Big 12 Observations After One Week

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 14th, 2018

Eight of the 10 Big 12 teams have played at least two games (Oklahoma State squares off at Texas-San Antonio tonight and West Virginia meets Monmouth tomorrow), so while it’s still too early to draw sweeping conclusions, it is a good time to take a look at some early revelations with Feast Week just around the corner.

Two games has been enough for Kansas fans to be treated to the full Dedric Lawson experience. (Nick Krug/Lawrence Journal-World)

  • Dedric Lawson’s been just okay. Just one week in and we’ve already seen some of the inconsistency for which the preseason All-American became known during his two years at Memphis. Even though Lawson struggled to a 5-of-18 shooting night against Michigan State, he was good enough to contribute 20 points along with 14 rebounds, two blocks and a pair of steals. In his Allen Fieldhouse debut against Vermont on Monday, however, he was a total non-factor from start to finish as the Catamounts pushed him around and held him scoreless for the first time in his career. Among his many skills, Lawson is a tremendous passer out of the paint, but Kansas’ insistence on running so much of its offense through Udoka Azubuike presents challenges in terms of fit and strategy when they’re both on the floor. The junior shouldn’t have any problems on Friday against Louisiana, whose rotation includes just one player taller than 6’6″, but it’s fair to have expected a little more from the big man in his first two games in Lawrence.
  • It might be a while before we know how good West Virginia is. There isn’t much shame in losing to mid-major darling Buffalo in overtime, but the fact that the Mountaineers put up a defensive turnover rate of just 12.8 percent at home and were fairly mediocre on the offensive glass in allowing a 13-point second half comeback should dispel any notions that this season will be business as usual in Morgantown. Bob Huggins‘ team will have opportunities to clean things up, but with this weekend’s Myrtle Beach Invitational lacking top-end competition and just one meeting against a KenPom top-50 team remaining (Florida in Madison Square Garden) before conference play, determining where this team belongs in both the Big 12 and national picture might take some time.

  • Iowa State is adeptly handling some early adversity. The Cyclones already appeared snake-bitten to start the season, losing Solomon Young, Zoran Talley and Cameron Lard ahead of news that Lindell Wigginton would miss time with a foot sprain from the season-opening win over Alabama State. But Iowa State has adequately navigated through its personnel issues, soundly beating Missouri and Texas Southern in subsequent contests to move to 3-0. The team’s newcomers have been crucial in the early going, with Virginia transfer Marial Shayok, Nebraska transfer Michael Jacobson and freshman Talen Horton-Tucker combining to average 50.7 points per game. The real test will of course come next week when the Cyclones head to Maui, but the early returns are inspiring considering the circumstances.
  • Lon Kruger calls upon a trusted tactic. All the normal caveats apply here, but credit is due to Oklahoma for beginning the season by easily handling two mid-major programs on the road. Some hot three-point shooting has kept the Sooner offense afloat, but their defense has been the real story in holding both Texas-Rio Grande Valley and Texas-San Antonio under a point per possession. Despite playing both of its games away from Norman, Lon Kruger‘s team sports the 14th-best defensive free throw rate in the country, which kept the Vaqueros and Roadrunners from scoring easy points. Kruger has always been a very good but not great defensive coach, and his best defensive units at Oklahoma have held foul avoidance as a major part of their blueprints. He could have another such squad in place this year.
  • Will the Big 12 take a step back? One week in, it’s rational to be a little ambivalent about the overall strength of the league. The Jayhawks have played one very good game and — aside from Lagerald Vick‘s perimeter explosion (8-of-8 3FG) — didn’t wake up until about 25 minutes had elapsed against Vermont. Kansas State is still shaking off the rust, failing to crack even 0.90 points per possession in either of its first two home games. We already discussed West Virginia, and, further down the league’s pecking order, Baylor dropped a buy game and Texas still appears to have a middling offense. It’s worth pointing out that Texas Tech may not suffer as big a drop-off as many thought just a couple weeks ago, but largely, things are still inconclusive, which is fine. Not only will Feast Week be important for the league’s membership to stack resume-building wins, but it will also be important for the conference to assert its strength and minimize the number of potential bad losses come league play.
Brian Goodman (987 Posts)

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

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