Top Returning Big East Guards: #1 – Marcus Zegarowski, Creighton

We have reached the end of our top returning Big East guard countdown and headline our rankings at #1 is Marcus Zegarowski, who was one of the biggest factors in leading the Creighton Blue Jays to their best season ever. Creighton took a share of the Big East regular season crown with a 13-5 conference mark, and were ranked 7th in the final AP Poll. Had the season not been cancelled, the Blue Jays were slated to potentially be a 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament, which would have been a first in program history. Zegarowski was the driving force behind Creighton’s resurgence, putting together one of the best seasons of any guard, regardless of conference. He averaged 16.1 points per game, good for 6th in the conference, while he ranked third in assists (5.0 per game) and 3rd in three-point shooting percentage, firing up the triple at a 42.4% clip. 

A product of Hamilton, Massachusetts, Zegarowski headed out to the westernmost school in the Big East, where he was a Year-1 contributor in Omaha, averaging 10.4 points per game while starting 16 of 32 games as a freshman. Averaging nearly 35 minutes a game as a sophomore, Zegarowski saw his stats take a leap, finishing second on the team in points and leading the squad in assists, while notching a very respectable 3.8 rebounds per contest. Zegarowski put up solid numbers from day 1, but it wasn’t until Creighton clashed with #12 Texas Tech, the defending national runner-ups, that the sophomore squad and his Blue Jays raised some eyebrows. After a 4-2 start, with no major wins and two losses by double-digits, Creighton wasn’t on anybody’s radar. But then Zegarowski and Co. took the Red Raiders to overtime in the Las Vegas Invitational, with the Massachusetts native dropping 32 points and 5 assists, while snaring a pair of steals in a signature performance. One game later, he poured in 30 points against Nebraska, to go with 9 rebounds and 6 assists. Zegarowski’s efforts sparked a 8-game win streak that was punctuated with an opening victory in Big East play, 92-75 vs. Marquette. Zegarowski made his presence felt in that victory as well with 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists. 

Creighton briefly debuted in the rankings on January 13 at #25, but a loss to Georgetown saw the Blue Jays drop out once more. However, after that loss, the Blue Jays finished the year on an 11-2 tear that lifted the Blue Jays to the Big East lead and the #7 ranking. Zegarowski’s red-hot shooting was on display on many occasions, but his best performance came on February 23 versus #21 Butler, as he drained all seven of his three-point attempts en route to a 25-point night, leading Creighton to a massive 22-point victory that helped them crack the top 10 in the next morning. Zegarowski ended his shortened season in fitting fashion, combining for 43 points in his final two contests on 9-11 shooting from beyond the arc. His 5-5 effort against #8 Seton Hall gave Creighton the needed win to tie the Pirates and Villanova for the conference lead. 

The cancellation of this year’s season blew the country’s opportunity to see the new and improved Marcus Zegarowski in March Madness. But, if he comes back firing on all cylinders and running the floor for Creighton, there’s no reason to think the Blue Jays won’t be back in Final Four consideration next season. 

Thomas: Best and Worst Atmospheres in College Basketball

Yesterday, we looked at the best and worst atmospheres in each Power 5 conference in college football, and today we’ll do the same on the court, checking in on the best college basketball atmospheres in the power-6 conferences (including the Big East). 

Big East

Worst Atmosphere: DePaul

A really bad team makes it hard to bring in fans, and the Blue Demons exemplify that, with easily the lowest per-game attendance in the Big East. They were just 3-15 in conference play this past season, have not made the NCAA Tournament since 2004, and they’ve had a share of last place in the Big East in ten of the past twelve seasons. Safe to say the student body isn’t exactly coming out in droves for most of their games. 

Runner Up: Georgetown

Best Atmosphere: Creighton

It was a tough race at the top for the best atmosphere in the Big East, but the nod goes to the Blue Jays who are in the Big East, despite hailing from Nebraska. Nebraska loves their college sports teams – the Cornhuskers were ranked the top Big 10 football atmosphere yesterday – and Creighton is no exception. It didn’t hurt that Creighton was really good this past season, but as the Blue Jays rallied down the stretch to claim the Big East regular season title, CHI Health Center Arena was roaring in Omaha, led by the notorious “Creighton Blue Crew”.

