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Film Study: The Big East

This month on 'P.I. Pulse,’ Pro Insight’s Esayas Gebrekidan highlights over 100 college basketball players to watch after pouring through countless hours of film throughout the 2022-23 NCAA season and over the summer:

Ahead of last season, we analyzed a number of college basketball’s top returners and transfers via Film Study. Since it was a productive exercise and so well-received — we upped the ante this season. Over the next week, we’ll be publishing written analysis and video breakdowns on over 100 college players. Across each Power 6 conference and amidst Mid-Majors, who are the top returners? Transfers? How about those primed for a breakout season? We've got you covered. Stay tuned later this month for plenty of content on freshmen, as well.

With that said, let's get to it — we will continue with the Big East:

Top Returners

Trey Alexander

6’4” Guard | Creighton | Junior

There were plenty of stretches last season when Trey Alexander looked like the best player on the floor. His return gives the Bluejays a big time scoring threat but also another ball handler. He will take on a bigger role in the offense and look to take on a greater playmaking role which will have a chance to boost his draft stock come June.

Alexander can do it all offensively — score off the dribble, play off the ball, and handle lead guard duties — all while remaining efficient and effective while playing within the offense. He improved his shooting from 3, connecting on 41% of his attempts in 2022-23, up 13% from the season prior. Alexander gets his shots off in a variety of ways, too — in pick and roll offense, he connected on 40% of his field goals and on catch-and-shoot looks he knocked down 42%. This ability to hit the 3 at a high level forces defenders to close out hard, and when that happens, Alexander looks to beat his man off the dribble with a shot fake to get into a mid-range jumper, where he shot a very respectable 47%, last season. He has averaged 2.5 APG for his college career, and processes the game well while making smart decisions as he finds cutters, rollers and shooters.

Alexander plays with effort and energy on D, he fights over screens, plays solid man defense, and is great off the ball, too. He held opponents to 36.1% shooting from the field and 30% from range as a sophomore, showing an ability to move laterally and use his length to contest. He also does a great job playing in the gaps, stunting and forcing opponents into turnovers with active hands and length.

Donovan Clingan

7’2” Big | UConn | Sophomore

Playing behind arguably the top big in the nation a season ago, Clingan played very well in his limited role. In his 13.1 MPG, Clingan averaged a productive 6.9p-5.6r-1.8b and posted a 65.5 FG%. Heading into 2023-2024, a season filled with massive expectations and an inevitably higher usage rate, a look back at his 2022-23 per36 minute numbers should excite Husky fans: 18.9p-15.4r-1.3a-4.9b.

Clingan excelled in his limited offensive role and part of that success can be attributed to his 2 o-boards/game, which created easy second-chance opportunities for himself. Per Synergy, as a freshman, Clingan converted 58.3% of his put-backs which accounted for 25% of his total offensive possessions. Clingan consistently moves without the ball, setting strong screens to not only get teammates open but to generate buckets, himself. He has proven to be highly efficient and effective on cuts, as he converted 76.1% of such attempts, last season.

Clingan genuinely pops as a rim protector. His big frame and outlandish 7'7” wingspan allows him to consistently contest shots, as opponents shot just 39% on attempts at the rim in 2022-23. He posted a 14.3% block percentage, good for #20 in the country. Clingan also does a great job positioning himself for rebounds, properly leveraging his sheer size, strength and weight to carve out space. Although teams look to create mis-matches with smaller players, Clingan — although inconsistently — has displayed an ability to defend and hold his own in isolation situations. In pick-and-roll coverage, he does a good job hedging, playing long and recovering to his man.

Bryce Hopkins

6’7” Forward | Providence | Junior

Hopkins’ move to the Big East proved to be a success as he embraced Coach Cooley's physical style of play on both ends of the floor and was the go-to scorer on the offensive end as he led Providence to the NCAA tournament in 2022-23. At a listed 6’7” and 220 pounds, he brings good size, a strong frame and a valuable skillset. He displayed various intriguing aspects of his game en route to his 15.8 PPG, 8.5 RPG and 2.3 APG output a season ago.

Hopkins is a high-volume scorer who can get his in a variety of ways and at multiple levels, but he can also create for others. His ability to make triples (36.4%) really helps open up the floor for the rest of his floor game. Although he lacks elite separation off the dribble, he has shown some shiftiness and does an effective job at using his body to create contact, allowing him to finish through defenders or to pull-up for a mid-range jumper. His ability to initiate and finish through contact — which yielded six trips to the free throw line per game, last season — will continue to pay dividends. Hopkins is also a noteworthy threat coming off hand-offs, screens and cuts, where he converted 55% of the time in 2022-23.

