With at least West Virginia leaving for the Big 12 for next season, this year marked the end of an incredible 7-year run in which Marquette was blessed to be part of the greatest basketball conference ever assembled. Certainly my friends in the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 10 and SEC can all argue that with a few weak teams in the bottom few spots each of them were sometimes ranked higher overall, but as far as having the most top level players and teams, this run was unmatched.
While I am excited about the additions of a Houston team that I believe is on the verge of going to the next level, and consistent excellent play of Temple and Memphis, I did want to pause and run the database to calculate the top 40 players of the Big East Golden Era. These are purely stat driven – I didn’t know who any of the other top 40 were before I ran it last night, and I won’t print out tables now that you can pull whoever you want up at www.valueaddbasketball.com.
These are based on career totals, so obviously 4-year players usually have more value to a school than one-and-dones. Several great players did not make the list because they only played one year during the era, as Steve Novak, Quincy Douby, Randy Foye, Kyle Lowry, James White and Rudy Gray finished in 2006. By the same token, Otto Porter of Georgetown projects as the best Value Add player next year, but since he only played his freshman year of 2012 during the era, he doesn’t make the list.
|40th to 31st best player of Big East Golden Era: 2006 to 2012|
Without further ado, here is the countdown:
40. FLYNN, JONNY - SYRACUSE 13.76 – sophomore year was already top 1% in assists and minutes played and nationally ranked both years in offensive efficiency (see ORtg at www.kenpom.com) before leaving for pros.
39. HARRIS, PAUL - SYRACUSE 13.82 – ranked all three years in offensive rebounding and drawing fouls.
38. PRICE, A.J. - CONNECTICUT 14.09 – top 1% in assists his first two years before shifting to a shooter his senior year and going 82 of 204 for 40.2% beyond the arc.
37. GATES, YANCY - CINCINNATI 14.19 – nationally ranked in offensive rebounding and blocked shots all four years, and defensive rebounding all but his sophomore year. Also ranked in eFG% (see www.kenpom.com, shooting percentage with an extra half shot made awarded for every 3-pointer made) his sophomore and junior year.
36. GAUSE, PAUL - SETON HALL 14.41- the best ball hawk of the era. He was 1st in the nation as a sophomore stealing the ball 6.9% of opponents trips, then he went up to 7.2% his junior year but didn’t have enough minutes to qualify. His senior year he picked up his offense to play 74% of all minutes and still stole the ball 5% of all trips for 5th best in the country.
35. NICHOLS, DARRIS - WEST VIRGINIA 15.05 – ranked 6th in ORtg his junior year despite playing 86% of the minutes, and then played just as much his senior year and stayed in the top 3% offensively. Didn’t shoot a lot, but his junior year he was 42% on treys, 57% on two-pointers and 84% from the line.
34. JOSEPH, KRIS - SYRACUSE 15.25 – nationally ranked in steals and getting to the line each of his last three years.
33. SAPP, JESSIE - GEORGETOWN 15.27 - part of a very steady, strong defensive effort his sophomore and junior seasons to help Georgetown smother opponents en route to consecutive 2-seeds.
32. CUNNINGHAM, DANTE - VILLANOVA 15.27 – was nationally ranked in offensive rebounding and blocks all four years to give them just enough size to dominate with a 4-guard offense.
31. MONROE, GREG - GEORGETOWN 15.31 – top 1% in defensive rebounding his sophomore and final season, and nationally ranked both years in shooting, blocked shots, and drawing fouls.
|30th to 21st best player of Big East Golden Era: 2006 to 2012|
30. JARDINE, SCOOP - SYRACUSE 15.44 – ranked in steals and assists all four years, and in top 1% of assists each of last three years.
29. ADRIEN, JEFF - CONNECTICUT 16.17 – was ranked each of his final three years in offensive rebounding, defensive rebounding, blocks, minutes, not fouling and drawing fouls.
28. GIBBS, ASHTON - PITTSBURGH 16.31 – his junior year was one of the top 20 offensive value add seasons of the era, as he was 17th in ORtg and 36th in shooting in the country due to an incredible 49% from behind the arc on 102 of 208 shooting.
27. MATTHEWS, WESLEY - MARQUETTE 16.55 – ranks lower than the other two Amigos because he was the late bloomer, but Value Add says he had the best single season of any of the three with his 6.38% Value Add his senior year after having a solid but not elite 10.17% in his first three seasons combined. His top 2% in getting to the line that year was crucial since he hit 83% of his free throws once there, and he was also ranked in overall shooting with 37% from beyond the arc and 52% from inside it.
26. THABEET, HASHEEM - CONNECTICUT 16.75 – three years of absolute dominant shooting (64th and 17th last two years), pounding the offensive glass and especially blocking shots (ranked 6th, 11th and 6th again his three years in the latter).
25. WRIGHT, CHRIS - GEORGETOWN 16.79 – capped a four-year career by finishing in the top 2% in assists, but it was his sophomore and junior years in which he was ranked in eFG% and minutes played.
24. YOUNG, SAM - PITTSBURGH 16.89 – nationally ranked in shot blocking all four years. His first two years nationally ranked in offensive rebounding as well, but then shifted focus to shoot more his last two years and was nationally ranked offensively the last two years.
