2022-23 Conference Previews: Big East
With the start of the college season rapidly approaching, the No Ceilings crew preview some of the key conferences and players to watch for the coming season. Up next: The Big East.
The college basketball season is rapidly approaching, but we here at No Ceilings have already kicked off our season in style. After releasing our Preseason Guide and new merch in our No Ceilings store, we could have decided to slow down until early November. However, that’s just not how we roll over here. The crew gathered to preview the biggest conferences in college basketball, along with highlighting some potential mid-major stars. Up next: the Big East.
1. Ignore “consensus” boards and Twitter groupthink. Who is the best NBA prospect in this conference?
Nathan: This is easily Cam Whitmore, as I’m sure everyone else will go with here, but there isn’t a ton of thinking to do about it. He’s a 6’7” forward who has a rare combination of perimeter skill and power that is perfectly suited to complement an NBA team’s idea of small ball. He defends multiple positions, rebounds, can make quick decisions, and is difficult to stop around the basket. If the Villanova product proves the outside shot is in his bag, he’ll challenge as high as anyone else for the spots available behind Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson.
Rucker: Cameron Whitmore. If you haven’t watched Whitmore yet, you’re in for a treat this year at Villanova. The only buzzkill is he recently underwent thumb surgery, meaning his debut will be a little postponed. But when Whitmore hits the floor, he has the tools to be a highlight machine. He attempts to break the backboard every time he has a clear lane to drive. If everything falls into place and continues to blossom, Whitmore is going to be in the conversation for a Top 3 selection.
Metcalf: Cam Whitmore.
Nick: Cam Whitmore. It’s a bummer that he’s going to miss the start of the season for Villanova, but he is all but a guarantee to hit the ground running once he does get back on the court. His international play this summer was a revelation, and he will mount a challenge for a Top 3 spot in this draft if he can carry over that dominant play to the Big East.
Albert: Cam Whitmore is THE MAN. I can’t wait to see him little brother everyone in this conference.
Stephen: You can say whatever you want in response to this, but I think Cam Whitmore can push for some second overall pick conversations. He has a rare combination of power and grace that can help him get to wherever he wants on the floor. I’m a believer in his shooting too. He’ll rebound and defend with the best of him. If Villanova can continue to be a university that preaches and teaches ball movement and making excellent reads, Whitmore could help push this class to be one of the best of all time.
Maxwell: Cam Whitmore. He’s got the strength and mobility to guard multiple positions, he’s really starting to see the floor better, and I think he’s going to become a respectable shooter. His domination of the all-star game circuit cannot be overlooked.
Paige: Villanova’s Cam Whitmore. Whitmore is incredibly explosive and powerful enough that he legit could take the rim down every time he gets to the hoop. He’s capable of being more of a three-level scorer, and adding more consistency to his shot, especially from three, will only improve his dominance in that area. Spoiler alert: I currently have Whitmore going third on my board.
Evan: It’s Cam Whitmore for me as well. There’s not much to dislike about the Villanova freshman’s game. I echo everyone else’s sentiments, Whitmore is a freight train in the open floor and easily one of the most explosive athletes in the class, but he’s also a skilled defender, playmaker, finisher, and an improving shooter. It will be hard to make an argument against him being a Top 5 selection going into this year.
2. Admittedly, one of the most satisfying parts of analyzing the draft is being able to look back and say “psh, about time you guys took notice of him. I’ve been hyping him up for ages.” Who is the prospect that you are irrationally high on?
Nathan: Kam Craft. Remember that name. The 6’6” freshman guard coming into Xavier was incredibly productive from deep as a high school senior, canning 44% (!!) of his triples. He’ll challenge Gradey Dick out at Kansas for the best shooter in his class, and if more of the scoring package translates on top of opportunities given, he could make some legitimate draft noise and become a riser.
Rucker: I’ve found myself way too excited about Xavier’s Colby Jones this year. After jumping down a rabbit hole this offseason, I found myself intrigued with the 6’6” wing. Jones might not put up the biggest numbers on a regular basis, but I absolutely love the way he plays the game.
Metcalf: I’ve been inflating the Arthur Kaluma stock since he was in high school and don’t plan on stopping now. Kaluma had a really strong end to his freshman season and is viewed by many as a preseason top-20 guy, so he may not be as much of a sleeper as this section calls for. I don’t care. He’s really good and could easily be a top-10 guy come draft time.
Nick: Last year was not exactly a banner year for him, but I refuse to sell any of my Kadary Richmond stock. He’s still an absolute menace defensively, and his 27-point performance against UConn last season showed what he can do offensively when he’s at his best. He was inconsistent offensively, to say the least, but the elements of a defense-first NBA rotation guard are still there–especially if he can double his volume from three-point range again this season and remain in this mid-30s percentage-wise after taking many more attempts from deep last year than he had at Syracuse.
