Jackson of All Trades
It was quite a week in the Big 12, with quality games around the conference, including an upset in Lubbock and near upsets of Baylor and Kansas. Texas Tech defeated West Virginia by a score of 77-76 in overtime, scoring the biggest upset of the season to this point in the Big 12. Baylor was taken to the wire by Iowa State and Oklahoma State, while the Jayhawks took down Kansas State on a very controversial game-winning layup by Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. Mykhailiuk took what appeared to be four steps and should have been called for a travel on his game-winning layup, and the game should have gone to overtime. With that said, it does not take away from the Wildcats performance. As a matter of fact, it was a great week for the state of Kansas in the Big 12 this week.
Player of the Week
Josh Jackson, Kansas
Well, that was quick. After being ice cold last week, Josh Jackson caught fire this week in two conference games against Texas Tech and Kansas State and he even managed to hit two threes on six attempts for the Jayhawks. That may not seem like a big deal, but for Jackson, it’s a slight improvement from his 28.1 percent shooting from beyond the arc so far this year. The six attempts show a willingness to shoot from deep and that’s something he will need to continue to do. Jackson was at his best against Kansas State in a close victory. He was great on the offensive end, piling up 22 points and adding four offensive boards and six assists. He was seemingly everywhere on the offensive end and the Wildcats could not contain him, especially when they dropped into a zone. Jackson showed off his high basketball IQ and passing ability on several occasions, finding cutters and open shooters on several occasions for easy shots. He also did extremely well when operating in the high post, opening the floor for teammates as all eyes were drawn to him because of his high-level finishing around the basket. Jackson showed again this week why he’s in the conversation for the number one pick in the draft. He’s proving that, even with the lack of a great form or reliable jump shot, he can play at a high level because he is so good in so many other aspects of the game. His rebounding, ability to finish at the rim, passing, and his quality defense will continue to fuel the Jayhawks on their quest to a Big 12 regular season title.
Kansas State Wildcats
Just another team that I was way off on coming into this season. Bruce Weber, who I said was fighting for his job, has this team clicking on all cylinders and playing at a high level. Lead by DJ Johnson and Wesley Iwundu, the Wildcats ended the week going 1-1. On the surface that may seem underwhelming, but their performance all year and the way they have lost has earned them their spot here this week. Kansas State has lost their two games by a combined three points, including this week’s controversial loss to Kansas by two points. Their other loss was by a single point in non-conference play against Maryland, who is no slouch either. The Wildcats wouldn’t be in this position without their staunch defense, which is ranked 14th in the nation and second in the Big 12, giving up 61.2 points per game. They will face another major test this week as they take on the top team in the Big 12, Baylor. If Kansas State can stay competitive with, or even defeat, the Bears, then they will cement themselves as a legitimate NCAA tournament team.
Frank Mason, Kansas
Frank Mason has quietly gone about his business this season, averaging nearly 20 points per game along with 4.5 rebounds per game and 5.7 assists per game. This week, Mason showed what he was all about, putting up an efficient 26 points against Texas Tech and a very hard earned 15 against Kansas State. Against the Red Raiders, Mason made six of his 11 attempts from the field. His efficiency came from his three-point shooting, where he made three of four attempts, and his free throw shooting, where he made 11 of his 12 attempts. His performance against Kansas State impressed me even more, not because of his scoring, rebounding, or his assists. His performance was impressive because of the 39 minutes he played after playing 34 minutes in a hard fought game against TCU. He gutted out the performance and was able to lead the Jayhawks to their controversial win over the Wildcats. Mason continues to play very well, and with Jackson continuing to grow as a player, he should be relieved of some of the massive workload he currently carries for the Jayhawks on offense.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
The Oklahoma State Cowboys had two tone-setting games this week that would help determine the trajectory of the rest of their season. Unfortunately for them, they couldn’t win either of the games they played. The Cowboys battled until the end with a bad Texas team, ultimately losing a close game 82-79. They followed that performance with a big game against the Baylor Bears, where they lost again by a close margin, 61-57. The game against Texas could be easier to swallow because of the play of Jawun Evans. Evans put up 19 points in 30 minutes, although he did foul out. Facing the Bears, however, Evans could have been the difference maker that the Cowboys needed, but he struggled all game long. He only managed eight points on 12 field goal attempts. If he’d have played anywhere near the level he has maintained all year, the Cowboys would have most likely taken down the Bears.
Top Five Non-Conference Wins
5. Baylor 66 Louisville 63
This game was one of multiple great wins for Baylor in non-conference play. The first three games on this list could be listed in any order really, so we’ll start with a win over one of the best coaches in the country. The Bears close victory over Louisville came with no major performances from their top players, and it was their first hard fought win of the season, setting the pace for the team.
4. Baylor 76 Xavier 61
Another Baylor victory makes the list, which shouldn’t be a surprise because they had one of the best non-conference schedules in the country. This win showed that Baylor has the ability to defeat a team with a star player, Edmond Sumner, and do so in dominating fashion. The Bears won this game with a barrage from deep from Manu Lecomte, establishing that they can win in multiple ways.
3. West Virginia 66 Virginia 57
Our first non-Baylor win, this was a defensive battle that established West Virginia as a top team in the country. Virginia is a defensive juggernaut and is currently leading the nation in scoring defense. On this occasion, West Virginia gave the Cavaliers a dose of their own medicine, shutting down Virginia star London Perrantes, holding him to six points on ten field goal attempts.
2. Baylor 66 Oregon 49
Our final Baylor game on this list, Baylor dominated Oregon from the opening tip and took advantage of the Ducks missing Dillon Brooks. [Player: Jo Lual-Acuil] and Johnathan Motley torched Oregon from the paint, scoring 25 points, pulling down 21 boards, and swatting away eight shots. This first big win was Lual-Acuil’s coming out party on defense, and Motley’s awakening on the offensive end.
1. Kansas 77 Duke 75
Yes, Duke was missing their three star freshmen for this game, but even without those three this is a top ten team in the country. The Jayhawks shut down Wooden Award candidate Grayson Allen and came back from a five-point halftime deficit to take down the Blue Devils. This game should have an impact on NCAA tournament seeding, considering both of these teams should be fighting for a number one seed.