Player of the Week:
Tristen Newton (Connecticutt)
Transferring in from East Carolina, Newton was given the difficult task to fill the shoes of R.J. Cole at the point guard position. There’s no question he was an elite player last year in the American Athletic Conference averaging 17.7 points per game, but it begged the question whether he could continue this at the Big East level. Three games in, he had to step up with several Huskies being out due to injury. In their recent win over Buffalo, he recorded 22 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists. The last triple double to be recorded by a Husky was back in 2015 achieved by Daniel Hamilton.
David Joplin (Marquette)
If there’s an early candidate for most improved player, there’s no doubt it is David Joplin. Last year he averaged 2.8 points and 6.9 minutes per game. In three games to start this season, he’s averaging 16.0 points and 20 minutes per game with back-to-back 20-point games. A big part of his scoring success comes from beyond the arc where he is shooting 52%. In Marquette’s recent game against Purdue, he scored 21 points leading the way for the Golden Eagles. Last year Justin Lewis made a sudden impact for Marquette and this year it appears to be Joplin.
Manny Bates (Butler)
Butler has a big chance to be a contender in the Big East this season and a huge reason for that is their starting center Manny Bates. The NC State transfer sat out a season ago due to a shoulder injury, but he’s back better than ever with double doubles in his first two games in a Bulldog uniform. Before the season there was a lot of hype surrounding Big East post players Ryan Kalkbrenner, Adama Sanogo and Jack Nunge, but Bates has put himself in the early discussion for top big man in this conference. He currently leads the Big East with 10.5 rebounds a game and is second in blocks averaging 3.0 a game.
There were several questions how successful Villanova would be losing their true point guard Collin Gillespie and their legendary coach Jay Wright. This is the first time since 2019 where the Wildcats were not picked to win the conference, in fact the preseason poll had them ranked to finish third. In the battle of Philadelphia, Villanova suffered an early loss to Temple on the road with a poor performance all around. They then went on to beat a terrible Delaware State team by 10 points in a game where they were losing at half time. It is worth mentioning that they have been without key returning guard Justin Moore and five-star freshman forward Cam Whitmore, but regardless, they will need to be ready to play against Michigan State Friday night.
Eric Hunter Jr (Butler)
Three-point shooting. That’s where Butler struggled last season shooting 29.2% from beyond the arc. New head coach Thad Matta brought in some transfers to solve this problem, Eric Hunter Jr. being one of them. In Big Ten play last year for Purdue, Hunter Jr. shot 54% from the three. Against Penn State he airballed two triples and ended the game the game 1/10 from the field. Although he is an elite defender being a part of the All-Big Ten defensive team, the Bulldogs need his veteran presence on offense.
Top 5 prospects for the 2023 NBA draft
#1 Cam Whitmore (Villanova)
The hype around Whitmore is real. Everyone is eager to see him step onto the court for the first time in a Wildcat uniform as he is a projected possible lottery selection for the 2023 NBA draft. It normally isn’t typical for a Villanova freshman to be considered a one and done, but this just displays how talented he is. Ranked No. 21 in ESPN’s top 100, Whitmore has climbed the latter in the NBA draft after his performance for the USA Basketball U18 team at the FIBA U18 Americas this summer. Still out with a thumb injury, he is projected to return in early December.
#2 Arthur Kaluma (Creighton)
Being named to the watchlist for the 2023 Karl Malone award, there’s no doubt that all eyes are on Kaluma after his strong freshman campaign. He was a member of both the All-Big East Freshman team and All-Big East Second team averaging 10.4 points and 5.4 rebounds a game. Creighton had an impressive outing against Kansas to end the season last year in the NCAA tournament. Kaluma led the way with a career high 24 points playing all 40 minutes of the game. That performance alone in a big time game from a freshman was enough to attract the attention of NBA scouts.
#3 Jordan Hawkins (UConn)
Head coach Dan Hurley says that when NBA scouts come in the gym they are always immediately impressed with Hawkins. The wing will have an increased role this season and can be a leading scorer for UConn. The 6-5 guard was a member of the All-Big East freshman team averaging 5.8 points per game. Being a bit small his freshman season, Hawkins focused on gaining strength adding 20 pounds in the offseason. Just like Whitmore, he is dealing with an injury early on in the season, but thankfully for the Huskies it is nothing serious.
#4 Colby Jones (Xavier)
A similar trend with most of these players is how they ended last season. Jones was electric for Xavier helping them win the 2022 NIT tournament earning the NIT most outstanding player. In the championship game against Texas A&M he scored a career high 21 points. This year he has been named to the All-Big East first team.
#5 Trey Alexander (Creighton
Alexander is another big impact freshman who progressively got better as the season went on. Being offensive initiator for this team, he stands at 6’4 with a solid NBA point guard frame. In March Madness last year he averaged 16 points 7 assists a game. If he can continue this production this season, he could be a late round flyer in the NBA draft.