Big East Rookie of the Year Candidates

February 14th, 2007

As teams approach the three-quarter mark in the conference season, it’s natural to peek ahead at possible recipients of awards that will be handed out in the post-season. In the Big East, out of two dozen or so potential winners of ROY at the start of the year, that list has been whittled down to 10 legitimate candidates.

A couple of them were not even on the radar for such an honor when the season started, while others were among the favorites at that time. Here is a look at the 10 most deserving candidates. All stats are for the conference season only, and players are listed alphabetically, not by likelihood of winning.

Da’Sean Butler (West Virginia): The 6’7” small forward doesn’t start for the Mountaineers, but he’s still averaged 24.0 mpg, which ranks ninth among the 10 candidates. However, in his case it’s not how many minutes he’s played that’s important; it’s what he’s accomplished during those minutes that matters.

Case For: Butler is averaging 12.2 ppg in 11 games, which ranks fourth among the candidates. However, his points per minute (.508) rank first, making him the most effective scorer of the group. Furthermore, Butler is shooting 55.4% from the field in conference play, which ranks seventh among all conference players. For the record, the six individuals ahead of him are all centers or power forwards, making him the leading shooter among perimeter players in the league. Furthermore, he is hitting an excellent 43.8% - eighth in the conference - of his three-pointers.

Case Against: Butler has accumulated only six assists in 11 games (.55 apg), and his assist/turnover ratio is only .46/1.0. Plus, his average of 3.6 rpg is decent but not very impressive for a small forward.

Larry Davis (Seton Hall): The 6’4” wing has been one of the major surprises in the freshman class. He worked his way into the starting lineup at the beginning of conference play and hasn’t looked back.

Case For: In 26.1 mpg, Davis is averaging 10.0 ppg despite often being the fourth option on offense. He is shooting 45.9% from behind the arc, which ranks sixth in the league. He also has a respectable assist-turnover ratio of 1.50/1.0.

Case Against: As well as Davis has shot outside the arc, he has been nowhere near as proficient inside the arc (37.8%). More importantly, teammate and classmate Eugene Harvey has won the Freshman of the Week award three times so far this season..

Jerome Dyson (Connecticut): The Huskies have four freshmen who have played significant minutes, but Dyson has been the most productive, and the most consistent, of all UConn’s frosh.

Case For: In 30.6 mpg Dyson is averaging 10.9 ppg and a solid (for a guard) 3.7 rpg. Plus, he is a very good defender who contributes as much on the defensive end of the court as the offensive end.

Case Against: Dyson came into the league with a reputation as an excellent shooter. However, he’s shooting only 29.5% from the field, including 24.1% (seven of 29) on threes. At times he needs to be more judicious in his shot selection.

Luke Harangody (Notre Dame): Though he looks more like a football player than a basketball player, Harangody has had a terrific season. At times he’s been nearly unstoppable in the lane.

Case For: Harangody’s stats are impressive despite relatively limited minutes. He is averaging only 21.3 mpg, but he’s averaged 9.2 ppg and 6.3 rpg in that time. Extrapolated to 30 mpg, he’d be producing 13.0 ppg and 8.9 rpg. He is easily the best rebounder among freshmen in the league.

Case Against: Harangody has been inconsistent. In 11 league games, he scored five points or fewer in five of them. Also, his shooting percentage (46.9%) is relatively low for an interior player who spends almost all his time around the hoop.

Eugene Harvey (Seton Hall): The 6’0” point guard leads all freshmen in minutes played at 38.1 mpg. But there are reasons he’s earned so much playing time.

Case For: Harvey leads all freshmen in scoring at 16.3 ppg, good for fifth in the conference. More importantly, he is the driving force for the Pirates. His quickness and ability to penetrate into the lane put significant pressure on the defense. Also, he is shooting a respectable 43.7% from the field.

Case Against: For a point guard, Harvey’s average of 3.1 apg is fairly low, and his assist-turnover ratio of .91/1.0 is not exactly what one wants from a point guard. Also, he is shooting a paltry 28.6% from behind the arc.

Tory Jackson (Notre Dame): The 5’10” Michigan native became a regular starter when Kyle McAlarney was dismissed from school for the semester. He has responded with quality play on both ends of the court.

Case For: Jackson leads all freshmen in assists with 5.8 apg, which ranks second in the conference. He also has an impressive assist/turnover ratio of 2.21/1.0, fifth in the league. In other words, he’s doing what a point guard should do – setting up teammates and taking care of the ball.

Case Against: Jackson is averaging 8.2 ppg, meaning he’s not the scorer most of the other candidates are. In fact, his scoring average ranks 10th out of the 10. Also, his shooting percentage (39.2%) ranks seventh in this group, due in large part to an atrocious 15.0% on three-pointers (three of 20).

