Ladies and gentlemen, it's Guard Day here at South Orange Juice. With Big East Media Day tomorrow (!), my final Big East Best post will drop tonight at 6 PM. That one will cover the point guards.
For now, we look at the 2-guard position. It's a mighty deep position in this conference this year, and there are a lot of 2-guards who can creep up to at least the honorable mention section, so let's get it started!
2010-11 stats: 11.1 PTS, 2.7 REB, 2.9 AST, .419 FG%, .842 FT%, .333 3P%
That other guard whose name rhymes with "Loop" up in Syracuse may get most of the credit, but Brandon Triche has flown under the radar a little bit (a very little bit) because said other guard has the better numbers.
But the Orange tend to win when Triche scores. When he does score, it comes in bunches and almost without warning, like he has a switch in his head or something (last year's game at Prudential Center comes to mind, when he nailed three three point shots in the 2nd half after an invisible first half). He's one of the best in the conference at letting the game come to him, letting the game determine what Syracuse needs him to do. He's a good defender, and that's his calling card, but he's far from one-dimensional. He who gets the numbers gets the publicity, but Triche isn't wired like that.
4. Kyle Kuric
2010-11 stats: 10.8 PTS, 3.9 REB, 1.2 AST, .514 FG%, .758 FT%, .449 3P%
Kuric exploded on the scene in the final game at Freedom Hall when the Cardinals knocked off then #1 Syracuse with 22 points in the second half. Last year, he put up some truly heinous numbers, shooting over 50% from the field and almost 45% from deep. He also showed Notre Dame's Scott Martin who's boss by dunking on him in transition, a play which made everyone stand up and say "DAYUMN that kid can JUMP!" Kuric was a little one-dimensional in his scoring last season, but I don't expect that this year. Many experts are predicting a breakout year, and I don't blame them. He's got the touch and the surprise athleticism to do it, and he's the leading returning scorer at Louisville, so you can be he'll get the touches to do it as well.
2010-11 stats: 15.3 PTS, 3.0 REB, 2.4 AST, .433 FG%, .708 FT%, .364 3P%
The man they call DJO in the land of the cheddar had a little bit of a down year shooting the ball. But that's the thing- a down year shooting the ball for Johnson-Odom is a good year for a lot of guards.
Johnson-Odom is a better shooter than he showed last year, and it may have been the fact that he was the go-to guy for the Golden Eagles- defenses paid much more attention to him and thus the shooting numbers dropped. He still led Marquette in scoring and is probably the best player in the conference that no one talks about. He drove to the basket more last season, and showed some versatility in his game that will help him this year. He's the focal point again for Buzz Williams, so perhaps he'll get some of that publicity that's not come to him so far.
2. Jeremy Lamb
2010-11 stats: 11.1 PTS, 4.5 REB, 1.6 AST, .487 FG%, .797 FT%, .368 3P%
He was Robin to Kemba Walker's Batman last season, but this year he'll be the favorite to replace Walker as the go-to guy for Jim Calhoun thanks to an impressive freshman campaign where he didn't play like one. Lamb showed that he can shoot from deep, drive to the basket, draw fouls and hit the foul shots, and rebound and defend very effectively because of his freakish length. He's a tough guy to guard, and word is that he's bulked up a little. He'll be double-trouble this season for the opponents of the Huskies, even on a loaded UConn squad featuring a few players on my Big East Best list.
1. Ashton Gibbs
2010-11 stats: 16.8 PTS, 2.4 REB, 2.8 AST, .468 FG%, .889 FT%, .490 3P%
If Kuric's stats were heinous, Gibbs' numbers were out of this world. The New Jersey-native is nearly automatic from both behind the arc and the free throw line. Checking the percentages will tell you that, but seeing him shoot in person is quite the spectacle. He's the best shooter in the conference because of the ease with which he shoots. Smooth in all situations, Gibbs is one of the deadliest weapons the Big East has to offer.
The main question facing him in regards to his professional career is his ability to play the point guard position (since he's undersized for an NBA two-guard). The loss of Brad Wanamaker leaves Pitt without its biggest playmaker from last year. Will Gibbs play more point guard? How will he fare as Pitt's unquestioned best perimeter scorer if he also has to handle the ball? Gibbs can't really create his own shot off the dribble at this point, so it remains to be seen what Jamie Dixon will do. My hunch is he'll do the right thing with Gibbs, but what that is remains a mystery.
Still, Gibbs has to be first on this list.
Honorable Mention: Sean Kilpatrick (CIN), Scott Martin (ND)