There is some great wing talent in this league and there are really 8-9 nice options to choose from (Creighton’s Cole Huff, DePaul’s Eli Cain and Providence’s Alpha Diallo are all worthy candidates). Cutting this list down to five was an arduous task.
There will be some fluidity in regards to positions, as some can play both forward spots, while others can also play at shooting guard.
Let’s get right to it and rank the Big East’s small forwards.
5. Desi Rodriguez, Seton Hall
This season is a critical one for Rodriguez.
With Isaiah Whitehead moving on from the program, Pirates’ head coach Kevin Willard will need increased production out of Rodriguez. We already touched on how Khadeen Carrington will have a key role for Seton Hall and will likely be the team’s new leader.
The athletic and versatile Rodriguez will now go from a tertiary option to a secondary option. Rodriguez has to have the desire to get better, though, as his focus has been called into question.
Nevertheless, the junior has a great opportunity in front of him and Rodriguez has the raw skills to have a successful season.
4. Mikal Bridges/Eric Paschall, Villanova
With Villanova likely to go small ball with the loss of freshman center Omari Spellman, there is a lot of fluidity with how the minutes will be divvied up in the frontcourt.
Whether it is Bridges or Paschall, head coach Jay Wright has two capable players that can play the wing spot—and impressively. So, either player can be listed here.
Solid start for Villanova on the Spain exhibition tour. Get the feeling Eric Paschall will play a big role next season. Super athletic.
— Sean Kane (@SKaneCSN) August 5, 2016
The sophomore Bridges is ready to breakout and if he doesn’t start, he may be poised to be the conference’s best sixth man. The wiry strong and athletic Bridges showed flashes last year and with more consistent playing time, expect Bridges to rise to the occasion.
Meanwhile, Paschall—a sophomore transfer from Fordham where he was the Atlantic Ten’s Freshman of the Year—is ready to contribute after sitting on the sidelines last season. He can play either inside or out and gives Wright great versatility in the frontcourt.
3. L.J. Peak, Georgetown
There was some thought that Peak was set for a breakout sophomore season last year, but that did not occur. To Peak’s credit, though, he was more than solid, averaging 12.3 points per game while playing second fiddle to D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera.
But with Smith-Rivera now gone, Peak may be John Thompson III’s new go-to scorer. Peak is a wing who gets by on strength and athleticism. He is at his best when working inside the lane.
Peak has a good perimeter game, too. Put simply, it may all come together for him this season.
2. Kelan Martin, Butler
If it wasn’t for the greatness of Providence’s Ben Bentil, Martin would have been the breakout star of the Big East last season (and the winner of the conference’s Most Improved award).
Martin was sensational last year en route to being named to the All-Big East Second Team after averaging 15.7 points per game and leading the Bulldogs in rebounding (6.8 per game). Martin is what you simply label as a basketball player, as he can practically play every position on the court.
It’s hard to eloquently describe Martin’s game, but one word may do it justice: effective. Martin is a warrior on the court and gets the job done. He is just a joy to watch.
1. Trevon Bluiett, Xavier
Bluiett is one of two players (Villanova’s Josh Hart being the other) named to the All-Big East First Team who is returning this season.
In two years, Bluiett has shown he is one of the conference’s elite scorers. Bluiett, the son of marine parents, has a toughness and determination all his own. He can bull his way to the hoop or just as effectively get hot from beyond the arc.
With Xavier losing two key frontcourt pieces (Jalen Reynolds and James Farr) and perhaps Myles Davis (who is dealing with his own issues and may not return), a lot more responsibility will fall on Bluiett’s shoulders this year.
Given Bluiett’s enduring demeanor and skill set, he’ll answer the call and vie for Big East Player of the Year when it is all said and done.