For the last installment of the Big East Roundtable (for now - a few more answers will be posted right before the NCAA Tournament), I asked about the players who have exceeded expectations, and those who fell short. Note, of course, that the players who fell short of expectations aren't necessarily bad players, but they haven’t fulfilled the perceived promise they had before the season…
The question asked:
3. Who is the surprise (positive) player on your team? Who is the player who has disappointed, relative to expectations? (With reference to the picks from December, if you would like).
The blog-by-blog answers, after the jump.
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Commentary, by blog (and in no particular order):
Biggest disappointment would have to be Austin Johnson. Johnson hasn't been bad, but after his performance against Providence, I thought he was going to grow into a bigger role.
West Virginia - The Smoking Musket (@CountryRoadsWV - twitter, Facebook page): For WVU to win, Joe Mazzulla, Cam Thoroughman, and John Flowers all need to step up. I'm going with Flowers for WVU's surprise player. He's always been athletic, but this year he is among the league leaders in blocks, he plays great defense, he shoots free throws at a significantly higher clip (improved by 30%!!), and can score in a variety of ways. He may be WVU's most consistent player. If he stays out of foul trouble, WVU stands a much better chance of winning.
As for a disappointment, it's undoubtedly Dan Jennings. Before the season, most fans expected Jennings to contribute 10-15 minutes a game, play solid defense, and rebound well. Instead, he decided to leave the team in the middle of a game and has not been heard from since. He wasn't really a factor before that, but to see a kid quit in the middle of the season - let alone a game - is disappointing. He had some ability, but apparently didn't have the attitude to succeed at this level.
Disappointing for PC: Bilal Dixon, who went from one of the better freshman big men in the Big East to a non-factor his sophomore season.
Syracuse - Orange:44, (@BH_Orange - twitter): Surprising player is CJ Fair. He really played well in key games this season and provided a spark off the bench for Syracuse when they needed it. He also managed to really bang the boards on occasion.
Disappointing to me is Kris Joseph. He was supposed to be the superstar on the team, but was rarely the leading scorer or even a huge impact player in the Big East slate.
Marquette - Cracked Sidewalks (@CrackedSidewlks - twitter, Facebook page): Marquette's most surprising player is Chris Otule. After starting the year as a non-factor, the big man is now a legitimate post presence for the Warriors down the stretch of the season.
The most disappointing player for MU is Dwight Buycks. He's been forced to play out of position at the point all season long and it is showing more and more in Big East play.
Seton Hall - South Orange Juice (@SOrangeJuice - twitter, Facebook page): Surprise player: Fuquan Edwin. Rated highly coming out of high school, we knew Edwin would be good, but had no idea he would start 25 or 30 games and contribute like he did. He averaged 8 pts and was second on the team in steals while showing off some great athleticism and self-control (something not too common for a Gonzalez recruit). He was also vital when Jeremy Hazell went down when it came to scoring, and he stepped up his game during that time. His defense was very solid and it will only get better.
Disappointing player: Jamel Jackson. We thought Jackson's problem was that he wasn't given any confidence by Bobby Gonzalez last year, often yanked after one missed three. We soon discovered that he was not a good shooter. He was given time this season at the start, but he still couldn't knock anything down and was too much of a defensive liability to keep Willard happy. Then he got himself thrown off the team. Utter disappointment.
DePaul - Chicago College Basketball (@ChiColBball - twitter) Positive: All three DePaul freshman have stepped in and really given the Blue Demons hope, but I don't think that coming into Big East play Cleveland Melvin was the clear favorite for Rookie of the Year. He is now after scoring in double-figures in all but two of the Big East games he was healthy enough to play in. Brandon Young struggled a bit in Big East play, but he still had a strong season making the All-Rookie Team and Moses Morgan found his shot and his role as conference play progressed.
Disappointed: Krys Faber - DePaul fans wanted a lot more than they got from the junior center this season. His statistics look alright, but he has the size and talent to be a much bigger contributor.
Cincinnati - Bearcats Blog (@BearcatsBlog - twitter, Facebook page): The surprise player for the Bearcats this season was Dion Dixon. He was the Bearcats second leading scorer for the season, which no one saw coming. Dixon is a volume shooter, but when his shot is falling, he gives the Bearcats an outside dimension that they need. When he is rolling along with Yancy Gates and Cashmere Wright, UC is very hard to beat. Rashad Bishop would be an honorable mention, since he should be the Big East defensive player of the year.
The disappointment would be Ibrahima Thomas. He played well on defense, but he had exactly the same numbers as last season. He didn't show a lot of growth for his senior season.
St. John's - Johnny Jungle (@JohnnyJungleSTJ - twitter, Facebook page): Many fans would think surprising player for St. John's would have to be Dwight Hardy or Justin Brownlee. However these break outs were sort of expected to a degree. Hardy has certainly exceeded expectations but it really doesn't come as a surprise. What surprising is the play of Malik Boothe off the bench. His role significantly diminished under the new coaching staff and he could have sulked about being a 3 year starter to being reduced to almost no time for a stretch in the middle of the season but he's made the most out of every minute he's on the floor. His minutes have dropped yet nearly all of his numbers have risen including percentages. His defensive play and intensity may not show up in the box score but have been sparks in a number of games.
