Welp. The Bears were on top of the conference and seemingly on top of the world, fully in control of their own destiny in winning the outright regular season conference title. That was the state of things going into this past weekend. That is, as you may already know, not the state of things anymore. If there’s one thing we know about this conference after 15 weeks of basketball, it’s that we really don’t know anything. It is a crazy league where crazy things happen. The cellar dwellers can knock off AP Top 12 teams and teams can erase 17-point deficits without blinking (sad). If you wanna see last week’s post, you can find it here.
Overview: Home teams went 8-2. Ranked teams went 7-2 against lower-ranked or unranked opponents. Only 4 of last week’s 10 games were decided by 7 or fewer points.
My Team of the Week: Texas Tech. An 8-game losing streak to start conference play had many writing the Raiders off for dead. They have now won 5 of their last 7, including last week’s wins over AP Top 10 Texas and a gritty win in West Virginia.
My Player of the Week: Gradey Dick, Kansas. The true freshman helped his team to a 2-0 record on the week including the comeback win over Baylor after putting up 42 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and 4 steals on 46/33/80 splits across the pair of wins.
1) Kansas Jayhawks (Weekly Record: 2-0)
Game 1: The Jayhawks defeated the Oklahoma State Cowboys 87-76. Telling Stat: KU outscored the Horns 20-5 in fast break points. Standout Player: Gradey Dick (26 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assist, and 2 steals on 59/44/67 splits).
Game 2: Kansas defeated the Baylor Bears 87-71. Telling Stat: After trailing by as many as 17 points, KU outscored Baylor by 29 points in the 2nd half. Standout Player: Jalen Wilson (21 points, 13 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal on 38/0/90 splits).
that's what we like to see pic.twitter.com/n9FrCkqQnH— Kansas Men’s Basketball (@KUHoops) February 18, 2023
Player to Watch: KJ Adams, Jr., Center. Last 4 Games: 13.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.3 APG, and 0.8 BPG on 71/NA/71 splits.
Stat to Know: Kansas leads the league in assist-to-turnover ratio in conference play.
What’s Next: TCU (2/20) and West Virginia (2/25)
The Jayhawks have won 6 of their last 7 games after their dominant 2nd-half performance against Baylor. They control their own destiny for winning the conference outright. They have elite coaching, an elite duo (Wilson and Dick), and an elite homecourt advantage. If Kansas can knock off Texas in the final week of the regular season, they’ll likely be crowned back-to-back Big 12 regular season champs.
2) Baylor Bears (Weekly Record: 1-1)
Game 1: The Bears defeated the West Virginia Mountaineers 79-67. Telling Stat: BU outscored WVU by 21 points from deep. Standout Player: LJ Cryer (26 points and 1 rebound on 67/73/100 splits).
Game 2: Baylor was defeated by the Kansas Jayhawks 87-71. Telling Stat: The Bears were held to just 10/28 (35.7%) from the field in the 2nd half. Standout Player: Adam Flagler (22 points, 3 rebounds, and 7 assists on 53/25/75 splits).
Player to Watch: Adam Flagler, Guard. Last 4 Games: 20.3 PPG, 2.0 RPG, and 5.3 APG on 51/39/94 splits.
Stat to Know: The Bears have the highest scoring offense in the Big 12 in conference play.
What’s Next: Kansas State (2/21) and Texas (2/25)
The Bears took a ride on a roller coaster of emotion last week. It started with LJ Cryer’s lights-out performance in a dominant win and ended with a horrific meltdown loss in Lawrence. That’s what this team is this year. There’s a lot of Jekyll and Hyde. When shots are falling, they are the best team in the land. When things start to go wrong, they tend to snowball and winnable games slip away. These final 4 games will tell us a lot about the mental fortitude of this team, and how well equipped they are to do serious damage in the NCAA Tournament.
3) Texas Longhorns (Weekly Record: 1-1)
Game 1: The Longhorns were defeated by the Texas Tech Red Raiders 74-67. Telling Stat: UT was held to just 10/30 (33.3%) from the field in the 2nd half. Standout Player: Marcus Carr (23 points, 2 rebounds, 6 assists, and 1 steal on 47/56/44 splits).
Game 2: Texas defeated the Oklahoma Sooners in overtime 85-83. Telling Stat: The Horns outscored OU 36-25 in bench points. Standout Player: Marcus Carr (17 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals on 27/0/82 splits).
Timmy Allen with another tough finish in transition! pic.twitter.com/G0x6fSMOym— Hook'em Headlines (@HookemHeadlines) February 18, 2023
Player to Watch: Marcus Carr, Guard. Last 4 Games: 21.3 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 4.0 APG, and 1.8 SPG on 45/37/70 splits.
Stat to Know: The Longhorns are the best FT shooting team in the Big 12 in league play.
What’s Next: Iowa State (2/21) and Baylor (2/25)
The Horns have gone 2-2 over the last couple of weeks and have ceded sole possession of 1st place in the Big 12 in the process. The defense has not been as good in this recent stretch and but for their OT win over the league’s last-place team, they’d be coming into this week on their first losing streak of the season. The guard play and depth of this teams still makes them one of the most dangerous teams in the conference, but some of the team’s flaws have started to show lately.