Scottie Reynolds (Villanova): Reynolds came to the Wildcats with a terrific reputation after being released from his LOI by Oklahoma. Now, it’s hard to imagine what the Wildcats would be like without him.

Case For: Reynolds is averaging 15.6 ppg, eighth in the conference. During one six-game stretch he averaged 20.2 ppg. He is capable of taking over a game, which is rare for a freshman. He has been superb from three-point territory (41.3%) on 19 of 46 from behind the arc.

Case Against: For a point guard, Reynolds commits an awful lot of turnovers – 4.5 per game. His assist/turnover ratio is one of the worst among all conference guards - .71/1.0.

Edgar Sosa (Louisville): Sosa was supposed to compete with Sophomore Andre McGee for the starting point guard slot, but McGee’s injury-plagued season made that a non-contest.

Case For: Sosa has been solid, averaging 10.4 ppg and committing only 1.8 turnovers per game. His assist/turnover ratio is a respectable 1.35/1.0. He has also done a nice job in Coach Rick Pitino’s active, aggressive zone defense.

Case Against: Sosa’s average of 2.5 apg is low for a point guard. He’s also a mediocre shooter – 38.5% overall and 21.6% on treys.

DaJuan Summers (Georgetown): Many thought the leading candidate to join Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green in the Hoyas’ front court was Summers’ fellow freshman, Vernon Macklin, but Summers won the starting job by playing solid, all-around basketball.

Case For: In 29.4 mpg, Summers has averaged 10.4 ppg, not bad considering he’s playing in an offense that stresses balanced scoring. He’s also averaging 4.0 rpg – decent, but not outstanding. More impressive are his stats of 44.0% from the field and 40% on three-pointers. Finally, he also has a very respectable assist/turnover ratio of 1.6/1.0 in Georgetown’s intricate offense.

Case Against: It would be nice to see a bit more production on the boards from someone 6’8” tall, especially someone as athletic as Summers is. Other than that, there’s not much to dislike.

Deonte Vaughn (Cincinnati): Not nearly as highly publicized coming into the Big East as most of the other players on this list, Vaughn has, nevertheless, been the Bearcats’ most consistent performer.

Case For: Vaughn is averaging 14.6 ppg, which is tied for 12th in the conference. He has scored in double figures in nine of 10 league games, including five games with 17 or more points.

Case Against: The 6’1” Indianapolis native takes a lot of shots, and his percentage is rather low (35.0%). Also, he’s shooting only 30.4% on treys. Additionally, as point guard, Vaughn needs to improve his assist totals, as he‘s averaging only 2.9 apg.

Which of these 10 is most deserving of the ROY award?

At this stage of the season, the two leaders are probably Harvey and Reynolds, but that can change dramatically over the next few weeks. Summers, though he is under-publicized (due to being overshadowed by Hibbert and Green) is a possible dark horse.

Could someone not on this list potentially climb into the mix? It’s not likely.

Syracuse’s Paul Harris was the pre-season pick for ROY, but he’s seen limited playing time in most conference games. He’s averaging only 3.9 ppg in slightly over 18 mpg.

Some people were talking about Hasheem Thabeet potentially being “one and done,” but that looks very unlikely as he’s shown little on the offensive end of the court (5.1 ppg) and has been pushed around by some of the more physical Big East centers.

Fellow big man, Hamady N’Diaye of Rutgers, is in the same situation. He has been effective at times on defense but has shown little on offense (2.4 ppg in 12 games). He was unable to beat out 6’8” senior Adrian Hill for the starting 5 position.

Jerry Smith of Louisville has been extremely effective in some games, not much of a factor in others. In some games he gets substantial playing time, but in others relatively little. In fact, he’s played as much as 20 minutes only once in the Cardinals’ last six games.

As for Derrick Character, he’s shown flashes of his enormous potential, but he’s played in only three of the Cardinals’ conference games due to being mired in Coach Pitino’s doghouse most of the season.

DePaul point guard Will Walker, whom many Demon fans anointed the starting point guard early in the year has dropped to third on the depth chart at the position as he’s averaged only 6.1 mpg in the last five games.

At Marquette, Lazar Hayward was viewed as the likely successor to Steve Novak at the 4, and Hayward has started a number of games. However, he’s averaging only 13.7 mpg as junior Dan Fitzgerald comes off the bench for an average of 22.0 mpg.

Finally, South Florida’s relatively unheralded Solomon Bozeman was on fire in the non-conference portion of the season when he averaged 14.0 ppg. In conference play, however, the freshman guard has averaged only 4.8 ppg with a high game of 10.

For neither Harvey nor Reynolds to win the award, both would have to have sub-par games pretty much the rest of the regular season, while someone else would have to leapfrog over them with a series of stellar performances. I just don’t see that happening.