This time of year, I like to poll some of my fellow Big East bloggers/ writers about the players and teams who have surprised + the players/ squads who have disappointed over the course of the year.
When we say "disappoint", it's not the equivalent of going on talk radio and talking about how Player X is a bum - rather, it's about players for whom a lot was expected, and their performance fell short.
Sometimes, it's a player or team who can't perform as well with a different supporting cast. Sometimes, it's a veteran who didn't get better just because he was older. And sometimes, it's a touted newcomer who can't meet expectations or break into the rotation.
Expectations are a huge component of perception, context is key. Just because a player or team appears on the negative list below doesn't mean that such a player can't be a major factor, or they were never good.
The Roundtable participants, the groups pick for most surprising and most disappointing teams this season, and the group's picks for best/ most disappointing players on their team, below the fold. And make sure to check out our post on the Big East's best players, coaches, and rookies.
Note: We'll also be doing an early-summer roundtable around recruiting and team changes, so keep checking in at the Rumble in June.
- Cincinnati: Bearcats Blog (@bearcatsblog) | Down the Drive (@DownTheDrive)
- Connecticut: The UConn Blog (@theuconnblog)
- DePaul: Under the El (@UnderTheEl)
- Georgetown: Hoya Prospectus (twitter-haters) | Casual Hoya (@casualhoya) Casual Hoya | @casualhoya
- Louisville: U of L Card Game (@UofLCardGame) U of L Card Game | @UofLCardGame
- Marquette: Anonymous Eagle (@AnonymousEagle) Anonymous Eagle | @AnonymousEagle
- Pittsburgh: Cardiac Hill (@PittPantherBlog) Cardiac Hill | @PittPantherBlog
- Providence: Friar Basketball (@friarbasketball) | Friarblog (@FriarFrenzy)
- St. John's: Rumble in the Garden (@RumbleSBN)
- South Florida: Voodoo Five (@SBNVoodooFive)
- Villanova: The Nova Blog (@SBNTheNovaBlog) | VUHoops (@Brian_Ewart)
- West Virginia: The Smoking Musket (@CountryRoadsWV)
These are opinions. Disagree? Agree? Make your voice heard in the comments.
Most surprising team
The South Florida Bulls won as the Big East's surprise team, coming from a predicted bottom-4 finish to a tie for fourth place at 12-6 in the league. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish came in second place.
Most disappointing team
With a number of flagship basketball programs reverting to losing ways not seen since the 1990's, there were a number of disappointing options. The Pittsburgh Panthers earning 6 votes, and Connecticut and Villanova earning 4 each. (Strangely, Louisville and Notre Dame got a vote each).
Now for individual team picks for their most influential player and the most disappointing player on their team:
|School||Site||Player of the year (team)||Disappointing player|
|Cincinnati||Bearcats Blog||Cashmere Wright||Cheikh Mbodj|
|Down the Drive||Dion Dixon||Justin Jackson|
|Connecticut||TheUConnBlog||Shabazz Napier||Alex Oriakhi|
|DePaul||Under the El||Cleveland Melvin||Jeremiah Kelly|
|Georgetown||Hoya Prospectus||Jason Clark||Markel Starks|
|Casual Hoya||Jason Clark||Hollis Thompson|
|Louisville||U of L Card Game||Gorgui Dieng||Peyton Siva|
|Marquette||Anonymous Eagle||Jae Crowder||Jamail Jones|
|Pitt||Cardiac Hill||Nasir Robinson||Ashton Gibbs|
|Providence||Friar Basketball||Vincent Council||Kadeem Batts|
|Friarblog||Vincent Council||Kadeem Batts|
|South Florida||Voodoo Five||Anthony Collins||Augustus Gilchrist|
|St. John's||Rumble in the Garden||Moe Harkless||Malik Stith|
|Villanova||The Nova Blog||JayVaughn Pinkston||Dominic Cheek|
|VUhoops||Maalik Wayns||James Bell|
|West Virginia||The Smoking Musket||Kevin Jones||Daryll "Truck" Bryant|
Starting with the back end of the league, the comments on each player:
Player of the Year = Kevin Jones. KJ should be the conference POY, assuming he leads all players in both scoring and rebounding. Far more consistent than anyone else on WVU, Jones is not only a great player, he's a great worker, hustler, listener, and person. He embodies what we want a true Mountaineer to be.
