Player of the Week
Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State
The star player for the Cowboys, Cunningham’s star power shines brighter every game. He was recently announced as a semifinalist for the Naismith men’s player of the year award, which is now down to just ten players. In addition to getting closer to winning the prestigious honor, Cunningham’s team is winning games too. He led Oklahoma State to back-to-back wins against No. 7 Oklahoma who then dropped down to No. 17. In the first matchup, Cunningham had one of the best individual performances of the season, scoring 40 points, on 12-21 shooting, and adding 11 rebounds and three steals in the 94-90 win. He did not match his immense offensive output in the second game, but was still crucial to the Cowboy’s victory. He had 15 points, seven boards, four assists and a steal in the game to sweep their rivals. The 6’7 guard showed again why he is most likely going to be this year’s first pick of the draft. He has the shooting ability from everywhere on the court, can rebound extremely well for his position, and has the handles, size and vision to play numerous spots on the court. He is a matchup nightmare, and continues to dominate a very good conference, leading the Big 12 in scoring with almost 20 points a game. He sustained an ankle injury , and couldn’t pull off another win against Baylor, but it was an outstanding week for the Big 12’s best freshman.
Following their first loss of the season, the Bears responded well. Instead of allowing the losses to pile up, they defeated two ranked teams in just three days. No. 3 Baylor beat No. 6 West Virginia and No. 17 Oklahoma State, who are two of the hottest teams in the conference and country. West Virginia had won six of their last seven games, including beating three ranked teams during that stretch. Oklahoma State had won their last five games, and beat ranked Oklahoma twice. While tired legs seemed to be a factor in the close win against Iowa State, and their loss against Kansas, Baylor did not let their three week layoff affect them over these two crucial wins. After their thrilling overtime win against the Mountaineers, Baylor won their first regular season championship in 71 years. They have been so tremendous on both ends of the court this season, and this week was the highlight of the year for them thus far. Standout guard Jared Butler was once again the catalyst, leading the team in scoring in both games. If they continue to play at the level they have been, they will be extremely difficult to beat come March. Beating two ranked teams in three days, and winning sole possession of the regular season championship in one of the toughest conferences in the country is one great week.
The Sooners had one of the best stretches in recent college basketball memory, winning nine of ten games, and beat three AP top ten teams in a row. They looked to be a top two or three seed in the tournament, and a dangerous squad with hopes of cutting down the nets. Yet, the last two weeks have been a major slump for Oklahoma, who have now lost four straight contests after a 69-65 loss at home to No. 15 Texas. After all of the amazing wins, and building one of the most complete resumes in the country, this dreadful stretch of play could ruin their chance at a high seed. They lost back-to-back games against their rival Oklahoma State, and lost to unranked Kansas State. Kansas State has been the second worst team of the conference, and one of the lower quality power five teams nationwide. Losing to the Wildcats already put some holes in their March Madness resume, but four straight losses right before the season ends is not how the Sooners want to end their regular season. They have won some huge games, and still have the firepower to make a run at the national title, but these last few games have most certainly hurt their chances.
Top Five Freshman in the Big 12:
5. Bryce Thompson, Kansas
This selection is about promise more than current statistics, as the amount of true freshman currently playing big minutes in the conference is limited. The former five-star recruit has immense potential, but has yet to display it for the Jayhawks. He has averaged just under 17 minutes per game, scoring 5.1 points and 1.1 assists. He needs to develop a more usable three point shot, as he is shooting 25.9% from behind the arc.
4. Davion Bradford, Kansas State
Averaging less than eight points and five boards per game, Bradford has yet to leave his stamp on the Wildcats. However, at 7’0 and 265 pounds, he has the frame to find sustained success as a defensive force and rim runner. He will not stretch the floor, and needs time to develop into a better reader of the game, but he can be a useful player for Kansas State thanks to his strong frame, hustle and energy.
3. Mike Miles, TCU
Miles is one of just three freshmen to have an immediate effect for their team. He is 12th in the conference, scoring almost 14 points a game, and also averages more than three rebounds and assists per game. For a TCU team that has struggled, Miles’ great play has been a wonderful surprise. Despite being listed at just 6’1, he has impacted so many games with his excellent play. He needs to continue to take smarter shots, but his future is bright for the Horned Frogs.
2. Greg Brown
Brown is projected first round pick due to his insane athleticism and measurables. Brown averages 10.6 points per game, and almost seven rebounds. His length and quickness make him quite the defensive asset, and his hustle and speed in the open court help him create and finish transition chances. Like most freshmen, he is not without his faults. He is not a threat from deep, and averages 2.2 turnovers to just .3 assists. When his feel for the game catches up to his body, he will be a very talented NBA player.
1. Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State
Already mentioned as the player of the week, Cunningham is a dominant presence in the conference as a freshman. He averages almost 20 points per game, while ranking sixth in the conference in steals, eight in rebounds and 12th in assists. He impacts the game in almost every way. He is the perfect build for the modern NBA, and has the skill set of a guard with the height of a small forward. There is simply nothing on the court that Cunningham can’t do. The Cowboys need to appreciate every last moment that he is in Stillwater.