Svi for Three!
Non-conference play wrapped up this past holiday weekend, and we’re heading into conference play with a bit of a clearer picture on where the chips could fall by the season’s end. The limited slate of games this past week allows us to give some recognition to players that have stood out in their recent performance, even without an enormous game. Players like Josh Jackson and Johnathan Motley have received plenty of recognition this year, so even though they once again dominated the competition, they won’t be receiving the same type of spotlight treatment. Instead, we look to another Jayhawk Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, who now as a junior is finally the age of most freshmen. The sweet shooting wing is more than doubling his output from last season, and hitting on over 40% from deep.
Player of the Week
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Kansas
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk has shown the growth that Kansas needed from him this season, and had his best scoring game of the season this past week. Mykhailiuk hit four threes on six attempts on his way to 20 points against UNLV. He did so on 14 attempts from the field, and added six rebounds and two steals in the Jayhawks 71-53 victory over the Runnin’ Rebels. Mykhailiuk has been scoring at a higher rate for the Jayhawks all year, more than doubling his points per game total from last year to 11.1. He’s been shooting twice as many threes as he did last year, and he’s now doing so at a 43.5 percent clip, compared to 40.2 percent last year. It was important for Mykhailiuk’s development to continue to shoot at a high level on more shots and show that he could sustain his success. So far he has done that for Kansas, and has provided a nice scoring punch for Kansas outside of the team’s usual suspects. His ability from deep has added another dimension to an already phenomenal Kansas offense, and has helped him build his own stock for the NBA Draft.
Jevon Carter, West Virginia
Jevon Carter hasn’t had any over-the-top great performances this year. He hasn’t posted a double-double, nor has he scored more than 15 points in a game. But he has anchored a West Virginia defense that ranks seventh in the nation in scoring defense and first in the nation in steals per game. Carter is at the head of the Press Virginia attack, tallying 3.3 steals per game, which is almost a quarter of the Mountaineers’ 13.9 per game. Carter showed off his nose for the ball once again this week in two separate contests. First, against Radford he was able to snag three steals to go along with his season-high 15 points. He followed that performance with four more steals against Northern Kentucky, which he added to his 11-point scoring output. Carter doesn’t only contribute his quick hands and ability to jump passing lanes. He’s also averaging 9.8 points per game, 3.4 rebounds per game, and 4.4 assists per game. He has had at least nine combined rebounds and assists in his last four games. With that said, his ability defensively is still his most important contribution to West Virginia. It will be interesting to see if his steal count holds up through conference play. At this point last year, Carter was averaging 2.3 steals per game, but that dropped to 1.7 by the end of the season. The Mountaineers will need Carter to keep playing at a high level defensively to give Kansas a run for their money in the Big 12 this season. If he can keep wreaking havoc defensively, Kansas and Baylor will both have their hands full any time they play the Mountaineers.
Nazareth Mitrou Long, Iowa State
Naz Long has had quite the year for Iowa State. Long is averaging 15.3 points per game to go with 5.4 boards per game and three assists per game. The real production is coming from behind the three-point line, where Long is once again shooting even more than the season prior. He has increased his attempts per game from beyond the arc every year, from the 4.4 as a redshirt freshman to his 7.4 this season as a redshirt senior. Long saw a drop-off in his made threes last year, shooting only 29.1 percent from three. This year, his increased attempts has also lead to an increased shooting percentage as he is currently shooting 37 percent from deep. This week, Long had a nice 19-point performance against Mississippi Valley State, and added four rebounds and four assists. The scoring output, as it seems to be most games, came from deep for Long, where he made six of his nine attempts from deep. Long has increased his scoring every year with Iowa State, and he will need to continue to do that if the Cyclones want to maintain their position in the conference. He has a chance to develop into one of the most lethal threats from beyond the arc by the time we reach the conference tournament, and the Cyclones will need that as they look to outgun their opponents.
The Oklahoma Sooners are in some serious trouble. The Sooners can’t stop anyone right now as they’re currently giving up 73 points per game, which is good for 206th in the nation. They only took the court once this week which ended as a 74-70 loss to the Auburn Tigers. That loss was their third in a row and their fourth in their last five games. Not only that, the Sooners were literally the only Big 12 team to lose this week. They continue to lose any hope of making the NCAA Tournament. Lon Kruger has not done well in replacing Buddy Hield offensively, as the team now lacks a true number one scorer. With that lack of an elite scoring option, the Sooners can no longer hope to win every game as a shootout, and their defensive holes have been exposed by almost every team that they have played. Khadeem Lattin has not anchored the defense like he was expected to, and that has buried Oklahoma even more on the defensive end. The Sooners currently sit at 6-5 and will need a remarkable run in conference play to even find themselves on the bubble for the big dance. Right now, they’re looking more like a team that will be fighting for an NIT berth, rather than an NCAA berth.
Top Five Big 12 Player of the Year Candidates
With non-conference play now over, the best players in the conference are beginning to cement themselves. This week we’ll look at five players who will fight for the Big 12 Men’s Basketball Player of the Year award.
5. Josh Jackson, Kansas
The first of two Jayhawks on this list, Jackson has been great so far this year, but his positioning is more due to his expected growth than anything else. If Jackson wants to take the conference player of the year award, he’ll need to become the Jayhawks primary scoring option, and continue to use his athleticism to stuff the stat sheet in other areas.
4. Monte Morris, Iowa State
Morris is the undisputed leader of the Cyclones, and he’ll be the main factor in deciding how well they do in conference play. As Iowa State’s best player, Morris contributes with his scoring, passing, and rebounding, averaging 14.6 points per game, 5.7 assists per game, and 4.6 rebounds per game. Morris versatility is very important and his passing has allowed for [Player: Nazareth Mitrou-Long] to develop into more of an offensive threat. If the Cyclones do anything this year, they’ll have Morris to thank for it.
3. Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State
The conference’s leading scorer, Evans has been a revelation for the Cowboys this season. His increase to 20.2 points per game from last year’s 12.9 points per game hasn’t caused an extreme drop in his assist totals either, where has has seen a small decrease from 4.9 per game last year to 4.6 per game this year. Evans will need to prove his talent in conference play, and if he does that, he should remain in this conversation for the rest of the season.
2. Frank Mason, Kansas
The top two players on this list are the top two players on the top two teams. First up, we have Mason, who is second in the conference with 19.7 points per game and first in the conference with 5.8 assists per game. Mason has taken over as the Jayhawks lead scorer this season, and he has not disappointed. He would be the lead player of the year candidate in most conferences, but the Big 12 is not most conferences.
1. Johnathan Motley, Baylor
Motley is the leading scorer for the Bears this year, who remain the conference’s only undefeated team remaining. Motley has developed well, increasing his scoring output to 16 points per game, good for fifth in the conference, and increasing his rebounding effort to 8.7 boards per game, which is good for second best in the conference. Motley would be the player of the year if the season ended today, and if he can play at the same level through conference play, he should be an easy choice for the Big 12 player of the year.