Player of the Week
Christian James. Oklahoma
While only playing one game, senior guard Christian James had perhaps the most eye-opening performance in the Big 12 during the first week of the season. Oklahoma was able to fend off UT Rio Grande 91-76 last Friday. James finished the game with 29 points to go along with 3 rebounds, 2 steals, as well as one assist and block. James was quite efficient from the field, making 9 of his 17 shots, including 4 from behind the arc. He also got to the free throw line often, knocking down all but one of his 8 attempts. The Sooners are a run-and-gun offense, which leaves plenty of opportunities for James to score in transition and thrive in the offensive system in place. Expect an increased workload for James as he assumes the lead guard role for Oklahoma with the absence of Trae Young from a season ago.
Who’s HotQuentin Grimes
Freshman sensation Quentin Grimes didn’t fail to impress during Kansas’s victory over Michigan State on opening night. In 30 minutes of action, Grimes racked up 21 points on 14 shot attempts, which included 6 three-pointers to keep the Spartans’ defense in check the entire game. His ability to stretch the floor allowed for teammates such as Dedric Lawson and Udoka Azubuike to operate in the paint makes the Jayhawks’ offense even more dynamic. Kansas as a whole proved why the team was deserving of being ranked No. 1 in the preseason during its first game. In order to maintain the same level of success, Kansas will need to depend on Grimes to continue producing at a high level.
West Virginia Mountaineers
Perhaps the most shocking upset during opening week was West Virginia losing at home to Buffalo in overtime 99-94 last Friday. For a team predicated on defense, allowing 99 points to a non-power five school is pretty brutal. Buffalo’s 6’3 senior 2-guard CJ Massinburg was virtually unguardable as he dropped 43 points including 9 three-pointers to go along with 14 rebounds en route to the Bulls’ victory. It appears that the loss of Jevon Carter will be difficult to overcome, as there was nobody on the Mountaineers’ roster who could stop Massinburg from grabbing the bull by the horns and taking over games. The 19 turnovers committed by West Virginia is concerning, especially given that this team loves to play an uptempo brand of basketball. In order to rebound, the Mountaineers will need to make up for its defensive lapses as well as protect the ball; two attributes that the team heavily relies on for success.
Top 5 Teams in the Big 12
1) Kansas Jayhawks:
The Kansas Jayhawks are both the most talented and most battle-tested team in the conference thus far. They handed Michigan State its first loss of the season by the score of 92-87. Despite losing Devonte Graham, Malik Newman, and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, the team was able to reload with a whole new slate of talented players. The new freshman backcourt of Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson appears to be the backbone of this team, and new transfers Dedric Lawson and K.J. Lawson will also be critical for team success. With still plenty of elite teams left on its out-of-conference schedule, Kansas is in the driver’s seat once again this season. They appear set to bring home an astouding 15th straight conference title.
2) Kansas State Wildcats
K-State currently sits as the second highest-ranked team in the AP Poll, and rightfully so. The Wildcats had a remarkable run in the NCAA Tournament last season, coming just short of reaching the Final Four following the loss to Loyola-Chicago in the Elite Eight. Nevertheless, this team appears locked and loaded for a breakout season, with both the personnel and experience. Kansas State was able to hold off Kennesaw State 56-41 Friday. While their lack of offensive production is a concern, it’s worth noting that this team is predicated on slowing down the game and playing hard-nosed defense in order to win. They may not be as explosive offensively as some of the other teams in the Big 12, but the Wildcats are able to produce victories on a consistent basis.
3) West Virginia Mountaineers
To be fair, Buffalo is a pretty good team, and should be a fringe top 25 team throughout the duration of the season. For one, Bob Huggins is one of the best college basketball coaches in the country, so if anyone can orchestrate a team’s rebound from a tough home loss, it’s him. Lamont West and James Bolden are both realistic all-conference team candidates, and should continue their offensive production. This game will hopefully serve as more of a learning experience than a setback for the Mountaineers.
4) TCU Horned Frogs
TCU was able to survive the upset alert after defeating CSU Bakersfield 66-61 last Wednesday. The abysmal depth is a glaring weakness on this team. There’s only about 6 players who can really log quality minutes. CSU Bakersfield was able to claw its way back into the game by out-running and out-hustling the Horn Frogs. On the bright side, star
point guard Jaylen Fisher will eventually be back as he is recovering from knee surgery. Fisher will certainly help stabilize this team and give them a player to rely upon during late game stretches. As of now, however, expect Desmond Bane and JD Miller to hold down the fort for TCU.
5) Texas Longhorns
It seems that Texas is beginning to rebuild its basketball program, if the recent success indicates anything. The Longhorns currently stand at 2-0, with wins over Eastern Illinois and Arkansas. Kerwin Roach opted to return for his senior year and is off to a terrific start. While he didn’t play in the opener, he was able to record 18 points and 11 rebounds en route to the overtime victory over the Razorbacks. Senior forward Dylan Osetkowski is a skilled offensive player for the Longhorns, and should look to assert himself on that end of the floor more frequently this season. The loss of Mohamed Bamba is a blow for Texas, as he was one of the elite defenders, especially rim protectors, in college basketball last season. Nevertheless, Texas remains a solid team that has tournament aspirations yet again this season.