4) Kansas State Wildcats (Weekly Record: 1-1)
Game 1: KSU was defeated by the Oklahoma Sooners 79-65. Telling Stat: The Cats were held to just 9/25 (36.0%) from the field in the 2nd half. Standout Player: Nae’Qwan Tomlin (17 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block on 53/0/50 splits).
Game 2: The Wildcats defeated the Iowa State Cyclones 61-55. Telling Stat: Kansas State outscored ISU 19-7 in points off turnovers. Standout Player: Markquis Nowell (20 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists on 31/44/100 splits).
Player to Watch: Markquis Nowell, Guard. Last 9 Games: 18.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 5.7 APG, and 2.1 SPG on 34/32/90 splits.
Stat to Know: The Wildcats have the worst Defensive Rebound Rate in the conference in league play (per KenPom).
What’s Next: Baylor (2/21) and Oklahoma State (2/25)
Over their last 7 conference games, the Wildcats are 2-5. If not for their narrow home win over a similarly struggling Iowa State squad, they’d be coming into this week on their first 3-game losing streak of the season. The offensive efficiency has taken a bit of a nosedive recently, as the team has failed to score more than 65 points in 3 straight games. The remaining games on KSU’s regular season slate include 3 opponents they’ve already beaten this year and a home rematch against the team at the bottom of the conference standings.
5) TCU Horned Frogs (Weekly Record: 1-1)
Game 1: The Frogs were defeated by the Iowa State Cyclones 70-59. Telling Stat: TCU shot just 6/18 (33.3%) from the FT line in the game. Standout Player: Shad Wells (15 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals on 50/14/0 splits).
Game 2: TCU defeated by the Oklahoma State Cowboys 100-75. Telling Stat: The Horned Frogs had an eFG% of 75.4% (the team’s best single game shooting performance since 2017). Standout Player: Damion Baugh (16 points, 3 rebounds, 11 assists, and 1 steal on 78/100/50 splits).
Player to Watch: Emanuel Miller, Forward. Last 5 Games: 12.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.8 APG, and 0.8 BPG on 60/38/43 splits.
Stat to Know: TCU is the best 2P shooting team in the conference in league play.
What’s Next: Kansas (2/20) and Texas Tech (2/25)
The Horned Frogs brought their 4-game losing streak to a screeching halt in their emphatic home win over the Cowboys on Saturday. Mike Miles, Jr. and Eddie Lampkin, Jr. are both back, and that makes TCU a significantly more threatening team. Miles seemed to instantly transform this offense that had note scored 85+ in their previous 12 games, to a team that could hang a hundred on a pretty good OSU defense. I’m still not convinced that this team is Final Four good, even if healthy finally. That said, they’ve got opportunities against Kansas and Texas to prove me wrong (and potentially help the Bears in so doing).
6) Iowa State Cyclones (Weekly Record: 1-1)
Game 1: ISU defeated the TCU Horned Frogs 70-59. Telling Stat: The Cyclones led by as many as 21 points and never trailed. Standout Player: Aljaz Kunc (22 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block on 70/63/100 splits).
Game 2: The Cyclones were defeated by the Kansas State Wildcats 61-55. Telling Stat: Iowa State was held to 29-62 (30.6%) from the field in the game. Standout Player: Aljaz Kunc (15 points, 5 rebounds, and 1 steal on 40/29/83 splits).
Player to Watch: Aljaz Kunc, Forward. Last 3 Games: 16.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, and 1.7 SPG on 56/47/85 splits.
Stat to Know: The Cyclones lead the league in Defensive Turnover Rate in conference play (per KenPom).
What’s Next: Texas (2/21) and Oklahoma (2/25)
The Cyclones have won just 2 of their last 7 games. Although they have the best defense in the conference (per KenPom), the offense continues to prove unreliable (the team is shooting just 37.5% from the field over its last 3 games). Someone on this team needs to step up, especially with road trips to Austin and Waco looming. Another win or 2 should lock up an at-large bid for the Cyclones, but if they want to make it past the first weekend for just the 2nd time in the past 7 seasons, they need to regain some of the momentum they had when the started the season 13-2.
7) Oklahoma State Cowboys (Weekly Record: 0-2)
Game 1: OSU was defeated by the Kansas Jayhawks 87-76. Telling Stat: The Pokes allowed Kansas to shoot 19/29 (65.5%) from the field in the 2nd half. Standout Player: Kalib Boone (27 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal on 67/NA/58 splits).
Game 2: The Cowboys were defeated by the TCU Horned Frogs 100-75. Telling Stat: OSU was outscored by 30 points in the paint. Standout Player: Bryce Thompson (18 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals on 40/33/75 splits).
Player to Watch: Bryce Thompson, Guard. Last 4 Games: 17.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.5 APG, and 1.8 SPG on 45/36/64 splits.
Stat to Know: The Cowboys are the worst FT shooting team in the Big 12 in league play.
