Player of the Week
Ochai Agbaji, Kansas
Agbaji wasn’t considered one of the blue-chip freshmen Kansas brought in this season; nevertheless, the Kansas City product has become the crown jewel of their recruiting class. Agbaji is definitely a late-bloomer, as he served as merely a rotation player earlier on. With all the missed games from the top bucket-getters on the team, Agbaji has gotten his opportunity and been a huge boost for an otherwise disappointing season for the Jayhawks. His breakout game was perhaps in the 84-72 victory over Oklahoma State, a solid bounce back coming off the defeat versus Kansas State. Agbaji was lights out from behind the arc, draining five three-pointers en route to scoring 23 points. The game against the Cowboys was certainly no fluke, as Agbaji matched his level of play in the 82-77 overtime battle with TCU. In 41 minutes of action, Agbaji secured his second double-double of the season, securing 20 points to go along with 11 rebounds. The freshman appears to be a diamond in the rough for Kansas, and is becoming a bright spot for a short-handed team on a three game win streak, that needs all the help they can get coming down the stretch.
Lindell Wiggington, Iowa State
The explosive point guard from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia has steadily improved as his sophomore season has progressed and been very effective of late. After starting the year out on the bench with a left foot injury, he’s impacting one of the top teams in the conference with his explosive play. he had 23 points, knocking down 5-of-6 from 3 in their win over Kansas State. He has raised his 3 point percentage to 38% on the year.
Despite winning 11 of its first 12 games, Oklahoma completely faltered once conference play began. A poor record of 3-9 leaves the Sooners in eight place in the Big 12. As of late, Oklahoma is currently enduring a five-game skid, the longest losing streak of its season. Christian James, the Sooners best player arguably, has seen his statistics and efficiency drop since conference play kicked off. That’s not to blame James per say, since there’s little to no production from the rest of the roster either, at least not on a consistent basis. Excluding the home loss Baylor, the Sooners’ have kept the games in arm’s reach at the very least. Late game execution has been tough to come by, but that makes sense since there’s no true superstar such as Trae Young to lean on. But Young is obviously gone, and the Sooners need to play a more team-oriented style rather than hero ball to secure wins in the Big 12.
Top 5 Teams with the Most to Prove in the Big 12
1) No. 14 Kansas Jayhawks
Kansas’ 14 consecutive Big 12 titles is on the line this season, and the Jayhawks will have to play catch-up in order to extend the streak to 15. It’s been a roller coaster of a season for Kansas, but the team still finds itself in striking distance for the top seed. Kansas is only half game back from first, and will rematch Kansas State again, which could determine the winner of the conference. The twelth ranked Jayhawks are vulnerable for once, but head coach Bill Self is arguably one of the best-suited coaches to handle the situation.
2) No. 18 Kansas State
On the flip side, Kansas State has a direct path to win the Big 12, which hasn’t been done since the Wildcats shared the title with Kansas in 2013. Head coach Bruce Weber has a formidable squad to accomplish such a feat, due to the tenacious defense and immense ball-pressure the Wildcats put on display on a game-to-game basis. Barry Brown Jr. is the catalyst on both ends of the floor, and will be an intricate part of the team’s success down the stretch.
3) Texas Longhorns
Texas is arguably the hardest team to gauge in the Big 12. There are times when the Longhorns are brilliant, downing teams such as Purdue, Kansas, and Kansas State to name a few. On the other hand, this team is also easily flustered, being upset by inferior opponents like Oklahoma State and Radford. Figuring out which Texas team is going to show up is like predicting the weather. Shaka Smart is an excellent coach with an
impressive resume to his name, and the team features uber-talented players including freshman phenom Jaxson Hayes and senior leader Kerwin Roach II. That being said, Texas has been able to find itself in the NCAA Tournament, and this team figures to do the same come March.
4) No. 14 Texas Tech Red Raiders
Texas Tech had a great run in the NCAA Tournament last season, reaching its first Elite Eight in program history. Head coach Chris Beard appears to be the right fit for an ascending Red Raiders’ basketball program. Jarrett Culver has been nothing short of sensational, and is perhaps the most improved player from a season ago. He figures to follow the footsteps of Zhaire Smith and become a high pick in the NBA Draft come June. That being said, Beard does a terrific job connecting the dots on offense to surround Culver with capable playmakers, as well as develop a stingy game plan on defense
that always cause havoc for opponents.
5) West Virginia Mountaineers
After being hyped up to be amongst the cream of the crop in the Big 12 entering the season, West Virginia had a serious reality check once the season actually started. It’s been rocky to say the least, as the Mountaineers are a humble 10-16 team that remains one of the bottom
feeders in the conference. Head coach Bob Huggins is obviously one of the top coaches in all of the land, but it’s mind-blogging why this team hasn’t turned the corner at any point in the season. With all of this being said, perhaps a revival towards the end of this season can carry over into the following one.