Big 12 Superlatives

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 5th, 2018

That was a fun regular season. Kansas won the Big 12 as predicted by, well, anyone with a pulse, but the level of drama surrounding the crown was more substantial than in any year I can remember following the league. After being picked to finish seventh in the conference standings, Texas Tech matched the Jayhawks blow for blow for the first six weeks of league play before spinning out to close the regular season. Even West Virginia, which fell out of the race earlier than anticipated, recovered nicely from its late January slide. Trae Young and Oklahoma completely lost its arc after getting tabbed as a #4 seed in the early bracket reveal, and the bottom half of the Big 12 proved why this was the best conference season by any league since such things have been measured. The fact that only 4-14 Iowa State has no hope of making the NCAA Tournament with Selection Sunday only six days away is something the conference should be very happy about.

Devonte’ Graham put Kansas on his back to lead the Jayhawks in 2017-18. (Ed Zurga/Getty)

All Big-12 Team

  • Devonte’ Graham, Kansas
  • Trae Young, Oklahoma
  • Jevon Carter, West Virginia
  • Keenan Evans, Texas Tech
  • Dean Wade, Kansas State

The coaches made the right call with their picks, but let’s be serious — this was impossible to mess up. You could have made an argument for Texas’ Mohamed Bamba over Wade up until mid-February, but the Kansas State big man was so terrific down the stretch that Bamba would’ve been hard-pressed to make up the gap even had he not missed his last two games. More on Wade in a bit.

  • Player of the Year: Devonte’ Graham, Kansas. I wrestled with this one for quite some time. Trae Young did the work of two players in soaking up 40 percent of Oklahoma’s possessions and even his weaker moments were better than many believe, but they were still worrisome. Ultimately, I went with the player who was more efficient offensively while playing an incredibly large role himself (26% usage; 97.8% of available minutes played in Big 12 games). Graham was also a much stronger presence on the defensive end, and it’s hard to say with a straight face that the Jayhawks would have won the league without their senior leader playing the best ball of his career.
  • Most Improved Player: Dean Wade, Kansas State. Whether Wade would turn the corner was the Wildcats’ biggest question entering this season, and he was incredibly valuable on both ends of the floor in leading Kansas State to its first winning Big 12 season since 2014. His season was not only sufficient in putting Kansas State in position to capture an at-large bid that doesn’t involve the play-in round, but it was something the conference had previously never seen. Wade became the first Big 12 player ever to average at least 18 points, six rebounds, three assists and one block in conference play (18.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.1 APG and 1.2 BPG). The Wildcats may need to handle business against TCU on Thursday afternoon to feel secure about an at-large future outside of the First Four, but no matter how this season ends for Kansas State, Wade has been incredible.
  • Coach of the Year: Chris Beard, Texas Tech. Bill Self did an amazing job in leading Kansas to a record-breaking 14th straight Big 12 title, but if coaching is the difference between talent and results (and it is, along with luck), I’m picking Beard. Texas Tech’s second-year head coach powered an underwhelming roster to a runner-up finish, and it’s not difficult to imagine how things could have broken had Evans and Zach Smith been healthy.
Brian Goodman (965 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.

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