Player of the Week
Austin Reaves, Oklahoma
The Oklahoma Sooners pulled off yet another win versus an AP top-15 team. The Sooners, who now have four such wins on the season, defeated No. 13 West Virginia, 91-90 in double overtime. The Sooners were led by Reaves, who scored 28 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in the game. He filled up the stat-sheet, but also was at his best with the game on the line. He scored four points in the final minute of the second overtime, and hit a floater over defensive menace Miles McBride to win the game. The 6’5 senior also contributed a steal, and was a flawless 7-7 from the free-throw line. Oklahoma desperately needed to win this game to keep their place near the top of the standings. This was Reaves second game back after missing two games due to COVID-19 protocols. They certainly needed him, as Umoja Gibson was the only other player for the Sooners with more than 13 points. Oklahoma has ascended national and conference rankings because of their ability to have numerous players on the floor takeover. In this game however, Reaves was their go-to guy. Reaves leads the team in points, assists and rebounds. They needed their senior leader to have a huge performance to help steal a conference win on the road, and Reaves did all they could have hoped for. He limited second-chance opportunities for West Virginia, connected with teammates for open looks, and scored consistently while connecting on 50% of his shots. He is now fifth in the conference in scoring, and second in assists, while leading the ascending Sooners to a massive win on the road. It has been quite the stretch for Reaves.
Derek Culver, West Virginia
Derek Culver was an absolute beast against Oklahoma. Despite the loss, Culver had one of the best games of his career, scoring a career-high 29 points and pulling down 14 rebounds. He was a force in the paint, and was able to use his frame and dominate the smaller forwards that the Sooners tried to use against him. He was 13-23 from the field, and added a steal and assists in the loss. It is not just this one performance that allows him to stand out, as Culver has consistently done the dirty work for his team. He is the best rebounder in the conference by a wide margin, almost two full boards per game over the next closest player. Culver’s timing on the offensive glass allows him to create more second chance points, while his strength and physicality drastically limit those second chance opportunities for opposing teams. Culver had a chance to score late, and was unable to score, but the loss to Oklahoma was not on the 6’10 junior. His scoring is not just a one game phenomenon either, as he is ninth in the conference with over 15 points a game. McBride and Sam McNeil have been playing well, but West Virginia would not be nearly as effective on either end of the court without their bulldozing center.
With four games cancelled last week, including two ranked matchups, it was a frustrating time for fans of the conference. With No. 2 Baylor having their last five games postponed, the conference has been without one of its main attractions. In addition, they were hitting their most challenging stretch of the season, where they could prove to be even more lethal then they have already shown to be. On the bright side, this week of games is full of entertainment. No. 23 Kansas squares off against No. 15 Texas Tech to see if the Jayhawk’s late resurgence is legit. Plus, No. 13 West Virginia plays No. 12 Texas who are both tied in the standing and could use some separation from the other. All of that action is just on Saturday, leaving other intriguing games for the rest of the week. COVID-19 postponements, in addition to bad weather moving games can be disappointing, but fans can hold solace knowing that this will be an incredible week of basketball in the conference. There are stars facing off, games with great influence over the conference standings, and the depth of the conference should be highlighted as well.
Top Five Recruits in the Big 12 for 2021
5. Zach Clemence, Kansas
The consensus 4-star power forward was a big recruiting win for Bill Self and his staff. The 6’10 forward should get minutes quickly in his collegiate career for his hustle, versatility and shooting ability. He will need to continue to add muscle, or he will get bullied by bigger forwards and centers. He has a lot of potential, and will be a name to watch over the next few years.
4. Langston Love, Baylor
Rated as the sixth best player in Texas, and 34th nationally by 247 Sports, Love will fit snugly into Baylor’s system. He will likely be one of the players that replaces Baylor’s incredible backcourt. Plus, an inch taller and similar weight to Jared Butler, he could play the Butler role next season. He is a fierce competitor, and his ability to play with or without the ball will allow him more playing time. Fans in Waco will love, Love.
3. Tyrese Hunter, Iowa State
The Cyclones have been in disarray on the court for the whole season, but got a major addition off the court. Hunter, a 6’1 point guard, is the second best player in his home state of Wisconsin, and the 36th ranked player in 247 Sports. His smaller stature may ultimately limit his ceiling, but he should be an immediate impact for Iowa State. Whether he starts or comes off the bench, his mix of scoring and creating is desperately needed.
2. Jaylon Tyson, Texas Tech
Tyson, another consensus 4-star, is a dynamic athlete and offensive force. He is 6’6 and 185 pounds, so while he is listed as a small forward, shooting guard seems more likely in college. He has the tools to be a productive starter or bench player for the Red Raiders, and should fill an offensive gap left by the potential departures of Terrence Shannon Jr. and Mac McClung. Already projected as a 2nd round pick in the future, Tyson should be a good option for Texas Tech in the coming seasons.
1. Kendall Brown, Baylor
The only five-star recruit to sign with a Big 12 team thus far, Brown should make an immediate effect for the Bears. He is listed at 6’8, 205 pounds, meaning he has the ability to play the small forward or power forward positions. That versatility, along with his ability to handle and finish inside raise his floor as a prospect and player. The key, like many other high school forwards, is continuing to improve his shooting from behind the arc. Even without that, his size and athleticism project him to be a starter soon in Baylor, and should eventually get him drafted.