Big 12 Freshmen Update: The Names You Know & The Names You ShouldPosted by Nate Kotisso on December 2nd, 2016
Last season was like a dream for the Big 12, as junior and senior-laden teams produced some of the best basketball the conference has seen in its 20-year history. Seven teams made the NCAA Tournament, and unlike years past, multiple members other than Kansas made it to the second weekend and beyond. With much of that experience from those teams now gone, many Big 12 teams are looking to their freshmen to lead this season. There are a few schools with freshmen who did not make the cut for several reasons. Those particular teams either did not have compelling enough freshmen just yet (i.e., Baylor and West Virginia), have good contributors who haven’t played in every game (i.e., Iowa State’s Solomon Young) or don’t have any scholarship freshmen at all (Texas Tech). Let’s take a look at the top eight freshmen in the league to this point in the season.
- Jarrett Allen, center, Texas (10.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.3 BPG in 29.7 MPG): Allen being on this list is both a blessing and a curse. The Round Rock, Texas, native currently ranks first in rebounds and blocked shots on the team and is third in scoring. However, Allen has to this point logged better field goal shooting (52.2%) than he has at the charity stripe (51.7%). Still, the season is young and this freshman is a rising star for the Longhorns.
- Udoka Azubuike, center, Kansas (5.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.3 BPG in 13.7 MPG): Azubuike is the latest in Bill Self’s successful recruit-17-year-old-basketball-prodigies program. His measurements — an energetic 6’11” big man with a 7’5″ wingspan — are what get NBA scouts excited, but it is clear that the freshman has some game. Self clearly is buying in, given that Azubuike has started each of Kansas’ last two games. Prepare for more impressive numbers from this precocious big man after we ring in the New Year.
- Desmond Bane, guard, TCU (10.0 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 55.8% FG, 45.0% 3FG, 92.9% FT): It’s safe to say that nobody thought Bane would be one of the league’s top freshmen this season. At one point in his recruitment, he held seven scholarship offers from Division II schools. What may have appeared as a roster filler for new coach Jamie Dixon has turned into a starter who has the Big 12’s highest Offensive Rating, per KenPom (139.9).
- Kristian Doolittle, forward, Oklahoma (9.0 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 42.9% 3FG in 24.5 MPG): The Sooners lost a lot of senior leadership and Doolittle has certainly done his part to make up for it. Doolittle dominated in Oklahoma’s last game against Northern Colorado, scoring 17 points in 18 minutes of action. He stands as the all-time leading scorer at Edmond Memorial High School in Oklahoma, besting such names as current teammate Jordan Woodard and Kansas head coach Bill Self. You can bet there will be a bunch more buckets in Doolittle’s future.
- Jaylen Fisher, guard, TCU (11.1 PPG, 4.6 APG, 1.6 SPG): Fisher committed to UNLV last October, but when one of Rice’s assistants, Ryan Miller, was brought on as a new TCU assistant under Dixon, Fisher opted to sign with the Horned Frogs. Along with fellow freshman Bane and Texas A&M transfer Alex Robinson, TCU has put together one of the more formidable backcourts in the Big 12 — a very big reason why TCU is 7-0.
- Josh Jackson, forward, Kansas (14.1 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.6 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 52.1% FG): Jackson came into the year as the top player of his recruiting class (depending on which service you favor) and has not disappointed, affecting the game in ways most upperclassmen aspire. He still needs to work on his outside shot (both in terms of form and accuracy), but he is without a doubt the early front-runner for Big 12 Freshman of the Year.
- Xavier Sneed, forward, Kansas State (10.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 50% FG, 41.4% 3FG in 20.6 MPG): While Jayson Tatum and Tyler Cook grabbed most of the love as St. Louis’ best college prospects last year, the underrated Sneed was not far behind. His athleticism and consistent outside shooting have been his biggest early contributions to a team that wasn’t very long on the wing and was the worst three-point shooting Power Five team a season ago. And he’s doing all of this off the bench. Bruce Weber has himself another program builder.
- Lindy Waters, guard, Oklahoma State (7.7 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.6 SPG): There were several Oklahoma State freshmen worth considering here, but Waters stands out the most. He’s the highest-scoring freshman on the team and is only behind efficiency gawd Jawun Evans in steals. Waters is a pure shooter although the numbers don’t reflect that just yet (31.8% from three-point range), but no matter, Waters is good enough for this list.