Our last position to preview before the start of the season tonight is the big guys. Some are more skilled than others on the offensive end. And some are only skilled on the defensive end. Here are the 10 best in the Big East this year.
1. Davante Gardner – Marquette
Of all the talented pieces of last year’s Elite 8 squad, Gardner was the biggest contributor from a usage standpoint. The fleet-footed big man with a soft touch is a load to deal with in the low post. And if you put him on the line, he’s money (84%).
2. Chris Obekpa – St. John’s
Obekpa demolished the St. John’s blocks record as a freshman averaging 4.0 per game last season. He finished the season with a block rate of 15.8%, the best in the country. His offensive game needs improvement, but his presence on defense is second to none.
3. Kadeem Batts – Providence
Batts earned the Big East’s Most Improved recognition last year as he emerged as the conference’s best shooting big man. He averaged 14.8 PPG and shot nearly 50% from the field.
4. Nate Lubick – Georegetown
When you strike up a conversation about Nate Lubick some of the phrases you will hear are ‘glue guy’, ‘blue-collar guy’, and ‘ultimate team player’. Frankly, he’s a really good basketball player, which is why he’s going to be a four year starter as a Hoya.
5. Chris Otule – Marquette
Getting the rare sixth year of eligibility, Otule’s worth to the Golden Eagles is mainly with his rebounding and blocked shots. And the 6-foot-11 senior does it all with one eye!
6. Mikael Hopkins – Georgetown
Hopkins posted modest stats as a sophomore, mainly due to his propensity to foul, but he creates a rather formidable front court with Lubick. He’s no Chris Obekpa, but he did block 6.3% of available shots last year.
7. Gene Teague – Seton Hall
Teague was the rare Pirate who was able to play in every game last season. It would be beneficial if he became more aggressive and assertive, but he still averaged 11.2 PPG and 7.2 RPG as a junior.
8. Josh Smith – Georgetown
If it were known that Smith was going to play 25-ish minutes per game this season, he would be number one on this list and it wouldn’t even be close. But if his weight and conditioning still give him problems reducing him to a role player, he’ll only be effective in short quick bursts.
9. Daniel Ochefu – Villanova
The 6-foot-11 sophomore will be a full time starter this season with the departure of Mouphtaou Yarou. He’s an excellent dunker and has a decent back to the basket game, but he needs to get better at rebounding on the defensive end.
10. Matt Stainbrook – Xavier
Stainbrook is a 6-foot-10 junior transfer from Western Michigan. Coach Chris Mack referred to him as the best player in practice last season when he was forced to sit out due to NCAA transfer rules. We’ll see about that transferring over to actual Big East game play, but he sounds promising.