What’s Next: West Virginia (2/20) and TCU (2/25)
The Cowboys saw their impressive 5-game winning streak come to an end last week, as they dropped both games in somewhat puzzling fashion. If there’s one thing you thought you could count on from OSU, it’s the defense. Well, that defense surrendered 187 points in the losses last week. If the Pokes are going to stay on the right side of the bubble, they need to win at least one or two more games and to do that, they need better contributions from their frontcourt.
8) Texas Tech Red Raiders (Weekly Record: 2-0)
Game 1: The Red Raiders defeated the Texas Longhorns 74-67. Telling Stat: TTU outscored UT by 18 points in the paint. Standout Player: Kevin Obanor (19 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks on 50/40/100 splits).
Game 2: Tech defeated the West Virginia Mountaineers 78-72. Telling Stat: The Raiders outscored the Mountaineers by 24 points in the paint. Standout Player: Jaylon Tyson (27 points, 5 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block on 73/75/67 splits).
Jaylon Tyson in a 78-72 win @ West Virginia : Season-high 27 points (11-15 shooting, 3-4 from 3 & 2-3 from the FT line), 5 assists & no turnovers in 36 minutes pic.twitter.com/Pls6yLb0cC— Lee Harvey (@MusikFan4Life) February 19, 2023
Player to Watch: De’Vion Harmon, Guard. Last 5 Games: 19.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.6 APG, and 1.2 SPG on 45/38/71 splits.
Stat to Know: Tech has the team FG% in the Big 12 in league play.
What’s Next: Oklahoma (2/21) and TCU (2/25)
The Red Raiders have won 3 consecutive games, their longest win streak since December. It may be a long shot, but if Tech can win at least 3 of their last 4 regular season games, they should go to Kansas City firmly on the bubble. The complete heel turn by this team since the Big 12-SEC challenge has been nothing short of remarkable. Harmon and Tyson have been particularly good as of late, and don’t look now, but big man, Fardaws Aimaq looks like he might be starting to put the pieces together and get back to being the guy we thought he’d be before his injury in the preseason.
9) West Virginia Mountaineers (Weekly Record: 0-2)
Game 1: The Mountaineers were defeated by the Baylor Bears 79-67. Telling Stat: WVU was held to just 9/25 (36.0%) from the field in the 1st half. Standout Player: Emmitt Matthews, Jr. (17 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists on 70/50/50 splits).
Game 2: WVU was defeated by the Texas Tech Red Raiders 78-72. Telling Stat: The Mountaineers were outscored 23-11 in fast break points. Standout Player: Erik Stevenson (27 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal on 43/43/100 splits).
Player to Watch: Kedrian Johnson, Guard. Last 5 Games: 13.4 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 4.4 APG, and 2.0 SPG on 48/33/84 splits.
Stat to Know: The Mountaineers are tied with Baylor for being the best offensive rebounding team in the Big 12 in league play.
What’s Next: Oklahoma State (2/20) and Kansas (2/25)
The Mountaineers started conference play 0-5 and have now lost 3 straight. The average margin of defeat over this 3-game losing streak is 17.3 points. That’s ugly and for KenPom’s 26th best team in the nation, if they want to avoid sweating it out on Selection Sunday, they need to add at least a couple more wins before the Big 12 Tourney. That’ll be easier said than done as all remaining games for WVU come against teams ahead of them in the standings.
10) Oklahoma Sooners (Weekly Record: 1-1)
Game 1: The Sooners defeated the Kansas State Wildcats 79-65. Telling Stat: OU outscored KSU by 21 points from deep. Standout Player: Grant Sherfield (22 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, and 1 steal on 47/43/100 splits).
Game 2: OU was defeated by the Texas Longhorns in overtime 85-83. Telling Stat: The Sooners were held to 10/26 (38.5%) from the field in the 2nd half. Standout Player: Milos Uzan (15 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals on 55/33/67 splits).
Player to Watch: Milos Uzan, Guard. Last 4 Games: 11.3 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.5 APG, and 1.5 SPG on 47/44/50 splits.
Stat to Know: The Sooners have the worst turnover margin in the Big 12 in league play.
What’s Next: Texas Tech (2/21) and Iowa State (2/25)
The Sooners knocked off a good KSU team to end their 7-game conference losing streak. They nearly followed it up with a huge win over their bitter rival in Austin, before falling short in OT. Unless they win out, they likely won’t even be on the bubble, but they showed major signs of life last week. This is a team that could make some noise as a spoiler toward the end of the season as they look to avoid their first losing season since 2017.
It’s gut-check time. We only have 2 weeks (4 games per team) left before we crown a regular season conference champ and before the fun starts in KC. The Bears need to win out and have at least one Kansas loss to win at least a share of their 3rd consecutive regular season conference title. Even if they fall short of that, they have great opportunities ahead of them to earn a high seed and position themselves for a deep run in the Big Dance. Have a great week, everyone. Sic Em!
Stats courtesy of sports-reference.com; kenpom.com; 247sports.com; espn.com; ncaa.com; maxreps.com; cbbanalytics.com; and/or shotquality.com.