Player of The Week

Tyrese Hunter, Iowa State Cyclones

Hunter, the lone member of Iowa State’s 2021 recruiting class, has been a huge get for Coach Otzelberger and his staff. The dynamic 6’0-point guard is already third in the conference in assists per game with 4.4, and his eleven points per game is tops amongst all Big 12 Freshman. The Wisconsin native had one of his best and most complete games of his young career. Hunter scored 14 points, on 6-10 shooting from the field and 2-4 from behind the arc. He also had seven assists, four rebounds and a steal. Lightning quick with the ball, Hunter generates opportunities in transition with his elite pace and vision. In the half court, his mastery of the pick-and-roll allows him to find baskets for himself and his teammates. His play against Oklahoma, in a dominant 75-54 win, was phenomenal. Despite playing collegiate basketball for a couple months, Hunter looks like one of the most prominent young players in the Big 12. The way he commands the offense with his passing and handling is tremendous, and the constant pressure on the rim keeps players like Izaiah Brockington open. Brockington dropped 23 points on 10-13 shooting against the Sooners and had so much space because of the attention Hunter is able to draw. The young guard has a bright future ahead, and the Cyclones are grateful for it.

Who’s Hot

March Madness Locks

It was a simple Saturday slate for the premier teams in the conference. Kansas, Texas Tech and Baylor all handled their business. Locks for the big dance, each of those three are ranked in the top-15 in the AP poll and were in the top three seeds of the first Top 16 reveal. What they are playing for now is regular season glory and the all-important seeding position. Baylor and Kansas defeated unranked foes by double digits, while Texas Tech beat in-state rival No. 20 Texas by six on the road. The cherry on the cake for the Red Raiders is getting to be their former Head Coach Chris Beard in both of their matchups. In a conference that is always filled with drama, upsets, and crazy finishes, it was a day of no upsets.

Who’s Not

Teams on the Bubble

Conversely to the top-teams having an easy weekend, it was tough to watch for the faithful of teams who have not yet solidified their dance ticket. Oklahoma and Kansas State, two teams squarely on the bubble, certainly did not help themselves this weekend. Kansas State fell by three in overtime to unranked Oklahoma State on the road. It was a respectable loss, and one that shouldn’t be too detrimental to the Wildcats, but it was also a game that was in their grasp. Those super close losses can haunt you if you narrowly miss making it to the tourney. While Kansas State played well, Oklahoma looked completely disheveled. They were crushed by 21 by unranked Iowa State. They were fine from the field (48%), but the turnovers and bench play were horrendous. The Sooners had more turnovers (16) than assists (12), and the bench combined to go 1-5 for two points in 43 minutes of play. Those are brutal numbers for a team that has a real shot of playing in March. Oklahoma even had three players in double digits, but the other seven players combined for 13 points in 99 minutes of play. Yikes.

Top Five Surprises

Thanks to fellow blogger Derek Bast for this idea!

Iowa State is Good

They added serious talent in the transfer portal, and Hunter seemed like an immediate contributor, but this is a massive turnaround for a team that was winless in the conference last year.

Remy Martin, Kansas Jayhawks

Arguably the best player in the transfer portal last season, Martin was dominant for the Sun Devils the past two seasons. The guard averaged 19.1 points, almost four assists and more than one steal per game over that stretch. He was supposed to push this team to new heights as the orchestrator of the offense, and constant pest defensively against opposing ball handlers. Instead, he has averaged just 8.1 points per game, and simply isn’t the same force he was while wearing the maroon and gold in Tempe.

Matthew Mayer. Baylor Bears

One of the returners from the national title squad, Mayer was supposed to blossom with more playing time and a higher usage rate with so many players off to the NBA and elsewhere. He has averaged just 1.6 points per game more, despite playing six more minutes per contest. Mayer has seen his efficiency decrease and hasn’t improved greatly in any other area. Mayer was looking like a potential unicorn for his unique size, ball-handling and shooting touch. After his (potential) final season in Waco, it is hard to believe an NBA team would draft a player who is a senior and still a project.

Mark Smith, Kansas State Wildcats

In just two extra minutes per game this season, Smith has added more than two points per game, wildly increased his efficiency, and has more than doubled his rebound average. The 6’4 senior is leading the Big 12 in rebounding with an incredible 8.6 per game, despite being a guard. A tremendous motor and noise for the ball, Smith seems to be everywhere on the glass despite often being undersized. He went from role player to key starter for a plucky and hungry Wildcat team that could vault into serious tournament consideration with a few more wins.

West Virginia Mountaineers

A veteran-laden team with a great coach in Bob Huggins, it was difficult to foresee this much of a decline for the Mountaineers. Despite being led by the conference’s second leading scorer, Taz Sherman, West Virginia still ranks 295th in points per game (67.9). The defense hasn’t been bad (67 points against per game), but the lack of offensive firepower outside of Sherman is apparent. After a great non-conference stretch, the Mountaineers have limped to a 3-10 Big 12 record, including one win in their last eleven games.

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