Day 2 of the Big East's Best series deals with the power forwards, and this is a position that has undergone the most transformation over the last few years in the game of basketball, with the "face-up" power forward now prevalent all throughout the sport.
Here are the best Fours in the Big East:
2010-11 stats: 14.3 PTS, 5.0 REB, 1.0 STL, 1.5 BLK, .522 FG%, .667 FT%
Melvin shocked everyone last season, emerging as a freshman to lead the Blue Demons in scoring and tie for second in rebounding en route to Big East Rookie of the Year honors. Melvin thrived in Oliver Purnell's up-tempo system, using his gazelle-like athleticism to score efficiently in transition. But Melvin's game isn't just running around- he has a reliable mid-range shot and he defends well with his length as well.
DePaul has a keeper down low for the first time in a long time with this youngster.
2010-11 stats: 13.4 PTS, 6.0 REB, .449 FG%, .702 FT%, .250 3P% (7-28 3P FGM)
Gilchrist has been the most important player for USF for a while now and it's because he's versatile. He can beat you down low, or out high with his jumper that he can extend to the arc. He finished second on the team in rebounding last season and led the Bulls in scoring.
He hasn't just been plagued- he's been terrorized by injuries in the last two years. This is now his senior season, and I look for him to once again lead the Bulls in scoring and be the most important player for USF. I hope he stays healthy for a full season (finally) because he's a great talent.
3. Jae Crowder
2010-11 stats: 11.8 PTS, 6.8 REB, 1.6 AST, 1.3 STL, .485 FG%, .616 FT%, .359 3P%
Coming to Marquette last year, Crowder was the reigning National JUCO Player of the Year. And he had a really good, yet under the radar season in Milwaukee for Buzz Williams and the Golden Eagles, finishing 3rd on the team in scoring and 1st in rebounding while providing about a steal and a block per game in addition to 1.6 assists.
Yes, Darius Johnson-Odom is the best player in the Big East no one talks about, but Crowder is in that discussion as well. And he's versatile and efficient- 49% shooting is nothing to sneeze at. Plus, can you name the 2nd most prolific 3-point shooter for Marquette last year behind Johnson-Odom? Yup- it was Crowder, who shot 111 threes and made 36% of them. He's one of those sneaky-good Marquette guys that always plays hard, and he deserves this spot.
2. Alex Oriakhi
2010-11 stats: 9.6 PTS, 8.7 REB, 1.6 BLK, .507 FG%, .630 FT%
Truth be told, Oriakhi would have been in my top-5 centers before Andre Drummond committed. Oriakhi plays more like a center, both offensively and defensively, because of his size and strength. He is a very good positional defender down low and can rebound and block shots as well. Offensively, he continues to be a bit limited, but I have a hunch he'll add something (maybe a baby hook) before he leaves Storrs. With his size now playing the 4, that should give many of the 4s in the conference a rude awakening.
1. Herb Pope
2010-11 stats: 9.8 PTS, 7.9 REB, 1.5 AST, 1.3 BLK, .419 FG%, .548 FT%
Before I get roasted for this pick, let me tell you this- Herb Pope is healthy this year and that means the numbers above are not really what Pope is capable of. For that, just look to his numbers from 2009-10: 11.5 PTS, 10.7 REB, 2.0 AST, 1.8 BLK. Pope two seasons ago was a force, averaging a double-double and leading the Big East in rebounding. He's skilled, able to take his man off the dribble and pass well out of the paint. He can block shots from the weak side and is a capable defender in the post. Finishing is an issue from time to time, free throw shooting continues to bother him and he's often in foul trouble, but his rebounding skills are second to none in the Big East.
He was far from healthy last year, but still managed almost 10 PTS and 8 REB. Now that Pope is healthy, in-shape and motivated (it's his senior year and he almost died last offseason), expect a good year from the Aliquippa native. If he's added a post move or two in the offseason, watch out. He's more than capable of getting 15 and 10 every night.
Honorable Mention: Roscoe Smith (UConn)