The Big East has traditionally been a league rich with point guards, and this year's crop is certainly no exception. This was an extremely hard set of rankings to prepare, especially when you throw a very talented group of freshmen into the mix, but here goes.
15. Chris Howard, SO, South Florida
Howard was billed as the guy who would carry the USF flag as it entered its first season in the Big East, but he was forced to redshirt in 2005-06 after tearing the ACL in his left knee during the preseason. His bad luck continued nine months later when he suffered the exact same injury during summer workouts. He joined the team at midseason last year and ended up leading the conference in assists per game, averaging 5.9 dimes in 14 games. With the return of Howard and all-conference performer Kentrell Gransberry, as well as the commencement of the Stan Heath era, there's cause for guarded optimism in Tampa.
14. A.J. Price, JR, Connecticut
The off-the-court issues are behind him, the year of getting his legs back is behind him, if A.J. Price doesn't emerge as a star this season then it's never going to happen.
13. Eugene Lawrence, SR, St. John's
Lawrence led the Big East in assists last season, dishing out 5.6 a game for the Red Storm. He also led the team in minutes per game (33.2), a feat head coach Norm Roberts hopes he doesn't repeat. Roberts believes that the addition of speedy freshman Malik Boothe will permit more rest for Lawrence, which will result in a better all-around brand of basketball from him and the team.
12. Deonta Vaughn, SO, Cincinnati
Vaughn did his best Allen Iverson impersonation as a freshman, leading UC in points (14.5), assists (3.5) and minutes (33) per game. The addition of Alvin Mitchell, a big-time scorer in high school, should allow Vaughn to be able to take on more of a pure point role as a sophomore.
11. Kyle McAlarney, JR, Notre Dame
McAlarney was averaging 10.3 points and 5.4 assists before he was suspended for a semester by the university after being caught with marijuana. He returns to a bit of an awkward situation after freshman Tory Jackson emerged as a star at the point while he was gone. The two will likely be on the floor together more times than not this season, with Jackson handling the majority of the ball-handling duties and McAlarney doing his best Colin Falls impersonation. Don't be surprised if this time next year McAlarney is appearing on preseason lists for shooting guards.
10. Sharaud Curry, JR, Providence
Curry has averaged double figures in each of his first two collegiate seasons (12 ppg as a freshman and 15.3 as a sophomore), but hasn't yet developed the ability to distinguish a good shot from a bad one. Providence led the Big East in turnovers last season, and Curry - who gave the ball away 97 times - had a lot to do with that. If he can fine-tune his game a bit in his third year, Curry figures to rank much higher on this list by season's end. The fine-tuning will have to begin a bit late, however, as he's likely out until late November with a broken foot.
9. Corey Fisher, FR, Villanova
Big things are expected right out of the gate for Fisher, the reigning New Jersey Prep Player of the Year. His presence on the Villanova roster is the only reason you won't see Scottie Reynolds on this list.
8. Tory Jackson, SO, Notre Dame
When news broke of Kyle McAlarney's suspension, the common belief in the college basketball world was that what had appeared to be a season destined to end in the NCAA Tournament was doomed to head in the opposite direction. Enter Jackson. The electrifying freshman averaged six assists per game after becoming a starter, and starred on the league's biggest stage, single-handedly keeping the Irish close in the Big East Tournament semifinals against Georgetown. He's a streaky shooter at best, but his ability to get into the lane at will makes him one of the most valuable guards in the league.
7. Johnny Flynn, FR, Syracuse
Syracuse's fate in the conference in its first year without Demetris Nichols, Daryl Watkins, and Terrence Roberts will depend heavily on Flynn's ability to adjust to the college game. The Orange need Flynn and fellow freshman Donte Greene to produce immediately to take some of the pressure off of junior Eric Devendorf.
6. Levance Fields, JR, Pittsburgh
Fields is the unquestioned floor leader who averaged 9.2 points and 4.6 assists, and boasted an impressive 2.41-1 assist-to-turnover ratio for the Panther team that advanced to the Sweet 16 a season ago. He reportedly dropped around 20 pounds in the offseason, a move that should work to his advantage as Jamie Dixon will likely try and push tempo now that Aaron Gray has moved on. Without Gray, Antonio Graves and Levon Kendall, Fields will be relied on to shoulder a heavier load of the scoring, something he did plenty of when he was the New York prep Player of the Year in 2005. He was arrested and charged with one count each of aggravated assault, disarming a police officer, disorderly conduct and public drunkenness after he had to be taken down with a taser during an incident outside a night club in September, but he's not been suspended for any games.
5. Darris Nichols, SR, West Virginia
Kentrell Gransberry has become the generic answer to the question of who the most underrated player in the Big East is, but in my opinion there isn't a player in the conference more underappreciated than Nichols. He was one of the main reasons the Mountaineers were such a pleasant surprise last season, averaging 10.9 points and hitting 42 percent of his three-point attempts, while handing out 165 assists and turning the ball over just 48 times. Nichols thrived in John Beilein's four-out, one-in motion offense, and just how well he adapts to Bob Huggins' decisively different offensive philosophy will be interesting to watch.
4. Eugene Harvey, SO, Seton Hall
Harvey is a pure scorer who averaged 16.5 ppg as a freshman, and is expected to become more of a playmaker now that Bobby Gonzalez has added some talented post players to the Pirate roster. He plays at a fevered pace, which is perfect for Gonzalez's up-tempo style of play, and his ability to draw contact and get to the stripe - where he shoots 83.9 percent - is huge. If the Hall surprises this season it means Harvey will have had a monster second year.
3. Edgar Sosa, SO, Louisville
Sosa could finish anywhere from 1-15 on this list at the end of the season and I wouldn't be particularly surprised. Cardinal fans are banking hard that the former Rice High School star's progress as a big-time college point guard continues as rapidly as it did last season, when he went from looking unfailingly lost in December to scoring 31 points in the second-round of the NCAA Tournament. He's never going to be a consistent shooter so the scoring will come and go, but where Sosa really needs to improve is his 89:66 assist-to-turnover ratio. Sosa has all the skills necessary to be one of the best point guards in the country, how soon he figures out how to put all the pieces together is the only unknown variable.
2. Jonathan Wallace, SR, Georgetown
The perfect fit for JT III's Princeton-style offense, Wallace is intelligent, poised, and one of the best pure shooters in the conference. He averaged 11.4 points and 3.1 assists for the national semifinalists last season, and led the Big East in three-point percentage, hitting 49% of his attempts from beyond the arc. A guard's stats are never going to be overly attractive under Thompson, but Wallace fulfills his role as well as any floor general in the country.
1. Dominic James, JR, Marquette
James' sophomore season was widely considered a disappointment only because he'd set the bar so high for himself as a freshman. Still, if the junior - who announced he would be returning to school on June 17 - doesn't show marked improvement in the areas of shooting and decision making then Marquette figures to underachieve. James is as athletic as any guard in the country, and if he makes a concerted effort to get to the basket as opposed to settling for the outside shot then he'll be a legitimate Wooden Award candidate.