With three teams in the Associated Press Top 25, seven teams in KenPom.com’s top-50 and as the second best conference according to RPIRatings.com, it’s readily apparent the Big East is enjoying quite the renaissance this season.
The conference struggled on the national stage last year in its first season after the split as no team advanced past the second round in last year’s NCAA Tournament. But it is certainly finding its groove in the second season, and behind that surge has been some dynamic duos leading the charge.
Listed below is a ranking (from 10-1) of the Big East’s best duos. Now, as a disclaimer, this is clearly not a ranking of the best teams or a measure of a team’s vast combination of talent. Villanova, for example, is very balanced and that was taken into consideration. True, some teams have great trios and beyond, but for the purpose of this column, only duos were evaluated here.
10. Austin Chatman/Toby Hegner, Creighton
With the start that the Bluejays are off to, the duo of Austin Chatman and Toby Hegner won’t get a lot of love.
Considering Creighton has a 1-8 record in the conference, this duo will continue to get overlooked when that should not be the case as we’re talking about two very good players. Chatman, the grizzled senior vet, averages 11 points per game while also adding 4.0 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game. Hegner, the novice freshman, is starting to pick up his play of late and for the year is averaging 9.5 points per game while shooting .396 from three-point percentage.
While Creighton has struggled, it can go off at a moment’s notice. Ask St. John’s. This is a team that you don’t want to play in the Big East Tournament.
9. Matt Carlino/Luke Fischer, Marquette
Granted this is a transition year for head coach Steve Wojciechowski, he is getting great seasons from a couple of transfers in Matt Carlino and Luke Fischer.
Carlino, who is only eligible for this season, has shown he can shoot from his years playing with BYU. He has continued to do what he’s always done (shoot) as he is tied for first in the Big East with 2.7 three-pointers made per game while second in three-point field-goal percentage (.439).
Meanwhile, Fischer gets it done in the post, averaging 10.9 points per game on a stellar .641 percent from the floor. Fischer, a mid-season transfer from Indiana, would be third in the Big East in field-goal percentage if had played in 75 percent of his team’s games.
8. Trevon Bluiett/Matt Stainbrook, Xavier
The combo of Matt Stainbrook and Trevon Bluiett is one of those nice senior/freshman duos. It’s also one of the more prototypical inside/out duos that define the Big East.
Stainbrook contributes girth down low, and his throwback style will either endear him to you or incense you, depending on your perspective. He is a load to handle and averages 12.8 points to go with 7.0 rebounds per game (sixth in the Big East).
Then you have Bluiett, who is your prized freshman phenom. As a highly-regarded recruit coming out of high school, Bluiett has started off the season in fine fashion, averaging 12.2 points per game. He is a psychical guard who can mix it up as well as drain it from deep.
Xavier is hoping these two guys can get the team back to the NCAA Tournament.
7. D’Angelo Harrison/Rysheed Jordan, St. John’s
While the Red Storm are struggling in the Big East, their backcourt of D’Angelo Harrison and Rysheed Jordan is not at fault.
Harrison and Jordan both rank in the top 10 in the Big East in scoring. Harrison is second in the conference with 19.1 points per game while Jordan ranks eighth with 13.4 points per game.
This backcourt feeds off each other as both can drive to the hoop and dial it up from deep (especially Harrison). Both are also very athletic, and both could play at the next level.
6. Billy Garrett Jr./Myke Henry, DePaul
DePaul is in the midst of a revival and the main reason why has been the play of point guard Billy Garrett Jr and Illinois-transfer Myke Henry.
Garrett, last year’s Big East Rookie of the Year, is continuing to flourish in his sophomore season as the glue guy who keeps it all together for the Blue Demons. Henry has proven to be a boon to the team with his versatility on offense as he can attack the hoop just as well as he can knock down a perimeter jumper.
Combined, Garrett Jr and Henry average 26.3 points per game.
5. Roosevelt Jones/Kellen Dunham, Butler
Roosevelt Jones and Kellen Dunham are the third set of Big East teammates who both rank in the top-10 in scoring.
Jones, who has come back strong after sitting out all of last year with a wrist injury, is averaging 13.2 points per game while Dunham averages 16.1 points per game. Together they can do it all in the backcourt with the ability to score going to the basket (specifically Jones) and nail it from deep (Dunham’s calling card).
After a terrible first year in the league, Butler is regaining its magic touch and has re-emerged on the national scene, putting itself back in the top 25.
4. Sterling Gibbs/Angel Delgado, Seton Hall
Sterling Gibbs is the lightning to Angel Delgado’s thunder.
Gibbs is an assassin from deep, leading the Big East in both three-point field goal percentage (.453) and three-point field goals made per game (2.7, tied with Carlino). Delgado, on the other hand, has proven to be a beast down low in his freshman season, averaging 9.4 points and a Big East-leading 9.6 rebounds per game.
Together, they are leading a charge for the Pirates to get back into the NCAA Tournament.
3. Darrun Hilliard/Daniel Ochefu, Villanova
When it comes to Villanova, you have your pick of the litter between four or five guys since the Wildcats have one of the more deeper, balanced teams in the country.
But for the interest of this piece, if you had to pick two, you would have to go with the inside-out duo of Daniel Ochefu and Darrun Hilliard. Hilliard is the versatile guard who can do it all. He averages 13.4 points per game, while shooting .378 from three-point range.
Ochefu has turned out to be a beast down low. He came to Villanova as a raw project and he has blossomed into a legitimate NBA prospect. Only a junior, he still has room for growth. For the year, he is averaging 10 points and 8.4 rebounds per game (which ranks third in the conference).
2. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera/Joshua Smith, Georgetown
When you factor in experience, there may be no better duo in the Big East than D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Smith.
Smith-Rivera, a junior, and Smith, a senior, have been through the battles and rigors of the Big East for a while now, and the rapport they have together is something to marvel. Both have the innate ability to come up clutch in big moments.
Combined, Smith-Rivera and Smith average 27.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. Look for their experience to have a huge impact in March.
1. LaDontae Henton/Kris Dunn, Providence
In what was a tight contest, it was Providence’s magnificent duo of LaDontae Henton and Kris Dunn who top the rankings as the best duo in the Big East.
After all, Henton leads the Big East in scoring (21.2 ppg) while Dunn leads the Big East, and the country for that matter, in assists (7.6 apg). Henton chips in 5.6 rebounds per game while Dunn averages 15.1 points per game (fifth in the Big East). Those are some eye-popping numbers.
Henton is as good on the low block as he is shooting perimeter jumpers. Dunn, meanwhile, is coming off a phenomenal performance on Thursday against DePaul when he recorded a triple-double of 27 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists.
Look for both of them to be on the Big East’s First Team come March. The two of them have been fueling the Friars all season, and the team is surging at the moment, winning 10 out of its last 12 games to stand atop the Big East standings.