The 10 Most Important Players In The Big East Tournament
The Big East Tournament is one of the most thrilling events in all of sports, not just college basketball. The 2012 version is loaded with impact players looking to help their teams hoist hardware. It’s no easy task to run the tables at Madison Square Garden, even for a team as stacked as Syracuse.
There are a handful of key players who are x-factors for their squads. Some are dominant stars, and others are key role players whose performances will dictate their teams’ overall success.
Let’s take a look at the 10 most important players to keep an eye on in the 2012 Big East Tournament.
10. Jay Theodore, Seton Hall Pirates
A deep run in the Big East tourney would put Seton Hall safely in the big dance.
Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope need to take matters into their own hands, like they’ve done all season. Few teams in the country have an inside-outside combo like Theodore and Pope.
Theodore reminds me of a college version of Chauncey Billups. He’s not a particularly explosive player, and he plays below the rim, but he is a great floor general and creates so many opportunities for their offense.
The Pirates’ recent upset over Georgetown should serve notice that they can do damage against anyone.
9. Jake Cooley, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Notre Dame’s best rebounder, Jack Cooley, is also the Big East’s leader in field goal percentage because he works hard to get good position for easy looks.
Cooley has registered ten double-doubles this season, with eight of them coming during Big East play.
A few more of those might help the Fighting Irish make some serious noise in Manhattan.
8. Jae Crowder, Marquette Golden Eagles
Jae Crowder already enjoyed a signature moment in Madison Square Garden this season, but he’s looking for more.
The Marquette Golden Eagles forward drained a game-winning shot against Washington in the Jimmy V Classic in December. But non-conference games in December are a little bit different than the Big East playoffs.
Crowder is skilled enough to step out and play on the perimeter, but strong enough to mix it up in the middle. He and Darius Johnson-Odom have an excellent chance to win the conference crown.
7. Fab Melo, Syracuse Orange
It’s no coincidence that Syracuse’s lone loss this season came when Fab Melo was sidelined.
The team also struggled against West Virginia and Cincinnati (two teams with great forwards/centers) while Melo was absent.
Luckily for the ‘Cuse, he’s been back in the lineup and thriving for weeks. His shot-blocking presence in the paint is an x-factor that many teams don’t have an answer for.
6. Peyton Siva, Louisville Cardinals
Without Peyton Siva, the Louisville Cardinals’ offense would be infinitely worse.
Siva is the toughest player to guard on Rick Pitino’s squad, as he can penetrate and wreak havoc on opposing defenses.
If teams can find a way to contain Siva and force him to shoot outside shots, they’ll have a much better chance to bounce Louisville from the Big East bracket.
5. Henry Sims, Georgetown Hoyas
Georgetown Hoyas center Henry Sims does a little bit of everything, and all those “little” contributions add up to a huge impact for John Thompson’s club.
He’s the key piece to the Hoyas’ Princeton offense as a terrific post passer. Sims can fit passes through tight windows in the paint and set his teammates up for easy scores.
Although he’s not a great rebounder, he makes up for it with hustle, superb defense and reliable free-throw shooting for a post man.
4. Jeremy Lamb, Connecticut Huskies
With Kemba Walker gone, Jeremy Lamb will be the playmaker Connecticut turns to for March magic.
Lamb is averaging 25 points per game over his last five starts, and the Huskies hope he can continue to fill it up in the postseason.
If he doesn’t step up next week, UConn’s NCAA tournament hopes will be officially over. For now, there’s hope for him and his comrades to right the ship and run the table.
3. Kris Joseph, Syracuse Orange
There are doubts that the Syracuse Orange have a go-to guy.
When you take a step back and look at Syracuse’s season, it becomes clear that Kris Joseph is that go-to guy. In several late-game situations, including the Stanford, Marquette and Georgetown games, he came through in a big way for the Orange.
Joseph will be a key factor in crunch time next week in the last Big East Tournament of his career.
2. Darius Johnson-Odom, Marquette Golden Eagles
Darius Johnson-Odom is the deadliest point guard in the Big East.
He’s a threat from three-point range, but he’s even more dangerous when he puts the ball on the deck and creates. “DJO” is a master at changing pace and direction, which constantly keeps the defense off-balance.
If he lights up the scoreboard in the Big Apple, that’s bad news for every conference foe.
1. Kevin Jones, West Virginia Mountaineers
With more than 20 points and 11 rebounds per game, West Virginia’s Kevin Jones has established himself as the best power forward and perhaps the best overall player in the Big East.
The Mountaineer senior has worked extremely hard to improve significantly from last season to this season. His footwork is better, his shot selection is better and he’s an absolute beast on the glass.
Does he have what it takes to carry WVU to the semifinals or finals in the Garden?