Rock Chalk, Hard Knock
Player of the Week
Perry Ellis - Kansas
One of Kansas’ steadiest performers, Perry Ellis, enjoyed possibly his best week of production this season over the past seven days. Despite a losing effort by Kansas on Tuesday, Ellis notched a 19 point 11 rebound double double and followed it up with a 32 point 8 rebound 5 assist outing against conference doormat, TCU. Perry’s weekly averages were 25.5 ppg 9.5 rpg and going back a little further, Ellis has also tallied two double doubles in his last four games. His 32 points were a career high, and Ellis has been a very efficient scorer this season. He is currently hitting 55% from two, 45% from three, and 75% from the stripe this year and his 14 points per game are currently good for 15th in the conference.
Javan Felix - Texas
Texas’ sophomore guard, Javan Felix, put on an offensive clinic this week and displayed a wide range of ways to score the ball. Including a showcase of deadeye long range shooting, he helped the Longhorns pick up two quality home wins this week and Rick Barnes’ squad has now closed the gap to only one game back on Kansas in the Big 12 conference standings.
Felix started off his week on Tuesday by dropping 27 points in a drubbing of Oklahoma State, and followed it up with another 18 points in a home victory over the Mountaineers of West Virginia. This week, Felix’s outside shooting sizzled as he went 10-18 (55%) in this two game span to go with his 22.5 point weekly scoring average. Javan also only turned the ball over twice in this span, and played his typical pesky brand of on ball defense. Heading into the last month of the Big 12 season, Felix and the Longhorns are looking like a team capable of winning the Big 12 title, as well as a team worthy of making a push at a high seed in the NCAA tournament.
Kenny Chery - Baylor
Kenny Chery has been battling though minor injuries over the past two weeks, but an emphatic triple double against Kansas State seems to indicate he’s ready to help bring Baylor back from the bottom of the conference standings. Baylor’s starter for most of the year, Chery’s injuries limited him to very few minutes in tough losses to Kansas and Oklahoma. Wednesday against TCU, Kenny showed some signs by pulling down 6 rebounds, dishing 7 assists and stealing the ball 3 times in only 22 minutes in a lopsided victory. He really let it all out against a good Wildcats team where he went for 21 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists and 3 steals as the Bears picked up a much needed victory against a top 40 opponent. His “welcome back” week left him with averages of 11.5 ppg 8 rpg 9.5 apg and 3 spg, but more importantly the Bears won two games, and Baylor is still mathematically able to finish with a winning conference record.
Jordan Woodard - Oklahoma
Oklahoma has been pleasantly surprised by the stellar play of freshman Jordan Woodard, this season, but Woodard’s great play as the Sooner’s court leader has hit a bit of a rough patch lately. Over Jordan’s last 3 games, he’s averaged only 5 ppg ( less than half his 11 ppg season average ) and is only 5-21 from the field in this stretch. Jordan also hasn’t hit a 3 pointer since February 1st. With Oklahoma poised to make a run at the regular season title, the Sooners are going to need the most from the freshman floor general as they line up with a tough Kansas State team (7-5 Big 12 record) in their next game on Saturday.
Brian Williams - Oklahoma State
The Cowboys have had their fair share of struggles lately, and with their season on the brink they’re going to need the most of everyone going forward. Junior forward Brian Williams could potentially be the X-Factor as OSU fights to save their season. An athletic combo wing, Williams averaged almost 10 ppg as a freshman, but has yet to raise his play when his team needs him most. Over his last 3 games, he’s put up only 3 ppg on 4-18 shooting and this includes two 0 point games in a row against Texas Tech and Texas. The Cowboys have 16 wins with 6 games left, but Williams needs to step up his play soon and help his team try to get to that 20 win mark that would put them at least into consideration for an NCAA birth.
Top 5 2013-2014 Coaching Performances
The Big 12 is the country’s #1 RPI conference this season, and is possibly the strongest conference top to bottom in the country. Part of the excitement in the Big 12 is that no team can overlook another as an easy win. Here is a list of my top 5 coaching performances at this point in the year.
