Player of the WeekDean Wade
Kansas State is currently on a five-game winning streak, the best currently in the Big 12. After recovering quickly from a mid-December foot injury, Senior forward Dean Wade has bounced back with some standout performances.
Wade may not get the love he deserves nationally, but he’s stepped up his play on the offensive end of the floor. The Saint John, KS native made the most of his 30 minutes of action against TCU, scoring 16 points to go along with six assists, one rebound, and one steal in the 65-55 victory over the Horned Frogs. Wade followed up the performance with 13 points, four rebounds, one assist, and one steal in the 58-45 upset win over No. 14 Texas Tech. While teammate Barry Brown gets the bulk of the credit of the Wildcats’ recent surge, Wade has done all he can to prove he’s an indispensable piece of this team.
Who’s HotMakai Mason
The former Yale transfer is beginning to find his rhythm for Baylor in the last couple of games, and it’s paying big dividends in the win column. The Bears had perhaps their biggest victory of the season, upsetting No. 8 Texas Tech 73-62 last Saturday. Senior guard Makai Mason was a marksman from behind the arc, drilling four of his seven three-point attempts en route to scoring 16 points. The Bears traveled down to Morgantown and downed West Virginia 85-73 on Monday. Mason was virtually unguardable, dropping 29 points against a team that came off an upset over No. 7 Kansas the previous game. With all these Big 12 teams beating up on each other in conference play, Baylor was able to snatch two key wins to move them up in the standings. If Mason is able to keep up the hot hand, Baylor figures to be a team fighting to make the NCAA Tournament come March.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Before their Saturday win over Arkansas, Texas Tech appeared broken. Their margin of defeat had risen every game during its three-game skid. Star player Jarrett Culver actually played fine during the team’s struggles, but opponents were able to expose the rest of the team by keying in on Culver late in games. Defensive game plans against the Red Raiders involves forcing other players outside of Culver to beat them late in games, and that strategy has payed off for the opposition. After only being behind two points versus Baylor, the Bears broke it open in the second half, scoring at will against the Red Raiders. As seen earlier in the season against Duke, it seems that Texas Tech gives teams breathing room down the stretch, which has burned them. The struggles continued for Texas Tech, as Kansas State was able to secure the 58-45 victory in the previous contest. No team wants to lose three games in a row during conference play, but perhaps the Red Raiders can learn from their recent woes. They were able to eek out a 67-64 win over Arkansas, holding potential lottery pick Daniel Gafford to 14 pts and 5 boards.
Top 5 Freshmen in the Big 12
1) Jaxson Hayes, Texas
Jaxson Hayes entered the college scene under-the-radar, but now is getting first round talk from NBA teams, and deservingly so. His offensive game is starting to become more effective in conference play. But it’s his upside and defensive abilities that has everyone excited. He’s a tenacious rebounder and leads the Big 12 in blocks per game at 2.7. Texas has been up and down thus far, but Hayes’s improvement on both ends of the floor could be the key for the Longhorns success.
2) Talen Horton-Tucker, Iowa State
Iowa State guard Talent Horton-Tucker has been in a slump of late, but had some what of a resurgence with 16 points versus No. 9 Kansas. Perhaps that’s the kickstart he needs. For one, Horton-Tucker is a very versatile defender, given his long, physical frame and agile quickness. He attacks the basket with authority and does a great job drawing contact. While he may need another year to hone his skills on the collegiate level, Horton-Tucker is a legit NBA prospect.
3) Devon Dotson, Kansas
Devon Dotson definitely has a ways to go before he becomes a dominant force in the Big 12, nevertheless, he has done a fine job with the Jayhawks this season, considering that he’s a freshman. He’s a true floor general and does a great job leading and getting his teammates open shots. Dotson still has work to do to become an elite scorer, but he has shown flashes during his freshman campaign.
4) Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State
It appears that Iowa State has hit two home runs with this year’s recruiting class. Tyrese Haliburton is an unselfish player who’s second in the conference in assists per game with 4.1. There are a lot of mouths to feed on this high octane offense of Iowa State, and Haliburton’s playmaking makes the well-oiled machine operate.
5) Jared Butler, Baylor
Jared Butler has been impressive during his freshman campaign, and has a lot of room to grow. He’s an athletic specimen with enough skill to become a key part of Baylor’s future. That being said, Baylor has NCAA Tournament aspirations, and maybe his development will put them over the edge.