Player of the Week
Jalen Brunson, G, Junior, Villanova Wildcats
It’s amazing that just now, this deep into the season that Brunson gets the recognition of Player of the Week, but it’s time. Arguably the Big East’s best player and leading man for conference Player of the Year, Brunson is the key cog and facilitator for the top ranked Wildcats. He’s already performing better in just about each category than last season. He is averaging 18.8 points, a healthy 5.3 assists and only 1.5 turnovers per game. All his shooting is up. His field goal and 3-point shooting have risen dramatically, 57.8% and 48.8% respectively. He has already matched his 2016 3-pointer total of 42 makes in 25 less shots from behind the arc attempted.
Brunson was among the 25 midseason Wooden Award watch list candidates and should be the Big East’s front runner at this moment. The better his Wildcats do as the first overall team in the country and as long as he keeps up his heightened play, the higher Brunson will climb in the Wooden Award unofficial rankings. Brunson makes Nova go. He is the central, key component to running Jay Wright’s balanced but lethal offense and as long as he is playing at his usual, high level, the Wildcats are the hands down favorite to run away with the Big East and maybe the top overall spot in the country.
Donte DiVincenzo, G, Sophomore, Villanova Wildcats
DiVincenzo comes off the bench for Villanova, but Jay Wright calls him their sixth starter for his production and the good minutes he gives. DiVincenzo, the redshirt sophomore, averages 27.6 minutes off the bench, just a few down from starter Brunson, and plays very well in his time. He averages 13.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists. Like any good Jay Wright guard, he is efficient and solid shooting the ball. He shoots an even 50% from the field and a good 41.9% from three.
One of the reasons he makes the list this week is for what he has been doing all year: providing a spark when needed for the Wildcats. If the starting offense is lacking or struggling, DiVincenzo is a lock to come off the bench and kick the team back into high gear. He rarely goes under double digit points in a game, going for 14 or more seven times. He is an avid defender on the other end of the floor, getting 1.3 steals per contest and out in the open floor on the fast break he finds a way to get points. DiVincenzo is a key, integral part of the Villanova offense and in their current four-game winning streak since their first loss of the season, he has filled stat sheets and helped push Nova forward.
Kerem Kanter, F, Senior, Xavier Musketeers
The brother of the NBA’s Enes Kanter, Kerem plays much like his older brother: hard, aggressive and tenacious. The transfer from Green Bay, Kanter has helped provide a presence down low to compliment J.P. Macura and Trevon Bluiett on the outside. He is averaging 10.4 points and 6.0 rebounds per game and is shooting a very efficient 57.3% from the floor.
He has been particularly hot as of recent. In a season of ups and downs for Kanter, his last four games have been some of his best. Kanter has scored in double figures all four, including two going over 20 and in those two he recorded double digit rebounds. He was especially influential in helping the Musketeers hold on against the upset minded St. John’s Red Storm on Wednesday. Kanter has a chance to keep these numbers and improved play going to the end of the season and if he should do that, he will keep garnering attention as one of the Big East’s top big men.
Jessie Govan, C, Junior, Georgetown Hoyas
Govan comes in this week as a disappointment, but the same can really be said about Georgetown. Make no mistake, Govan is still one of the most dominant centers in the Big East. He is averaging 17.3 points per contest and a great 11.1 rebounds per game. He shoots well, takes good shots and head coach Patrick Ewing is getting the most out of him.
It’s been rough sledding for the Hoyas as of recently. They have lost three of their last four games and in those three games, Govan has come up small. In those four games, he is averaging just 12 points, 7.2 rebounds and only has one game with double digit rebounds. As many thought, the young, inexperienced Hoyas are struggling out of the gate in Big East play and Govan is still adjusting. One thing is very evident: When Govan is not on top of his game, the Hoyas odds to win are significantly down.
Top 5 Big East Disappointments/Busts
1. St. John’s Red Storm
This was supposed to be the year when Chris Mullin finally put it all together. Thing’s haven’t gone that way at all. The Red Storm were supposed to compete in the upper echelon of the Big East coming into the season with a talented backcourt and improved defense. Instead, they sit at 0-7 in the Big East and are basically treading water and about to drown for good. A season of such promise looks to be all but washed away.
Along with Shamorie Ponds, LoVett was supposed to be the Robin to Batman and form a lethal, dynamic backcourt to compete with the likes of Villanova and Xavier’s. LoVett instead came down with a knee injury early in the season in November and was ruled out for the season. St. John’s really needed him to compete this season and without him, the offense hasn’t clicked and their chemistry is totally off.
3. Providence Friars
To put Providence on this list probably isn’t fair for their positive record in conference play, but they have underachieved to a degree this season. They have some big, important wins in conference, but they suffered far too many tough losses out of conference that have set them back. Losses to Rhode Island, UMass, Houston and Minnesota before Big East play began shows the Friars aren’t ready to fully compete outside the conference. Those losses have set Providence back in the standings and made life very tough to climb higher in the Big East.
4. DePaul Blue Demons
The Blue Demons were never really supposed to finish higher than second to last in the Big East this season, even with some good talent on the roster. It was just too steep a hill to climb. The reality setting in now is they will finish at least third to last, depending on if St. John’s can win some conference games or if Georgetown will fall back to the bottom.
5. JP Macura
Macura has been good this season no doubt, but not quite up to the standards of last season. His points per game are slightly down and his outside shooting, which made him effective often, is only at 36.6% from outside the arc. Xavier is doing pretty well with his production so this isn’t too big a disappointment, but if it was slightly higher like some thought it could be maybe Xavier wouldn’t have three losses.