Disappointing = Darryl Bryant. Truck has never been the most consistent player, but this year he went through a stretch of just being plain bad. He's capable of erupting for 25-30 points, making the Mountaineers very dangerous. He's also capable of following up a great game by getting shut out, making the Mountaineers very vulnerable. Not exactly what you're looking for from your senior guard who has started for four years. (Photo: Howard Smith, US Presswire)
VU Hoops Player of the Year = Maalik Wayns. There is no question that Villanova was dramatically better when Wayns was on the court. Late in the season Ty Johnson started to come into his own a bit more, but the offense relied on having Wayns take most of the heat.
The Nova Blog Player of the Year = JayVaughn Pinkston. Just a sensational turnaround from being kicked off the team a year ago. Appears to be a future BE 1st-teamer if he can add consistency to his game.
VU Hoops, Disappointing = James Bell. I really expected James Bell to have a break-out year, but his season wasn't much different from last year. A few big games and not much else. He still has the talent, but doesn't seem to get or take the opportunities to become a go-to guy.
The Nova Blog, Disappointing = Dominic Cheek. Believe it or not, Dom Cheek isn't at home, please leave a message, at the beep. He must be out, or he'd pick up the phone, where could he be?
Rumble in the Garden Player of the Year = Moe Harkless. Right now, Harrison is a more consistent scorer. But Harkless was the Johnnies sole paint presence and scored almost as much; even when he couldn't score, he made plays.
Disappointing = Malik Stith. Malik left in the middle of the season. Yes, the team hasn't missed much, and he didn't see much time; but his departure was an unfortunate piece of news for the perception of the program.
Voodoo Five Player of the Year = Anthony Collins. Can it really be anyone else? He has been a revelation at the point, and might be the most important player to a team in the Big East. Can't wait for the next three years.
Disappointing = Augustus Gilchrist. Its nothing against Gus, he is what he is at this point in his career. Most expected to see Gilchrist make the leap in his development, but he still makes the same mistakes he has the previous three seasons. Oh well.
Vincent Council (photo: Mark L. Baer, US Presswire)
Friarblog: Council came into the season as the focal point on a very thin team and carried the load admirably. At his best when he plays with a pass first approach, as evidenced by his leading the conference in assists for the second straight year, Council had to change his game this season to take on more of a scoring load and all he did was lead team in that department as well.
Friar Basketball: Council has made a marginal Big East roster one that is, at times, formidable offensively. He'll lead the Big East in assists for the second year in a row. Finding a way to get double digit assists on nine occasions without any semblance of a big man, or a proven BE scorer coming into this year is a testament to how good he has been.
Disappointing = Kadeem Batts
Friar Basketball: Batts was PC' only real chance at having a legitimate frontcourt presence, and he went out and got himself suspended for the first half of the season, and was largely soft in the second. When he's a presence, Providence can be a tough out, as his 27 points in win over Louisville, and more recently 13 rebound effort in the victory over UConn attest, but more often than not he's been a complete non-factor on both sides of the ball.
Friarblog: Coming into the season Batts was a Big East breakout candidate as the team’s leading returning big man, but failed to live up to new coach Ed Cooley’s expectations off the court which led to an eleven game suspension to open the season. This left the already short-handed Friars extremely vulnerable up front, impeded Batts’ progress as an individual player and most importantly slowed the work in progress that is/was the 2011-12 Providence Friars.
Cardiac Hill Player of the Year = Nasir Robinson. Picking an MVP for this team is really difficult, but if I must, I'll go with Robinson. Gibbs is the leading scorer, but is shooting under 39% on the year and has utterly disappeared at times. Nas makes nearly 60% of his shots and is also the team's leading rebounder.
Disappointing = Ashton Gibbs. Gibbs was expected to be a conference Player of the Year candidate, but has lost his shot. Just as bad, his defense has not improved and he struggled mightily when the team needed him most in Tray Woodall's absence.
Anonymous Eagle Player of the Year = Jae Crowder. It's hard to argue against national voices like Jay Bilas when they're supporting Crowder for Big East POY. The senior forward's done a little bit of everything for MU and has been white hot coming down the stretch.
