Just a heads up, the Baylor section of this post is significantly longer than what it normally is (over my first 4 weeks of doing these posts, my average word count for the Baylor section has been 192 words, this week's edition has a Baylor section comprised of just under 1000 words) because I have a lot to say about how the Bears looked this week and what it might mean moving forward. The Baylor section is also significantly longer than the sections for the other 9 teams, but so what? This is a site for Baylor fans so hopefully you all don't mind too much. Also, the Leaderboards portion of this post (and those moving forward) focuses primarily on the performance of the individual players and coaches in recent games (instead of focusing on the season-long exploits). The idea behind this is that the guys on my leaderboards have earned their spots as I've laid out in previous weeks and movement among the top 4 will primarily be based on recent performances. I may from time to time, include season-long stats in that portion of the posts. Finally, if you'd like to check out last week's post, you can find it here.
Big XII Team of the Week: Texas Tech. The Red Raiders bounced back on Saturday to take down the Kansas Jayhawks and they did so without their two leading scorers.
Big XII Player of the Week: James Akinjo, Baylor. The guard led his team to a 2-0 record on the week behind 47 points, 8 rebounds, 13 assists, and 4 steals on 63% from the field and 55% from deep.
(Baylor, Kansas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Iowa State, Texas, West Virginia, Oklahoma State, TCU, Kansas State)
1) #1 Baylor Bears (Prev: 1). Overall Record: 15-0. Weekly Record: 2-0. Conference Record: 3-0. B12 Position: 1. KenPom Rank: 1. NCAA NET Rank: 1. RPI: 9. SOS (per KenPom): 126. Q1+Q2: 7-0. Q3+Q4: 8-0.
Baylor started their week with an 8-point victory over the Sooners in their conference home opener. The defense was surprisingly less than stellar for the Bears who allowed OU to shoot nearly 56% from the field. It was the highest opponent FG% allowed by Baylor this season. Oregon is the only other opponent to hit more than 50% of their FGs against the Bears. Incidentally, Oklahoma and Oregon are the only 2 offenses Baylor has played this season who rank in the top 100 nationally in eFG%. I don't want to be an alarmist here but Baylor's defense allowed 72+ points in back-to-back games against ISU and OU, something they haven't done in either of the past 2 seasons. While OU's FG% was a season worst for Baylor defensively, the worst part is how and where the points came from. The Sooners went 24/32 (75%) on 2PFGs. That is the worst opponent 2P% allowed by a Baylor defense since the 2009 NIT (Georgetown shot 78% on two-pointers and more than 50% of the FGAs were three-pointers). The only other time in the last 12 seasons where a Baylor defense has allowed a 2P% of higher than 70% was in 2011 when Kansas bludgeoned the Bears by 20 points. I was unable to find a single instance in the last 20 seasons where Baylor allowed such a high 2P% on such a high volume of 2PFGs (over 61% of OUs FGAs were two-pointers). The reason Oklahoma was so efficient from inside the 3P line was their five-out scheme where they lift all 5 offensive players beyond the arc to create space for driving and cutting. Baylor had few answers for this. It wasn't all doom-and-gloom for Baylor's defense against Oklahoma though. The good guys were able to force a lot of turnovers and kept OU's 3P shooters in check. Flo Thamba's block late in the game was huge. Still, Scott Drew needs to reassess the way his team defends five-out sets and potentially make some adjustments. Offensively, Baylor performed well as a team (3rd highest eFG% of any game this season). James Akinjo and Adam Flagler, in particular, were the biggest difference makers, combining for 49 points and 7 assists on 62% from the field and 55% from deep. That backcourt duo is really starting to hit their stride which is great news for Baylor fans. The Bears also looked much better from the FT line in this game (80%) and the key difference in the game for me was the way Baylor dominated the battle of the boards (+9 on offensive rebounds and +18 on total rebounds). The problem areas on offense were the turnovers and late-game inbounding. Baylor turned it over 20 times against the Sooners after 19 turnovers against ISU. The Bears averaged 10.6 turnovers per game prior to the ISU game so obviously ball security needs to be addressed moving forward. All in all, it was an ugly win for Baylor against OU. That's not such a bad thing because it's a lot easier to learn from games like this than it is to learn and improve from games that are non-competitive. Also, if Baylor was able to withstand a historically bad defensive performance, 20 turnovers, and uncharacteristically poor performances from Kendall Brown, Matthew Mayer, LJ Cryer, and Jeremy Sochan (that group averages a combined 41.8 points per game but combined for just 17 points against the Sooners) and still win, then perhaps they are already well equipped to handle the inevitable adversity they'll face in Big XII play this season.