On defense, Hopkins is physical and has the ability to defend multiple positions. He can sit, slide and stay with his opponent on drives and also does a nice job utilizing his body to bump them off of their spots. He’s proven to be a commendable rebounder, as well, having averaged 6.8 defensive RPG in 2022-23, often using longer rebounds as an opportunity to kick ahead in transition or to lead the break, himself.

Oso Ighodaro

6’11” Big | Marquette | Senior

At 6’11”, Ighodaro is an interesting prospect to watch — he possesses legit size, plus-length and offers versatility on both ends. Offensively, he plays with great pace and elite movement off the ball. As a roll man in 2022-23, he converted 78.7% of his attempts in the paint and 87.6% when he slipped the screen, showing good touch around the rim. Per Synergy, Ighodaro finished the season ranked in the 97th percentile on points per shot (PPS), converting 75.3% of his FG at the rim. For a player who has not attempted a 3 during his career, Ighodaro posted an excellent TS% of 65.2% and an eFG% of 66.2% that ranked #7 nationally a season ago. At his size, Ighodaro has feel and a high BBIQ as a creator, averaging 3.3 APG. He assisted on 19.1% of his team’s FGA in 2022, all while limiting his turnovers (just 1.2/game).

Ighodaro’s ability to defend 1-through-5 makes him one of the most versatile players in the country. He’s not a terribly physically-imposing presence, but he leverages his length well on D. As the primary defender, Ighodaro held opponents to 28% shooting from 3 and 39.1% from the field throughout his junior season. He has a good understanding and feel defensively, moves well laterally, he can stay in front of anyone, and does a great job playing long and limiting fouls.

Kam Jones

6’5” Guard | Marquette | Junior

Jones has good size, a strong frame and has been extremely versatile during his time at Marquette. During the 2022-23 season he became a full time starter, doubled his points, rebounds and assists, and finished the season by being named to the All-Big East Second Team.

Jones is a more-than-capable ball handler, with pick-and-roll possessions accounting for about one quarter of his offense. Beyond PnR, he’s displayed an ability to come off the screen to shoot or get down hill and into the paint. On no-dribble 3s, Jones converted an impressive 43.5% as well as 42.5% of his open catch-and-shoot looks. Last year, he got stronger and did a better job playing and finishing through contact, converting nearly 70% of his attempts at the rim. An improved creator, he’s also displayed an ability to get others involved, routinely finding teammates on drive-and-kicks, via pocket passes out of pick-and-roll situations, or by making the extra pass as the defense rotates.

Jones is an adequate defender who moves well laterally and uses his length effectively but could be more active in applying ball pressure. His versatility and ability to switch makes Marquette’s defense tough to handle. If he's able to tap into another gear on the defensive end, it would expand his game and overall effectiveness.

Ryan Kalkbrenner

7’1” Big | Creighton | Senior

In his three seasons at Creighton, Kalkbrenner has grown in certain areas of his game and looks to have another strong season for the Bluejays. In the post, which accounts for over one-third of his possessions, he seals his opponent, playing wide and long, allowing his teammates to deliver passes away from the defense before finishing at a high clip around the rim. Kalkbrenner finished last season with a TS% of 76.5 and an overall FG% of 69.5, good for #3 nationally. Knocking down 31% of his three-point attempts last season was an area of major improvement for him, and continued development in this category could really help boost his draft stock. For added context, in catch-and-shoot three-point attempts, he nailed 37.5%.

Kalkbrenner is a big body in the paint and with his reported 7’5” wingspan, he deters opponents from driving. The reigning 2x Big East Defensive Player of the Year is also an elite shot blocker and rim protector who ranked #18 in the country in blocks per game. He utilizes his length to his advantage and plays vertically while holding opponents to 44.9% FG on attempts at the rim. At first glance, Kalkbrenner's rebounding numbers may not accurately reflect his size, but that's because he prioritizes contesting shots and often puts himself out of position. Even so, expect an uptick from his 6.1 RPG in 2022-23.

Tyler Kolek

6’3” Guard | Marquette | Senior

Kolek has helped lead Marquette to the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back seasons, won the Big East regular season championship and followed that up by winning the conference tournament. His individual accolades from a season ago include Big East Player of the Year, First Team All-American and a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award. Not a bad résumé for your returning point guard.

