Today the Big East conference released there awards for the season. Unlike the year when Stanley Burrell was so famously snubbed by the Atlantic 10, Xavier has been well represented so far. Trevon Bluiett made the All Big East first team, JP Macura was the sixth man of the year, and Edmond Sumner landed on the all freshman team. All told, it wasn't a bad day of hardware collection for the program.
But did the Big East coaches make the right calls? Starting with the bizarrely six person all Big East first team and moving through the other major selections, we'll break down who was picked, who should have been picked, and why.
All Big East First Team:
Coaches Pick: Trevon Bluiett, Xavier- Trevon averaged 15.2/6.4/2.4 for what was unquestionably the second best team in the conference. Bluiett also shot 38.7% from behind the arc and posted an offensive efficiency of just over 113 for the year. It's pretty difficult to argue with picking the high scorer from a team that got a bye in the first round of the conference tournament.
Banners Pick: Trevon Bluiett
Coaches Pick: Josh Hart, Villanova- Hart averaged 15.3/7.2/1.8 for Nova this year. Those stats are very similar to Bluiett's but also come with a true shooting percentage over 60% and a turnover rate just barely over 12%. Hart isn't as good a shooter as he was last year, but he still knocked down 35% of his three pointers. Again, it's tough to argue with the top scorer on the top team being an all conference pick.
Banners Pick: Josh Hart
Coaches Pick: Ben Bentil, Providence- This has been boring so far, but some of these picks were pretty obvious. Bentil carried his team to the tune of 21.2/7.8/1.2 in 34 minutes per game. Bentil also had a 3.3% block rate, a 1.3% steal rate, and barely turned the ball over at all. Given that Ed Cooley was riding him like American Pharaoh down the stretch, it's amazing that Bentil is even able to walk at this point.
Banners Pick: Ben Bentil
Coaches Pick: Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall- Coming into the first meeting against Xavier, Whitehead was once again shooting and turnovering his own team to death. After that game, he flipped the switch and nearly single handedly dragged the Pirates onto the bubble, then off the bubble and into lock status. Whitehead used the highest usage rate of anyone in conference play but turned that into a 108.2 offensive efficiency, and knocked down a cool 42.6% of his three pointers in that stretch. He finished the year averaging 17.9 points per game for a team that didn't have a terribly good offense. He did a lot more, but we'll get into that later.
Banners Pick: Isaiah Whitehead
Coaches Pick: Kris Dunn, Providence- If you've read us at all, you know what is coming here. Dunn's numbers, like his game, are superficially flashy and based mostly on a style of play rather than an underlying skill. Poaching the passing lanes in the top of the YMCA famous 2-3 zone enabled Dunn to rack up the steals while not playing tremendous man to man defense. Throwing a ton of passes racked up the assists, but also piled up turnovers. Dunn also took nearly a quarter of his team's shots in conference play despite having an offensive efficiency below 100. Patrolling the passing lanes (well, admittedly) set Dunn up for a bunch of one man breaks to score. In the half court, he's less effective that many other more deserving Big East guards. Flashy? Yes. A great player? No.
Banners Pick: Mo Watson Jr., Creighton- Watson had a better A/TO ratio than Dunn, had an offensive efficiency eight points higher, had a higher assist rate in conference play, had a lower turnover rate, shot better from the floor (48% to 44%), and shot better from the line. What more do you want from a point guard? Watson didn't force his own offense at the expense of more talented teammates and so helped boost a mediocre team rather than weight down a potentially good one.
Coaches Pick: Henry Ellenson, Marquette- It's weird to have a first team composed of more players than go on the court, isn't it? Ellenson was amazing as a freshman, getting 16.8/9.8/1.8 as basically the first option on a Marquette team that came into conference play looking good and then faded. Ellenson wasn't terribly efficient (102.3), but he did a lot of the heavy lifting for the Golden Eagles.
Alternate choice: Roosevelt Jones, Butler- In this, Jones eighth year of eligibility, he put together a pretty good season. 14.3/6.7/4.7 as a point forward with no left hand is impressive, the 111.2 offensive efficiency he posted speaks to how well Jones ran Butler's offense. Was he better than Ellenson? That's debatable, but on a first team composed of six guys he deserves a long look.
Defensive player of the year:
Coaches Pick: Kris Dunn
Banners Pick: Isaiah Whitehead
This isn't going to be popular in Rhode Island, but Dunn wasn't even the best defensive player in the conference this year. Dunn did average slightly more than a steal per game more than Whitehead, but he did that while mostly off the ball. Whitehead guards the opponents primary ballhandler and also was 212th in the nation in block rate. To put that in context, Whitehead had a higher block rate than Jalen Reynolds. Whitehead did that while also committing fewer fouls than Dunn despite the protection of those excellent officials we had all year. Add in Whitehead's ballhawking on the perimeter and you have an extremely valuable defender. One far more deserving of both the press and the award.
Most Improved Player:
Coaches and Banners Pick: Ben Bentil
Any time you add 15 points to your per game average, you are going to win this award.
Sixth Man of the Year:
Coaches and Banners Pick: JP Macura
JP may have made exactly zero friends this year, but he evidently garnered some respect. In conference play JP was 10th in the Big East shooting inside the arc, 11th from three point range, and third in free throw percentage. Hiss offensive efficiency in conference play was third in the Big East, and he finished the year 67th in the nation in that category with a 123.3 mark. That's a nice weapon off any bench.