Baylor finished the week with a 12-point win over the Horned Frogs. The game was much closer than the final score suggests. The Bears trailed at the half before picking up the defensive intensity in the 2nd half. James Akinjo led the way in the 1st half before Adam Flagler heated up in the 2nd half. Together, Akinjo and Flagler combined for 44 points, 5 boards, and 10 assists. Baylor was able to consistently get open three-pointers and cashed in (13/27 [48%]). While the Bears were sloppy with turnovers for much of this game (just as they had been in the 2 previous games), they had zero turnovers in the final 8.5 minutes of the game, helping them build a cushion. The real story of this game for Baylor is that Jeremy Sochan rolled his ankle and had to leave the game. He is likely to miss some time and our prayers need to be with his recovery being full and fast. In his absence I could see Baylor doing 1 of 3 things: a) Dale Bonner will become the 8th member of the rotation and we will see a lot more 3 guard lineups [this is the most likely scenario]; b) Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua will get increased minutes as a PF, occasionally sharing the floor with Flo Thamba [rotation almost certainly shortens to 7 guys in this scenario, unless Loveday is allowed to eat some minutes]; c) Jordan Turner takes most if not all of Jeremy's minutes [least likely scenario, just because of where we are in the schedule, had this happened a few weeks ago, maybe things would be different].
Up next for the Bears are a pair of home games against a very dangerous Texas Tech team that knocked off Kansas this past weekend and then against an Oklahoma State team that just beat Texas. Baylor's depth will be tested this week in the expected absence of Jeremy Sochan. This starting 5 remains as good as it gets in the conference and there's nowhere else to put the only remaining undefeated team in the league but the same place they've been from the beginning, the tippy top.
2) #9 Kansas Jayhawks (Prev: 2). Overall Record: 12-2. Weekly Record: 1-1. Conference Record: 1-1. B12 Position: T-4. KenPom Rank: 4. NCAA NET Rank: 9. RPI: 7. SOS (per KenPom): 33. Q1+Q2: 5-2. Q3+Q4: 7-0.
The Jayhawks finally launched their 2021 Big XII campaign with a win against Oklahoma State. Bill Self coached teams have historically struggled in Stillwater. This time, Kansas was able to withstand a FG drought where they missed 19 consecutive shots to end the first half. The shooting improved in the second period and the Jayhawks were able to dispense with the Cowboys. The backcourt of Christian Braun and Ochai Agbaji did their usual thing, combining for 31 points, 6 assists, and 8 rebounds. The real standout for Kansas though was big man, David McCormack who had 17 points and 15 rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench. This guy started 28 of 29 games for the Jayhawks last year and 12 out of 13 this season (Tuesday's game @ OSU being the only exception). If he gets going, he makes KU much more balanced and harder to handle.
KU followed up their conference opening win with a loss to a shorthanded Texas Tech on Saturday. In the game, they lost the rebound battle and the turnover battle. Bill Self's bench had just 11 points on 3/14 from the field in 61 minutes on Saturday. Ochai Agbaji and Jalen Wilson both played well, combining for 44 points on 65% from the field and 9/14 (64%) from deep. The Jayhawks will need to be more consistent and more balanced offensively if they want to stay near the top of the conference.
KU will face their next two challengers, Iowa State and West Virginia, at home. They'll need more out of Christian Braun than they got on Saturday. This is still the 2nd best team in the conference but the gap between the Bears and everyone else might be bigger than we thought.
