It's the start of the new millennium. Family Guy is barely a year old; the New York Yankees just won their 25th World Series Championship; the Attitude Era is running rampant through the World Wrestling Federation; the Music City Miracle just made Buffalo Bills fans delirious and depressed; and the Y2K scare was nothing more than a farce.
Congratulations everyone, we made it to the year 2000!
We may not have gotten flying cars (yet), time-travel has yet to be perfected (yet) but the good news is that college basketball -- and more specifically, the Big East Conference -- is still running roughshod. This was perhaps the best decade for Big East basketball, as the conference went through serious levels of expansion. And as a result, many players were able to say they could play during this era of hoops.
The Big East Coast Bias gang and I were able to get together to answer this question: who was the best player during the 2000s?
Christopher Novak - It goes without saying that from 2000 to 2009, the Big East Conference was the number one conference in America. And with that dominance, you had so many great players come through. The two that stick out to me the most though are Connecticut's Emeka Okafor, and Syracuse's Carmelo Anthony. And to be quite honest, I'm going to go with Carmelo. While Okafor's career was lengthier, and was capped off with a terrific run to a National Championship, Carmelo was stupendous in his one season with the Orangemen, as they were called while he was in school. Averaging 22 and 10 as THE go-to guy, even if it is just in one year, warrants this merit for me.
Cam Newton - I don't believe that anyone can look back on the college basketball landscape in the 2000's and not recognize the greatness of the 2003 Syracuse team, led by the offensive force that is Carmelo Anthony. Jim Boeheim has coached a large number of outstanding players in his lengthy tenure at Syracuse, from Pearl Washington to Derrick Coleman, but none were able to accomplish what Anthony did in his limited time with Syracuse. In only one short season, Anthony managed to average a double-double, putting up roughly 22 points and 10 rebounds per game. Carmelo Anthony was also able to bring a national title to Syracuse and Jim Boeheim, cementing the coach's status as a legend, as well as putting his own mark on the face of basketball history. While Anthony's career at Syracuse was short-lived, his performance in that lone season is enough evidence for me to choose him as the best Big East Player of the 2000's.
Sean Saint Jacques - While the Connecticut teams of the 2000s led by Emeka Okafor were very impressive, the 2003 Syracuse team was the best of the decade. It is only fitting that their best player takes the same title. Carmelo Anthony took a good team and made them great. His offensive abilities were second to none and to do it at a college coached by Jim Boeheim is impressive. Anthony is only one college season became the greatest player in Syracuse history, led his school to their first and only national title while putting over 20 points and 10 rebounds a game. Again, did it all in ONE season. That makes him the greatest player from the last decade and one of the best to ever play in the Big East Conference.
DevonTe Brooks - Carmelo Anthony was the best player in the conference in the 2000s. His game was good and offense was so crazy. He led the Orange to a National Title while averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. I don't think there's any other answer to this question than Melo.
Robert O'Neill - While Carmelo Anthony was a great player, I always find myself having a hard time putting guys who only played one season as my pick for these roundtables. With that being said, i'm going to dare to be different and pick UConn big man Emeka Okafor. They say "Defense wins championships", and what Carmelo lacked defensively (which was a lot), Okafor more than made up for. The back-to-back Big East & NABC Defensive Player of the Year (2003-2004) was an elite shot blocker (Okafor holds the UConn career blocks record with 441) and rebounder. Without Okafor's dominance down low, it's safe to say Connecticut would have never won the National Championship in 2004. Players like Anthony and Okafor certainly showed why the Big East was such a dominant basketball conference in the first half of the 2000s.