Monday, January 5, 2009

All Big East Team Candidates -- Last Hurrah?

When I went through each Big East team's OOC stats during Christmas week I was looking for candidates for the post season All-Big East teams (in part anyway, I also just wanted to see who was having a good season so far). I confess I came up with a list of about 28 -- and that did not include freshmen nor the eleven who were named to the preseason list. Maybe it is my imagination, but I believe there have been an awful lot of very good performances in the conference so far this season. I decided, rather than dumping a table of 28 names with accompanying statistics into a single post, to break the pool down by common factors and similar prospects, etc. The first group ("The Most Likely To..." cohort) was posted yesterday. Over the next few days I would like to look at former All Big East Rookies and a mixed group of (except by their fans) overlooked sophomores and juniors (and a senior transfer).

Senior Leadership & Maturity...
While anything is possible, these five face fairly long odds on making the All-Big East First Team (status quo ante for the preseason team members). They are having terrific seasons so far however, and for several of them there is a scenario or two that, if played out, might land one or more on that First Team. As it is now, they present very strong credentials for the Second/Third Teams.

Wesley MatthewsMUG/FSr77.525.354.31.2884.470.3
Weyinmi EfejukuPCGSr69.825.157.81.2432.227.8
Ryan AyersNDUFSr72.021.461.
Alex RuoffWVUGSr71.725.259.81.2326.018.7
Dominic JamesMUGSr72.920.550.01.0138.419.6

The players were sorted by PPWS (points divided by FGAs and FTAs, see John Gasaway's Big Ten Wonk post for a more detailed explanation), as an indication of efficiently the player posts points/scores when he has the ball, and then by Shot% (for an indication on the player's offensive role). Note that all of the players are logging 70% or more of the playing time, so the player's role and value are well established (there are a good many senior riding the pine -- the conference is that good). James was on the All-Rookie team and has annual appearances on the First or Second Teams his sophomore and junior seasons.

A Few Words About Each...
Wes Matthews...the third of Marquette's three "Golden Guards" and according to the fans, the late bloomer. As each of McNeal and James have had their time in the spotlight, this is supposed to be Matthew's time in the sun. And so far he is doing his best to live up to the billing. Best games so far include a 30 point night against Tennessee which included 18 trips to the charity stripe (he hit 15-18) and a 28 point night against Dayton (also a Marquette loss) in which he shot 14-17 from the free throw line. In Marquette's two Big East games Matthews has scored 36 points on 9-16 (3-5), 15-18 shooting. Two players (much less three) from the same team may be improbable, but if McNeal wins conference POY and Marquette finishes very strong (seeded #2 or #3 for example -- above where most anticipate they will finish), the voters may be sufficiently impressed to give a second Marquette guard the nod. In any event, if Matthews continues to post those numbers throughout conference play the Golden Eagles should grab a very good seed in the NCAAs.
Weyinmi Efejuku...a prolific but streaky scorer with a reputation for being very, very good or very, very bad. Efejuku entered with another heralded freshman class that included wing/forward Geoff McDermott, Jon Kale and point guard Sharaud Curry. McDermott seems to have played injured for 3+ seasons, logging some nice offensive numbers early in his career, but more content to play point forward last season and so far this season. Curry was a red shirt last season, and that leaves Efejuku and Kale to make this season their last hurrah. Kale is posting better numbers this season, but Keeno Davis' offensive systems seems to suit Efejuku to a "T", as he has moved inside just a bit and hit 61% of his 2s through the OOC. His best games so far include 21 points against Rhode Island on 8-14 (1-4), 4-4 shooting (his eFG% was 60.7) and and 18 points against Jackson State on 6-7 (0-1), 6-6 shooting. Through two Big East games Efejuku has scored 26 points on 9-18 (6-10), 2-2 shooting.
Ryan Ayers...spent most of his career in Rob Kurz's shadow. This season he has stepped into Kurz's starting spot, and on a team that has both Luke Harangody and Kyle McAlarney (and only one basketball...) Ayers has done well getting his touches (about 15% of the possessions and 20% of the shots as of 1/1/09). No mean feat. I don't see him getting to the 1st team, but if Notre Dame puts another top quartile season together Ayers has a great chance for some 2nd/3rd team recognition. His best games so far include a 35 point night against South Dakota State (12-20, 9-14, 2-2) and a 19 point effort against Furman (8-13, 3-6, 0-0). Through two Big East games Ayers has scored 16 points on 6-13 (4-11, 0-0) shooting.
Alex Ruoff...has picked up Joe Alexander's scoring responsibilities at West Virginia. Both he and Alexander red shirted at one point, but Ruoff fit into Beilein's offensive schemes while Alexander struggled. Last season working with Huggin's offense Alexander blossomed and Ruoff seemed to struggle as he looked for his role. Ruoff has had a number of impressive games so far, including the night he torched Radford for 38 points in 37 minutes. He also logged a 25 point game against Delaware State, and a 17 point game against Ohio State. In the Mountaineers lone Big East game so far against the Hall Ruoff posted an 18 point effort (4-6, 2-4, 8-8).
Dominic James...was the first of Marquette's guards to spend time in the limelight. James was named to the Big East All-Rookie team and was touted for the NBA pretty consistently through his first two seasons. His shot has been a bit inconsistent last season, while this season he seems more focused. Maybe he will recapure enough of the excitement from his freshman year to boost his prospects at the next level. Good enough, and respected enough to make one of the "All" teams this post season. Some of his best efforts this season include an 18 point, 6 assist night against the NC State Wolfpack, a 16 point, 8 assist effort against Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a 15 point, 5 assist night versus Central Michigan. In two Big East games James has scored 26 points on 9-24 (5-16, 8-12) to go with 7 assists.

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