Part 2 of LWOS’ Big East All-Time series is here with the final five teams. The most successful program since the conference went to 10 teams is featured here, as well as a look at some more Hall of Fame players and coaches.
Big East All-Time Series Part 2
Best Team: 1986-87
Under the guidance of Rick Pitino, the Friars were a Cinderella story in the 1987 NCAA Tournament as a six-seed. The Friars beat UAB, Austin Peay, Alabama, and conference mate and No.1 seed Georgetown to make it to their second Final Four. Their run would end against another conference rival, as they lost to Syracuse.
Best Player: Jimmy Walker
Jimmy Walker is one of the most underrated basketball players of all-time. He was the NCAA season scoring leader in 1967 (averaging a whopping 30.7 points per game) and was a consensus first-team All-American in 1966 and 1967. Walker, the father of Jalen Rose, averaged 25.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists in his three seasons at Providence.
Honorable Mention: Kris Dunn, Marvin Barnes, Ryan Gomes
Best Coach: Dave Gavitt
Dave Gavitt, who is perhaps better known as the creator and first commissioner of the Big East, first cut his teeth as a coach and was arguably the best coach in Providence history. A basketball visionary, who also was part of the committee that put together the 1992 “Dream Team”, Gavitt registered a 209-84 record with the Friars, while taking them to five NCAA Tournaments and an appearance in the 1974 Final Four.
St. John’s Red Storm
Best Team: 1984-85
With a core of Chris Mullin, Walter Berry, Bill Wennington, and Mark Jackson coming off the bench, St. John’s was as talented a team in the 1980s. Too bad Georgetown foiled their quest at a title in the 1985 Final Four. St. John’s finished the season at 30-4 and three of those losses came against Georgetown.
Best Player: Chris Mullin
Mullin is the school’s all-time leading scorer with 2,440 points — and without the benefit of a three-point line no less — and was one of college basketball’s most lethal scorers. Mullin is a three-time Big East Player of the Year and the John Wooden Player of the Year in 1985.
Honorable Mention: Malik Sealy
Best Coach: Lou Carnesecca
The lovable Lou Carnesecca was an icon at St. John’s and for 27 years he routinely had the program in the thick for Big East crowns and NCAA Tournament bids. He compiled a 726-526 record while taking the Red Storm to 18 NCAA Tournaments, while also capturing an NIT title in 1989.
Seton Hall Pirates
Best Team: 1988-89
Under the auspices of P.J. Carlesimo, Seton Hall stunned some people when they advanced to the 1989 NCAA Championship. The Pirates received a three-seed while toppling Missouri State, Evansville, Indiana, UNLV, and Duke before losing a heartbreaker to Michigan in the finals.
Best Player: Terry Dehere
Terry Dehere came to Seton Hall just after its Final Four run and in his three years at the school, he put up a boatload of points, while making the Pirates one of the premier teams in the early 1990s. He is the program’s all-time leading scorer (2,494 points), and the leader in most three-point makes and attempts. Dehere was a first-team All-Big East member and the Big East Player of the Year in his senior season.
Honorable Mention: Myles Powell
Best Coach: P. J. Carlesimo
Until Carlesimo got to Seton Hall, the Pirates had never made the NCAA Tournament. That all changed under his watch, as he guided the Hall to six NCAA appearances. He started 6-23 in the 1982-83 season, his first as coach. But by the time he left Seton Hall, he had amassed a 212-166 career coaching record.
Best Team: 2017-18
While the 1984-85 and 2015-16 squads had magical rides en route to their captivating titles, the 2017-18 squad was perhaps the best-assembled Villanova team from top-to-bottom. When that team boasts four first-round NBA Draft picks (Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo, Omari Spellman, and Mikal Bridges), another NBA player (Eric Paschall) and another fine player in Collin Gillespie, well this tips the scales in their favor.
Best Player: Kerry Kittles
Although he never achieved the ultimate glory as some other notable alums, Kerry Kittles was a fantastic player in his four years with the program. He is the school’s all-time leading scorer (2,223 points) and steals leader (222 steals). Kittles was a consensus first-team All-American in his senior year and a consensus second-team All-American as a junior.
Honorable Mention: Ed Pinckney
Best Coach: Jay Wright
While Rollie Massimino put Villanova on the map with the championship run in 1985 and a legend all his own, it’s hard to argue with the current skipper in Jay Wright taking this honor. Wright has two titles, an additional Final Four appearance, two Sweet 16 appearances and one Elite Eight appearance in his 19 years at Villanova. Wright has a 72.1 winning percentage (471-182) at the school and seems like a cinch for the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Best Team: 2007-08
Picking out the best Xavier team was a tough exercise. The Musketeers have never advanced past the Elite Eight and they have reached that plateau three times, as well as an additional five Sweet 16 appearances. However, the 2007-08 squad was probably the best team from top-to-bottom and the one who played with the most consistency. With a 30-7 record and a balanced squad with no true superstar, coach Sean Miller got the most out of this squad before they lost to UCLA in the Regional Final.
Best Player: Byron Larkin
Byron Larkin, who is MLB Hall of Famer Barry Larkin’s brother, is by a large margin Xavier’s all-time leading scorer (2,696). In his four years at Xavier, he led the Musketeers to three NCAA Tournament appearances, and it was in his time that the program truly became a veritable force on the college basketball scene.
Honorable Mention: David West
Best Coach: Chris Mack
This was just about the hardest decision to make in this entire project. How do you choose between Mack, Sean Miller, Thad Matta, Skip Prosser, and Pete Gillen? None of these coaches have lasted longer than nine years on the job. That Mack amassed a 68.9 winning percentage and equaled Miller with taking the Musketeers the farthest they have ever advanced (the Elite Eight), Mack gets the slight edge. And he also coached his last five years in the Big East, which is a much tougher conference to coach in than any of his predecessors had to endure.
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