Albert: Give me all the Jordan Hawkins stock, please. I think Hawkins treats scoring like breathing. It’s not something he ever thinks about, it just happens for him. As his body fills out his scoring will only become more dynamic. Write his name down in your scouting notebook in permanent marker.
Stephen: I love Andre Jackson out of UConn. I know he isn’t the only–or maybe even the primary–prospect on his own team, but I think his role as a “connector” in the NBA is a very clear path that he could succeed in at the next level. He moves the ball very well and has great ball placement. He cuts and slashes with conviction, and made some real strides as a shooter last year. His versatility gives him some juice as a draftable prospect as a Junior.
Maxwell: Trey Alexander at Creighton. He wowed me early last season with his craftiness and ability to get to his spots. He became a much better distributor and started to hit more shots down the stretch. There’s an NBA combo guard in there.
Paige: UConn’s Adama Sanogo. Sanogo is a strong, athletic, and shot-blocking big man at 6’9” and has a ton of NBA potential IF he can extend his shooting range, develop more as a playmaker, and improve his quickness on the defensive end when switched on to faster players. I really like Sanogo’s productivity down in the post, and I do think he can be a mid-to-late second round pick this year.
Evan: Marquette’s Olivier-Maxence Prosper. This kid’s motor doesn’t stop on either end of the floor and he’s got all the physical tools you’d want a wing defender in the NBA to have. However, where the junior forward can really help his draft stock this season is by continuing to showcase his ability as a catch-and-shoot threat from beyond the arc, and as a slasher getting to the bucket. If he can display that two-way potential on a consistent basis, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Prosper go in the second round of next June’s draft.
3. Unfortunately, there are two sides to that coin, and they do not have equal probabilities. Which prospect do you like but think has the most likely chance of failing to meet expectations?
Nathan: I get all of the Colby Jones buzz. He’s a wing with real length and poise, plays at a good pace, and can make things happen for others around him. I love his potential defensive versatility, but I need to see more offensive juice out of Jones on a consistent basis. If he can find a way to get active off the ball, knock down corner threes at a good clip, and keep balancing his play in pick-and-roll, it can come together. Right now I don’t buy enough of the outside shot which is why I wouldn’t have him in first-round conversations just yet.
Rucker: UConn’s Andre Jackson has some moments on the court where you quickly look for the remote to try to re-wind what you just saw. While the flashes are exciting, I’m worried that they cannot be more consistent. The hope is that Jackson takes a big step forward and becomes a sensational prospect with plenty of upside ahead of him. I’m just worried this could be fool’s gold and we will find ourselves constantly waiting.
Metcalf: David Jones. He showed some really interesting stuff last season, but he has to be more consistent. Now in a new environment at St. John’s, Jones needs to show that he can produce at a similar level but much more consistently.
Nick: Xavier’s Colby Jones. He has the frame and instincts to be a really solid defender on the wing, but I’m really worried about his outside shot. He could easily make me look foolish, but I want to see more from him offensively before I buy into him as a first round prospect.
Albert: I’m with Rucker on Andre Jackson. That dude can influence the game with his aggression and athleticism at any moment. I just don’t know if there’s enough there for him in terms of skills for him to really stick with an NBA team. I hope he can do it because he’s so fun to watch!
Stephen: Wet blanket alert! Jordan Hawkins is making a ton of noise as a sure-fire first round talent this season, but I’m just not there with him in the preseason. He is being labeled as an NBA shooter, and I can see some of that to his game, but what else can he do? He’s listed at 6’5” but plays smaller. His handle isn’t that of a lead guard, and I don’t think it will be enough to take guys off of the bounce. His playmaking needs to show real improvement, and I think his defense will keep him from seeing the floor at the next level. It’s preseason, but I look at him in the early-to-mid second round range right now.
Maxwell: I was intrigued by David Jones when he played at DePaul, but I worry greatly about his fit at St. John’s. There is a dearth of shooting around him that will minimize his capabilities as a driver and he’s inconsistent off the catch. I wish he’d gone somewhere else, but I hope he proves me wrong.
Paige: St. John’s David Jones. There’s not really a doubt that Jones will get buckets at St. John’s, but the question pertains to his consistency. If he can improve his three-point percentage to anywhere between 31-35% (29.7% last season at DePaul) and get to at least 8-10 rebounds per game (7.4 last season), then I wouldn’t be surprised to see his name higher up on draft boards.
Evan: I think some people are really high on Creighton’s Baylor Scheierman as a first round talent and I just don’t see it currently. The South Dakota State transfer isn’t even the best pro prospect on the Creighton roster this season. I don’t hate his potential at the next level, but I don’t see him as a Top 30 player in this class whatsoever.
4. The shiny new thing is always the most enticing to go after, but there is always a ton of value in older prospects. Based on their previous college seasons, which returning player are you most excited to watch and has the best NBA potential?
