Player of the Week
Izaiah Brockington, Iowa State Cyclones
The 6’4 senior wing had been a productive player for St. Bonaventure and Penn State, but Brockington (Pictured) has exploded since finding a home in Aimes. The lefty slasher has poured in the points this season, tied for third in the conference in ppg, and second in rebounds. The Philadelphia native has emerged as a leader of the undefeated Cyclones, averaging 16.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game while hitting a phenomenal 50% from the field and scorching 42% from three. Brockington has played by far his best season, while helping completely shift the expectations of the season for Iowa State. This week, Brockington has averaged 18.5 points, 12 boards and 2.5 assists. He has invigorated the offense, and after last year having one of the least efficient offenses in the country, Iowa State has only fallen below 60 points in a game one time this season. For a team that went without a win in conference play last year, Iowa State has completely flipped the script, and that is largely because of the great two-way basketball of Brockington.
Iowa State Cyclones
The Player of the Week segment isn’t enough to mention how much of a revelation Iowa State has been this season. Their turnaround is truly remarkable, and arguably the most shocking part of the young season in a sport that is full of surprises. New Head Coach T.J. Otzelberger has seemingly changed the whole tone and culture of the locker room, while not dropping a game despite inheriting a depleted roster from last year. I picked the Cyclones to spiral out of control and finish at the bottom of the Big 12 standings, but they are currently at the top of a conference featuring Baylor, Kansas and more. Not every team they have faced has been marquee, but they have two ranked wins over No. 9 Memphis and No. 25 Xavier. Their most difficult test yet is New Year’s Day, having to take on No. 1 Baylor. While the daunting conference will still be difficult for Iowa State, they have a direction and hope that was non-existent a few months ago.
Iowa State’s meteoric rise and undefeated stretch was shocking, Baylor’s isn’t. The reigning champions lost stars Davion Mitchell and Jared Butler to the NBA. They added stud freshman Kendall Brown, who is averaging 13 points while leading the conference in field goal percentage (71%). He is accompanied by Georgetown transfer James Akinjo, who is leading the Big 12 in assists and steals. Returning forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua is first in rebounding and second in field goal percentage. All that firepower and that’s without including NBA prospect Matthew Mayer and leading scorer LJ Cryer. This team is deep, experienced, and confident. They have a plethora of shooters, scoring and defense. They have one of the elite coaches in the country and have only had two games finish in single digits. It has been a long time since Baylor has dropped a contest, and they show no signs of slowing down. They might miss the scoring combo of Butler and Mitchell come March, but this team is built for success because of all of the useful players on the roster. With Kansas playing great basketball as well, the conference race should be a good one.
Top Five Three-Point Shooters
1. Ochai Agbaji, Kansas Jayhawks
A certified sniper, Agbaji has poured in more than three threes per game shooting 48% from deep. An all-around scorer, his great shooting touch opens interior driving lanes and more passing options. He is a tremendous player and has risen draft boards because of all that he can provide to a team. The 6’5 senior guard’s most valuable asset might still be his blend of accuracy, attempts and array of shot-making.
2. Nijel Pack, Kansas State Wildcats
Pack has been a flamethrower in the early going for the Wildcats. The 6’0 sophomore has been lighting up the scoreboard from behind the arc with 2.8 makes a game with a 44% mark from deep. Kansas State needed the scoring boost that Pack has provided, and he has helped the Wildcats go 8-3 with only one loss against an unranked team.
3. LJ Cryer, Baylor Bears
Cryer is the leading scorer for the best team in the country. One of the main reasons for that feat is his ability to score from behind the arc. He is hitting 2.6 threes per game with tremendous accuracy (46%). He can hit threes from anywhere and can do it any number of ways. Capable of pull-up shots, catch-and-shoot jumpers and more, Cryer is a very good player and a better shooter.
4. Izaiah Brockington, Iowa State Cyclones
My Player of the Week achieved that high honor for a multitude of reasons. He can score, rebound, defend, and is a versatile presence for Iowa State. He has also hit 42% of his threes, despite the defensive attention he receives every night. Brockington has developed into a dynamic player, and his touch from deep has been one of the keys for individual and team success.
5. Umoja Gibson, Oklahoma Sooners
The senior Sooner can really shoot it. Gibson has been a solid contributor in Norman for his career but has continued to improve. He has now become one of the conference’s premier threats from deep with 2.7 threes per game and 40% accuracy.