. Christon's assists (T-6th) are slightly down, but that probably has more to do with Dee Davis having just as many assists this season so far as he did all of last year. Christon has matched James Bell with five appearances on the Weekly Honor Roll, but unlike Bell, he has not been named Player of the Week at all. Christon has been the most accurate shooter out of the candidates for Player of the Year not named McDermott, making 49.6% of his shots, just four-tenths of a percentage short of Dougie McBuckets' 50.0%.
4. Fuquan Edwin, Seton Hall
If I'm going to include Christon and Bell and their five Weekly Honor Roll appearances, I have to include Edwin, who has matched the both of them in appearances. It's much harder to make a case for Edwin as POTY, though. He's only 15th in scoring, and doesn't appear in the top 15 in rebounds or assists. What does help his case is that he's the eighth most accurate three point shooter in the conference at 38.7%, and even more importantly, Edwin leads the Big East in steals per game. The two sentences that you are about to read are absolute facts, even if you feel the need to call Ripley's Believe It Or Not afterwards.
Edwin averages 3.1 steals per game. No one else averages at least two steals per game.
Is that enough to push him past anyone else in the league? Maybe not. But that's a significant impact on every game that Seton Hall plays, and a late charge to the postseason by the Pirates will go a long way towards helping Edwin's case.
5. D`Angelo Harrison, St. John's
Ok, look. I already told you that the other four guys here are long shots to win. So why not add a long shot to the group of long shots? Harrison hasn't earned the weekly honors that these other guys have, as he only has one Player of the Week award and two Weekly Honor Roll appearances. But he's third in the league in scoring at 18.3 ppg, and trails only McDermott and Cotton. He's clearly St. John's most dangerous player, and the Red Storm appear to have a bit of a roll going lately, winning five of their last six games. Harrison is quietly one of the best defensive rebounders in the conference, ranking 14th in the league on that end with 3.7 caroms per game, the same total that Marquette's Davante Gardner grabs. I know, it's not much. But before he was suspended to end the 2012-13 season, Harrison was a heavy favorite to be last year's Player of the Year. If St. John's is going to continue their recent momentum, it's going to require a lot of heavy lifting from Harrison, and that might be enough to push him into the picture.