Cats Back on Track

Player of the Week

Dhamir Cosby Roundtree, F, Sophomore, Villanova Wildcats

Dhamir Cosby-RoundtreeDhamir Cosby-RoundtreeOverall, it was kind of a slow week of Big East basketball. With multiple teams playing in neutral site tournaments over the past week and weekend, many teams had breaks from the start of the week all the way to the weekend. But with those tournaments brought some Big East champions, like St. John’s, Creighton and Butler.

The struggling Villanova, with a 2-2 record, limped into the Advocare Invitational in Orlando last Tuesday with a 2-2 record. Eric Paschall and Phil Booth were playing inconsistently, and the defense was spotty in the first four games. The Wildcats needed a spark to get going. They got that from Cosby-Roundtree.

Cosby-Roundtree, a Philadelphia native, is in his second season at Villanova. After playing sparingly in his first season, he was thrusted into the starting lineup with the losses of forwards Omari Spellman and Mikal Bridges from last season. DCR struggled coming into the Advocare Invitational, failing to score more than six points or seven rebounds in the first four games.

Jay Wright needed a spark and DCR delivered. The 6’9” forward notched his first career double-double in the opening win against Canisius with 15 points and 13 rebounds. In a tough matchup the next night against Oklahoma State, he again delivered in the rebounding category with 13 more boards and nine points. In the tournament title game against 14th ranked Florida State, he pulled down eight boards and 11 points. Nova won the tournament, got back into the rankings and DCR was named MVP of the tournament. DRC was effective and efficient, missing just one field goal attempt the whole tournament.

DCR earned more minutes coming into the season and this tournament answered a lot of critics about his and his team’s struggles. Early on, he is close to a double-double average with 8.0 ppg and 8.9 rpg, the latter good for third in the conference. The Wildcats are back ranked at No. 23 overall and, even though still finding their footing, moving in the right direction thanks to the great play from DRC.

Who’s Hot

Michael Nzei, F, Senior, Seton Hall Pirates

I mentioned that Villanova wasn’t the only Big East team to winning an early season tournament. Seton Hall marched into the Wooden Legacy Tournament in California with a 2-2 record, much like Villanova. After an easy opening win against Hawaii, they took on a tough ACC squad in Miami.

It was Nzei who came alive to lead the Pirates to victory. He scored a game and career-high 21 points on 8-8 shooting to lead the Pirates to a close 83-81 win. For Nzei, it was his fourth time in six opportunities this season scoring in double digits.

After losing star big man in Angel Delgado, a large frontcourt spot opened up for the Pirates and Nzei looks primed to take it in his final season at Seton hall. After redshirting his first season, he averaged just over 16 minutes per game for his first three seasons. Now in his senior season, he is seeing ample playing time at 31.7 minutes per contest and averaging 11.2 ppg and five rpg. He is also third in the Big East with a 77.1 field goal percentage.

Who’s Not

Martin Krampelj, F, Junior, Creighton Bluejays

The Bluejays are flying high right now in the Big East, to the surprise of many. They came off an impressive Cayman Islands Classic Tournament title and are sitting at 6-1 overall. The production from Ty-Shon Alexander and Damien Jefferson have been crucial to keeping Creighton’s chances of a competitive 2018-2019 Big East season alive.

One player who was expected to be a leader and pick up the production drop off was Krampelj. While he may very well be a leader, the production hasn’t been there. The 6’9” big man is averaging just 7.9 ppg and 4.4 rpg in his first seven games. After scoring 13 points in the team’s season opening win, he went the next five games with less than 10 points and shot 37.5 percent from the floor in those games. He hasn’t corralled more than seven rebounds in any game, which isn’t bad early on in the year but it won’t be great if that stands at the end of the season.

He did get on track with 17 points in a Wednesday night win over Montana so that hopefully will jumpstart him. Krampelj went out last January with a season-ending ACL injury and worked hard in the offseason to get back on the floor to start the season. There’s the possibility is injury has hampered his potential early on. No matter what the cause, Creighton will be depending on him to have a bigger output once conference play starts. If the Bluejays want to get back to the Big Dance and not take a season off to rebuild, Krampelj is pivotal to their success.

Top 5 Seniors in the Big East

5. Marvin Clark II, F, St. John’s Red Storm

Clark is a pivotal piece in head coach Chris Mullin’s scheme and work at St. John’s. Clark averaged a small 10 minutes per game his first two seasons, but then ballooned to 30 last season and his production did as well. He averaged 12.5 ppg and was an animal defenseman in Mullin’s defense-oriented attack. He looks ready to repeat it all again this season.

4. Phil Booth, G, Villanova Wildcats

The Wildcat from Baltimore was a big piece of Nova’s first title under Wright in 2016. He has gotten better and better each season, especially shooting from the outside where he was 44 percent from the field and 37 percent beyond the arc last year. He fits Wright scheme and will be a great player again this season.

3. Max Strus, G, DePaul Blue Demons

Strus is a silent killer on the court and has been the last two seasons. He averaged 16.8 ppg in his first season with DePaul last year and made 81 3-pointers on the campaign. He can score at the rim, too, with his 6’6” size to create mismatches with defenders. He doesn’t get as much attentions with DePaul being in the bottom standings, but if they get relevant this season, he will get more looks.

2. Eric Paschall, F, Villanova Wildcats

Paschall can do just about anything. He has established himself as a dominant scorer at the basket with his size and can step outside and hit from any spot on the court (remember the deep three against Kansas?). He can pass well and play bigger than his 6’8” frame.

1. Jessie Govan, C, Georgetown Hoyas

He may very well be the top player overall in the Big East. Govan is a monster, at 6’10” and 255 pounds. Not only is he a beast in the post and rebounding, he is now finding his outside shot and spreading the floor and defenders away from the rim. Last season was a coming out party, with 17.9 ppg and an even 10 rpg. He’s off to a great start again, at 19.9 ppg and fueling the Hoyas resurgence into the Big East.

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