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Josh Hart leads Big East Player of the Year field

The Villanova senior heads a talented group of conference talent.

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

To the Villanova fan, the candidates for Big East Player of the Year is a list that starts and ends with Josh Hart. The Wildcats senior is a top candidate for national player of the year, let alone the top award in his own conference. However, the Big East is full of really good players off to great starts, and it's not out of the question that Hart faces some competition as the season wages on.

So with over 25 percent of the conference schedule in the books already, here's a closer look at Hart and the players that are chasing him for Big East Player of the Year:

Josh Hart, Villanova

2016-17 overall stats: 19.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 3.8 apg
Conference games only stats: 19 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 4.0 apg

As the stats above illustrate, Hart has been essentially the same player out of conference as he has been in Big East games. The 37-point, 11-rebound game against Notre Dame vaulted him atop of every Player of the Year list out there. His steady production and knack for hitting the big shot when Villanova needs it is what has kept him there. If Villanova keeps winning and Hart keeps producing, he'll walk away with the award.

Kelan Martin, Butler

2016-17 overall stats: 16.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg
Conference games only stats: 12 ppg, 7.6 rpg

Butler doesn't have a clear-cut candidate for conference player of the year, but Martin is the team's most productive player and leader. His conference numbers are down, but he was still one of the main reasons the Bulldogs upset Villanova earlier this month. As Ryan Arcidiacono showed two seasons ago, sometimes you don't need to have the best numbers to win player of the year.

Justin Patton, Creighton

2016-17 overall stats: 14 ppg, 6.2 rpg
Conference games only stats: 18 ppg, 6.8 rpg

The most impressive freshman in the conference in Patton, who seems to get better every game. In the loss to Villanova, Patton was Creighton's best player (18 points, 8 rebounds), and he's been the conference's best inside player this season. The best aspect of Patton's game is his efficiency, as he's shooting a remarkable 74.6 percent from the field. He probably won't win the award this year, but he could be the favorite next season.

Desi Rodriguez, Seton Hall

2016-17 overall stats: 16.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg
Conference games only stats: 22.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg

Through four Big East games, Rodriguez is the top scorer in the conference. He's reached at least 24 points in three of his four games, and had a season-high 30 points against Marquette on Wednesday. Rodriguez is emerging as this season's Isaiah Whitehead and if the Pirates get hot again, he'll pick up some steam as a serious candidate. Better free-throw shooting (62.7 percent) would help his cause.

Edmond Sumner, Xavier

2016-17 overall stats: 15.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.8 apg
Conference games only stats: 18 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 5.5 apg

Another player that has only gotten better since conference play began, Sumner is probably the second-best all-around player in the conference behind Hart. He's coming off a clunker against Villanova, but in the two games before that, he had at least 20 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists in each. Only a sophomore, Sumner continues to look like one of the conference's top NBA prospects.

Maurice Watson Jr., Creighton

2016-17 overall stats: 13.6 ppg, 9.0 apg
Conference games only stats: 15.6 ppg, 9.0 apg

The senior point guard isn't just the conference leader in assists per game — he leads the country. His vision and unselfishness has made him the perfect fit to lead the Creighton offense. Like Sumner, Watson Jr. had his worst game against Villanova, which no doubt will hurt his chances. However, he already has two double-doubles in five conference games, and he should continue to rack up those statistics all season.