Player of the Week
DAngelo Harrison The St. John’s guard continued his streak of impressive performances as he powered the Red Storm with 29 points in a win over Youngstown St. on Dec. 21. Harrison shot 9-for-15 (60 percent) from the field against the Penguins, including 5-of-6 from behind the arc. With his efficient day shooting from deep, the Texas native became the school’s all-time leader with 156 3-pointers.
The junior also finished with six rebounds and four assists in the 96-87 victory. Harrison eclipsed the 20-point mark for the second time in three games, scoring 21 points against No. 2 Syracuse on Dec. 15 in Madison Square Garden. Following the game against the Orange, Harrison was 5-of-8 from the field and finished with 18 points against San Francisco. The guard has now shot over 60 percent from the field in two consecutive games.
Fuquan Edwin The Seton Hall forward’s play against Eastern Washington on Dec. 22 showed why he might be the most versatile player in the Big East. Edwin finished the game with 14 points, four rebounds, and four assists in a 92-70 win for the Pirates. Most impressively, the senior tied a school-record with eight steals against the Eagles. All of this in just 27 minutes of playing time at the Prudential Center in Newark.
Isaiah Philmore The senior forward scored a career-high 17 points against Alabama in a 77-74 win on Dec. 21. Philmore, who averages 9.1 points per game for Xavier, shot 4-for-8 from the field, but earned the majority of his points from the free throw line. The Maryland native went 9-of-12 from the charity stripe against the Crimson Tide in 32 minutes of play. Philmore also posted a new career-high with 12 rebounds in the game.
James Bell The Villanova guard has struggled offensively of late, shooting less than 34 percent from the field in the Wildcats’ last two games. In a 73-52 victory over crosstown rival LaSalle on Dec. 15, Bell shot 1-for-7 from the field, and finished with just three points against the Explorers. Last Saturday against Rider, the senior once again failed to convert on many of his chances, going 3-for-9 and finishing with eight points. In 22 minutes of play, Bell grabbed just one rebound and finished with four fouls.
Tommy Hamilton Despite an inferior opponent, the freshman struggled to make an impact for DePaul in their game against Illinois St on Dec. 22. Hamilton finished with four points on 1-of-6 shooting against the Redbirds, while also accumulating four fouls. Despite his 6’10 size, the center grabbed just three rebounds in the 69-64 road loss.
Top 5 Teams Heading Into 2014
1. Villanova – The eighth-ranked Wildcats appear to be the premier team in the new Big East, starting off 11-0 this season with a key win over then-No. 2 Kansas on Nov. 29. Villanova faces another second-ranked opponent on Dec. 28 when they travel to the Carrier Dome to take on Syracuse. Jay Wright’s team has been strong on both ends of the court, averaging 82.5 points per contest, 24th in the country. Junior JayVaughn Pinkston, who is putting up 16.5 points per game, leads the Wildcats offensively. Villanova has been dominating on the glass, grabbing an average of 42 rebounds per contest, 13th in the nation.
2. Creighton – Outside of a two-day span in late November, the Bluejays have been very impressive in the debut season of their new conference. Two-time All-American Doug McDermott has shown doubters that his play translates over to the power conferences, averaging a Big East-leading 24.8 points per game. Despite suffering losses to San Diego St. and George Washington on the 28th and 29th of last month, Creighton has a couple of resume boosting wins as they enter conference play. The Bluejays have defeated Arizona St., Nebraska, and most recently, California on Dec. 22, so far this season. They’re fifth in the country with 18.4 assists per game, and their offense has been strong thus far, averaging 82.3 points in 11 games.
3. Butler – Despite losing coach Brad Stevens to the Boston Celtics, the Bulldogs have had a strong 2013 after moving to the Big East from the Atlantic 10. At 9-2, Butler has shown the capability of making another magical run in the NCAA tournament and have played well against their toughest opponents. Early season wins include Vanderbilt, Washington St. and Purdue. Their hardest test may come first, as the Bulldogs open conference play against No. 8 Villanova on Dec. 31.
4. Georgetown – Following the loss of All-American Otto Porter to the NBA, the backcourt duo of D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Markel Starks have stepped up to fill the void and have provided the Hoyas with key offensive production. The two combine to average over 30 points a game and will be crucial to Georgetown’s success this season. John Thompson III’s team sits at 7-3, with two of those losses coming to ranked opponents (Oregon, Kansas). The Hoyas’ marquee win came over then No. 10 VCU on Nov. 24. UCLA transfer Joshua Smith could be the factor that elevates Georgetown to elite status in the country, and has done a nice job improving his offensive game on the East coast.
5. Xavier – Another team new to the Big East, the Musketeers have gotten off to a strong start at 9-3. After suffering three consecutive losses to end November, Xavier has responded well, going 4-0 in December entering a game against Wake Forest on Dec. 28. Their most impressive wins have come recently, giving the team some confidence as they prepare to enter conference play. While it didn’t have the fireworks of last year’s infamous brawl-ridden game, the Musketeers easily defeated Cincinnati 64-47 on Dec. 14. Most recently, they hit the road and beat Alabama 77-74 on Dec. 21.