3) #19 Texas Tech Red Raiders (Prev: 7). Overall Record: 11-3. Weekly Record: 1-1. Conference Record: 1-1. B12 Position: T-4. KenPom Rank: 18. NCAA NET Rank: 21. RPI: 88. SOS (per KenPom): 325. Q1+Q2: 2-3. Q3+Q4: 9-0.
Tech lost its conference opener this week to ISU. It was a 4-point road loss to a legit Cyclones team so there's no need to panic. This is especially true considering that the Red Raiders were extremely shorthanded, playing with only 7 players and without their top 2 leading scorers, TJ Shannon and Kevin McCullar. That duo accounts for more than 36% of the team's scoring, 23% of the team's rebounds, 38% of the team's assists, and 30% of the team's steals. Their absence was heavily felt. Tech's defense kept them in the game, holding ISU to 51 points on 30% from the field. They fell short due to terrible FT shooting (9 missed FTs) and 3P shooting (14 missed three-pointers). These numbers aren't all that surprising considering that TTU has struggled in those categories all year (313th national in FT% and 140th nationally in 3P%).
TTU had an opportunity to get their biggest win of the season in their Big XII home opener against KU. They got the job done behind herculean efforts from Bryson Williams and Clarence Nadolny, who combined for 39 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals on 57% from the field. The Red Raiders were great at getting buckets near the basket (11/14 [78%] of TTU's 2nd half FGs came in the paint). It's also impressive the way Tech outrebounded KU, giving them numerous 2nd chance opportunities.
Things don't get any easier for Tech this upcoming week as they'll start with a trip to Waco before hosting the Cowboys this next weekend. There's no timetable for the return of McCullar and Shannon. Without those 2, it'll be hard for Tech to play their best ball but as we saw this weekend, they can still challenge even the top teams in this conference.
4) Oklahoma Sooners (Prev: 5). Overall Record: 12-3. Weekly Record: 1-1. Conference Record: 2-1. B12 Position: T-2. KenPom Rank: 32. NCAA NET Rank: 31. RPI: 43. SOS (per KenPom): 143. Q1+Q2: 4-2. Q3+Q4: 8-1.
The Sooners started their week with a loss on the road against Baylor. As mentioned above, Oklahoma was extremely efficient on offense, especially in the paint and on two-pointers generally (75% on 2PFGs!). This was a byproduct of good floor spacing, good ball movement, and good coaching. The 3P shooting (25%) and turnovers (17 TOs) may have cost OU a chance at the upset. Also, they were thoroughly dominated on the boards (12-3 on offensive rebounds and 34-16 on total rebounds). The good news coming out of this game for Porter Moser's group was that Tanner Groves, Jacob Groves, and Bijan Cortes (who all missed the conference opening win over KSU) returned to action. The Sooners also did well to turn up the defensive intensity in the 2nd half, helping them force Baylor's offense into 20 turnovers in the game. There's no doubt that when healthy, this team can compete with anyone and everyone in the conference. Late game execution needs to get better, but I think the Sooners are yet to hit their ceiling this year.
The Sooners were down by 10 points with less than 15 minutes remaining in the 2nd half. They then dominated those final 14+ minutes 44-17 to pull off a 13-point upset of Iowa State. The key for the Sooners was spacing the floor and getting downhill. OU was 63% on two-pointers in the game and also had a 14-point advantage at the FT line. It also helped that they had a +9-rebounding advantage.
The Sooners will be making a couple of trips down I-35 this next week, first to take on the Longhorns and then to Fort Worth next Saturday. Umoja Gibson and Tanner Groves are the driving forces for this Sooners offense and keep an eye on freshman guard, Bijan Cortes who had 5 assists in 17 minutes off the bench for OU against ISU.
5) #15 Iowa State Cyclones (Prev: 4). Overall Record: 13-2. Weekly Record: 1-1. Conference Record: 1-2. B12 Position: 8. KenPom Rank: 38. NCAA NET Rank: 23. RPI: 47. SOS (per KenPom): 211. Q1+Q2: 5-2. Q3+Q4: 8-0.