1. Rick Barnes - Texas
Despite being one of the longest tenured coaches in the conference, it was no secret that another down season for Texas could land Rick Barnes in the hot seat. Texas had a lot of questions to answer as to who would play what roles, and how much a group of relatively unseasoned players would mesh and improve. Barnes has found a way to make it work. Texas has already hit 20 wins, and currently sits in 2nd place in the conference with a 9-3 record. Jonathan Holmes and Cameron Ridley have made huge jumps in production, and freshman Isaiah Taylor as come into the backcourt and meshed well with Javan Felix and DeMarcus Holland. There’s a lot of season left to play, but at this point Barnes has gotten the most of squad thus far and barring a meltdown, the Longhorns not only will be back in the Big Dance this March, but will be major players in the Big 12 regular season and tournament races.
2. Lon Kruger - Oklahoma
Team loses large amount of talent, experienced coach is left with a lot of young role players from the year before and a lot of questions as to how everyone will perform. Sound familiar yet? Well Lon Kruger has gone through a similar situation this year in Norman too. Kruger has used a creative lineup of four guards with Gonzaga transfer Ryan Spangler holding down the middle to lead the Sooners to a 8-5 record thus far in the Big 12. OU is one of the highest scoring teams in the country, and despite not being a very deep squad, their 5 conference losses have all been by 8 points or less. With sophomore Buddy Hield and senior Cameron Clark providing a formidable scoring tandom, Jordan Woodard playing well as point and Spangler leading the conference in rebounding, the Sooners have a lot of things firing on the right cylinders as Coach Krugers’ team looks forward to making some waves as the season goes on.
3. Bill Self - Kansas
Kansas has 19 wins, sit atop the Big 12 standings, despite playing the hardest schedule in the entire country, and this is after losing their entire starting 5 from last year’s team. If Self hadn’t also brought in the best recruiting class in the country, including two players projected as top 3 draft picks in June, he’d be surely be number one on this list. Still, what Coach Self has done in Lawrence is very impressive. Kansas leads the NCAA in field goal percentage, and haven’t lost to a team that hasn’t been ranked in the top 25 at some point in the season. Self’s group of talented underclassmen have responded to his leadership and have clearly grown this season. Despite a few hiccups from time to time, the Jayhawks really look like a team that could capture their 10th straight Big 12 regular season championship, and make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
4. Bruce Weber - Kansas State
In his first year in Manhattan, Bruce Weber lead K-State to a share of the Big 12 title and the NCAA tournament. Although they lost their leading scorer, Rodney McGruder, Weber seemed to have a very good group ready to make another run next season. That is until the transfers started to happen. Angel Rodriguez and Adrian Diaz both opted for other schools, and although he brought in a nice recruiting class, Coach Weber’s squad didn’t look quite as good on paper. Kansas State has responded to Bruce Weber’s tough nosed defensive schemes and sit with a 7-5 conference record and play arguably the best team defense in the Big 12. Lead by the play of freshman Marcus Foster, the Wildcats look poised to make another NCAA birth and with 4 of their last 6 games coming against teams with below 500 conference records, they are still in the mix to compete for the conference title.
5. Tubby Smith - Texas Tech
Tubby Smith took over a Texas Tech team that has struggled mightily in the past few seasons, and although Jaye Crockett had arisen to be a note worthy player in the conference last year, the Red Raiders hardly boasted a roster that raised any eyebrows. Smith’s team has seemed to really hit their stride during the conference season, and sport a very solid 5-7 record in the Big 12, which is also the #1 RPI conference in the nation. With Crockett as their feature player, Smith has inspired great play from role players Robert Turner, Jordan Tolbert, and Dusty Hannahs. There was never any question as to when Tubby Smith would turn around the Red Raiders, but how quickly he’s begun to climb out of the Big 12 cellar is a very impressive feat.