Big East Conference Wrap Up

The Big East regular season and tournament has concluded and the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament are complete. With six Big East teams making the Big Dance, it’s time to wrap up the season and give the final takes of the blog this year, with season ending awards for the best players and coaches, and name the first, second and defensive All-Big East teams.

Player of the Year

Jalen Brunson, G, Junior, Villanova Wildcats

Jalen BrunsonJalen BrunsonReally no surprise. Brunson, who last week was named the actual Big East Player of the Year by the Big East Conference, has been the most consistent, aggressive and astounding player throughout the season. He paced the Wildcats, who finished the regular season at 27-4 under one of head coach Jay Wright’s best seasons. Brunson, who finished with 19.3 points per game (7 in conference), 4.7 assists per game (T-4 in conference), 3.1 rebounds per game, shot 53.1 percent from the field (T-5 in conference) and was tied for first in the Big East with a 2.8 assists to turnover margin.

There is no question how important Brunson has been to Villanova this season and in his last three years. Brunson commands the offense, acting as their most efficient and physical scorer, best passer and top facilitator. His shooting percentage, especially from beyond the arc, has only increased each of the last three years and is at a high this season at 53.6 and 41.8 percent, respectively. Assists, rebounds, turnovers have all improved tremendously and it has helped establish himself as a frontrunner for the Wooden Award to the nation’s best player.

Jay Wright has called him the most mature player he has ever coached and the most mature person at the Villanova program. Brunson is easily one of the best guards in Villanova history already with his pedigree and accomplishments so far. Whether he wins the Wooden Award or not, he has already established himself as the most dynamic and all-around talented guard in the country.

Freshman of the Year

Omari Spellman, F, Freshman, Villanova Wildcats

Spellman is actually in his second season with Villanova program, but he had to sit out last season for academic reasons. Now in his real freshman season, Spellman slid into the starting center role and became a rock down low for the Wildcats.

He averaged 10.7 points, 7.9 rebounds (4 in conference) and was Villanova’s top defensive presence with 1.5 blocks per game that was second in conference. He was fourth in rebounding and for his presence down low, he provided a confident and solid outside shot at third in the Big East with 44.0 percent from three.

The Big East is unique from other top conferences in that it is usually dominated by upperclassmen with few freshmen having a huge impact like other conferences. However, Spellman certainly dispelled that theory and provided a big role for Villanova in his first season of action.

Defensive Player of the Year

Khyri Thomas and Justin Simon

For the second season in a row, Khyri Thomas was named the formal Big East Defensive Player of the Year. Last year he shared the award with Josh Hart and Mikal Bridges, but this year he took the award home by himself.

Thomas, the Creighton Bluejay, averaged 1.7 steals per game, 53 total on the season heading into the NCAA Tournament. His numbers defending some of the conferences best guards are astounding. Against Thomas, Brunson’s points per game went from 22.1 to 19.5, Shamorie Ponds from 23.0 to 9.5, and Desi Rodriguez from 18.8 to 12.5. Thomas is one of 10 players in Big East History to be named Defensive Player of the Year multiple seasons and he joins great company with Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Allen Iverson and Kris Dunn.

Simon transferred from Arizona and played his first season with St. John’s last year and was a key cog in one of the conference’s best defensive units. He tied for eighth in steals per game at 0.8 and the top spot in steals per game with a fantastic 2.5. Even though St. John’s was down in the standings this season, Chris Mullin had his squad playing lockdown, stout defense all season long and it started with the 6’5” big guard Simon.

Coach of the Year

Chris Mack and Jay Wright

Chris Mack, who has been at the helm of the Musketeers since 2009, won his first Big East regular season title and was named formal Big East Coach of the Year. His Musketeers dethrones Villanova for the first time since the new conference alignment as the regular season champions and earned a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. Mack and the Musketeers followed up an Elite Eight run last season by leaning on Trevon Bluiett and Mack’s coaching style to take the regular season title. Even though they fell in the conference tournament to Providence, they earned their number one seed in the Big Dance and now Mack could be highly regarded as one of the game’s top coaches.

Jay Wright has already established himself as one of the game’s top coaches and has been for years now. His resume has countless Big East titles, two Final Four appearances a National Championship and consistently builds a top program each season that competes for the title. Even though his Wildcats didn’t win the conference title since the new Big East realignment, they dominated the conference tournament and go into the NCAA Tournament as a heavy favorite to win the National Title. Wright isn’t going anywhere from Villanova and as long as he is at the helm, the Wildcats are going to rival anyone.

All-Big East 1st Team

G – Jalen Brunson, Villanova
G – Trevon Bluiett, Xavier
G – Shamorie Ponds, St. John’s
F – Mikal Bridges, Villanova
F – Kelan Martin, Butler

All-Big East 2nd Team

G – Marcus Foster, Creighton
G – Desi Rodriguez, Seton Hall
G – Markus Howard, Marquette
C – Angel Delgado, Seton Hall
C – Jessie Govan, Georgetown

All-Big East Defensive Team

G – Shamorie Ponds, St. John’s
G – Khyri Thomas, Creighton
G – Justin Simon, St. John’s
F – Tariq Owens, St. John’s
F – Mikal Bridges, Villanova
C – Jessie Govan, Georgetown