The Cyclones bounced back from their loss to Baylor with a win over Texas Tech. The Red Raiders were shorthanded, using only 7 total players in the game. The game was a defensive slugfest where both offenses shot under 40% from the field. The difference in the game was Texas Tech shooting so poorly from the 3P line (17%) and FT line (40%). Star Izaiah Brockington led the team in scoring with 14 points (and 9 rebounds) although his efficiency was less than superb (5/16 [31%] from the field). Iowa State's offense continues to be the weakness of the team (161st nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency). Still, ISU's defense will give them a chance to win games by grinding them out.
ISU led most of the 2nd half against Oklahoma on Saturday before fading down the stretch and losing their second conference game of the season. The star duo of Izaiah Brockington and Tyrese Hunter played well, combining for 40 points 4, rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals, on 60% from the field. The problem was the defensive breakdowns, late in the game whereby they allowed numerous easy layups to the Sooners.
It'll be another put-up-or-shut-up week for the Cyclones who'll face Kansas on the road before taking on the Longhorns next weekend. Another split would probably be considered another successful week, but if ISU wants to be at or near the top of the conference by season's end, they'll need to start sweeping some of these weeks.
6) #21 Texas Longhorns (Prev: 3). Overall Record: 12-3. Weekly Record: 1-1. Conference Record: 2-1. B12 Position: T-2. KenPom Rank: 16. NCAA NET Rank: 17. RPI: 55. SOS (per KenPom): 326. Q1+Q2: 2-3. Q3+Q4: 10-0.
The Longhorns started their week off with a 13-point road win over Kansas State. Before UT fans get carried away, let's note some things. 1) KSU was without its 2nd leading scorers on the season due to COVID [meaning that both of Texas's conference wins were against shorthanded teams]. 2) KSU is and has been dead last in the conference in these power rankings since their inception. Against the Wildcats, they used a balanced attack whereby 4 different players scored in double-figures. Marcus Carr and Timmy Allen were particularly effective, combining for 36 points, 21 rebounds, 8 assists, and 2 steals on 44% from the field.
UT went to Stillwater, Oklahoma and found themselves in a rock fight. It was their lowest scoring game of the season as an offense and it wasn't just one or two guys struggling to get going, it was the whole team (*insert Jason Kelce meme*). Now, to be fair, Oklahoma State is a good defensive team (they rank 12th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency). Still, Texas has 7 games remaining against teams that are statistically better defensively than Oklahoma State (plus they have to play the Pokes again). If Texas doesn't find a better offensive rhythm and fast, more losses are sure to come.
The Longhorns take on rival OU before heading to Ames, Iowa this next weekend. They'll need veteran guards, Courtney Ramey and Andrew Jones to step up if they want get back on track.
7) West Virginia Mountaineers (Prev: 6). Overall Record: 12-2. Weekly Record: 1-0. Conference Record: 1-1. B12 Position: T-4. KenPom Rank: 40. NCAA NET Rank: 39. RPI: 29. SOS (per KenPom): 120. Q1+Q2: 4-2. Q3+Q4: 8-0.
The Mountaineers only played once this week (their mid-week game against TCU being postponed due to COVID). They started the game against KSU 1/12 from the field and falling behind 18-4 in the process. It took more than 7.5 minutes for WVU to hit their 2nd field goal. Even once WVU's offense finally started showing signs of life, KSU kept hitting bombs. The Wildcats made 9 three-pointers in the 1st half helping them take a 13-point lead into the break. WVU chipped away at the lead before tying it up with about 9 minutes left and never trailing thereafter. The Mountaineers were able to hang on and avoid the upset due to the strong performance of Sean McNeil, who had 26 points and 5 rebounds on 60% from the field and 4/6 from deep.
Bob Huggins will want his team to keep the momentum going against Oklahoma State before making the trip to Lawrence, Kansas this next weekend. This offense continues to be unimpressive, and West Virginia remains one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the nation.
8) Oklahoma State Cowboys (Prev: 9). Overall Record: 8-5. Weekly Record: 1-1. Conference Record: 1-1. B12 Position: T-4. KenPom Rank: 44. NCAA NET Rank: 56. RPI: 59. SOS (per KenPom): 53. Q1+Q2: 2-5. Q3+Q4: 6-0.
