Throughout the Big East season, the BECB staff took a crack at numerous predictions from who would win the conference to the player of the year and much more. We also went position by position to rank the best on the floor. These things are difficult as players who had great seasons the previous year can have a letdown and others who fly under the radar have memorable campaigns.
Once again, the college basketball season delivered many unexpected performances from players that were positive and negative. Those factored into this new list along with their impacts on their respective teams during this past season.
Here are our Preseason Power Forward Rankings:
1) JayVaughn Pinkston (Villanova Wildcats)
2) Jalen Reynolds (Xavier Musketeers)
3) Sir’Dominic Pointer (St. John’s Red Storm)
4) Kameron Woods (Butler Bulldogs)
5) Tyler Harris (Providence Friars)
Where BECB was right
Many of the staff at BECB were very high on Jalen Reynolds coming into this season and I even wrote that he would be a player who would have a breakout season in the conference. We deserve a pat on the back for this one because it is safe to say that we nailed it.
During his freshman season, Reynolds played 12.9 minutes a game and averaged 3.8 points and rebounds a contest. We expected his minutes to increase and also his production, especially with the presence of Matt Stainbrook providing defenses plenty of trouble already. Reynolds improved in almost every statistical category during his sophomore season. His points per game increased to 9.9 and his rebounds per game improved to 6.1.
Reynolds was also very efficient around the basket as he shot just over 61 percent from the field, which was up eight percent from last season. His blocks, assists and free throw percentage were also improved as Reynolds showed that he can provide the Musketeers a player who can do it all. It is safe to say that Reynolds deserves a top-three spot and could make a case for number one.
Speaking of players who could challenge for that number one spot, Sir’Dominic Pointer may have made the biggest overall improvement on the floor in the entire conference. His senior season blew away his first three years with the Johnnies. After only averaging 5.9 points per game as a junior, Pointer put in 13.7 a game as a senior. Pointer had the best rebounding year of his career with 7.7 boards a game and also had a career-high in steals, assists and blocks.
If that is not impressive enough, Pointer also increased his field goal percentage from 43.8 percent to 52.4. Again, we are not psychic here at The Bias, but we were pretty spot on with Pointer as well. St. John’s needed players from their touted senior class to step up this season and Pointer was one of them who did in a big way.
When Chris Obekpa was in foul trouble or dealing with off the court issues, it was Pointer would have to carry the load inside and more times than not he did. That effort was huge in getting the Red Storm back to the NCAA Tournament.
In the Big East, especially during the regular season, durable big men are vital in this physical conference. Butler, a team that screams physicality, had the perfect forward for the job in Kameron Woods who was the leading rebounder in the conference this season with 9.9 per game. Woods also set a career-high in scoring at 7.8 points per game during his senior season.
In college basketball, we usually think about the guards on teams before the big men, which makes sense because it is the sexier position on the court. When Butler pops into the heads of college hoops fans, Roosevelt Jones, Alex Barlow or Kellen Dunham are likely the first three players that are thought of, but make no mistake, the Bulldogs would not have had the success they did this season without Woods.
The senior was their main presence in the paint, which is why his number four spot may have even underrated him in our preseason rankings.
Where BECB was wrong
Alright before we start patting each other on the back, it is time to see where we may have over or under evaluated certain forwards in the Big East.
Here is how I would rank the power forwards today.
1) Angel Delgado (Seton Hall Pirates)
2) Kameron Woods (Butler Bulldogs)
3) Jalen Reynolds (Xavier Musketeers)
4) Sir’Dominic Pointer (St. John’s Red Storm)
5) JayVaughn Pinkston (Villanova Wildcats)
In the spirit of the young baseball season, we swung and missed when it came to Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado as a staff. To be fair, he just missed making the list in the original rankings, but played like the best power forward in the conference all season long.
Before the season, I was told that Delgado would be a rebounding machine and as impressive as Isaiah Whitehead. When I was able to see him play early in the season I bought in, which is why I was so high on him during the Seton Hall preview podcast. I had really high expectations for Delgado, but even I did not see this season coming. Delgado averaged 9.3 points and 9.8 rebounds per game and those 9.8 boards were tops in the nation among freshman including Jahlil Okafor who finished at 8.5 rebounds per game at Duke. The 55.5 field goal percentage and over a block per game were the icing on the cake as Delgado took home Big East Freshman of the Year Award in a landslide.
Many players in the conference meant a lot to their respective teams, but it is hard to argue with the fact that Delgado meant as much to The Hall this season as any other player did to their team. If Delgado did not rebound, no one else could do it and if they did that player could not bring the same intensity to the offensive and defensive glass. Delgado was built to rebound the basketball and that is why he tops the list for me. What a difference a year makes.
Our other blunder involves a down year from the top power forward on our original list, Villanova’s JayVaughn Pinkston. All of the major statistics took a dip across the board for Pinkston during his senior season. Pinkston’s points, rebounds and field goal percentage all took pretty big hits despite only playing about one minute less per game. Clearly, Pinkston still meant so much to this Wildcat team and it showed when the team wanted their senior to take down the net at Madison Square Garden after Villanova won the Big East Championship.
However, we dubbed him at the best power forward in the conference and he did not live up to expectations. Pinkston played nowhere near his capabilities in some games and it certainly did not help that Daniel Ochefu had a fantastic season. At times, it looked like Pinkston made sacrifices for the betterment of the team and played in any role that the team needed, which is commendable, but it led to the senior falling in the rankings.
If Providence’s Tyler Harris did not have a down year and was now looking to transfer, which no one had in October, Pinkston might have fallen out of the top five altogether. Despite a down year, Pinkston remains, but certainly did not improve during his last season at Villanova.
We acknowledged the honorable mentions who just missed the cut and for me Providence's Ben Bentil and DePaul's Myke Henry are two forwards that deserve some recognition. Bentil really started making a name for himself towards the end of his freshman season, especially in the Big East Tournament. When Carson Desrosiers or LaDontae Henton got into foul trouble, Coach Ed Cooley could rely on Bentil to not only score, but play solid defense too. Bentil had a double-double in three of his last five games this season and could find himself in the top five of this list soon.
Henry transferred from Illinois to help the frontcourt and gave the Blue Demons even more than they could have hoped for this season. DePaul relied on him for scoring and the junior delivered with 12 points per game, which was second on the team behind Billy Garrett Jr. That scoring along with 5.4 boards a night puts Henry in the conversation for a top five spot. He meant so much to his team this season and is knocking on the door of being a really good player.
The crop of power forwards is not as deep as the guards in the Big East, but we saw a number of the big fellas make a name for themselves this season and others who could be on the precipice of being a top player in the conference. The future in the paint is bright in the Big East.