23. CLARK, JASON - GEORGETOWN 16.99 – last three years ranked in eFG%, steals and minutes played.
22. JACKSON, RICK - SYRACUSE 17.07 – nationally ranked in defensive rebounding his last three years, but truly dominated as an offensive rebounder (top 5% all three years) and shot blocker (top 2% all three years.)
21. CROWDER, JAE - MARQUETTE 17.07 – his senior season nudges out Terrence Williams, Gorgui Dieng, Hasheem Thabeet, Greg Monroe and DeJuan Blair for the best defensive season of the era. It was also the 14th best offensive year of the era, so the mirror of Kemba’s final season as the two are virtually tied for the best overall season of the era. Crowder’s junior year was the 23rd best of any junior.
|20th to 11th best player of Big East Golden Era: 2006 to 2012|
20. SMITH, JERRY - LOUISVILLE 17.15 – only averaged about 58% of the minutes his first three seasons, but when he came in he stole the ball (nationally ranked all four years) and popped treys at an alarming rate (177 of 423 for 42% over his first three years). He had a very poor senior year offensively, but Pitino knew how much value he could bring in this role.
19. WALLACE, JONATHAN - GEORGETOWN 17.15 – nationally ranked in assists his first two years, and was one of the top shooters in the country his last two years. He put up over 300 treys between his last two years, hitting 49% and 45%, while going 87% and 79% from the line. His eFG% was 63.9% his junior year for 22nd in the country, and 63.5% his senior year to come in at 19th.
18. FISHER, COREY - VILLANOVA 17.16 – nationally ranked in steals and assists all four years, including ranking in the top 2% in assists his senior year.
17. BLAIR, DEJUAN - PITTSBURGH 17.25 - Clearly the best player of the era, as he accomplished all of this in his freshman and sophomore seasons. His sophomore season he put together the 6th best defensive season of the era and 5th best offensive season. Crowder was better defensively his final year, Kemba was better offensively his final year, but Blair would have almost certainly been both the best offensive and best defensive player of the era if he had played past his sophomore year. His final year he was 1st nationally in offensive rebounding, 10th in defensive rebounding and nationally ranked both years in those categories as well as blocks, steals and drawing fouls.
16. HAZELL, JEREMY - SETON HALL 17.45 – His senior injury cost him half the year and ended his streak of putting up exactly 290 treys in back-to-back years and hitting a solid 35% of them – most from the parking lot. But he was also ranked all four years in steals AND not fouling or turning it over, a tough combination.
15. BUTLER, JIMMY - MARQUETTE 17.6 – While Lazar had to carry the load with a great 2010, it was actually Butler’s incredible efficiency that resulted in the 2nd best year of any junior – behind only Kemba. He was actually the 4th most efficient offensive player in the country in limited use his sophomore year, and was still 7th his junior year as the 11th best in the country at getting to the line.
14. MCNEAL, JEREL - MARQUETTE 18.1 – ranked in steals, shots taken and assists all four years, and improved his ORtg and cut down on his turnovers every season.
13. HAYWARD, LAZAR - MARQUETTE 19.28 – in the top 3% in defensive rebounds his final three years and top 2% in steals his senior year while having to put up the 10th most shots in the country to carry MU to the unexpected bid.
12. JONES, DOMINIQUE - SOUTH FLORIDA 19.41 – one of best at drawing fouls, assists and steals while playing over 87% of all minutes all three years.
11. RUOFF, ALEX - WEST VIRGINIA 19.57 – ranked in steals and ORtg all three seasons.
|Best 10 careers of the Big East Golden Era: 2006 to 2012|
|10. JAMES, DOMINIC - MARQUETTE 20.34|
|9. FIELDS, LEVANCE - PITTSBURGH 20.42|
|8. WILLIAMS, TERRENCE - LOUISVILLE 20.71|
|7. WALKER, KEMBA - CONNECTICUT 21.41|
|6. BUTLER, DA'SEAN - WEST VIRGINIA 21.55|
|5. REYNOLDS, SCOTTIE - VILLANOVA 22.152|
|4. FREEMAN, AUSTIN - GEORGETOWN 22.342|
|3. HARANGODY, LUKE - NOTRE DAME 23.42|
|2. JONES, KEVIN - WEST VIRGINIA 24.02|
|1. Hibbert, Roy - Georgetown 24.112|
|DJO and the other 10%-plus Value Adds|
|List of all other 10%-plus career Value Adds|
|What DJO did that did not hit the stat book to become part of Value Add|
So as big a stat guy as I am, there was no stat for Crowder finding seems for lay-ups because DJO drew so much attention. Or for the additional offensive rebounds Marquette would have given up if opponents could have pounded the boards instead of getting back to avoid a thunder dunk by DJO on the other end. The reason I run rankings purely with Value Add is that I can’t make those adjustments for DJO, when I don’t get to see Louisville, Georgetown and Syracuse play every week to see who on their teams might be doing things that do not show up either. So I certainly hope that the most exciting player MU has seen play since Wade (DJO) and the guy who put up the single season greatest numbers since Wade (Crowder) are both rewarded later this year with great paychecks.