Nov 15, 2022; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Kansas Jayhawks forward Jalen Wilson (10) reacts to making a shot during the second half against the Duke Blue Devils at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Jayhawks defeat the Blue Devils 69 to 64. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports
Snow is on the ground and basketball season is back in full swing.
So is the flu season as I’ve unfortunately learned over the last few days.
My ailment prevented me from running this column on Monday as initially planned. Still, Monday and Thursday mornings for a look at the days ahead and recapping the previous few days will be the plan moving forward.
I’m going to break this thing down into a few quick hits with notes and thoughts on each team, three standouts from the games just played and give you a few games to keep an eye on over the next couple of days.
With all that out of the way, here are some quick hits on the first week and a half of Big 12 basketball.
*** If you thought the defending national champions were going anywhere, you got a rude awakening on Tuesday. The No. 6 Kansas Jayhawks played a so-so game without their head coach (who will be back on the sidelines soon with only one game left on his four-game suspension) and still figured out a way to beat No. 7 Duke 69-64 in Indianapolis.
Kansas point guard DaJuan Harris has to be pound-for-pound one of the toughest players in college basketball. The 6-foot-1 junior from Columbia, Mo. is the engine that makes the Kansas train go this season, and he did his job effectively against the Blue Devils, tallying 10 assists with only one turnover.
*** Something is up with TCU. Beating Arkansas Pine Bluff by one point on opening night was a red flag, but something that could be chalked up to a veteran team coming out flat against a team they expected to roll over.
Following that up two games later by losing to Northwestern State (team No. 342 on KenPom) at home is a big red billboard on the side of the highway telling you to stop here.
TCU has shot the basketball terribly to this point in the season and their 18.9 percent shooting from 3-point range as a team (!!!) ranks No. 347 nationally out of 363 teams.
Jamie Dixon’s team badly needs Damion Baugh to return from his six-game suspension, which will come on Nov. 30 when the Frogs face Providence.
*** Don’t look now, but new Basketball Hall of Famer Bob Huggins might have himself a solid team. The Mountaineers are 3-0 to start the season with dominant wins over Mount St. Mary’s, Pittsburgh and Morehead State.
We’ll learn a lot about this team next week when they face off with Purdue out in Portland.
*** I don’t want to speak too soon, but I really like the team T.J. Otzelberger and his staff has put together. The Cyclones defend at a high level as expected, but I’ve been really encouraged by their ball movement and willingness to share the rock through two games.
Defense is where the money is made for this team though. Through two games against obviously subpar competition, they’re No. 4 nationally in effective field goal percentage, No. 2 in opponent turnover percentage, No. 15 in opponent 3-point percentage and No. 13 in opponent 2-point percentage.
In other words, absolutely nothing is coming easy in Ames.
The Cyclones are also No. 5 nationally in offensive rebounding percentage, which is something I think will be a strength of this team all the way through the year.
1 – Jalen Wilson, Kansas
The junior from Denton, Texas has made a significant leap after helping the Jayhawks win the big one last March. He’s averaging 21.7 points and 10.3 rebounds per game through three games and both of those numbers lead the Big 12.
He was spectacular in the win over Duke by tallying 25 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, a block and a steal.
2 – Jaren Holmes, Iowa State
The St. Bonaventure transfer is averaging 18.0 points per game through two after posting 23 points against IUPUI in Iowa State’s opener then following it up with 13 points against North Carolina A&T. When he’s playing at his pace, he’s a tough cover.
3 – Adam Flagler, Baylor
Sitting in the top 55 nationally in offensive rating, effective field goal percentage, true shooting percentage and assist rate after one week gets you on this list, especially when you’re doing it while averaging 17.3 points per game like Flagler is for the Bears.
The craziest part is Flagler’s one of four Baylor players in the top 10 in scoring in the Big 12 at this point.
Three Games to Watch
No. 2 Gonzaga @ No. 11 Texas (Wednesday, 8:30 p.m.)
Chris Beard’s team gets its first real test of the season while Gonzaga continues its run of tests that started last Friday against Michigan State and before they’ll face Kentucky on Saturday in Spokane. Texas has an opportunity to prove they belong in the national championship conversation.
Oklahoma State vs. UCF (Nassau, Bahamas) (Friday, 6:00 p.m.)
A pair of future Big 12 foes go head-to-head in a non-conference event. Mike Boynton’s team is looking to gain some momentum after losing to Southern Illinois by one point during the season’s first week.
No. 5 Baylor vs. No. 16 Virginia (Las Vegas, Nev.) (Friday, 6:00 p.m.)
KenPom’s No. 2 offense (Baylor) vs. the No. 10 defense (Virginia). We’re going to find out just how high-powered these Bears really are at this point against Tony Bennett’s squad.