Big East Player of the Year race wide open

The 2010 Big East Player of the Year race turned out to be a two-man competition, won by Syracuse's Wesley Johnson over Scottie Reynolds of Villanova.

That's not the case this season. The player of the year process is anybody's race and it begs the annual philosophical question: Should the winner be the player who does the most to help his team challenge for the regular-season title, or should the award go to the best player regardless of his team's record?

Providence's Marshon Brooks, who began the week as the nation's second-leading scorer, attracted widespread attention Wednesday night by scoring a conference-record 52 points in the Friars' loss to Notre Dame. That improved Brooks' scoring average to 25.4 points in all games, and 27.4 points in Big East play.

But the Friars are only 3-12 in Big East play and 14-14. Does that put Brooks at a disadvantage against excellent players from winning teams such as Connecticut's Kemba Walker, Notre Dame's Ben Hansbrough or Dwight Hardy of St. John's?

Villanova coach Jay Wright felt that the award winner should play for a team that's having success, but added, "A guy like Marshon Brooks is having such a fabulous year that he might overcome that. All the other teams are so balanced and his is so extraordinary individually that he could overcome that issue."

One of those balanced teams is Pittsburgh, the first-place team in the league. The Panthers have been led by their guards, Philadelphia's own Brad Wanamaker (Roman Catholic) and Ashton Gibbs, and both received mention during Thursday's Big East coaches conference call.

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, however, threw his support behind Wanamaker, who is the team's floor general, averaging 12.4 points, 4.9 assists and 1.6 steals.

"I don't know if there's a more respected player in this league than what that guy does for his team, and his level of consistency," said Brey, whose team hosts Villanova on Monday night. "The criteria in my mind is helping a team winning the league at that point in time. I've always felt that way."