The wait is almost over. Almost. Half the year has dragged on without college basketball, and our appetite for hoops is enormous.
Today, we feast on the Big East.
Best player: Allazia Blockton, Marquette
An athlete who does one thing well is valuable; an athlete who does multiple things well is invaluable.
Last season, Blockton led the Big East in scoring (17.1 points per game), finished sixth in rebounding (6.0 rebounds per game), and also cracked the Top 10 in assists per game (3.2 per game).
Allazia Blockton doing what she does best: GETTING TO THE BASKET! pic.twitter.com/YLBDeWHbh9— Marquette WBB (@MarquetteWBB) March 6, 2017
Hers is an all around game, and a refined one: she shot a solid 47.1 percent from the field in her second season, and knocked down 77.1 percent of her free throws on 131 attempts. She scored 120 points more than any other Golden Eagle, leading Marquette by example.
There are other stellar scorers on different teams in the league, like Creighton’s Audrey Faber, but there isn’t anyone in the Big East producing in nearly every category the way Blockton does.
Best team: Marquette
Talk about a team built for success. The Golden Eagles are the defending Big East tournament champions, and with a roster littered with talent and experience, they should be the regular season champions this season with ease.
All four of Marquette’s double-digit scorers from last season return this year as juniors, led by Blockton. Natisha Hiedeman, a stellar three-point shooter, returns with all 13.9 of her points per game from last season, while Erika Davenport, a threat to drop a double-double on any night, brings back her paint-clearing dominance. And, for good measure, the team’s best outside shooter, Danielle King, returns her 11.1 points per game and 39.3 percent three-point shooting as well.
The one thing the Golden Eagles could work on? Defense.
(But a good offense is a good defense, right?)
Again: those four are all juniors, not seniors. Which means, no matter how good the Golden Eagles are this season, they should be just as good, or better, next year.
Spoiler... they’re going to be really good.
Sleeper team: Creighton
It feels a little funny to call what will probably be the second-best team in the conference a “sleeper,” but after losing Marissa Janning and Brianna Rollerson to graduation, the Bluejays will need to dig deep (Audrey Faber, Sydney Lamberty) if they want to challenge for league supremacy.
Thankfully, they return studs in Audrey Faber and Sydney Lambert. Faber is the premiere standout on the Bluejay’s roster this season; after averaging 13.0 points per game and showing herself to be wildly productive both from deep (38.6 percent) and the free throw line (83.1 percent), Faber is a player who excels at the modern brand of basketball.
Faber’s an efficient scorer, she grabs 4.5 rebounds per game, and she cut her turnovers down from 83 as a freshman to 57 as a sophomore while playing effectively the same number of minutes.
Lamberty, meanwhile, enters her senior season following the best shooting year of her career. She averaged a solid 9.4 points per game, and will look to contribute even more with Rollerson and Janning gone.
Freshman to watch: Qadashah Hoppie, St. John’s
Hoppie is by far the Johnnies’ most exciting freshman heading into the season. Standing just 5-foot-7, Hoppie is able to create for herself against taller opponents, as evidenced by her big high school senior year in which she averaged nearly 16 points per game while still dishing out a few assists as well.
Whether it’ll take time for Hoppie to adjust to the size and skill level of the college game remains to be seen, but once she gets up to speed, she’ll be a huge piece of the Johnnies’ offense for years to come.