Player of the Year
Ochai Agbaji, Kansas Jayhawks
The only player in the conference named a Semifinalist for the 2022 Naismith Player of the Year, Agbaji was by far the best player in the Big 12 this season. Agbaji’s 19.7 points per game were two more points than the next closest Big 12 players, and he did that with absurd efficiency. The senior hit 47.7% of his shots, 40.5% of his threes, and added five rebounds, 1.6 assists and almost a steal per game. His 6’5 frame, ball handling, pace, and athleticism helped him get past defenders at will. His depth of experience allowed him to make excellent decisions on where and when to shoot, and he showed incredible agility knifing through defenses to attack the rim. The clear best player on the conference’s best team, Agbaji has vaulted his name into the lottery discussion for the upcoming draft, and it is easy to see why. He just seemed two steps ahead of whatever defense was thrown at him, and his excellent long-range ability opens up more driving lanes to showcase his elite leaping ability. An extremely talented all-around talent, Agbaji chose to stay in Lawrence for his senior season, and it paid dividends for both himself and the Jayhawks. Led by Agbaji, Kansas will be tough to stop in March.
Freshman of the Year
Tyrese Hunter, Iowa State Cyclones
This was a two man race the entire season between Hunter and Baylor forward Kendall Brown. This was a difficult decision, but Hunter’s passing and on-ball defense outweighed Brown’s shooting efficiency and defensive versatility. The 6’0 point guard started all 32 games for the Cyclones, and immediately contributed to the quick turnaround for Iowa State. The Wisconsin native was third in the conference in assists (4.9) and steals (1.9) per game. He is a skilled passer, who uses his agility and change of pace ability to throw defenders off balance and out of place. He reads the opposition really well and often throws dimes right into his teammate’s hands for open looks. It is incredibly challenging to start in the Big as a freshman, and even more so to constantly be the lead guard. Despite his diminutive size, Hunter was a fiery defender who used his active hands and IQ to force turnovers and get the Cyclones out in transition. He has some areas to continue growing into, but it was a tremendous first season in Aimes for Hunter. As he gains experience and knowledge, he will only become even better at leveraging his speed and handling to engineer the offense.
Coach of the Year
Mark Adams, Texas Tech Red Raiders
This is a division with lots of coaching experience, but it was a newcomer who stood out. Adams has helped lead the Red Raiders to a 25-8 record, including four top-15 wins, and into the final of the Big 12 title game against the Jayhawks. It can be difficult to galvanize a team and establish an identity during your first season at the helm, but Texas Tech has been one of the best defensive teams in the country. They are 7th nationally giving up just 60.1 points per game, despite having nobody on the all-defensive first team and just one on the second Bryson Williams Williams was the only Texas Tech player named to any of the All-Conference teams, and Adams still managed to be one of the elite teams in the conference. The Red Raiders were also missing their most gifted player Terrence Shannon Jr., for eleven games and double-digit scorer [Kevin McCullar] for eight games. It has been a phenomenal first year for Adams, and a Big 12 title would be the cherry on top.
Positive: Iowa State Cyclones
I have mentioned this in multiple blogs, but Iowa State’s immediate recovery from being one of the worst Power Five teams to a March Madness lock is unbelievable. The arrival of Hunter and transfer wing Izaiah Brockington was clearly going to help, but they were truly horrendous last year. The gold and cardinal went just 2-22 last season, going winless in conference play, with their two victories coming against Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Jackson State. Those two squads are not exactly blue bloods in the sport. Simply put, it has been a remarkable turnaround for Iowa State this season. Brockington has played his way into potentially being drafted, and Hunter is one of the most promising underclassmen in the conference. It looked bleak last season, but the sun is starting to rise above the corn fields for Iowa State.
Negative: Underperforming forwards
Last season, Jalen Wilson and Matthew Mayer were solid options for teams that were loaded with NBA talent. They both seemed poised to take a serious leap and become two of the more unguardable players in the Big 12. Wilson paired his 6 ‘8 size with good production (11.8 points, 7.9 rebounds), and elite athleticism that added more potential and intrigue to his freshman season. Mayer, a 6’9 forward with the stroke and handles of a guard, didn’t have many offensive looks because of the trio of amazing guards around him. He looked the part during the title run, and with so many departures it was going to be Mayer that was the offensive engine. That hasn’t been the case, as he has scored just 1.3 points per game more (9.4 ppg) but has completely lost his touch. He is shooting just 40% from the floor and 30.6% from behind the arc. Neither has lived up to raised expectations, and while their teams have the skill around them to be legit title contenders, both teams would greatly benefit from the long-awaited boost in production. Both forwards hinted at NBA futures with their potential from last season, unfortunately neither has made positive strides this year.