These are not being churned out as frequently as I'd hoped.
15. Paul Gause, JR, Seton Hall
The Pirates' sixth man, Gause often gets lost in the shuffle behind starters Eugene Harvey, Jamar Nutter and Brian Laing. But despite averaging just 25.4 minutes a game last year, the energetic Gause led the Big East in steals by averaging 3.1 a contest, and his season total of 90 set a new school record. He figures to see his role expanded this season as second-year head coach Bobby Gonzalez has stated that he plans to use the junior as a backup point guard in addition to his familiar role as a combo guard spark plug.
14. Corey Chandler, FR, Rutgers
Chandler is a pure scorer who needs to do what he does best right away for Rutgers to be competitive in the conference. He's talented enough - and playing on a team untalented enough - to become the new Quincy Douby in Piscataway. Chandler's career as a Scarlet Knight got off to a pleasant start over the weekend when he scored 14 points in a 68-57 exhibition win over Division II Northwood.
13. Ausin Freeman, FR, Georgetown
Despite playing in a system where statistics are an afterthought, it's a safe bet that Freeman's sensational ability to put the ball in the basket will stand out at some point in his first collegiate season. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound burger boy averaged just over 23 points per game during his senior season at Dematha (MD). Freeman and fellow freshman Chris Wright will afford John Thompson III the option of pushing pace from time-to-time.
12. Jamar Nutter, SR, Seton Hall
Nutter returns for his final season at Seton Hall after a relatively disappointing '06-'07 in which he averaged 12.3 points and 3.2 rebounds a contest. Too often in his junior season Nutter settled for the outside shot, and his shooting percentage dipped into the low 30s as a result. If he can become a better distributor and improve his defense then he and his backcourt mates could very well guide the Pirates back to the Big East Tournament.
11. Alex Ruoff, JR, West Virginia
Ruoff is one of the better all-around players in the conference. Despite playing on the wing, he finished his sophomore season second in the Big East in assists, averaging 5.3 dimes a game. His 6-foot-6 size gives him an advantage over most two-guards, but he must improve his outside shooting (34% from three) if he wants to better his 10.3 ppg average of a season ago.
10. Ronald Ramon, SR, Pittsburgh
One of the best outside shooters in the Big East, Ramon enters his senior season among Pitt's all-time leaders in three-point field goals made (166), three-point field goal attempts (410) and three-point field goal percentage (.405). How well he assimilates to his new role of every day starter will have a huge impact on how life without Aaron Gray goes for Jamie Dixon.
9. Jessie Sapp, JR, Georgetown
Like backcourt mate Jonathan Wallace, Sapp's modest statistics are horribly misleading. He averaged only 9.1 points, 4 rebounds and 3.5 assists for the national semifinalists last season, but Sapp's understanding of the Hoya offense and his ability to know when to push and when not to push make him a huge asset for JT III. Despite his 6-foot-3 height, Sapp was also one of the better rebounding guards in the league in '06-'07, pulling down four boards a contest.
8. Wesley Matthews, JR, Marquette
Matthews can be effective at the one, two, or three, so he ends up on this list sort of by default. A starter since the day he stepped on campus, the 6'5" guard/forward had a tremendous sophomore season, averaging 12.6 points and 5.3 rebounds. The loss of freshman Trevor Mbakwe has made an already thin frontcourt that much thinner, which means there is even more pressure on Matthews and the vaunted Golden Eagle backcourt to carry Tom Crean's club through its third season in the Big East.
7. Jerry Smith, SO, Louisville
Playing behind senior Brandon Jenkins, Smith averaged an impressive 8.0 points and 3.6 rebounds, and was the nation's leading freshman three-point shooter, connecting on 45% of his attempts from beyond the arc. Smith is now a starter for the sixth-ranked Cardinals, and big things are expected. For those big things to occur he has to improve his on-the-ball defending and make better decisions with the ball in his hands. He's easily the best shooter on a team that will likely go through numerous outside slumps, so his importance to Rick Pitino cannot be understated.
6. Weyinmi Efejuku, JR, Providence
The insanely athletic Efejuku appears poised for a huge junior season, which is a good thing for Tim Welsh seeing as how Providence was 15-3 in games in which its shooting guard scored 13 or more points. He topped the 20-point mark in eight different games in '06-'07, but much like his freshman season he was plagued by inconsistency. All the tools are there, and if Efejuku can piece together the puzzle then Providence could be headed to the Big Dance and he could be headed for some postseason accolades.
5. Draelon Burns, SR, Depaul
Despite playing alongside future NBA draft picks Wilson Chandler and Sammy Mejia, Burns managed to score a team-best 13.0 points per game in conference play last season. The 6'4" guard has always had a knack for scoring and has improved his defense considerably since his freshman and sophomore seasons. How well he blends with heralded recruits Mac Koshwal and Dar Tucker will likely to determine the fate of Jerry Wainwright's team.
4. Eric Devendorf, JR, Syracuse
Devendorf, one of the top five players in the country that opposing fans love to fate, should be able to spend nearly all his time on the floor back at his natural position now that the Johnny Flynn era in Boeheim-land has commenced. Like so many other players on this list, consistency is the major issue with the two-year starter. In his first two seasons in Orange, Devendorf has been every bit as likely to turn the ball over eight times in a game as he has been to make eight shots. Still, his talent is undeniable, and not being asked to do the majority of the ball-handling should allow him to flourish on a team that desperately needs him to shoulder much of the scoring load.
3. Jerome Dyson, SO, Connecticut
Few players in the conference came on stronger at the end of last season than Dyson, who ended up leading the Huskies in scoring at 13.8 ppg. He has reportedly stepped up and become the vocal leader of a still very young Uconn team that needs him to emerge as a superstar. If Connecticut finds itself in the top six of the league standings at the end of the season then rest assured Dyson will have had a great deal to do with it.
2. Jerel McNeal, JR, Marquette
The reigning Big East Defensive Player of the Year, McNeal was an absolute stat stuffer for the Golden Eagles last season. In addition to his prowess on defense, he averaged 14.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists as a sophomore. Though he is without a doubt one of the best guards in the league, McNeal has to cut down on his turnovers and improve his consistency from outside.
1. Scottie Reynolds, SO, Villanova
Reynolds did it all for Jay Wright in his freshman season, averaging 18 points and 4 assists per game in Big East play. At times he played out of control, but the addition of freshman point guard Corey Fisher should cut down on his turnovers and allow him to take more open shots. Perhaps no player in the conference means more to his team than Reynolds means to Villanova.