We have 8 weeks of regular season to play, but, after the first 7 weeks, one could make a pretty good case that Villanova senior Corey Stokes has been the best player in the Big 5.
Stokes has gone from a one-dimensional standstill shooter who had trouble getting on the court early in his career because he was either unwilling or unable to play defense to a complete player having his best season when his team needs him most.
When Thursday’s game with Temple was on the line, Stokes was in the middle of everything. He had 11 points in the first half and 13 in the second for a game-high 24. There was not much individual consistency in the game _ except Stokes. In the critical final 20 minutes, he was 5-for-6 from the floor. And his defense was as good as good as his offense. He conceded nothing, not even a likely dunk by Lavoy Allen. He took a foul instead and forced Allen to make two free throws. He made just one.
Stokes never averaged double figures in his first 3 seasons. This season, he is averaging 16.4 points. He never shot more than 41.6 percent. This season, he is shooting 47 percent overall and 43.2 percent from the three-point line. He is also shooting 94.6 percent from the foul line.
Defenses are obviously going to get tougher now that the Big East schedule is upon Villanova. Every game from here to the postseason is a conference game except for a Jan. 15 game at the Wells Fargo Center against Maryland.
But Stokes has a nice pace to his game that comes with confidence and experience. He really looks poised to have a great senior season.
-- Dick Jerardi