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Big Strides

Player of the Week

Joel Embiid - Kansas

Joel EmbiidJoel EmbiidSince the beginning of the season, very few, if any, collegiate players have improved as much as Joel Embiid. This past week was just another example of how rapid Embiid is making strides. Joel has put up 17.5 ppg 7 rpg 2.5 bpg and 2.5 spg in his last two contests against New Mexico and Georgetown. More impressively he has put up these impressive numbers on 90% shooting from the field, and 77% from the free throw line in only 23 minutes per game.

Embiid’s adjustment to increased competition and larger opponents has been quick. Since a couple up and down games against Colorado and Florida, Joel has clearly learned and adjusted. His speed and efficiency at the line torched slower opponents, Alex Kirk and Josh Smith, all while showcasing new and more advanced moves every game. As Kansas winds down their non-conference schedule, they have to feel good about the progression of Embiid going forward.

Who’s Hot

Kyan Anderson - TCU

TCU’s junior guard, Kyan Anderson, has been playing as well as just about anyone in the Big 12 over the past few weeks. Coming off back to back 25 and 27 point outings, Anderson has averaged 20.8 ppg and 3.6 apg during his last five games. More impressively, Kyan has produced this offensive output on 53% shooting from the field and 90% from the stripe, where he averaged 8 attempts in this five game span. After a quiet start, Anderson has risen to 8th in the Big 12 in scoring, and his ability to get to the hoop and convert at a high rate has him sitting at 4th in the conference in free throws made. As the Horned Frogs wrap up their non-conference play at Texas Southern on Sunday, it’s pretty clear that Kyan Anderson has emerged as their most important player as they enter Big 12 Play next week.

Georges Niang - Iowa State

Sophomore center, Georges Niang has been on an absolute tear as non-conference play winds down. Since tallying 22 points against Northern Iowa on Dec 7th, Niang hasn’t had a game in which his scoring output has dipped below 22. In his last 4 games he’s put up 22.5 ppg on 55% shooting from inside the arc, 47% from downtown and 84% from the free throw line. It took a few games for Georges shot to start falling at a similar clip as last year, but once it did, he didn’t look back. Iowa State is 4th in the NCAA in points per game, and with Niang firing on all cylinders, he gives the Cyclones another offensive weapon as they hope to extend their unbeaten streak into conference play.

Who’s Not

Ishmail Wainright - Baylor

Since starting the Bears first few games as a freshman, Ish Wainright, has yet to gain much traction in his first NCAA season. At 6’6’’ 245 lbs Wainright’s ability to play small forward, yet guard bigger players gained him that starting spot, but his offensive production and efficiency has yet to live up to what Wainright is capable of producing. Ish has mustered just 2.5 ppg on 37% shooting thus far and has seen his minutes drop below double figures in two of Baylor’s last three games. The emergence of Rico Gathers hasn’t helped his cause, but Wainright has a lot to offer. Although the Bears are among the best teams in the country, a deep bench is very important come tourney time and Ish Wainwright is a player who could definitely help Baylor in an NCAA run.

Marcus Smart - Oklahoma State

Now, it’s really hard to put Marcus Smart on a list that discusses players who haven’t been playing well, but although OSU has rattled off four straight victories since dropping a game to Memphis, I’m starting to wonder if Smart’s early season long range game was a fluke or the real deal. Smart effects the game in so many ways, but there is no way around he’s in a shooting slump. In his last five games he’s only shot 22% from three point land, and an area of his game that drew praise to start the season is now looking more like a hot streak. Smart has clearly worked on elements of his game, and is still a top tier prospect, but hopefully his long range woes prove to be a slump rather than the other way around.

Top 5 Shooters

The Big 12 is hope to a lot of top level shooters this season. Here is my list of the top 5.

1. Phil Forte - Oklahoma State

Until an off night against Delaware State, Phil Forte has completely bypassed the 50/40/90 club in favor of the 50/50/90 club. He quickly bounced back going 4-7 from downtown in a win over Colorado. Forte currently sits 6th in the conference in 3 point percentage, second in the conference in free throw percentages at just a shade under 90% (.897) and is a reliable shooter from inside the arc as well (46%). Forte doesn’t have the best numbers all the way round, but this is mainly due to a poor game early in the season where the sample size isn’t that great. As I said earlier, about a week ago he was over 50/50/90 and in my mind is the conference’s best shooter.

2. Cameron Clark - Oklahoma

Oklahoma senior, Cameron Clark is currently pacing the conference in 3 point percentage (50%), as well as sitting 6th in free throw percentage (84%), and is also shooting over 50% from the field. What is impressive about Clark too is that he is a high volume shooter and not a specialist, currently ranking 4th in the Big 12 in scoring. At 17.8 ppg and leading the Sooners’ in points per game, Clark’s numbers are that much more impressive because he plays such a large role for his team.

3. Brady Heslip - Baylor

It seems like Brady Heslip has been at Baylor for about eight years, but in reality this senior sharp shooter has hit many big shots in his career and I’m sure they’ll be plenty more in the next few months. This season is no different, Brady is 3rd in the Big 12 in 3 point percantage ( .492 ) and has made three or more long range shots in a game six times in Baylor’s first eleven games. Brady has established himself as the standard for 3 point shooting in the Big 12, as his career mark of .4294 ranks 1st in Big 12 history in 3 point % with a minimum of 200 attempts. His career 3 point mark also ranks him 32 in NCAA history with the same minimum attempts. Brady isn’t the all around shooter as many on this list, but what he’s accomplished from beyond the arc makes him worthy of the third spot on my list.

4. Eron Harris - West Virginia

West Virginia sophomore, Eron Harris, currently sits at 7th on the Big 12’s 3 point shooting list, but no one in the conference has attempted or made more threes. Anyone who takes 6 threes per game and makes 466% of them is an excellent marksman and Eron Harris has proven that this season. Harris torched Wisconsin hitting 7-11 threes and Duquesne, going for 6-8. His ability to get hot is no surprise when you look at his 19 points per game and the fact he’s hit 3 or more long range shots in half of WVU’s contests. He’s also 17th in the league in free throw shooting and is hitting 47% of his shots inside the arc, which is impressive for the amount of shots he takes. Harris is emerging as one of the top scorers in the conference, and his long range shooting is a major reason why.

5. Jonathan Holmes - Texas

Texas’ versatile forward, Jonathan Holmes, is our first and only forward on the list. He finds himself here by being an excellent all round shooter, and high rankings on all of the conference shooting lists. Holmes sits 4th in the conference from the free throw line ( .864% ) he ranks 8th in three point percentage ( .452% ) and 14th in FG percentage ( .517% ). Holmes has shown tremendous efficiency all season making shots at the rim, facing up and at the line. He nailed 4 threes against South Alabama and has hit two or more on four different occasions, which is great for a 6’8’’ 240 lb forward.

Holmes’ all around efficiency and versatility shooting the ball rounds out my top five shooters of the conference. He narrowly beat out Melvin Ejim who has opened up a new element of his game as he is sitting 5% above last season’s 3 point average, and 15% above his free throw clip from a year ago. The Big 12 has a number of top level shooters, and these are my top 5.