Stepping Up

The Big 12 saw some dominance from a few unexpected teams this week. Kansas continued to round into their usual form, defeating Long Beach State and Stanford comfortably. Baylor kept on rolling, dominating Sam Houston State and then controlling the 7th ranked team in the country, Xavier. Even with the Bears’ emergence as a Big 12 title contender, the most surprising team in the conference continues to be the Jamie Dixon-led TCU Horned Frogs, who are undefeated through seven games. The Horned Frogs beat Markelle Fultz and the Washington Huskies for the second time in three nights, and then cruised to victory over Arkansas State three nights later. TCU is doing it without any player scoring 12 points per game. With that said, TCU has been led by a surprise player to begin the year, who just happens to be this week’s player of the week.

Player of the Week

Kenrich Williams, TCU

Kenrich WilliamsKenrich WilliamsRedshirt junior guard Kenrich Williams is off to a torrid start to this season. Williams, who missed last season with a knee injury, is rebounding at a phenomenal rate for the Horned Frogs. Williams is averaging 10 rebounds per game this season, pulling down 10 this week against Washington, and 13 against Arkansas State. The Waco, Texas product has delivered on the scoreboard as well, with 10 and 15 points, respectively, in these two matchups. Williams, as we’ve seen with other great talents like Johnathan Motley, has continued to work on developing his jumper as well. Williams only hoisted 31 3-point attempts in his sophomore year in a total of 917 minutes. He is on pace to shatter that mark, already firing 17 attempts in only 175 minutes through his first six contests. Williams is a great defensive player, and the anchor of the Horned Frogs defense, averaging one block and 1.5 steals per game. Williams length allows him to guard most wings and guards, while also being a good weak-side help defender in the post. Williams was entirely off the radar for the NBA draft coming into his junior season. If he develops his jumper and continues to defend well, he could become the coveted 3-and-D wing that NBA teams have begun to salivate over.

Who’s Hot

I usually limit this section to one group or player, but this week, two groups of players stood out amongst the rest, and I couldn’t bring myself to leave either group (or any of the four players) out. All four players did plenty to help their stock for the 2017 NBA Draft.

The Baylor Frontcourt Duo: Johnathan Motley and Jo Lual Acuil

Another superb week from Johnathan Motley and Jo Lual Acuil and the Baylor Bears. Let’s start with Motley, who pulled down 22 rebounds and scored 25 points this week in two games. While those numbers seem modest for Motley, he managed 17 of the points and 8 rebounds against an extremely good Xavier team. His performance (which included him going 1-1 from beyond the arc) led the Bears and helped them pull away from the Musketeers. That one made 3-pt shot is important because it shows a continued willingness to take and make shots from distance for Motley, something I cited as crucial to his development.

Next up is Lual-Acuil, who continues to create chaos for teams trying to attack the paint. He swatted 10 shots in two games, and that number alone is wildly impressive, especially considering someone as explosive and long as Edmond Sumner was attacking the rim all game for Xavier, the game in which Lual-Acuil blocked six shots. He has the chance to be a very good defensive big in the NBA, even if he doesn’t add much more weight, or an offensive game. There are very few teams who wouldn’t love to have a great defensive talent at center, regardless of their lack of offensive ability.

The Kansas Wings: Josh Jackson and LaGerald Vick

Josh Jackson and LaGerald Vick had two very different performances this week. First, there is Jackson, who stuffed the stat sheet in both of Kansas’ games this week, netting 26 points, eight assists, eight rebounds, two blocks, and six steals across two games for the Jayhawks. That’s the kind of player many of us have come to expect Jackson to be, although eventually the volume should increase. He can contribute in every facet of the game and is useful in every situation, whether Kansas needs a go-ahead bucket, or a defensive stop, Jackson is the man for the job. It’s hard to say Jackson has improved his stock, but he is doing a great job of fending off other players who may vie for the crown of number one overall pick.

Next we have Vick, whose week and performance could not have been more different from Jackson’s. Vick’s selection is more for a one game performance of his, where he flashed the talent I talked about in my season preview. Against Long Beach State (yes, I know, not the best barometer) Vick lit up the scoreboard. He finished the night with 23 points, which in itself is impressive for a guy who isn’t the team’s primary scorer. The most impressive part was that he did it on nine shots. Nine. Vick was 4-4 from deep and 9-9 from the field. He can be a player that can lead a second unit in the NBA if he continues to shoot well. Of course, if he can become an average passer, his ceiling raises significantly, as he is already a decent rebounder for his position, averaging 4.5 per game in only 25.9 minutes per game.

Who’s Not

Jordan Woodard, Oklahoma

This was supposed to be the year that Jordan Woodard took the reigns of the Oklahoma offense. While he leads the team in scoring, he really hasn’t had the output that I expected, which became apparent in the Sooners matchup this week with Wisconsin. With Oklahoma already dropping a game to Northern Iowa (when Woodard only scored 13 even though the game went to OT), the Sooners could have used a big performance from Woodard and a victory against the Badgers to gain some momentum. Unfortunately, for them, the exact opposite occurred. They were blown out, losing 90-70 in what can only be termed a poor performance. Woodard did nothing to help the cause, only scoring nine points and adding a single assist. The most alarming aspect was that Woodard did not shoot a single free throw. If Woodard and the Sooners want to succeed, his scoring will need to get into the high teens, and he will need to get to the free throw line.

Top 5 Individual Performances So Far

This week we’ll take a look at the five best individual performances to this point in the season. The level of competition faced will be taken into account, as well as the actual performance of the player. For instance, even though I think LaGerald Vick’s performance against Long Beach State was important for his development (and a great statistical achievement) the quality of the opponent knocks him off of the list.

5. Anthony Livingston, F, Texas Tech (vs. Rice)

Livingston put up 33 points and 7 boards against a Rice team that took the Red Raiders to the limit. Livingston carried the team to a 85-84 win with his ability to get to the free throw line, making 10 out of his 11 free throw attempts. Without Livingston, Texas Tech may have been upset by Rice.

4. Deonte Burton, G, Iowa State (vs. Gonzaga)

Burton’s performance came in a narrow 73-71 loss to the Gonzaga Bulldogs. He scored 29 points to go with 12 rebounds and two blocks and did everything in his power to earn a victory for the Cyclones.

3. Jawun Evans, G, Oklahoma State (vs. Connecticut)

Evans filled the box score while leading the Cowboys to victory against UCONN in the Maui Invitational. He scored 35 points while adding four boards and six assists. Even more impressively, Evans used his quick hands to steal the ball five times en route to a 98-90 victory over the Huskies.

2. Jo Lual Acuil, F, Baylor (vs. Oregon)

Lual-Acuil did not score like the other players on this list, rather he led the Bears to a 66-49 victory over the Ducks with his defense and rebounding. He tallied 14 rebounds (six of which were on the offensive glass) and seven blocked shots, to go with his eight points on offense. With his defensive talent, this won’t be the last performance like this for Lual-Acuil.

1. Frank Mason III, G, Kansas (vs. Indiana)

Kansas has Mason to thank for even getting to overtime against the Hoosiers in their season opener. Mason, even though he fouled out, had a marvelous game, scoring 30 points, dishing out nine assists, and grabbing seven rebounds. Against an opponent with the talent of the Hoosiers, Mason shined, giving him the top performance of the season to date in the Big 12.