Thursday, December 24, 2015

Five BIG EAST freshmen to watch for in conference play

The holiday season hits its peak tomorrow with Christmas Day and that means one thing— conference play in the BIG EAST is right around the corner and begins on Dec. 30.

With non-conference play wrapping up this weekend, here are five freshmen who could have an impact in the BIG EAST.

1) Xavier guard Edmond Sumner:

Off to the best start in school history at 12-0, the Xavier Musketeers have returned a ton of talent, but a diamond in the rough has surfaced in Edmond Sumner.

Summer has emerged as the Musketeers' second leading scorer with 11.7 points per game and tops the team in assists with 3.3 per game. 

The reigning conference freshman of the week has shown the knack to command an offense, while displaying the ability to make shots on the perimeter— a trait in which most freshman guards have a difficult of time balancing transitioning from high school to college.

The redshirt freshman's best game came in Xavier's 78-70 win on the road at Wake Forest, with a game-high 21 points, on 6-of-13 from the field and dished out nine assists.

2) Marquette forward Henry Ellenson:

This one was a little easier to predict with the hype of Henry Ellenson being Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski's biggest recruit in the off-season.

Thus far, the McDonald's All-American has lived up to the hype of being the ultimate two-way player averaging a near double-double with 16.7 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.

Ellenson's biggest strength thus far has been the ability to run as the point forward of the offense. Sure, he's not flashy, but shows enough to make defenses second-guess whenever he runs the floor and can create on the spot.

While the 6-foot-10 forward's perimeter shooting leaves a lot to be desired at 27 percent this season, the ability to drive to the basket forces defenses to stay honest at all times and can create matchup problems if opponents are not aware of the all-around skill set.

3) Villanova guard Jalen Brunson:

After being named the BIG EAST preseason Rookie of the Year, Jalen Brunson has backed up the high expectations and then some.

Brunson has started all 11 games and is fourth on the Wildcats in scoring with 10.7 points per game.

The biggest strength of the guard's game has been the ability to penetrate and draw fouls as he leads the team in free throw attempts per game at 2.7 (24-of-30 makes).

Expect Brunson to be tested out of the gate as the undefeated Xavier Musketeers come to town on New Year's Eve for a Noon ET showdown.

4) St. John's center Yankuba Sima:

Despite starting the season at 7-6, one of the few bright spots for the St. John's Red Storm has been the emergence of Yankuba Sima.

Sima's only double-double on the season came in a 63-56 win over St. Francis (Brooklyn) on Dec. 6 with 17 points and 10 assists.

A hawk on defense, Sima leads the Red Storm in rebounds with 7.0 per game. 

5) DePaul guard Eli Cain:

Coming into the season flying under the radar, Eli Cain has broken out as the unsung hero for the DePaul Blue Demons.

In DePaul's 82-61 upset of No. 20 George Washington on Dec. 22, Cain scored 16— his second highest total this season, to go along with five rebounds.

Cain has played in all 12 games and averaged 8.8 points per game. 

On Dec. 7, Cain was named the BIG EAST Freshman of the Week with an average of 15.5 PPG and shot 70.6 percent from the field against Illinois-Chicago and Chicago State.

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