Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Big East Breakdown — Otto Porter Jr. on Track For Player of the Year; JT3 Leading for Coaching Honors; Five Storylines; Weekly Honors; Power Rankings
I texted every coaching staff in the Big East Monday morning and asked for their votes for Big East Player of the Year.
Not a single coach gave a name other than, “Otto Porter (Jr.).”
Actually, one coach said he wasn’t allowed to respond (he’s a stickler for league rules), and another coach declined to name his pick at this point.
Every other school picked Porter Jr. without hesitation. (Georgetown won’t be allowed to vote for him in the real vote.)
A year ago, we broke the news that Marquette’s Jae Crowder would be named the Big East Player of the Year, so sorry to spoil the fun again this year.
But barring some unforeseen circumstances in the final three regular-season games of the year, the Georgetown sophomore will take home Big East Player of the Year honors.
And deservedly so. He just put up a career-high 33 points Saturday as Georgetown beat Syracuse, 57-46, in the final Big East game between the rivals at the Carrier Dome.
For the season, the 6-foot-8 Porter Jr. is averaging 15.9 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists. And oh by the way, his team is currently in sole possession of first place in the Big East and ranked No. 7 in the latest AP Poll.
In his last 12 games, he’s averaging 18.9 points while shooting 51 percent from the field and 45 percent from 3.
Really, no one else is in the mix for Player of the Year.
Earlier in the season, Louisville’s Peyton Siva and Russ Smith, Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams and Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick were options, but Porter Jr. has just separated himself from the pack.
Porter Jr. also has impressed NBA scouts and players.
“Porter is very highly thought of,” one veteran NBA scout told SNY.tv. “Good physical tools, long and athletic. Great demeanor. All business. Improving daily.”
In an exclusive interview with SNY.tv, Carmelo Anthony said of Porter Jr.: “If he has a chance, if he’s a top 10 pick, I definitely think he should come out.”
As for Big East Coach of the Year honors, sentiment seems split between John Thompson III of Georgetown, Buzz Williams of Marquette, Jay Wright of Villanova and Jamie Dixon of Pitt.
JT3 got the most votes in our informal poll, but things could change.
“Too close,” one veteran Big East coach said.
Keep in mind that Georgetown was picked fifth in the preseason poll and is currently alone in first place.
Villanova was picked 12th and is on the brink of an NCAA Tournament appearance.
As for Big East Rookie of the Year honors, I didn’t poll the coaches on it, but my educated guess would be St. John’s forward JaKarr Sampson, who has won Big East Rookie of the Week honors six times already.
If he wins Rookie of the Year, it will mark the second straight year a Steve Lavin-coached player has won that award. Moe Harkless, now with the Orlando Magic, captured it last season.
***FIVE STORYLINES1. Georgetown enters this week’s action alone in first place in the Big East at 11-3 in league play. The winner of tonight’s Syracuse-Marquette game (7 p.m., ESPN) will join the Hoyas with 11 league wins. The Syracuse-Marquette loser will have its first back-to-back losses of the season.
2. Villanova visits Seton Hall at 9 p.m. on ESPNU in search of its 10th conference win. Among active Big East members, 124 of the 130 teams (94.6 percent) that won at least 10 league games went on to reach the NCAA tournament.
3. Joe Lunardi currently has seven Big East teams in the Big Dance, not including Villanova. St. John’s (16-11, 8-7) needs to win two of its final three league games to get to the 10-win threshold. Their final three games are at Providence, at Notre Dame and home to Marquette.
4. The top 10 seeds in the Big East Tournament have been locked up, meaning the bottom four must play on Tuesday, March 12. That group includes Rutgers, DePaul, Seton Hall and USF.5. Seton Hall has dropped nine in a row and Rutgers nine of 10. The Jersey teams play each other once more, March 8 at Seton Hall.
***WEEKLY HONORSBIG EAST Player of the WeekOTTO PORTER, Georgetown, F, So.
Porter helped the Hoyas claim sole possession of first place in the BIG EAST standings as he scored 33 points with eight rebounds and five steals in a 57-46 win at Syracuse in front of an NCAA on-campus record crowd of 35,012. The win snapped Syracuse’s homecourt winning streak at 38 games — the longest active streak in the nation — and it gave Georgetown its ninth consecutive victory. Porter added 11 points, three rebounds and two steals in 20 minutes in a 90-66 win against DePaul.
BIG EAST Rookie of the WeekD’VAUNTES SMITH-RIVERA,Georgetown, G, Fr.
Smith-Rivera averaged 20.0 points and shot 55 percent from the field in Georgetown’s two wins, helping the Hoyas extend their winning streak to nine games to put them in sole possession of first place in the BIG EAST standings. He scored 33 points on 10-of-12 shooting in a 90-66 win against DePaul and had seven points with four rebounds in a 57-46 win at Syracuse.
BIG EAST Honor RollSHABAZZ NAPIER, Connecticut, G, Jr.
Averaged 27.5 points and shot 55.6 percent from the field in wins against Cincinnati and DePaul.
GORGUI DIENG, Louisville, C, Jr.
Scored 23 points on 10-of-11 shooting with eight rebounds in a win against Seton Hall.
TRAY WOODALL, Pittsburgh, G, Sr.
Averaged 18.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists in a 1-1 week.
LADONTAE HENTON, Providence, F, So.
Averaged 16.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in a 1-1 week.
C.J. FAIR, Syracuse, F, Jr.
Averaged 16.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in a 1-1 week.
1. Georgetown (21-4, 11-3)
2. Syracuse (21-5, 10-4)
3. Louisville (22-5, 10-4)
4. Marquette (19-7, 10-4)
5. Notre Dame (22-6, 10-5)
6. Pittsburgh (21-7, 9-6)
7. UConn (19-7, 9-5)
8. Villanova (18-10, 9-6)
9. Cincinnati (19-9, 7-8)
10. St. John’s (16-11, 8-7)
11. Providence (15-12, 7-8)
12. Rutgers (13-13, 4-11)
13. DePaul (11-16, 2-12)
14. Seton Hall (13-15, 2-13)
15. USF (10-16, 1-13)
PREVIOUS BIG EAST BREAKDOWNS
Week 1: Click here
Week 2: Click here
Week 3: Click here
Week 4: Click here
Week 5: Click here
Week 6: Click here
Week 7 : Click here
Photo: Daily Orange
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.