We have officially finished the 2016-2017 regular season in the Big 12 and what a season it was. Several teams had a rollercoaster ride throughout conference play, and at the end of the day the conference has essentially locked up five NCAA Tournament bids. Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma State, and West Virginia are in barring a huge surprise from the selection committee. Kansas State came into this week fighting to keep their tournament hopes alive, and went in opposite directions to close out the year. TCU lost the head-to-head matchup between the two and then dropped their finale to lowly Oklahoma. Kansas State closed with two wins and have a legitimate chance at an at-large bid into the tournament. Meanwhile, Kansas did what Kansas does and closed out the regular season with another good win over a surging Oklahoma State game. For that reason, it should be no surprise that the Jayhawks have once again produced the player of the week.
Player of the Week:
Frank Mason, Kansas
What a season it was for Frank Mason and the Jayhawks. Mason finished the year the way he began it as our player of the week. His performance this week was as good as it gets in college basketball as he almost put up a triple double while playing extremely efficiently. Mason scored 27 points against the Cowboys on 16 field goals, including making three of his eight attempts from deep. Mason didn’t stop there as he also added nine assists while only turning over the ball twice, consistently finding open teammates and making the right pass. His eight rebounds were the final component to his dominant performance and tied him for second on the team in the game. Mason has put on a show all year, finishing the regular season averaging 20.5 points per game, 4.2 rebounds per game, and 5.1 assists per game. He finished leading the Big 12 in scoring, finishing fourth in assists, and also leading the conference in three-point shooting. His shooting from beyond the arc may have been the most impressive aspect of Mason’s season. He shot a career high 142 threes this year while shooting a career high percentage. That percentage is a very impressive 49.3 percent, putting him twelfth in the country. Mason’s lights-out shooting and all-around ability will be on display this postseason as the Jayhawks look to make a run for an NCAA title. Just hand the Wooden award over to Mr. Mason III.
After a really good freshman year, Jawun Evans took the next step this season in what could be his last at Oklahoma State. If it is his last regular season, Evans went out as well as he could have, even with the Cowboys losing their last two. He stuffed the stat sheet against two of the best in the conference, Iowa State and Kansas. In his first matchup of the week with the Cyclones, Evans lit up the scoreboard with 29 points on 15 field goals, as well as making four of his six three-point attempts. He also added four boards and 6 assists for the Cowboys. He was even more impressive against Kansas, scoring 22 points but also dishing out 15 assists to go along with four rebounds. If Evans can find teammates like he did on Saturday at a high rate, he could find himself in the back end of the first round in a very deep 2017 NBA Draft.
Kansas State Wildcats
After finding themselves in the “Who’s Not” category last week, Kansas State turned things around in a big way. I projected them to lose to TCU, essentially ending their tournament chances, but instead they won both of their final two games, putting themselves firmly on the bubble. The Wildcats finished the regular season at 8-10 in the Big 12, and 19-12 overall, good for sixth in the conference. While the Wildcats sit firmly on the bubble, they are the conference’s best chance to get a sixth team in the NCAA Tournament. The Big 12 Tournament will be big for Kansas State, as they face Baylor in their first game. If they can take down the Bears, Bruce Weber and the Wildcats should find themselves off of the bubble and into the 68-team field. That seemed like an impossibility at the beginning of the season.
Jaylen Fisher, TCU
TCU had a rough week, and so did their best freshman, Jaylen Fisher. Fisher has headed the Horned Frogs on both ends of the floor this year at the point, but he went out with a whimper in the team’s season finale. Fisher needed to step up if TCU wanted to have any chance at an at-large bid after their disappointing loss to Kansas State. Instead, Fisher played one of his worst games of the year against the cellar-dwelling Oklahoma Sooners, finishing with only seven points and four assists. That isn’t too far off of his season average, but the real damage was done from the field, where he made only three of his 14 attempts for an atrocious 21.4 percent from the field. Fisher will need to step up in the Big 12 Tournament, as the Horned Frogs’ only real chance at an NCAA bid is to win the conference tournament.
Freshman of the Week
Not much has gone right for Shaka Smart and the Texas Longhorns this season, but one thing that has is Jarrett Allen. Even on a team with almost no shot at the postseason, Allen has continually played at a high level on both ends of the floor for the Longhorns. This week, he put up 10 points and 11 boards in a loss to Texas Tech, which has been right around what he’s done all year. Allen was especially impressive in Texas’ final game against Baylor and their impressive frontcourt. Allen scored 20 points on 13 field goals, while pulling down nine rebounds and swatting three shots on the defensive end of the floor. Allen has been superb in what has been a disappointing season for Texas. Unfortunately for the Longhorns’ his first season in Austin may also be his last as he could be a lottery pick in the NBA Draft.
Big 12 Conference Season Awards
This week we will make our picks for the Big 12 season awards. Each pick will be based on how each player has performed all season long, with a short explainer on why they deserve the award.
Big 12 Player of the Year:
Frank Mason, Kansas
(See Above) Mason was as good as it gets in the Big 12 this year, averaging over 20 points per game and leading the best team in the conference. His performance made him an easy pick for player of the year.
Big 12 Freshman of the Year:
Josh Jackson, Kansas
Jarrett Allen made this choice tougher than I anticipated, but it’s difficult to ignore just how good Jackson was this year as a two-way player. He finished the year averaging 16.4 points per game to go with 7.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists. More importantly, Jackson shot 37.7 percent from deep on the season, which is higher than anyone could have anticipated at the beginning of the season. Jackson also added 1.6 steals per game and 1.1 blocks per game on the defensive end of the floor.
Big 12 Coach of the Year:
Brad Underwood, Oklahoma State
This came down to Brad Underwood and Bruce Weber, with Underwood getting the nod because his Cowboys are almost guaranteed to make the NCAA Tournament. Underwood, a Bob Huggins coaching disciple, has implemented an attack that pushes the pace and forces their opposition to make mistakes. That style lead to an impressive improvement for Oklahoma State, going from 12 wins at the end of 2016, to 20 before the conference tournament. The Cowboys have become one of the best and most exciting offenses and should be a lot of fun to watch as we enter the postseason.
Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year:
Deonte Burton, Iowa State
This decision came down to two shutdown wings in Josh Jackson and Deonte Burton. Burton was given the nod here because he not only outpaced Jackson in steals and blocks, but he also was relied upon more to be the best defender on the Cyclones. Burton averaged 1.5 blocks per game and 1.8 steals per game, while also taking on the opponent’s best wing night in and night out. Burton’s defense has been very important for the Cyclones, as the Big 12 boasts three of the top 20 scoring offenses in the country. He has been tasked with shutting down high scorers like Josh Jackson and Jeffrey Carroll all season long, and he has done just that. Burton will head the Cyclones defense as they look to make another postseason run.