The Pokes started their week and their conference campaign with a loss at home to Kansas. One of the themes so far for this team is how poorly their guards have been shooting the ball. The guard quartet of Avery Anderson III, Bryce Williams, Rondel Walker, and Bryce Thompson combined for 88 minutes against the Jayhawks and scored a combined 20 points on 9/36 (25%) from the field and 2/11 (18%) from deep. It's going to be hard for OSU to beat anyone in this conference, let alone a team like Kansas, if that group continues to struggle.
Oklahoma State excelled defensively in their weekend upset of the Texas Longhorns. They also got a big boost from Kelan Boone who came off the bench but led the team in scoring with 17 points off of 5/7 from deep. The key to the game was slaughtering Texas at the FT line (OSU had an 11-point advantage at the charity stripe).
The Cowboys are poised for a very difficult few games on the road where they'll face West Virginia, Texas Tech, and Baylor away from home before playing their next game in Gallagher Iba. I still don't trust OSU's guards at all but the defense will give them chances to upset teams like Texas this year.
9) Texas Christian Horned Frogs (Prev: 8). Overall Record: 10-2. Weekly Record: 0-1. Conference Record: 0-1. B12 Position: 9. KenPom Rank: 59. NCAA NET Rank: 58. RPI: 70. SOS (per KenPom): 277. Q1+Q2: 1-2. Q3+Q4: 9-0.
After spending more than 2 weeks trying to overcome COVID problems within the program that kept the team from playing a game since before Christmas, TCU lost their conference opener to Baylor. The Frogs displayed no rust as they went punch-for-punch with Baylor in the 1st half. Mike Miles looked like the conference player of the year candidate that I've suggested he is. He had 22 points with about 17 minutes left when he injured his shooting wrist and took on a more passive role in the team's offense. Texas Tech transfer, Micah Peavy looked solid following Miles's injury (until Peavy fouled out that is). This team outrebounded Baylor which is one of their biggest strengths. They also were effective (before Miles's injury) at getting Miles switched onto Baylor's big men and then driving on them.
TCU will have a chance to bounce back against Kansas State this week before hosting the Sooners next weekend. If Miles's wrist continues bothering and limiting him, it'll be tough for TCU to beat teams in the middle and especially the top of the conference.
10) Kansas State Wildcats (Prev: 10). Overall Record: 8-6. Weekly Record: 0-2. Conference Record: 0-3. B12 Position: 10. KenPom Rank: 69. NCAA NET Rank: 87. RPI: 198. SOS (per KenPom): 149. Q1+Q2: 1-6. Q3+Q4: 7-0.
The Wildcats lost their first game of the week to the Longhorns. KSU only had 7 scholarship players available for the game as several Wildcats were in COVID protocols, including Davion Bradford and Markquis Nowell. That duo combined for 41.9 minutes, 17.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 5 assists per game. The Wildcats took the lead about 30 seconds into the game and held that lead throughout the entire 1st half and the first few minutes of the 2nd half. The game was much closer than the final score might indicate. KSU held the lead longer than UT did and the deficit was as small as 6 points with less than 3 minutes remaining in the game. The team faded down the stretch and were badly outrebounded. Still, Texas is one of the more talented teams in the conference, and KSU was competitive throughout. They were also competitive @ Oklahoma in their conference opener. If they can get healthy, they'll knock off some teams ahead of them in these rankings.
KSU started the game against WVU hot from the perimeter and used those three-pointers to build a 17-point lead. They saw that same lead melt away in the 2nd half where they went cold from distance and were unable to stop Sean McNeil. The Wildcats' lack of depth was on display as Carlton Linguard Jr. and Luke Kasubke went scoreless in a combined 32 minutes of action.
They'll host the Horned Frogs and the Red Raiders this week. They are 8th in the conference in adjusted offensive efficiency and 9th in adjusted defensive efficiency. This isn't a terrible team by any stretch, but they are a notch (or two) below the rest of the league. Still, they've been competitive in 2 of their 3 Big XII games thus far (average margin of defeat: 6 points). They'll need to actually get over the hump and win a few games if they want to stay in the hunt for a March Madness bid and they are currently digging themselves a hole.