Disappointing = Jamail Jones. I actually had to walk through the entire roster to try to figure this one out. I guess by default I have to go with Jones. He's had trouble breaking into the rotation, although with Chris Otule and Davante Gardner both out, he's gotten a few more opportunities. But the sophomore appears to have not taken much of a step forward since last year, so I guess we'll go with him.
U of L Card Game Player of the Year = Gorgui Dieng. Leading blocker in the Big East, was getting better offensively until team ran out of energy.
Disappointing = Peyton Siva Still making too many bad decisions.
Jason Clark (photo: Evan Habeeb, US Presswire)
Hoya Prospectus Jason Clark. After playing his first three seasons in the shadow of Chris Wright and Austin Freeman, Jason has been able to show the rest of the Big East that he also has legit talent. The Hoyas go as Jason goes - big games at Alabama, vs Marquette (I), etc. meant wins, poor games at Pitt, at Seton Hall, at Marquette (II) meant losses.
Casual Hoya: Jason Clark. Georgetown's motor, Clark was named 1st team All-Big East.
Hoya Prospectus, Disappointing = Markel Starks. I hate this question (duly noted: ed.). I picked Starks (soph.) not for his overall play in conference, but for two other reasons: he doesn't seem to have improved as the conference season has progressed, and his insubordination at the end the Seton Hall game. The Hoyas will need him to be a team leader next season.
Casual Hoya, Disappointing = Hollis Thompson. Hollis has designs on the NBA so expectations this season were very high, but he has difficulty creating his own shot and seems to miss a lot of crucial free throws. He's still a very good player and was named to the All-Big East Honorable Mention Team, but given the expectations on how good he thinks he is, he hasn't delivered.
Under the El Player of the Year = Cleveland Melvin. Melvin has been DePaul's most consistent scoring threat (17.5 ppg) all season despite an increased focus by opposing team's defenses. His rebounding has improved, with a signifcant increase the past 5 games. Many were disappointed he didn't spend as much time in the paint, but he played an important role in all of DePaul's wins and close defeats.
Disappointing = Jeremiah Kelly. Kelly showed promise towards the end of last year that he could be consistent 3 point threat for DePaul. He showed flashes this season, but overall was inconsistent only connecting 35.5% of his 3-point attempts. Krys Faber is the other obvious choice, but Faber's shortcomings were well known entering the season.
The UConn Blog Player of the Year = Shabazz Napier (photo with Alex Oriakhi: Howard Smith, US Presswire). I really struggled to come up with one, so here it is. Napier is putting on a Kemba Walker-esque performance this season; unfortunately, it's Kemba 2010 instead of Kemba 2011. He's been good enough to win some games, but has made enough bad decisions to cost UConn some close games throughout the season. As he goes, so goes UConn, and since no one has been face-meltingly good this year (and Lamb has the quietest 17 ppg you'll ever see), why not?
Disappointing = Alex Oriakhi. Alternate answer: Jim Calhoun's spinal stenosis. Oriakhi is a team captain, and as UConn has had sort of a leadership vacuum this year, he gets a good portion of the blame. In more quantifiable terms, Oriakhi had most of his rebounding numbers eaten up by Andre Drummond, and still hasn't developed much of an offensive game. After such a great run as a defense/rebounding guy during UConn's national title run in 2011, Oriakhi followed it up with a very disappointing season.
Down the Drive Player of the Year = Dion Dixon. It's not often that a guy shooting 36 per cent from the field is a teams best player but that's what Dixon is. He is the Bearcats closer and has come up big time and again in 2012.
Bearcats Blog Player of the Year = Cashmere Wright. I went with the point guard over Yancy Gates, Dion Dixon or Sean Kilpatrick for the main fact that everyone looks to Wright when the game is on the line. Wright is around the top 10 in assists in the Big East. He's turned himself into one of the better 3 point shooters in the league. He is solid defender who has a knack for steals. He's had a very good year.
Bearcats Blog Disappointing = Cheikh Mbodj. He was supposed to be a big man off the bench or maybe in the starting lineup. He had 1 solid game all year and was basically a non-factor.
Down the Drive Disappointing = Justin Jackson. He started the season strong and is ending it strong. But inconsistency on offense and a ton of foul trouble in the middle of the year mars his season somewhat. He progressed, just not as much as I expected or would have liked.