It's hard to peg any disappointing tags on St. John's players this season. Many fans are quick to point the finger at DJ Kennedy, however, his role has changed. He's not the go to #1 or even #2 guy. He's been slotted at the 3rd option player in the offense and his PPG has dropped off. He had over 100 less shot attempts this season in comparison to last. On the bright side though his turnovers are down –1 and all of his percentages are up.
Villanova - VU Hoops (@VUHoops - twitter, Facebook page): Surprise: Back in December, I told you that Corey Stokes was the surprise player for Villanova, and for the most part he still is. Freshman James Bell has had a couple good games, including one epic, game-saving outing against Seton Hall, but he hasn't been a consistent contributor. Stokes just makes shots.
Disappointed: Maalik Wayns was supposed to be an NBA lottery pick after this season, but he just hasn't shown the maturity that it takes to make the most of his athletic talent. He still has tremendous potential, but he has to combine it with good decision-making if he is going to be a dominant point guard in college or as a pro.
Marquette - Anonymous Eagle (@AnonymousEagle - twitter, Facebook page): The surprising player for Marquette is Jae Crowder. The kid had huge shoes to fill, stepping into Lazar Hayward's spot on the team, and the transition has been better than anyone could have expected. He looks like he's been playing high major ball for three years, not like this is his first rodeo after two years of JUCO ball.
Marquette's had a few disappointing players this season -- Vander Blue has taken longer to develop than most of us anticipated/hoped; Junior Cadougan didn't seize the point guard job until last week; Reggie Smith pulled a Jeronne Maymon and cut bait after a single semester -- but Dwight Buycks has really hit a wall in the last month. He's playing out of position, and you can't question his effort, but he's suddenly reverted to the player we saw last year: reckless with the ball, prone to some really questionable shots on offense.
Most disappointing was Dominic Cheek.
Pittsburgh - Pitt Blather (@ChasRich - twitter): The surprise player to me has been Nasir Robinson. He's just been so strong this year. Only one really bad game (Louisville), but otherwise he has been a strong presence as an undersized power forward. He'll never be a polished player, but he gets things done and has played so smart this season.
Disappointing, has to go J.J. Moore. Simply because of the expectations. He's a top-50 player or so coming in, and kept saying all the right things. But when he'd get into the game, he'd just jack up shots and play out of the system. He was a freshman trying to show he should get more minutes, but instead lost them.
Mike Stovall has been terrible.
Cincinnati - Down the Drive (@DownTheDrive - twitter, Facebook page): Sean Kilpatrick is the surprise. He is probably the best 6th man in the conference and is the only person on the UC roster who is capable of having a personal 7 point run. For an offense devoid of explosive offensive players he has been a breath of fresh air.
The disappointment for the Bearcats is Ibrahima Thomas. He is a 7 footer, or near enough to 7 feet for it not to matter and he just hasn't been effective rebounding or scoring this year. He only topped double digits in scoring twice in Big East play and it has gotten to the point now where he plays less than 10 minutes a game because Justin Jackson is just more effective than he is.
Pittsburgh - Cardiac Hill (@PittPantherBlog - twitter): I'll say Talib Zanna has been the biggest surprise. He really has tailed off since a good start early this season starting in place of an injured Nasir Robinson, but I'd still go with him. He doesn't have huge numbers overall and has struggled in several games this season, but at times he's shown he's capable of doing a lot more.
Hard to come up with a biggest disappointment as well, but I'll go with Dante Taylor. His numbers have improved and he looks much more comfortable out there. But for a McDonald's All-American, it's safe to say that Pitt fans expected a lot more than we've seen so far. The biggest problem for me isn't so much the numbers he puts up (since he's a reserve), but it's the limited offensive game he's shown. A lot of his points come from put backs or shots right around the basket. I haven't seen too much of an ability to create his own shot - at least not as much as I hoped for.
Villanova - Villanova By the Numbers: Ironically, had the season ended on January 31, my answers would be very, very different than they are now. With so many losses lately, though I would rather see the exceeded expectations player(s), the disappointments are much easier to spot.
Surprise player - probably James Bell. His play won the game at Seton Hall. The Wildcats would probably finish the Big East season under water if not for his play.
Disappointment - Relative to preseason expectations, probably Maalik Wayns. The sophomore guard was tagged as a major "breakout" candidate by several national publications, but for the second year running the entire squad seems mired in a self-reflective funk. The leadership logically would come from the seniors, but when they are missing in action, someone has to step into the leadership spot and take over.
Player who has disappointed, relative to expectations, has been Jason Clark.
St. John's - Rumble in the Garden (@RumbleSBN, Facebook page): I don't know if any of the players on St. John's are a huge surprise; many of them needed more time on the court to show what they could do (Dwight Hardy, Justin Brownlee). I would say Paris Horne's willingness to defer to other scorers and reinvent himself as the defensive stopper/ defensive pressure guy is really impressive to me.
As far as disappointments, I think I expected a little more from Malik Stith; when he played, he acted like more of a shooting guard than a passer, but he's not that great a shooter. I think he needs a little more time working on what role he's going to play, but I wanted to see more of him on the court.