Big XII Award Leaderboards
Coach of the Year Leaderboard:
1) Porter Moser, Oklahoma. The Sooners competed with Baylor on the road before getting their best win the season against ISU.
2) TJ Otzelberger, Iowa State. The Cyclones won a hard-fought game against Texas Tech to bounce back from their loss to Baylor.
3) Scott Drew, Baylor. It's simple, if the Bears keep winning, Drew stays on the list.
4) Mark Adams, Texas Tech. As you can see above, TTU rockets up the rankings behind their upset of Kansas.
Player of the Year Leaderboard:
1) Taz Sherman, West Virginia. Last 8 games: 21.3 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.4 SPG, 48% from the field and 45% from deep.
2) James Akinjo, Baylor. Last 4 games: 22.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 6.3 APG, 2.3 SPG, 54% from the field and 52% from deep.
3) Izaiah Brockington, Iowa State. Last 7 games: 18.1 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.6 SPG, 51% from the field and 37% from deep.
4) Ochai Agbaji, Kansas. Last 2 games: 20.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 48% from the field and 53% from deep.
Defensive Player of the Year Leaderboard:
1) Matthew Mayer, Baylor. League leader in defensive rating and block%.
2) Tyrese Hunter, Iowa State. 2nd in the league in steals and 4th in defensive win shares.
3) Timmy Allen, Texas. Top 5 in the league in defensive rating and defensive win shares.
4) Flo Thamba, Baylor. 3rd in the league in block%.
Sixth Man of the Year Leaderboard:
1) LJ Cryer, Baylor. 1 start in 13 games played. 20.8 points per 40 minutes on 50% from the field and 46% from deep.
2) Malik Curry, West Virginia. 0 starts in 14 games played. 15.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 2.4 steals per 40 minutes on 46% from the field.
3) Jeremy Sochan, Baylor. 1 starts in 15 games played. 14.5 points and 10.9 rebounds per 40 minutes on 48% from the field.
4) Aljaz Kunc, Iowa State. 0 starts in 15 games played. 13.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per 40 minutes on 56% from the field and 51% from deep.
Freshman of the Year Leaderboard:
1) Kendall Brown, Baylor. Last 6 games: 10 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 68% from the field.
2) Tyrese Hunter, Iowa State. Last 3 games: 12.3 PPG, 3.7 APG, 2.3 SPG, 44% from the field.
3) Jeremy Sochan, Baylor. Last 4 games: 8.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 52% from the field.
4) CJ Noland, Oklahoma. Last 5 games: 6.2 PPG, 1.0 SPG, 81% from the field (3 attempts per game).
Newcomer of the Year Leaderboard:
1) James Akinjo, Baylor. See Player of the Year stats above.
2) Izaiah Brockington, Iowa State. See Player of the Year stats above.
3) Tanner Groves, Oklahoma. Last 5 games: 13.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 59% from the field.
4) Timmy Allen, Texas. Last 3 games: 11.7 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.3 SPG, 44% from the field.
Upcoming Big XII Games Worth Monitoring
Last week's predictions: 3-1; I had Baylor winning last Tuesday by 10, they won by 10 (woo!); I had Baylor winning last Saturday by 14, they won by 12; I had Iowa State winning last Wednesday by 6, they won by 4; and I had Kansas winning last Saturday by 9, they lost by 8 (good thing for Baylor that I was wrong).
a) Texas Tech @ Baylor. Tuesday, January 11, 2022, at 6:00 PM CT on ESPN2. Prediction: Baylor by 7.
b) Iowa State @ Kansas. Tuesday, January 11, 2022, at 7:00 PM CT on ESPN+. Prediction: Kansas by 3.
c) Oklahoma @ Texas. Tuesday, January 11, 2022, at 7:30 PM CT on LHN. Prediction: Oklahoma by 1.
d) Oklahoma State @ Baylor. Saturday, January 15, 2022, at 4:00 PM CT on ESPN. Prediction: Baylor by 15.