Freshmen Guards Omar Calhoun, Ryan Arcidiacono Playing Best in Thick of Big East Race

By Jared Mintz
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the season, neither the Villanova Wildcats or the Connecticut Huskies were thought to have had any chance at still being standing in the Big East at the end of February.

Well, I’m writing this the evening of February 25, and what do you know? UConn is currently 9-5 in the conference, while their foe is a respectable 9-7 after losing a heart breaker on the road against Seton Hall.

As moot of a point as UConn’s success may or may not be, it’s been a guard-heavy attack leading the way for first year coach Kevin Ollie’s ineligible bunch, who have won four-of-five. Big East Player of the Year candidate Shabazz Napier has teamed with backcourt mate Ryan Boatright to average 34.4 points per game (which is good for just under half of the team’s per game average), but more importantly, has made the nation forget you need height to be successful in this sport (which is a lie).

As if it wasn’t enough to have two electric scorers in the backcourt, freshman Omar Calhoun seems to be getting more comfortable by the game, as he’s scored in double-digits in 9 of the teams last 11 games. Not only is the Brooklyn bred guard averaging 14.8 points per game over the last six contests, but he’s averaging 5.5 rebounds per over that stretch as well, and is shooting 12-of-30 from downtown (40-percent).

Calhoun isn’t the only rookie guard contributing for a striving team in the Big East, in fact, you could argue that Villanova guard Ryan Arcidiacono has already embraced being the most important player for the Wildcats. As much as JayVaughn Pinkston and Darrun Hillard have helped the freshman carry the scoring load for a very re-tooled Villanova squad, it’s Arcidiacono who head coach Jay Wright seems to trust with the keys to his offense.

“I’m the only coach in the world who gets the kid who is an unbelievable scorer and he wants to be the nicest guy and pass to everybody.  No one ever had to tell me to shoot,” said Wright after Arcidiacono torched UConn for 25 points two weeks ago. “We tell him to shoot.  We want him to score.  He’s just too nice a kid.”

I don’t know that it’s fair to call Arcidiacono’s unselfishness a curse, as being the team’s second leading scorer combined with leading the team in assists has already given the Wildcats as many conference wins this season as they’ve been able to achieve either of the last two seasons. Heck, according to ESPN “Bracketologist” Joe Lunardi, ‘Nova is one of the last four teams getting into the NCAA Tournament right now (which will most likely change after the Seton Hall loss, but it’s stell impressive!).

St. John’s forward JaKarr Sampson may have the Big East Rookie of the Year award all wrapped up (he has won, but both of these guards are playing very meaningful basketball, at an extremely high level.

For hoops, hip-hop and other random sports and pop culture commentary, follow Jared Mintz on Twitter @JaredMintzTruth

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