Climb Any Mountain
This was supposed to be a week for the Big 12 to show that they are one of the best conferences in the nation, facing the weaker SEC in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Unfortunately, the conference only won half of their games in the challenge, taking five with the SEC taking the other five. The top of the conference took care of business as Baylor, Kansas, and West Virginia all took care of their SEC foes. But it was the middle of the conference that struggled for the Big 12 and cost them the challenge That should make it no surprise that our player of the week once again comes from one of the three best teams in the Big 12.
Player of the Week
Jevon Carter, West Virginia
Not many teams had a better week in the Big 12 than West Virginia, and Jevon Carter played a large role in their successful week. Carter had a fantastic week in leading the Mountaineers to two important victories. First, Carter and the Mountaineers took down Kansas in Morgantown. Carter had a great all-around performance, tallying nine points, nine assists, and eight rebounds, as well as snagging two steals in the process. Carter’s ability to do it all allows him to contribute in multiple facets of West Virginia’s attack. His strength and defending allow him to be a fixture in the Mountaineer press and on the boards, while his shooting ability forces teams to close out on him from beyond the arc. This opens up the lane for cutters and for him to take the ball to the hoop, which is exactly how he contributed to the Mountaineers victory over the Jayhawks. West Virginia followed their victory over the Jayhawks by taking down Texas A&M in the Big 12/SEC challenge. Carter once again was at the focal point for the Mountaineers, scoring 19 points on 10 field goal attempts, including making four of his five three-point attempts. Carter didn’t only excel with his scoring, as he was also able to pull down nine rebounds and notch two steals. He uses his strength and aggressiveness to crash the glass and that was on display against the Aggies. Carter is a unique player who will continue to excel at the college level and could lead the Mountaineers to a Final Four.
Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State was in desperate need of the Jawun Evans that played at the beginning of the season, and after this week, it looks like they’ve got him. In a win against Arkansas in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, Evans started to get his stroke his mojo back, scoring 16 points while adding seven boards and eight assists. Evans was the Cowboys most important player in non-conference play, but had vanished once conference play started. That performance against the Razorbacks looked like it will be a building block for Evans, as he continued this level of play against Oklahoma, scoring 24 points, but not nearly as efficiently, doing so on 20 field goal attempts. More importantly. Evans tallied three steals, and got to the free throw line 16 times. Even if Evans struggles offensively, he can force turnovers defensively, allowing him to remain valuable even if his shots aren’t falling. This was on display in the closing moments against the Sooners, as he forced a steal with 19 seconds left, which ultimately lead to the game winning three from Phil Forte. The free throw attempts are another cure for his offensive woes. Him getting to the line means it’s more likely a team is in foul trouble, and it also gives him an opportunity to clear his head and try to find his stroke. Evans needs to continue to fight through his offensive struggles, and he did a great job of it this week as the Cowboys went 2-0.
Matt Thomas, Iowa State
There isn’t a ton to say about Matt Thomas. He just continually shoots the lights out for Iowa State and did just that this week. The Cyclones may have only won one of their two games this week, but Thomas wasn’t at fault, in fact, he was one of the few bright spots for Iowa State against Vanderbilt. Thomas made four of his six shots from beyond the arc against the Commodores, scoring 14 points. Earlier in the week, facing Kansas State, Thomas made seven of his ten three-point attempts, racking up 25 points in the win. That means Thomas was 11-16 from three this week. That’s 68.75 percent from deep, which is an absurd clip. Thomas may not contribute in many other areas for the Cyclones, but it really doesn’t matter. When a college team has a shooter that spaces the floor like Thomas does, it opens the floor for the rest of his teammates. He is the kind of player that could play professionally for years, whether it be overseas or in the NBA, because of his prolific ability to shoot from beyond the arc.
The Middle of the Pack
It was not a good week for three of the teams in the middle of the Big 12. Iowa State, Kansas State, and TCU are all fighting for NCAA tournament berths, and all three did nothing to help their causes this week. First up is Iowa State, who had the best week of the three. Their damage to their resume was mitigated by a win over Kansas State (someone had to win) but they still dropped the ball by losing to a bad Vanderbilt team. Next is TCU, who had their damage mitigated by the fact that they only played one game. Their loss was to a good Auburn team, which as an isolated incident is not bad, but it was the Horned Frogs’ fourth consecutive loss, a streak that needs to end immediately if they want to make the NCAA tournament. Finally, Kansas State had the worst week of the three, losing both of their two games. Coming off of a week where they beat Oklahoma State and West Virginia, the Wildcats were poised to ride their momentum into a week where they could have easily won both games. Instead, they’re sitting at 4-4 in the Big 12, with three of their next four games against the conference’s best three teams.
Kenrich Williams, Kansas State
TCU may have been able to avert their only loss of the week if Kenrich Williams had played better against Auburn. Williams is averaging 10.4 points per game and 9.4 rebounds per game for the Horned Frogs. He’s an important piece of the puzzle for TCU, which is why his dreadful play against the Tigers put TCU at a large disadvantage. Williams finished with by far his worst line of the year. He had three points, one assist, and one rebound, in an atrocious 12 minutes. That can be attributed to his foul trouble as he eventually fouled out with about seven minutes remaining. Williams will need to stay out of foul trouble if TCU wants to go anywhere in the postseason.
Freshman of the Week
Josh Jackson, Kansas
Josh Jackson and the Jayhawks faced their toughest week of the season, losing to West Virginia, and taking down Kentucky. With these two brutal matchups in the same week, it would be excusable if Jackson wasn’t at his best in one of the games. Instead, Jackson exploded for the Jayhawks scoring 20 against the Mountaineers and 22 against the Wildcats. More importantly for Jackson is something I have been harping on all season for him. Jackson made six of his nine three-point attempts this week, including all four of his four attempts in the loss against West Virginia. It’s safe to say Jackson is continually developing and is one of the most talented players in the country. If he keeps up his play the sky is the limit for the freshman wing.
Top Five Draft Prospects
This week we’ll have a more abbreviated top five section with an update on our top five prospects for the NBA Draft in the Big 12.
5. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Sophomore, Kansas
Mykhailiuk has the chance to be a sharpshooter in the NBA with good size to play the two. He is good enough off of the dribble to take advantage of team’s closing out on his jumpshots.
4. Johnathan Motley, Junior, Baylor
Motley is an energy guy who is trying to add a three-point shot to his repertoire. If he can do that, he could become a three-and-D four in the NBA and find himself in the back end of the first round.
3. Jawun Evans, Sophomore, Oklahoma State
Evans is a tad undersized as a point guard and he will most likely be a backup in the NBA. However, his handle and his scoring ability are good enough to be an NBA starter. His quick hands and feet also allow him to force turnovers at the defensive end and push the pace offensively.
2. Jarrett Allen, Freshman, Texas
Allen is the kind of player that teams want anchoring their defense in the NBA. He’s long and athletic and built to run with a team that pushes the pace. He can block shots and rebound at a high level and should find himself fighting for a spot in the back end of the lottery because of that.
1. Josh Jackson, Freshman, Kansas
Jackson’s shooting struggles have pushed him down the board nationally, but he is still far and away the best prospect in the Big 12. He can do everything, and he can do it all extremely well, except for shoot. If that jumper ever comes around (like it started to this week), Jackson will be a superstar in the NBA. For now, he’s solidly a top ten pick.