At 6'3”, Kolek may lack some of the more sought-after athletic tools but has an elite feel and understanding of the game. His ability to control the pace makes him a major catalyst in Marquette’s success. An elite creator and facilitator, he has ranked in the top-10 nationally for total assists and assists per game in both of the last two seasons. With elite court vision, he is able to see the floor and break down the defense off the dribble, finding his teammates with precision via pocket passes, drive-and-kicks, and dump-offs. Averaging a career high 7.5 APG last season, Kolek assisted on 40% of Marquette’s FGM. He is a highly-skilled three-point shooter, having connected on nearly 40% of his attempts from beyond the arc as a junior, with that number improving to 42.6% on catch-and-shoot attempts.

Kolek is an adequate defender who plays with great energy and effort. As the primary defender, he held opponents to 34% FG and 29% 3FG in 2022-23, both of which are improvements from his sophomore season. Kolek has good instincts, as he has averaged 1.5 SPG for his college career, regularly getting his hands on balls, causing deflections and forcing turnovers.

Baylor Scheierman

6’7” Forward | Creighton | Senior

A season ago, Scheierman made my list of top college basketball transfers to watch. He stepped into his role at Creighton and was an instrumental piece in Creighton’s run to the Elite 8. Scheierman finished the season averaging 12.8p-8.3r-3.3a-1.0s, shot 36.3% from 3 and showed a willingness to step up his effort and intensity on the defensive end. Offensively, he picked up where he left off at South Dakota State, remaining a focal point of the offense with his ability to function both on and off the ball.

In 2022-23, on catch-and shoot-attempts from 3, Scheierman's hit rate increased to 38.5% 3FG. On the move, he does a great job coming off screens and rising up into his J, knocking down 35.7% of those attempts last season. An area of his game that doesn’t get enough attention is his ability to create — since becoming a full-time starter his sophomore year, he’s averaged 3.9 APG, showcasing his court vision and willingness to get his teammates involved.

Joel Soriano

6’11” Big | St. John’s | Senior

Soriano was named the Big East’s Most Improved Player and to the All-Big East Second Team in his second year in Queens. He led his team in points (15.2), rebounds (11.9) and blocks (1.4) per game, finishing the season ranked #3 in the USA in RPG, posting 22 double-doubles, which ranked #2 in the country.

Soriano got back to the basics last season and was a major force on the offensive boards for the Johnnies. Ranking #3 nationally, he crashed the glass and bullied opponents in the paint to the tune of 4.4 offensive RPG in 2022-23, converting 55.3% of his attempts on the o-glass. He has shown good touch around the rim and in the paint over the years, connecting on 59.2% of his attempts in the half court as a junior. He does an effective job using his wide frame to carve out space and bury opponents in the paint but will need to do better finishing through contact, moving forward. Soriano has expanded his range, as well, stepping out and knocking down 12-17 footers, converting 41.6% of his mid-range attempts. Although St. John’s has struggled historically from three, he showed promising signs as a creator last season, making reads out of the post as he was doubled and sometimes triple-teamed throughout the year.

Soriano does a great job protecting the paint — in his first season at St. John’s, he held opponents to 42.2% FG in the paint. He followed that up in year two, by holding opponents to just 38.7% FG in the paint. This is due to a combination of his post defense and his awareness as a help defender. Although his average of 1.3 blocks per game may seem pedestrian, he is an effective help defender who deters drives and contests attempts at the rim while playing vertically. Soriano also excels as a rebounder, using his strong frame to hold off opponents, evidenced by his 7.5 defensive RPG in 2022-23, good for #9 in the country.

Top Transfers

Steven Ashworth

6’1” Guard | Creighton | Senior

Ashworth is a great fit for Coach McDermott's fast-paced system, as he can play effectively on or off the ball while providing reliable floor spacing and an ability to be a consistent playmaker for his team. A career 40% three-point shooter at Utah State, he knocked down a career-high 43% 3FG on a healthy 7 attempts per game last season, ranking #6 in 3PT% and #15 in attempts nationally. Although Ashworth can struggle to finish at the rim, converting only 47.5% of his attempts in 2022-23, he helps balance things by shooting an impressive 56% from mid-range.

Off the ball, Ashworth has excelled coming off hand-offs, converting 60% of his attempts at the rim and 75% of his mid-range attempts resulting from a hand-off. He has improved as a creator year over year and averaged 4.5 APG last season, showing his high BBIQ and decision making while ranking #26 nationally in A:TO.