MEMPHIS, TN – FEBRUARY 4: Fans of the Memphis Tigers “Blue Crew” cheer on their team during a game against the Xavier Musketeers on February 4, 2012 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis beat Xavier 72-68. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

Runner Up: Marquette

Pac-12

Worst Atmosphere: Washington State

The Cougars are much more of a football school – whether it was Anthony Gordon throwing a million touchdowns, or the iconic Gardner Minshew taking snaps under center, Washington State has had some studs on the gridiron. The same cannot be said on the court, where the Cougars haven’t placed in the NCAA Tournament since 2008. ‘08 was also the last year they posted a winning record in Pac-12 play. Coming of entertaining football seasons, basketball just isn’t much of a product to be watched in comparison. 

Runner Up: USC

Best Atmosphere: Arizona
The Wildcats have the second-biggest arena by capacity in the Pac-12, yet they were one of just two teams to produce a sellout in 2019, and the only team to record multiple, as Arizona home games saw capacity crowds flood through the gates four times last season. The Wildcats are traditionally a contender for Pac-12 glory, and they’re fans get hyped down there in Tucson. Easy call here. 

Runner Up: Washington

Big 12

Worst Atmosphere: TCU
The Horned Frogs aren’t even a top-3 program in their own state, so it’s hard to generate a lot of excitement at their games. Their crowds are among the smallest in the Big 12, which has several teams that just pack crowds into their arenas night after night. It was a battle for the bottom between two Texas programs, and TCU loses out as the worst atmosphere in the Big 12. 

Runner Up: Baylor

Best Atmosphere: Kansas

Was there any doubt? Kansas is one of the toughest places to play, and with a horrific football program, gamedays at Allen Fieldhouse is where it is at, if you’re part of Jayhawk nation, or just a fan of great college basketball. The long-time dominant force of the Big 12, Kansas has one of the best homecourt advantages in college sports, backed by a rocking and raucous crowd every night. 

Runner Up: Iowa State

Big 10

Worst Atmosphere: Rutgers

We spat all over Rutgers in football, and unfortunately for the Scarlet Knights, we have to the same here. At least in football, they can be considered the best college team in the state (as sad a statement as that is for New Jersey), but they don’t have that notoriety in basketball, as Seton Hall is a far superior team most seasons. Rutgers was actually not horrible this past season, but years of struggles makes any athletic atmosphere less than electric at Rutgers. 

Runner Up: Northwestern

Best Atmosphere: Wisconsin

Maybe a bold pick, but the Badgers actually in the Top-5 for average attendance per home game. The Badgers are a few years removed from their era of March magic, making a couple of Final Four runs and beating undefeated Kentucky in 2015, but Wisconsin still packs in fans for home games to cheer on a team that is often in Big 10 championship contention. 

Plenty of passionate basketball fans up in Wisconsin

Runner Up: Nebraska

ACC

Worst Atmosphere: Wake Forest

In a basketball-crazed conference, the Demon Deacons’ consistent struggles on the court struggle to bring fans to their ACC contests, where they are oftentimes uncompetitive. Wake pulls an upset here and there, but they are not consistent enough in their success to entice too many fans to come through the gates. 

Runner Up: Boston College

Best Atmosphere: Duke

This is an absolute no-brainer. With a 9,314 seat arena, the Duke Blue Devils pack in 9,314 fans to every home game, with the thundering cheers of the “Cameron Crazies” leading the way. No matter where you sit, you’re close to the action, and you really can’t beat the atmosphere in Durham on gameday, where they also host the biggest rivalry in college basketball once a year. 

Runner Up: Virginia

SEC

Worst Atmosphere: Texas A&M
When basketball season is sandwiched between football at Kyle Allen Field and baseball, where the Aggies have one of the most vocal fanbases, the action on the court tends to play second fiddle to their primary sports. The Aggies don’t have extremely small crowds, but the SEC has some of the best atmospheres in the country, and they simply don’t bring enough tradition to the table to rise out of the cellar. 

Runner Up: Ole Miss

Best Atmosphere: Kentucky

The Wildcats have NBA draft lottery talent playing every single year, and fans are bunching together at the gates trying to get into Rupp Arena. One of the most historic programs in the nation, Kentucky is a must-see team on any die-hard college basketball fan’s to-do list. 

Runner Up: Tennessee