Player of the Week
Jordan Hamilton, Texas
Hamilton’s formula for success is rather simple: He plays the games and hits the shots and grabs the rebounds. When he arrived on campus last season, the sophomore came with baggage that included not having played his final season of high school. He took some time to adjust and most deferred, never really looking comfortable or well adjusted last season. Now, he’s the frontrunner for Big 12 Conference player of the year.
Hamilton wins player of the week by default, to a degree. He’s the best player on the best team, and it’s tough to pick between Kansas’ Morris twins or to give the award to LaceDarius Dunn, who scored 50 points in two games this week but went 11-of-26 from the field in a loss to Texas.
No one is playing better than Texas right now, largely because of unbelievable team and individual defensive efforts. But it’s Hamilton carrying the load on offense, and without him, his shooting and his rebounding, this team would be far from a national championship contender.
Team of the Week
The 24-1 Jayhawks seem poised to rise to No. 1 this week in the polls, and while Texas has a legitimate gripe after beating Kansas in Lawrence, Kan., on Jan. 22, it’s tough to argue with what the Jayhawks have done in February.
This month, their closest game has been a 17-point win against an excellent Missouri team, and they’ve gained "revenge" with blowouts against Iowa State and Nebraska, two teams that played Kansas closer than expected earlier this season.
The last three wins have been without Josh Selby, who has thrown the Jayhawks out of rhythm at times even prior to his injury. Marcus Morris has 38 points and 19 rebounds this week, while his brother, Markieff Morris, has posted 30 and 18, along with 10 assists.
It’s about time. LaceDarius Dunn, Perry Jones and company are finally meshing, and A.J. Walton is slowly figuring out how easy his job as point guard is with those guys as teammates. The setback at Texas could have been much worse, and wins at Texas A&M and at home against Nebraska are steps in the right direction for a team that has no excluse for being on the bubble.
Cory Higgins, Colorado
After two seasons as the Buffaloes’ leading scorer, Higgins made way for rising star Alec Burks this year, his senior season. But Higgins has been a crucial cog for Colorado and will continue to be if the Buffs have any shot of making the NCAA Tournament, which seems unlikely at this point. He had 17 points in a low-scoring win against Kansas State on Saturday after dropping 19 in a close loss to Texas A&M earlier in the week.
The Sooners’ four-game conference win streak seems a distant memory now, as they’ve faced stiffer competition and dropped three in a row. Oklahoma doesn’t have the kind of talent necessary to compete in this league, and that they caught Colorado and Baylor at the right time and mixed in bottom-feeders Texas Tech and Iowa State was just luck.
Marcus Denmon, Missouri
Denmon appeared to be the frontrunner for Big 12 player of the year entering league play, but in his last five games he’s totaled a whopping 59 points for a 11.8 points per game average. Missouri needs more out of its most dynamic player. The Tigers have dropped all five of its Big 12 road games, and winning at home isn’t enough for a team with this kind of potential.
Five to Wait For
A look at five players in the Big 12 this season who could explode next year. A primer on the rules: I picked two juniors, two sophomores and one freshman because it would have been easy to go with all freshmen. Also, I didn’t go with transfers who are sitting out a year or injury cases. Only players who are on a team right now and playing
1. Baylor junior Anthony Jones
Behind Perry Jones and Quincy Acy, Anthony Jones has been left to a mostly defensive role. Still, he’s got great length and athleticism, and with Perry and LaceDarius Dunn likely gone for next season, it would be easy to imagine Jones and Acy taking up the mantle of team stars.
2. Texas Tech junior Robert Lewandowski
The Red Raiders are losing five of their top six scorers next season. Lewandowski, who averages 9.1 points per game, is the lone returnee. And that should be just fine for Pat Knight (or whoever has this job next year). Lewandowski is criminally underused on a team that prefers to have its seniors jack up ill-advised shots from all over than to find the 6-foot-10 center with plenty of gifts to offer. He shoots 58 percent from the field and a cool 73 percent from the line, numbers that warrent more than 6.75 shots per game. Lewandowski rates best among Texas Tech players in most efficiency stats.
3. Kansas sophomore Jeff Withey
Withey is in his third year with the Jayhawks, and he’s still not playing at all. Project his numbers out over reasonable minutes, and it’s difficult to see why. Per 30 minutes, Withey averages roughly 11.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 4 blocks. Remember when Bill Self kept Cole Aldrich hidden for one year? Withey may be a more extreme case, thanks in part to injuries, but he could be just as good should the Morris twins go pro.
4. Nebraska sophomore Brandon Ubel
Give this guy some minutes, and give him the ball. Nebraska isn’t good enough to have one of its most efficient players playing less than 20 minutes a game. Pair Ubel with Jorge Brian Diaz and you’ve got a legitimately tough frontcourt combination that has the size the current setup lacks. Instead, Ubel’s minutes have been fairly comfined to half a game or so, even has he shoots high percentages and rebounds well. Next year, the breakout could come, though Nebraska only loses point guard Lance Jeter.
5. Texas A&M freshman Kourtney Roberson
Prediction: Khris Middleton goes pro after the great season he’s had. Prediction: Kourntey Roberson proves to be an even better scorer. Bernard King’s cousin will find plentiful minutes next season with or without Middleton by his side, thanks to Nathan Walkup and B.J. Holmes graduating. Still, the seldom-used freshman has shown that he can be a valuable scorer already. He’s shooting the best percentages of anyone on the team and is a gifted all-around natural scorer who could find himself making a similar leap to Middleton next year.