TJ Bamba

6’5” Guard | Villanova | Junior

Bamba is one of four transfers Villanova is bringing in to help get them back to the NCAA tournament. Playing in a system that thrives off of ball movement and cutting, Bamba can step in and make an immediate impact on the offensive end. The Wildcats will benefit from his ability to swing the momentum of games with his scoring and as a playmaker off the dribble. Last season at Washington State, he shot 37.2% 3FG and on catch-and-shoot attempts that rose to 47.9%. He’s also historically demonstrated his ability to initiate offense in pick-and-roll situations, using his body to create contact with the primary defender as he engages the big, getting to his floater with ease.

Tyler Burton

6’7” Forward | Villanova | Senior

Coming off a year at Richmond in which he averaged a career-high in points and assists, Burton will look to make a case for himself on a national stage with his transfer to Villanova. At 6’7”, he boasts good positional size, a strong frame and plus-length. Despite the down year shooting the ball a season ago (29.3 3FG%), he shot 36%+ from 3 in both his sophomore and junior years.

Burton will be surrounded by creators and playmakers this season, so a big shooting year is plausible. He has excelled as a cutter throughout his college career and last season was no different, as he converted 80.6% of his attempts off cuts. Burton has also displayed an ability to put the ball on the deck as he attacks closeouts to get to the rim. He’s a functional athlete and has improved his finishing at the rim, especially through contact.

Burton is a good team defender, particularly off the ball, playing the gaps and cutting off driving lanes as he generates deflections and steals. With his size and frame, he has the physical tools to be a better on-ball defender than he’s shown — look for him to silence some of the chatter surrounding his point of attack defense. He’s a respectable rebounder as well, having averaged 6 defensive RPG since his sophomore season, a valuable trait considering his comfort level initiating the break after a rebound.

Jordan Dingle

6’3” Guard | St. John’s | Senior

One of the most coveted prospects in the portal, Dingle's arrival at St. John’s provides the Red Storm with one of the best scorers in the country over the last two years and a dose of instant offense.

At 6'3”, Dingle has good size, elite scoring ability, and is someone who can create offense as a secondary playmaker who also bends defenses with his off-ball movement and mature pace. An elite scorer, he brings three-level bucket generation as he shot 35.6% from 3, 48% from mid-range and 58.8% in the paint in 2022-23. His ability to manufacture offense in a variety of ways makes him one of the most lethal offensive threats in college basketball. Dingle does a great job operating off the ball and is capable of making things happen in an efficient manner at multiple levels via hand-offs and cuts.

Dingle is a tough defender who embraces playing with physicality. As the primary defender in 2022-23, Jordan held opponents to just 25% shooting from 3 and 33.7% overall from the field — quite the foundation for Coach Pitino to work with, considering how much Dingle brings to the table on the offensive end.

Jesse Edwards

6’11” Big | West Virginia | Senior

As a full-time starter with Syracuse, Edwards averaged 13.4p-8.7r-1.3a-1.3s and 62.8% FG in 2022-23. The big man possesses positional size and length, plays with a high motor, and is an elite finisher in the paint.

Offensively, Edwards does a great job finishing at the rim. He can score in the post, does an effective job cutting, and is a plus-offensive rebounder. Last season, he averaged 3.2 offensive RPG, converting 77.8% of his put-back attempts. He is an excellent pick-and-roll option, rolling hard to the rim after setting screens and converting at a high rate (71.4% as a roller in 2022-23). According to Synergy, Edwards ranks in the 97th percentile for transition offense points per possession, excelling as a rim runner, consistently beating opponents up the floor.

We will quickly learn how effective he will be in the West Virginia defensive scheme, but there are a few tangibles that Edwards provides that will immediately help his new program. First and foremost, Edwards' ability to provide instant rim protection and shot-blocking makes him a valuable addition to any team. Over his last two seasons, he’s ranked in the top-10 nationally with an average of 2.8 blocks per game. Addiotionally, Edwards' defensive rebounding will also play a role in his team's success as he ranked #13 in the country in defensive rebounds per game in 2022-23.

Chris Ledlum

6’6” Forward | St. John’s | Senior

Ledlum’s move to St. John’s bolsters an already intriguing roster that is almost entirely overhauled from a season ago. At 6’6” and 225 pounds with a strong frame, Ledlum will provide valuable versatility on both ends of the floor with his ability to play a stretch-4 role and defend all over the court.

Ledlum was a vital part of Harvard's offense in 2022-23 as he averaged 18.1p-8.8r-1.4a-1.8s. He will be adjusting to a new role for Coach Pitino, but less could end up being more for him. He shot 29.4% from 3 last season, which jumped to 34.3% in catch-and-shoot situations and all the way to 42.9% coming off screens. In limited possessions as a cutter, he did a great job playing off the ball, converting 63% FG at the rim. Ledlum is an active offensive rebounder as well and has averaged 2.1 offensive RPG for his college career.

