We are now two weeks in the 2016 Big East conference season, so what have we learned?
Villanova, which is 4-0, still reigns supreme. Xavier rushed to a top 10 national ranking but really misses point guard Edmond Sumner, whose been absent the last two games with a head injury and will likely miss the Musketeers’ next contest versus DePaul.
St. John’s and its cast of newcomers has predictably struggled, but won’t suffer the ignominy of a winless conference slate — the Red Storm have outhustled and nearly gutted out wins versus Marquette and Xavier. And the Golden Eagles’ Henry Ellenson and Luke Fischer form a frontcourt scoring juggernaut, but the real surprise has been Haanif Cheatham, the freshman wing who is connecting on 57 percent of his twos in Big East play.
A few other notes on the conference:
Jessie Govan is criminally underrated. Only two Hoyas are scoring one point per possession: LJ Peak and Govan, Georgetown’s 6-foot-10 freshman. He has notched double-digits that last three league games, including 12 during Saturday’s win against DePaul. So what separates Govan from the other highly-promising underclassmen? His ease within the paint.
Despite his size, Govan is nimble and is noticeably comfortable handling the ball in traffic. He is capable of taking opposing bigs off the dribble and then using his size and surprising hang time to finish at the rim, but within the Hoyas’ offense, he also functions as a pick-and-roll relief valve.
He’ll fade to the perimeter and then, with as about an uncomplicated looking shot as one will find in conference play this season, he’ll connect from deep (83 percent in conference). This perimeter touch helps space the defense, and open lanes for the Hoyas’ guards.
According to Ken Pomeroy, Govan is most often paired with LJ Peak, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Reggie Cameron, and Isaac Copeland (this lineup is the second-most utilized by coach John Thompson III), a group that scores 1.14 points per possession, per HoopLens.com. When measured against the Hoyas’ frequent lineup, which swaps Cameron for Marcus Derrickson and Govan for Bradley Hayes (16.5 percent of GTown’s possessions), the PPP drops significantly to 0.94 PPP.
Creighton is an early season surprise. Well, four games into Big East play and I feel a bit silly.
In advance of tomorrow’s #BEmediaday, my projections: Nova, Butler, Xavier, GTown, MU, Seton Hall, Creighton, PC, SJU, DePaul (…)
— Matt Giles (@HudsonGiles) October 13, 2015
The key has been Mo Watson, a sub 6-foot point guard and ex-Boston Terrier whom I don’t think anyone expected, outside of Greg McDermott, thought would be THIS good. His assist rate ranks 10th nationally, per KenPom, and is wreaking havoc amidst opposing defenses, who struggle to keep the guard in front and out of the lane.
The majority of Watson’s assists are the result of made three-point field goals, the result of being surrounded by three Blue Jays who have attempted at least 50 threes and are converting more than 38 percent of those looks.
The impact of Yankuba Sima’s injury. It’ll be interesting to see how St. John’s continues Big East play without the 6-foot-11 Sima. Kassoum Yakwe slid into the starting lineup versus Marquette, and the rust has clearly begun to vanish for the 6-foot-7 frosh — 9 points, 11 rebounds, and six blocks.
While Sima was a talented shotblocker, he was woefully adequate on the defensive glass, grabbing just 16 percent of opponents’ misses, and his offense is practically non-existent. Which is fine, but to take some defensive pressure off Federico Mussini and Durand Johnson, the Johnnies need to find someone who can at least feign to be an interior scoring threat.
According to Hoop-Math.com, Yakwe’s two-point field goal percentage (not at the rim) is second on the team (43.8 percent), and Yakwe has shown an ability to finish above the rim with more regularity than the other Red Storm bigs.
Matt Giles is a freelance college basketball writer who has written for the New York Times, Deadspin, New York Magazine, the Washington Post, and Vice Sports. Follow him @HudsonGiles.