Nathan: Arthur Kaluma is going to be an absolute problem in college basketball this year. The 6’7” sophomore forward has real footwork getting downhill as well as operating out of the post, is improving as a three-point shooter, has touch on floaters, rebounds, and is tough as nails on the defensive end. I see a lot of similarities between him and OG Anunoby as far as being enticing complementary options with more in the tank every now and then. NBA teams are very aware of Kaluma, the question is how high are they willing to draft him?
Rucker: I mean, Arthur Kaluma is going to be the “upperclassmen” poster boy for the 2023 class. I absolutely love the growth in confidence from the end of the 2021-22 season to his play overseas this summer. Creighton is going to have a potential wagon this year and Kaluma should be the engine that makes it run.
Metcalf: I’m a big Brandon Slater fan. The Villanova wing showed a much improved three-point shot for most of last season. He’s a versatile defender and smart player. If that shot takes another improvement, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t find some way onto an NBA roster.
Nick: I’ll add on here to the Arthur Kaluma hype. He’s not the highest upperclassman on my board, but he’s pretty close to it–and he’s the highest-rated upperclassman in the Big East, in my opinion. He has the size and defensive chops to succeed on the wing in the NBA, and further improvements to his three-point shooting could result in him making a push for the lottery by the end of the season.
Albert: I don’t think Posh Alexander is an NBA prospect. I do think he’s unbelievably fun to watch at times. Alexander is the quintessential NY point guard in a lot of ways. The man is shifty, loves attacking the rim, and is really physical. I know I failed at answering this question because I don’t think he’s an NBA prospect but I don’t care. Rules are for the weak.
Stephen: Arthur Kaluma! NBA Front Offices exercised great poise and patience by not guaranteeing Kaluma a promise to be taken in this past draft, as he had a meteoric rise towards the end of the season and into the tourney. He’ll have a heck of a squad around him that can space the floor and provide good help defense, which opens driving lanes and allows him to play intense defense. Oh, and he can shoot? Yeah. I’m in.
Maxwell: Jordan Hawkins. He’s savvy with the ball, he can shoot, and he plays tough defense 1-3. He’ll get more opportunities on the ball this year, and I think he’s ready for it.
Paige: Creighton’s Arthur Kaluma. Kaluma is the definition of what an NBA wing should look like body and size wise. He boasts a 7-foot wingspan at 6’7” and has tons of offensive upside, but he has some work to do on the defensive end and on his shooting mechanics (his shot looks a little off in my opinion). If he can do that, I can see Kaluma possibly being a late lottery pick. He also does give off Mikal Bridges vibes just solely on his size and length (Mikal takes the defense crown here, though).
Evan: I don’t have a whole lot to add to the Arthur Kaluma love. Creighton’s sophomore star is a prime candidate to have a huge second season that solidifies himself as a lottery talent in this draft class.
5. Whether it’s Anthony Edwards dropping 37 points against Michigan State or Austin Rivers ripping the heart out of UNC fans or De’Aaron Fox vs. Lonzo Ball, fans are provided with mesmerizing matchups and performances every season. Which matchup, whether team vs. team, player vs. player, or player vs. team, are you most looking forward to?
Nathan: I want to see a healthy Villanova squad go up against Creighton this year. The Wildcats have multiple forwards to throw at Arthur Kaluma including Cam Whitmore and Brandon Slater, and rising freshman guard Mark Armstrong could turn some heads this year and will be a good matchup for Ryan Nembhard and Trey Alexander in the backcourt. Definitely a must-see matchup in my book.
Rucker: Creighton vs Villanova should be the popular answer here. Kaluma vs Whitmore should be just a real treat for all.
Metcalf: Creighton vs Villanova. Kaluma vs Whitmore. Alexander vs Slater. Nembhard vs Daniels.
Nick: Arthur Kaluma vs. Cam Whitmore. The matchup between their Creighton and Villanova squads will be awesome overall, but I’m really looking forward to evaluating Kaluma and Whitmore when they (hopefully) line up against each other. As two of the top forwards in this class, those two will turn heads whoever they play against, so watching them face off should be a great test of their respective abilities.
Albert: St. Johns vs Georgetown? SIKE. Creighton vs. Villanova is the only correct answer. Let’s be serious, guys.
Stephen: Creighton vs. Villanova should be a heck of a matchup. The shooting of Creighton is going to be so much fun to watch, so they naturally make for a great matchup for the ball movement and physicality that ‘Nova can play with this season. Who wouldn’t want to watch Cam Whitmore and Arthur Kaluma square off?
Maxwell: Villanova’s Cam Whitmore vs. UConn’s Andre Jackson. Both are stout defenders who love to attack the basket, and something has to give when they face off.
Paige: Villanova vs. Creighton. Cam Whitmore vs. Arthur Kaluma. Who’s ready?
Evan: Villanova vs. Creighton. Having a chance to see the freshman backcourt duo of Cam Whitmore and Mark Armstrong battle against Arthur Kaluma and a stacked Creighton squad, should be appointment viewing in the Big East this season.
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