Reigning in the Bahamas

Player of the Week

Mikal Bridges, F, Junior, Villanova Wildcats

Mikal BridgesMikal BridgesVillanova is sitting at 6-0 early in the season, they just defeated Northern Iowa to win the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament Title, and they are expected to move up from their No. 5 ranking with Arizona losing twice in two days. A huge part of their success has been junior forward and NBA hopeful Mikal Bridges.

Bridges was one of the top players in the conference coming into the season and he was easily the most athletic player for the Wildcats. He is extremely lengthy at 6’7”, he can handle the ball like a guard, play defense down low with any big and has an outside shot and he can play multiple positions if he has too.

This week in the Bahamas, he helped Villanova win three games in three days by scoring 17, 21 and 18 in respective games. He came into Friday ranked No. 6 in the conference in points per game, he ranked second in steals per game with 3.2 a game and he was shooting the ball very well at a 59.2% field goal rate.

Bridges is a legitimate Big East Player of the Year candidate with his teammate Jalen Brunson and is quickly proving to be the top NBA prospect in the conference. He is off to a great start to begin the season, like most expected him to have, and he has Nova rolling.

Who’s Hot

Andrew Rowsey, G, Senior, Marquette Golden Eagles

Rowsey was one of Marquette’s best players last year. He was a prime reason they were the top offense in not just the Big East, but in all the nation, mainly behind his incredible free throw shooting that was tops of all major conference players.

This year, he is off to an even better start. The free throw shooting is better so far, hitting at a 93% clip and hitting on 40 of 43 attempts. He leads the conference in free throw attempts. Now his scoring is way up from last year and he showed it off on a big stage this past week. He is averaging 24.8 points per game, which ranks first in the Big East. He has scored 20 or more points in each of the Golden Eagles five games this season. This past week at the Maui Invitational Tournament, he scored a combined 76 points in three games. The culmination came on Wednesday against LSU in the third-place game, where he scored 30 points on 62.5% shooting, dished out six assists and racked up an astonishing 16-16 line from the charity stripe.

Rowsey has been a surprise to many in the conference and his elevated play has helped propel the Golden Eagles and keep their high-flying offense in good shape. As long as his scoring touch remains and his free throw percentage is so high, Marquette can outshoot just about anyone on any given day.

Kyron Cartwright, G, Senior, Providence Friars

The Friars were in the 2K Classis Tournament this week and if it weren’t for Cartwright and his heroics on Wednesday, they might be on the “Who’s Not” list this week.

Providence took on Belmont at home Wednesday and the game was much closer than most expected. Providence trailed 65-63 in the final seconds when the senior guard Cartwright rushed to the top of the three-point line and heaved up a shot falling forward, off balance. The shot fell, Providence prevailed 66-65 and it kept the Friars near the top at 4-1. Cartwright has his best scoring game of the season with 17 points and the shot of his life at the buzzer. Cartwright was one of their top players coming into the year and he is a catalyst for the Friars.

Who’s Not

St. John’s Red Storm

While on the surface this selection may not make sense, bear with me. St. John’s just lost their first game of the season to a very talented Missouri team. Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett have been arguably the best 1-2 combination guards in the conference so far. Even though this is loss number one and they are still near the top of the Big East standings at 5-1, this defeat speaks volumes to the struggles that could become a big problem all season long for St. John’s.

One of the Red Storm’s biggest question marks coming into the season was how their interior play would be. They gave up a lot of size last season and it cost them big so finding size down low was a key point to address coming into the season. In this game, they were handedly outrebounded 41-27 against a top-notch school. If this becomes the norm all season long, it should be more of the same from last season in Queens. The guards cannot do it all and the big men must step up down low to have any fighting chance at staying alive in the Big East and making the NCAA Tournament.

Top 5 Reasons Why Villanova Will Repeat as Conference Champions

1. Veteran Depth and Experience

Everyone knows that this Villanova team brings back a great number of players from last season and even a couple guys from their 2016 National Championship team. While it’s not a sexy reason, it certainly is most important as to why their future looks bright to repeat in March as Big East Champions. Bridges, Brunson, Phil Booth and Eric Paschall are the veterans that lead this program and they do it from their experience.

2. They Have Not 1, but 2 Player of the Year Candidates

Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges are so dynamic and talented, those two alone should be enough to be in the hunt at the end of the season. Adding talent around them makes this team wildly dangerous. What makes these players so unique and special is they can take on different roles depending on what makes the team better. Both have a scoring touch, especially Brunson who is off to a near 20 points per game average to start the season. They can also both be facilitators and get their teammates involved more and take the focus away from them.

3. Their Ability to Replace Lost Players

Ryan Arcidiacono. Josh Hart. Darrun Hilliard. JayVaughn Pinkston. These are some of the biggest names to come out of Villanova over the last couple years. They were great players who seemed unreplaceable at the time of their departures. Instead, the “next man up” mentality by role players becoming starters or new recruits having expanded minutes has worked to perfection to replace the production of these former stars. Replacing production is a difficult thing to do but the Wildcats do a fine job at it.

4. Jay Wright is the Best

There is really no arguing here. No coach in the conference is better than Jay Wright. If he is at the helm, consider them the favorites. Period.

5. Seton Hall Has Problems

This is more of a current reason to help Villanova and it could certainly be gone in a short period. However, the Pirates just lost to Rhode Island this week for their first loss of the year. Even though it was a close game, their guard play was lacking and they have still yet to find a consistent, dependable option at point guard. This was a big issue coming into the season for Seton Hall. The issue will probably be addressed eventually, but until they find the answer, it will be tough to match up with Nova and that’s a big deal since the Pirates are one of the biggest challengers to the Wildcats.

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