Who’s The Best Player in the Big East?

Feb 24, 2015; Villanova, PA, USA; Providence Friars guard Kris Dunn (3) is defended by Villanova Wildcats guard Ryan Arcidiacono (15) and guard Darrun Hilliard II (4) during the first half at The Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 24, 2015; Villanova, PA, USA; Providence Friars guard Kris Dunn (3) is defended by Villanova Wildcats guard Ryan Arcidiacono (15) and guard Darrun Hilliard II (4) during the first half at The Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

Since the conference realignment prior to the 2013-2014 season, many could argue that the Big East has been a shell of what it once was. Despite not having tremendous postseason success, the conference is still a powerhouse in its own right, sending six teams to the NCAA tournament last season: Villanova, Georgetown, Providence, Butler, Xavier and St. John’s.

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More than just being a competitive conference, the Big East boasts some elite college talent and even a couple NBA prospects. But, who’s the best out of them all?

It’s no surprise that three of the best teams in the conference, Villanova, Georgetown and Providence have three of the best players in the conference and that all three boast their own skillsets.

Let’s take a look at each one:

Kris Dunn, Providence

Dunn, projected as a fringe lottery pick in the NBA draft this past season, elected to return for his junior year and is arguably the best player in the conference, having already won Big East Player of the Year last season while posting per game averages of 15.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 2.7 steals (!) on 47 percent shooting from the field, 35 percent from the three point line and around 70 percent from the charity stripe.

His return bodes well for the Friars, as Dunn created offense at an elite level, finishing third in the nation in assists per game. He also regularly finished layups like this one:

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His only concerns seem to be a consistent outside shot and controlling the ball. Dunn needs to tighten his handle if he wants to be the clear cut best player in the conference, as he averaged a sloppy 4.2 turnovers per game last season.

Regardless, Dunn can get to the basket at will, using deceptive strength and elite explosiveness. He’s a matchup nightmare for every point guard in the Big East, and it’s what gives him the edge going into the season.

D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown

D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, affectionately known as DSR, isn’t just one of the best scorers in the Big East, he’s one of the best in the whole nation. He has a complete scoring repertoire that includes deadly contested three balls like this one:

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DSR’s scoring leadership should transition well to this season, as he returns as the team’s senior captain and leading scorer. Per game averages of 16.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals round out DSR’s numbers, but it’s his shooting averages from three and the free throw line that are particularly impressive: 39 percent and 87 percent respectively.

More than just a deadeye shooter, DSR elevates his game and can explode for 25+ points at any moment, doing so six times this past season. He also turned in nearly 20 points per game on the road and in neutral-court games.

The only knock against DSR is his ability to facilitate the offense as a true point guard; however, with rising sophomore Tre Campbell also on the squad and likely to see big minutes alongside DSR, it’s doubtful that will make too much of a difference.

Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova

Villanova’s point man took home a share of the Big East Player of the Year award with Dunn, somewhat controversially, but despite this, he is Villanova’s leader and a real threat from anywhere on the court. Though his per game averages are slightly lower than both Dunn’s and Smith-Rivera’s (about 10 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal), Arcidiacono was easily the best at controlling the game, boasting an impressive nearly four-to-one assist to turnover ratio.

Arcidiacono plays in an incredibly efficient and potent scoring offense, and it allows him to be hyper-effective with his touches, posting an impressive 119 offensive rating (points per 100 possessions), per Basketball Reference. He ran off screens very well all year in addition to being Villanova’s primary ball handler:

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Shooting an impressive 37 percent from deep, Arcidiacono must take on a greater offensive load this coming season with Darrun Hilliard leaving for the NBA. The question mark that surrounds him is simply whether or not he can produce in an elevated role. While Dunn and DSR had usage rates of 24 percent or higher, Arcidiacono has never been above 18 percent for his entire career. Granted, the Villanova offense lends itself to lower usage, but with Hilliard gone, Arcidiacono will need to be the go-to-guy.

While elite recruits are transitioning into their respective Big East programs, three upperclassmen point guards lead the way. And though Dunn projects to be the best NBA player without a doubt, don’t sleep on DSR. Electing to return to school after declaring for the draft, he has a lot to prove. So much rests on his shoulders as far as leadership goes, and given that he’s never been one to shy away from big moments, it would be no surprise to see D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera taking home Big East Player of the Year at season’s end.

Next: 30 Best Players in NCAA Basketball History

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