Big East Basketball Media Day got started bright and early on Tuesday morning when the conference announced the preseason men’s basketball awards before most kids in Wisconsin were even on their way to school. YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles were picked to finish seventh in the Big East in a vote of the league’s coaches, while senior center Luke Fischer was named to the Preseason All-Big East Second Team.
The Golden Eagles return nine of 11 scholarship players and eight of 10 active players from last year when they went 20-13 overall, but just 8-10 in Big East play. That placed them seventh in the league standings a year ago, and with the loss of freshman forward Henry Ellenson to the NBA Draft, you can see how the other coaches in the Big East would be reluctant to believe that the Golden Eagles will jump up in the standings this season.
Fischer averaged 12.1 points and 6.2 rebounds a year ago, finishing second on the team in both departments. Given the productivity of Ellenson right next to him, Fischer’s 2015-16 campaign may have been slightly overlooked, as he finished with a top 300 offensive rating, a top 50 effective field goal percentage without attempting even one three pointer, a top 60 offensive rebounding rate, a top 200 block rate, and a top 350 free throw/field goal ratio. He was remarkably efficient, but he will have to step up his game as MU’s primary post option on both offense and defense this season. Thankfully, Marquette will have the best three-point shooting team of his tenure around him, so the hope is that the extra spacing gives Fischer a needed boost.
As for the other league awards, they appear to be largely unsurprising.
Preseason Player of the Year: Josh Hart, Villanova
When the leading scorer for the national champions returns for his senior season, he gets to be preseason POY. This was not a hard choice for the Big East coaches.
Preseason Freshman of the Year: Sharmorie Ponds, St. John’s
With Villanova’s Omari Spellman stuck in academic redshirt hell, Ponds was the obvious choice as the best freshman in the league to start the season. He’ll be given a chance to contribute to the Red Storm right away and he’s the next highest ranked recruit in the league after Spellman. Again, not a hard choice.
Predicted Order Of Finish
1. Villanova (9) 81
2. Xavier (1) 69
3. Creighton 64
T-4. Georgetown 53
T-4. Seton Hall 53
6. Butler 44
7. Marquette 35
8. St. John’s 21
9. Providence 18
10. DePaul 12
The numbers in parenthesis are the first place votes, and the numbers at the end are the total points earned by each team with nine for a first place vote, eight for second place, and so on. Coaches are not allowed to vote for their own team, so Villanova picked up all nine possible votes to be the unanimous choice to win the league yet again this season. The steep drop from VU to Xavier combined with a 15 point gap between second place and sixth place, including a tie for fourth, probably tells you everything you need to know about how tightly contested the top half of the conference will be this season.
In my preseason picks, I had Butler as a top 5 team, which is pretty much just a swap with Georgetown. The league’s coaches think much more of Creighton this year than I do, but other than that, but with such a small separation in votes, it’s not like we’re that far apart either.
On to the all-league teams...
Preseason All-Big East First Team
Kelan Martin, Butler, F
Maurice Watson Jr., Creighton, G
Kris Jenkins, Villanova, F
Trevon Bluiett, Xavier, G
Edmond Sumner, Xavier, G
Preseason All-Big East Second Team
Billy Garrett, Jr., DePaul, G
Isaac Copeland, Georgetown, F
Luke Fischer, Marquette, C
Khadeen Carrington, Seton Hall, G
Angel Delgado, Seton Hall, F
Preseason All-Big East Honorable Mention
Marcus Foster, Creighton, G
L.J. Peak, Georgetown, F
Jalen Brunson, Villanova, G
By now you’ve probably noticed that Josh Hart isn’t a preseason all-Big East honoree. Well, he’s Player of the Year, so that’s more important as opposed to, y’know, getting both. Oh well. This does create a situation where there’s two guys on the First Team that weren’t in my picks. Either Kris Jenkins or Edmond Sumner takes Angel Delgado’s place, which raises a question: When did the Big East coaches start thinking Delgado wasn’t as good as Jenkins or Sumner? Delgado was an all-Big East performer at the end of the regular season last year, while Jenkins and Sumner were not. That’s why I put Delgado on my preseason all-conference team.
Marcus Foster’s inclusion on the Honorable Mentions is probably the explanation for why Creighton is sitting in the three hole in the predicted standings, and I can’t say I completely agree with it. I know what his numbers were at Kansas State, and I know that he’s been quietly biding his time in Omaha before becoming eligible to play this season. But there’s something inside of me that says “let’s pump our brakes” when it comes to thinking that a guy that was kicked off the team in Manhattan is going to be an all-conference caliber performer in the Big East right out of the gate.