Player of the Week
Kalib Boone, Oklahoma State
During Oklahoma State’s best win of the season, Boone took over. He dropped a career-high and game-high 22 points on an efficient 8-13 from the field, in the 75-67 double overtime win over No. 6 Texas. In a game where offense was hard to come by for every other Cowboy’s starter, Boone’s ability to finish consistently was crucial in knocking off the Longhorns. The rest of the starters combined for just 43 points on an atrocious 25% from the field. It was not just on the offensive end that Boone helped seal the impressive victory, he grabbed a staggering 15 rebounds and five blocks. Even in a game that went to two overtimes, the Cowboys kept a top-ten team to just 67 points, namely because of Boone’s ability to force misses near the rim and keep Texas off the offensive glass. Listed as the only forward that played more than four minutes, Boone had his best game of the year against a team with two forwards that will likely go in the first round of the draft. Even with the storylines flooding to star freshman Cade Cunningham because of his ability to knockdown some big shots at the end of the game, this upset happened because of the work of Boone. The Cowboys had been trending towards being ranked in the AP top-25, and this win secured that ranking and a much-improved line for the March Madness projections. Boone couldn’t replicate his performance in the loss to Kansas, but his 22-15-5 stat line deserves recognition in the Cowboy’s biggest game of the year.
West Virginia Mountaineers
After two straight top-25 wins, it is safe to say that the Mountaineers are climbing. They dominated No. 23 Kansas, 91-79, in a game they never trailed. Following that game, they upset No. 7 Texas Tech in Lubbock, 82-71. West Virginia climbed to second in the conference standings. Miles McBride has become one of best point guards in the country, and his ability to shoot, distribute and defend has led this team to new heights. In these last two wins, McBride has scored 51 points, dished 11 assists and pulled down 10 rebounds all while going 15-28 from the field, and 5-6 from behind the arc. This is one of the more versatile starting fives in the league as well, with Derek Culver, Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil capable of exploding for big games offensively. West Virginia has not lost a step on either end of the court since Oscar Tshiebwe transferred to Kentucky. In fact, his departure has allowed Culver to be a bigger factor in the offensive game plan, and play the five, which has seemed more natural for him. They now face a challenging stretch, even though their games against No. 2 Baylor have been postponed. However, with the way that the Mountaineers have played, they should welcome the challenge to improve their AP ranking and their March Madness seed.
Even with Kansas defeating recently ranked Oklahoma State, it has been a brutal stretch for them. For starters, they dropped out of the AP poll for the first time since 2009, which broke their record streak of 231 straight games ranked in the top-25. They lost five of their last eight games and beat just one ranked team since December 22nd. The Jayhawks were dominated by No. 18 Tennessee, 80-61, when they had a chance to prove that their struggles were temporary and contained to their Big 12 counterparts who have studied their tendencies more in depth. Even further, this is a Kansas team that expects greatness every single season and have played far from the standard set over the past two decades. They don’t have a go-to scorer when it is close late in the game, and their physicality at the forward positions have not had the same difference in the box score or the scoreboard as in years past. The 10-2 start to the year should help secure a decent line come March, but for a team that has consistently taken home the regular season title, being out of the equation for the title in February is disappointing.
Top Five Midseason Big 12 Players of the Year
Thanks to fellow blogger Derek Bast for this idea!
5. Rasir Bolton, Iowa State
From a number’s perspective, very few players have outperformed the former Penn State guard. Averaging 16.6 points and 4.5 assists per game, he ranks top five in the conference in both categories. He is also tied for third in steals per game, with 1.8. Bolton has been essentially the only offense for the Cyclones and has made his presence felt defensibly as well. The only reason he sticks at five is due to his team’s inability to win games. They are last in the conference and 0-9 in conference play.
4. Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State
Already the best player on a ranked team, Cunningham’s talent is obvious. He is ranked fourth because of the ability for him to completely dominate a game. He leads the league in scoring with almost 19 points per game, while being the main focus of every team’s defensive scheme. The 6’7 guard can do everything: shoot, pass, dribble, and defend. The Cowboys have leaned on him, especially late in games, and he has rarely disappointed. His only issue is that his big scoring games can be marred with inefficiency and turnovers. He has continued to improve, as will his ranking on this list if his team can continue to climb up the Big 12 standings.
3. Mac McClung, Texas Tech
McClung has not hidden from the big stage. He has elevated Texas Tech tremendously and is the top scorer and player for the No. 7 team in the country. He has played well in the game’s waning moments and has been the main reason behind the resurgence from the Red Raiders. Scoring 17.2 points per game, he is good for second in the conference. He has his limitations in other areas of the game, but is thriving offensively, and so is Texas Tech. McClung needs to continue to build on his defensive impact, but Texas Tech would not be one of the nation’s best teams without their fiery point guard.
2. Miles McBride, West Virginia
As West Virginia has continued to ascend the conference standings and national rankings, so has McBride’s play. Highlighted as the conference’s player of the week a few weeks ago, McBride has continued to excel. He is sixth in the conference in scoring, and fourth in assists. He is the main offensive engine for the Mountaineers, with both his shooting and passing. McBride is hitting over 44% of his threes, and his ability to constantly score from deep has made his teammate’s better. He is a tenacious defender too, tied for third in the league with 1.8 steals per game. The Mountaineer guard has continuously gotten better in his career, and his terrific play has helped make West Virginia one of the most challenging teams to play in the country.
Jared Butler, Baylor
This choice is obvious. Butler has transcended into one of the best two-way players in all of college basketball. What’s more, he does so while playing for the undisputed top team in the conference, and No. 2 team in the country. Butler has done it all for the Bears, scoring 17 points, 5.2 two assists and 2.4 steals per game. Those stats rank fourth, third and first among Big 12 players. He has lit up the stat sheet, yet has done so with efficiency. He has shot almost 50% from the field and almost 45% from deep. Butler takes good shots, plays with a tremendous motor, and is so intelligent. It’s like having a coach out on the hardwood. One of the main reasons the Bears have remained undefeated is because of the physicality, intensity and grit of their leading man. The best player for the best team, Butler is the clear selection for player of the year to this point.