Hey, all! Big East Media Day is just around the corner, but before we get into that, I'd like to do a little segment I like to call "Big East's Best," in which I'll break down the top-5 players at each position in the conference (along with honorable mentions). I'll deal with one position each day (5 to 1). Commenting and discussion is encouraged, as always.
The Big East lost a lot of the players who would have made this list last year, so it's a new year in more ways than one. We begin with the centers, the bruising bigs who carve out their living in the paint.
5. Gilvydas Biruta, Rutgers
2010-11 stats: 9.6 PTS, 5.6 REB, .529 FG%, .723 FT%
Biruta had a strong freshman season, finishing second in scoring and tied for second in rebounding at Rutgers while giving them a physical force inside the paint that the Scarlet Knights had not seen in a long time. What held him back last year (predictably) was foul trouble- he only played 22 minutes per game. But he should fix that some this season, while anchoring the Scarlet Knights in the paint (and making his free throws to boot).
4. Deniz Kilicli, West Virginia
2010-11 stats: 6.6 PTS, 4.0 REB, .486 FG%, .567 FT%
Yes, Kilicli hasn't put the stats up on the board (yet), but make no mistake about it- the center they call the "Istan-Bull" down in Morgantown is the strongest player in the conference. There aren't that many great centers left in the Big East, as the game has transitioned from big-oriented to guard-oriented. Kilicli isn't all brute force- he has a reliable baseline lefty hook shot as well. I put him above Biruta because they are similar players, but Kilicli has the edge in experience. The matchup between Biruta and Kilicli this year is one I'd like to see.
3. Mouphtaou Yarou, Villanova
2010-11 stats: 8.4 PTS, 7.0 REB, 1.0 BLK, .498 FG%, .661 FT%
Yarou is the ideal new-age center- with emphasis on length and shot-blocking rather than girth and ability to score in the post. Yes, Yarou can't score in the post, but he got many dump-off passes down around the basket and finished at a high rate. He's a solid rebounder and a good defender/shotblocker and one of the better free throw-shooting bigs in the conference who should have another solid season on the Main Line.
2. Andre Drummond, UConn
2010-11 stats: N/A
Everything I've heard about Drummond indicates that he belongs in this spot. He can do everything- score, rebound, defend, block shots- that you'd want a big man to do, with the only drawback being that he hasn't dominated like he should. With a guy like that, the stats, and the wins, will come.
1. Yancy Gates, Cincinnati
2010-11 stats: 11.9 PTS, 6.9 REB, 1.3 BLK, .511 FG%, .579 FT%
As good as Drummond may be, he's not the best. That belongs to Bearcats center Yancy Gates. He led Cincinnati in scoring last year while demonstrating an improved ability to score the ball while also leading the team in rebounding. He can also block shots and is a load down low to deal with because of his sheer mass and skill. When it comes to Big East centers, he's the class of the class.