Ledlum is as versatile as they come — especially defensively — as he can defend every position, if called upon. He does a good job playing the gaps as he plays man and ball, and closes out to shooters on drive and kicks. He has a good nose for the ball as he has averaged 7 defensive RPG throughout college. His ability to protect the rim is an underrated aspect of his game as he’s averaged less than 1 BPG, but he does a great job using his big frame and playing vertical, changing more shots than the numbers might indicate.

Josh Oduro

6’9” Forward | Providence | Senior

Oduro put together a stellar career at George Mason and like many other mid-major players transferring up, he will now have the ability to showcase his game on more of a national level, for a program coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance.

On the offensive side of the ball, Oduro does plenty of things well — for starters, he’ll provide Providence with a reliable interior piece. In the post, he is a physical presence, embracing contact as he bumps, pushes and looks to carve out space down low. He has good footwork near the hoop and scores in a variety of ways, where he shot 53.4% in 2022-23. Over time, he has also expanded his game, embracing shooting from behind the arc as well as from mid-range. Oduro will immediately step in and provide rebounding on both ends of the floor, too — on the offensive end, he does a great job on cleaning the glass, coming off a season in which he averaged 2.2 offensive RPG and converted 70.6% FG of his put-backs.

Oduro will continue to be the interior presence he has been throughout his career at George Mason using his 6’9”, 240-pound frame to make it hard for opponents to score over or through him. He does a good job moving opponents off the block and is hard to back down. Over the last two seasons, he has shown an ability to defend along the perimeter as well as in pick-and-roll coverage on switches.

Primed to Breakout

Desmond Claude

6’6” Guard | Xavier | Sophomore

Claude is coming into the season with high expectations due to flashes of two-way potential last year as a role player during Xavier’s Sweet 16 run. He is a high-level athlete with a mature frame, using it to his advantage on both sides of the ball.

Offensively, Claude showed encouraging flashes left and right — especially while getting downhill — but there is room to grow, especially as a shooter and on-ball playmaker. With so much offensive production turning over with the roster, look for Claude to take a step forward as a two-way guard with enticing potential in 2023-24.

Defensively, he excels as a point-of-attack defender, using his physicality, positioning and lateral quickness to disrupt opposing ball-handlers. His strength allows him to withstand contact and maintain his balance, which helps with him while contesting shots. Furthermore, Claude held his opponents to under 40% shooting as a freshman, even more impressive considering he was often assigned the first or second-best offensive player, last year.

Alex Karaban

6’8” Forward | UConn | Sophomore

Karaban is one of multiple Husky returners from 2022-23, a season in which he played an instrumental role in helping UConn win the National Championship.

On the offensive end, Karaban made his mark as a three-point specialist and heady floor-spacer as a freshman. With the majority of his shot attempts coming out of catch-and-shoot situations, his ability to space the floor allowed UConn to play inside-out. Karaban shoots a soft ball and is always ready to shoot it off the catch: on unguarded catch-and-shoot attempts last season, he converted 48.8% of the time. He is a capable and reliable pick-and-roll option, as well, with his ability to roll to the rim or stop and pop. Although on limited attempts, he flashed some three-level scoring potential, converting 57.1% at the rim and 66% from mid-range.

Karaban was often targeted by opponents looking for ways to create mismatches on the defensive end of the floor, last season. He more than stepped up in such situations, playing with smarts, energy and effort as he held opponents to 26.5% from 3, 25.7% from mid-range and 33% at the rim.

RJ Luis

6’7” Guard | St. John’s | Junior

In Luis’ lone season at UMass, he went from an under-recruited prospect with upside to starting 10 games, averaging 11.5p-4.6r-1.3a-1.1s, and becoming a crucial component for his team.

Offensively, Luis can do a little bit of everything: he can score, make plays, handle the ball, and crash the glass. Further, he is a capable shooter from 3, having connected on 34% 3FG in 2022-23. On catch-and-shoot attempts last season, he converted 37.5% of the time; on unguarded attempts, that number increased to 50%. A true multi-level threat, Luis generated 65% of his points at the rim a season ago, displaying an ability to finish through and around contact.

Luis holds his own on the defensive end of the floor and at 6’7” with good size and length, he is a versatile defender who can switch and defend multiple positions. As the primary defender in 2022-23, he held opponents to 32.7% FG and 29% 3FG, using his length to really disrupt opponents.


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