Every year, we look at the slate of games ahead and think we can at least give our best guess at what is going to happen with the season on the horizon. In our minds, we write a script of how events are going to play out, and every year, something flips that script, be it a player having a breakout season, or a budding star falling short in their development. This season was no different.
Back in early October, each member of our staff was asked to rank the ten Big East starters at each of the five positions, which we used to compile a "Top 5" for every respective group. Over the next week, we'll revisit those lists, exploring where we thought things were at before the season and where they currently stand today. Let's begin here with the point guards:
Preseason Top 5 Point Guards
(You can find the link to the full original rankings here)
What We Got Right
In the end, it's safe to say we got pretty close. While there were definitely some shake-ups in the order, Smith-Rivera was a top three point guard in the conference despite dropping (marginally) in points per game (16.3), field goal percentage (42.1 percent) and three-point field goal percentage (38.7 percent) as compared to the year before. "DSR", who was named 1st Team All-Big East after the season, finished as the fifth leading scorer in the conference while leading the Hoyas to a 22-11 record and a four seed in the NCAA tournament. He was the engine that powered the Georgetown attack all season, and while I'm not totally sure he would be in pole position if we re-ranked this list today, the Hoyas should be ecstatic to have Smith-Rivera back next season after he initially declared for the NBA Draft.
Arcidiacano enjoyed another strong season as the floor general of the most balanced offense in the entire Big East this season at Villanova, and earned Co-Big East Player of the Year honors because of it. Was he the best player on his team this season? No, that would be Darrun Hilliard. Was he the most physical player on his team this season? No, that would be JayVaughn Pinkston. Was he the best defensive player on his team this season? No, that would be Daniel Ochefu. What makes Arcidiacano so valuable is his ability to excel in the margins, and while it may not make total sense to people on the outside, the coaches made it clear how they feel about his contributions with their POY voting results. Former St. John's head coach Steve Lavin explained his respect for Arcidiacano after the season, even comparing him to former Duke great Bobby Hurley for his leadership at the point guard position. The numbers may not look outstanding (10.1 points, 3.6 assists, 1.1 steals per game), but his defensive impact and presence on and off the court prove what Arcidiacano really means to his team's success.
Gibbs had a bit of an interesting year, and as we talked about on the first editor podcast before the Big East tournament, he may have been the conference POY frontrunner back in January. However, Seton Hall completely collapsed over the final two months of the season, and while Gibbs still got his numbers, he reportedly played a large role in the team's downfall while feuding with freshman Isaiah Whitehead and his "posse" in the locker room. Everything culminated with Gibbs' two-game suspension in late February after he elbowed Arcidiacano in the face while fighting for a loose ball, but while he may have had a rough year off the court, Gibbs was still tremendous on it. Finishing fourth in scoring in the Big East with 16.1 points per game while shooting 43.6 percent from three-point range, Gibbs was named to the conference's second team at the end of the year for his efforts. At this time, both he and Whitehead will be back next season, and as long as the Pirates can iron out their off-court issues, the duo should make some noise together.
I'm hesitant to say that we got Dunn's placement in the order right, since he finished as the far-and-away top point guard in the conference this season, but honestly, this may have even been a little high for him considering the circumstances coming into the year. Dunn came into Providence as the 23rd-ranked recruit in ESPN's 2012 Top 100, but battled through two injuries in two years before playing his first full season with the Friars this time around. Back in the original preseason article, Big East Coast Bias signal caller Chris Novak wrote that "Friar fans have been waiting and waiting for Kris Dunn to hit the floor with brimming intensity and spectacular play...after being cleared for contact not too long ago, Dunn will look to live up to the hype surrounding him this year, which could justifiably net him this spot."
Dunn did just that, and then some. Earning Co-Big East Player of the Year honors with Arcidiacano, Dunn led the conference in assists (7.6) and steals (2.8) per game, and brilliantly balanced his offensive role with teammate LaDontae Henton, who finished tops in the Big East this season with 19.7 points per game. Dunn's scoring wasn't too shabby, either, holding down the sixth spot in the conference with 15.8 points per game while shooting a ridiculous 48 percent from the field and 34 percent from deep. All season long, Dunn was the most consistent two-way threat at the point guard position, and it could lead to his selection in the lottery of the NBA Draft if he declares this offseason. In the end, I'm just happy that we even got Dunn on this list in the pre-season, because no one is even close to taking his spot at the top now.
What We Got Wrong
I can't speak for everyone else on our staff, but if I had to re-rank my list right now, it would be as follows:
1. Kris Dunn, Providence
(tie) 2. D'Angelo Harrison, St. John's
(tie) 2. D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown
4. Ryan Arcidiacano, Villanova
5. Sterling Gibbs, Seton Hall
Four of those names made our original list, but you'll notice a pretty big change in the No. 2 spot. You can't talk me into picking between Harrison and Smith-Rivera based on their accomplishments this season, but we really messed up with not getting Harrison on our list in the pre-season. Forget his inconsistencies, the senior guard was the most important player on a St. John's team that rolled out rotations as small as just six players this season. Harrison took his role as the team's offensive leader in stride, and while Sir'Dominic Pointer really came on for the Red Storm down the stretch, it was Harrison that kept his team afloat despite a shaky start to the conference schedule. Harrison finished with the second-best scoring mark in the conference at 17.5 points per game, posting the most efficient season of his career and using his size and strength to add 5.5 rebounds per game to his stat line. He far exceeded expectations, and it paid off with a spot on the All-Big East first team. We may have gotten a lot of things right, but we most definitely swung and missed on Harrison.
You'll also note that Billy Garrett, Jr. failed to make the updated list, despite coming in second before the season. Garrett's original ranking was all geared around his untapped potential; he was coming off of a strong freshman campaign that earned him Big East Rookie of the Year honors, and felt like a guy who was about to make a big leap. Well, there's always next year. Garrett ended up almost exactly matching his scoring numbers from the year before with 12.3 points per game, and while both his field goal percentage and three-point percentage jumped up from his freshman year, his rebounding and assist numbers both stood pat also. Part of this is due to the fact that DePaul was, well, pretty bad this season, but with a new coach and a promising outlook for next year, Garrett has all the talent in the world to make a Dunn-esque jump next year.
The nature of the list only allows us to recognize five players, but special mentions need to be made for seniors Alex Barlow and Matt Carlino of Butler and Marquette, respectively. Barlow was Butler's most dangerous defensive player, consistently guarding the opponent's best backcourt player while delivering terrific on-court and locker room leadership that earned him the Senior Class Award at the end of the season. Carlino, in both his first and last season with the Golden Eagles after transferring from BYU, ended up serving as the Big East's most terrifying deep threat at the point guard position. You just weren't going to bet against the guy when he fired behind the three-point line.