At Home in the Mecca

Player of the Week

Jarrett Culver

Jarrett CulverJarrett CulverApparently the Red Raiders "go to Jarrett" for their holiday shopping needs, or perhaps whenever they need some offense. Despite losing against Duke on Thursday, Culver proved that he's unfazed by the big stage. He stood out as much as anyone under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden facing a team with by far the most talent in the country and the odds on favorites to win the NCAA title this year.

The Lubbock, Texas native who played high school ball less than 3 miles from the Texas Tech campus showed that he is prepared to step up and play on a big stage against elite competition. Unfazed by matching up against potentially the top three picks in the draft, he guided the Red Raiders to a lead for much of the game scoring in a multitude of ways including drives and pull ups that he initiated. His ability to isolate and create scoring opportunities, while still unlikely "NBA ready", has shown significant improvement.

Culver led all scorers with 25 points, hitting a respectable 9-21 from the floor and 4-9 from deep. His ability to pull up and shoot off the dribble was on display. He also showed some burst off the dribble driving by Jack White for a dunk in the second half. His excellent Duke performance was coming on the heels of his best performance of the year going for 30 pts and 7 rebs on 12-13 shooting against Abiline Christian.

He's got an excellent body, at 6'6 with a solid wingspan, strong, thick legs and good balance and explosiveness. He shows the ability to impact games without scoring with his solid defense and passing ability and his stock is certainly on the up tick as a likely first rounder following his performance against Duke at MSG.

Who's Hot

Dedric Lawson

Grad transfer Dedric Lawson has been the best acquisition for the Kansas Jayhawks this season. His well-rounded, polished game speaks for itself, and is a huge reason why the team remains atop of the AP rankings. In the highly anticipated rematch against No. 17 Villanova, Lawson posted 28 points to go along with 12 rebounds en route to the 74-71 victory. Lawson carried the momentum against a weaker opponent in South Dakota, dropping 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting and cleaning up 14 boards during the 89-53 blowout win. With a marquee matchup coming up against Arizona State, expect head coach Bill Self to rely on his wildly vet in Lawson to lead the team to victory in a hostile environment in Tempe. The "old man game" description that he took objection to from ESPN analyst Fran Frachilla on twitter actually fits him perfectly. He's highly effective in his below the rim style.

Barry Brown Jr.

There's no denying the value of Barry Brown Jr. to this Kansas State team. During the Wildcats' two-game skid, the senior guard had a combined 13 points on 6-of-22 attempts from the field. Underwhelming to say the least, it appears that Kansas State is back to its winning ways, earning hard-fought victories over Georgia State and Southern Miss. Brown was lights out during the 71-59 win over the Panthers, tallying 21 points by making 8-of-10 shots from the field, including four from three-point range. During the 55-51 down-to-the-wire win against the Golden Eagles, Brown chipped in 15 points as well as garnering two
assists and seven rebounds. Based on the sample size Brown has shown thus far, it's evident that Kansas State needs him to step up in order to win games, which infers that Brown will need to play at his best against talented Big 12 opponents.

Who's Not

Esa Ahmad

Although West Virginia has been spotty at best this season, senior forward Esa Ahmad has been one of the few bright spots on the roster. That being said, even Ahmad has had his struggles as of late, shooting poorly from the field and not being aggressive enough on offense. The Mountaineers' managed to defeat Pitt sheerly based off talent. In 35 minutes of action, Ahmad scored only 13 points while shooting below his season average. While it's nice to see that he was able to contribute in other areas, such as rebounding and defense, his seven turnovers is alarming. Ahmad has had a difficult time protecting the ball on offense this entire season, so this is a lingering issue that still hasn't been addressed yet. While the turnovers were cleaned up a bit the following game, that didn't prevent West Virginia from losing 83-70 to a depleted Rhode Island opponent. Ahmad only shot the ball six times, but was fortunate enough to shoot 8-of-10 from the charity stripe. While being able to draw fouls and sink free throws is a valuable skill, head coach Bob Huggins needs to make sure his best scorer doesn't let his foot off the gas pedal.

Top 5 Candidates for Big 12 Player of the Year

1.) Dedric Lawson

It seems like the decision to transfer from Memphis to Kansas was great for both Dedric Lawson and the program. He's been the head of the snake for this highly explosive offense whom shares the ball and always looks for open teammates. There's definitely an argument to be made that Lawson's odds of winning Player of the Year are marginalized due to the
surplus of talent on the Jayhawks' roster. That being said, Quentin Grimes hasn't been the consistent shot-maker many expected him to be entering the season and Udoka Azubuike has been nursing an injury as of late. Kansas remains undefeated and Lawson is second in the conference in scoring and first in rebounds.

2.) Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech

Despite letting a lead slip away en route to a 69-58 loss to No. 2 Duke, No. 12 Texas Tech proved on a national stage that this team is not to be underestimated. When watching the game, it appeared that sophomore sensation Jarrett Culver was perhaps the best player on the floor for either team, which says a lot considering the array of talent Duke possesses. Head coach Chris Beard describes Culver as both a gym rat and a humble killer, two attributes that pair nicely with Culver's lengthy, athletic frame. He's really shouldered the load on offense for the Red Raiders who lack any other real threats on that end of the floor.

3.) Marial Shayok

The Iowa State Cyclones currently sit at a record of 9-2, which is amongst the best in the conference. While there's a slew of talented players on the roster, senior guard Marial Shayok has been the star of the unit. Known to be a defensive-minded player during his time at Virginia, Shayok's been just as effective on offense too. He currently leads the Big 12 in scoring at 19.8 points per game, which is over double his output during his stint with the Cavaliers. Perhaps the best two-way player in the Big 12, Shayok's ability to get it done on both ends of the floor puts him in contention for conference player of the year.

4.) Christian James

Few thought that Oklahoma would be amongst the elite in the Big 12 this season, but that hasn't stopped the Sooners from proving the doubters wrong, boasting a 10-1 record through 11 games this season. Senior guard Christian James has both embraced and flourish under his new role of being the lead guard on the team. It's clearly translated into
victories, but let's not forget to mention that James is shooting 39.1% from three and 50.4% overall from the field. James is currently ranked fourth in the conference in scoring at 18.5 points per game, but is also one of the best rebounding guards too, with seven boards per game as well. With their only loss to No. 25 Wisconsin, the Sooners are riding high during this six game winning streak, which plays in the hands of James since winning is essential for gaining recognition for conference player of the year.

5) Lagerald Vick

While it's difficult to imagine senior Lagerald Vick surpassing teammate Dedric Lawson as the best player on Kansas, his terrific play shouldn't go unnoticed. He's been the vocal leader on this team, which has helped tremendously due to the moving parts and new players on this team from a season ago. Players such as Frank Mason and [Player: Devonte' Graham] has been the leaders of the team during Vick's first three years with the Jayhawks, but now Bill Self has handed Vick the keys to the car. He's averaging 17.1 points per game while shooting an absurd 54.0% from behind the arc and 52.5% overall from the field. While Vick has blossomed as a bucket-getter during his final hoorah with the Jayhawks, his hustle plays and heart help distinguish him as one of the premiere
talents in the Big 12 this season.