Friar Basketball

Mid-year Big East Awards

Powell and Howard

With non-conference play in the rearview, a look at how the Big East awards are shaping up…

Big East Player of the Year: 2018-19 has been a big year for the little guys in the Big East.

Seton Hall may be the most pleasant surprise in the conference, and Myles Powell is the biggest reason why. The Hall scored wins over Miami, Kentucky, Rutgers, and Maryland, and Powell has been scoring at an unbelievable clip — 40 vs. Grand Canyon, 28 against Kentucky, 28 against Rutgers, and 27 on the road at Maryland. And he’s scoring efficiently.

Powell’s 23.1 points per game are good for second in the league, he’s also second in steals (2.0), third in free throw percentage (.867), and he’s making almost 3.5 three pointers a night while shooting nearly 48% from the field.

It’s not just the numbers that Powell is putting up, but the moments he’s created — he willed the Hall over Kentucky with dagger after dagger.

For as great as Powell has been, he would currently be second if I were given a Big East Player of the Year vote. That honor goes to Markus Howard of Marquette, who put himself over the top following a 40 point second half in last week’s win over #14 Buffalo. Howard finished that game with 45 points, his second 45 point effort in December after he also did so on Dec. 1 versus then #12 Kansas State.

Howard scored the go-ahead basket in an overtime win against Louisville in November. His scoring output over the last five games looks like this: 45-21-27-26-45. He’s averaging over 25-4-4 on what is currently the best team in the Big East.

It hasn’t always been pretty for Howard, who shot 6-23 in a 77-68 loss to Kansas and went just 7-29 in a victory over rival Wisconsin.

The sub-six foot Howard leads the league in scoring (25.0), free throw percentage (.908), 3-pointers made (3.58 per game), and is sixth in assists (4.5).

St. John’s point guard Shamorie Ponds has seen his shooting percentages spike in his junior year. A 42% shooter from the field who made only 25% from beyond the arc last season, Ponds has cut his shot attempts from 17 to 12 this season. As a result, he’s shooting almost 53% from the field, 38% from 3, and his assist numbers have jumped from 4.7 to 6.0.

Ponds is fourth in the league in scoring (19.7), first in assists, second in free throw percentage (.875), first in steals (2.5), and tops in assist to turnover ratio. After flirting with the NBA Draft last spring, Ponds has come back a more efficient scorer who has cut down on his turnovers.

From a Providence perspective, Alpha Diallo isn’t in the Player of the Year running, but could crack 1st Team All Big East if he continues to produce at his current clip. His 17. 4 points per game are good for sixth in the league, and he’s leading the Big East in rebounding (8.5) and stands 12th in assists.

Most Improved Player: Creighton’s Ty-Shon Alexander is running away with this one. The sophomore averaged 5.5 points per game as a freshman, but is putting up over 17 a night (7th in the Big East). He’s making 3.4 three pointers a night and knocking 3s in at a near 45% clip.

Standout efforts include 36 points in a win over Clemson (7-12 from 3, 11-11 at the free throw line), and 27 against then #1 Gonzaga.

The most improved Friar of 2018-19 has to be Maliek White. The junior guard is shooting 40% from 3-point range and has nearly doubled his scoring average. He’s sporting a healthy 36:11 assist to turnover mark, and after not cracking double figures in scoring in November he’s gone for 10-8-18-16-9 in his last five games. Since freshman scorer AJ Reeves went down with a foot injury White is averaging 14.3 points per game.

Newcomer of the Year: If we’re including all newcomers, not just freshmen, then St. John’s LJ Figueroa has been the most productive rookie in the league. He’s averaging over 15 points per game, 7.0 rebounds, and shooting nearly 56% from the field and 44% from 3.

As for the freshmen, PC’s AJ Reeves had the greatest impact prior to his injury. Reeves won Big East Freshman of the Week in three of the season’s first four weeks. He’s averaging over 14 points per game, while shooting 50% from the field overall and 45% from long range. He’s already made 24 3-pointers, including 7-9 in a 29 point debut against Siena, and 4-9 with a game-tying 3 in the closing seconds of an overtime win versus Boston College. Reeves has made a 3-pointer in all but one of the games he has played in and already has three games of 20+ points.

Georgetown freshman point guard James Akinjo has had the ball in his hands from day one. He’s averaging over 14 points per game (40% from the field and 35% from 3) while dishing out 4.7 assists per game. Reeves gets the nod over Akinjo, as the Hoya point guard is averaging nearly four turnovers a game and his effective field goal percentage (47%) and PER (14.0) are well behind those of Reeves (62% eFG% and 20.0 PER).

Quietly, Creighton point guard Marcus Zegarowski has put up terrific numbers for the Blue Jays: 10.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists in just 21 minutes per game. The Massachusetts native and Tilton School graduate is shooting 51% from 3, 52% from the field, and has a higher eFG% (66%) and PER (21.4) than Reeves. He’s scored 45 points in Creighton’s last three games.

Marquette’s Joey Hauser will be in this race until the end. The 6’9 freshman is playing over 27 minutes a night, averaging over 9 points and shooting .429 from 3.

Reeves’ foot injury will cost him 4-6 weeks, and potentially a shot Rookie of the Year.

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