West Virginia forward Derek Culver leads the Heartland College Sports Men’s Basketball Starting 5 for the games ending Jan. 9:
F Derek Culver, West Virginia
What a beast of a week by Culver. Against Oklahoma State, that epic 19-point comeback, he had 22 points, 19 rebounds and 2 blocks. Then, against Texas, even though the Mountaineers lost by two points, he had ANOTHER double-double — 14 points and 16 rebounds. That’s now eight double-doubles for the season. And we should get used to this, too. The departure of Oscar Tshiebwe is agreeing with this team. Culver is taking full advantage of the room provided to him as the sole option in the paint, and the perimeter play around his is surging. Those are good reasons why he’s on the Wooden Award Midseason Watch List.
G Kyler Edwards, Texas Tech
Edwards is back and head coach Chris Beard has to be happy. Less than a month ago he earned a spot on the bench after failing to score a point against Kansas. But, this week Edwards averaged 14 points in two games that the Red Raiders needed to win to get back on track. Plus, he had nine rebounds and five assists for the week. Mac McClung had slightly better overall numbers. But McClung has been remarkably consistent this season. The Red Raiders NEED Edwards to be a viable option and, after a short downturn in production, he appears to be ready for a big week ahead against Texas and Baylor.
G Andrew Jones, Texas
There is nothing sentimental about this pick, even though Saturday was three years to the day that Texas head coach Shaka Smart had to tell his players that Jones had leukemia. Well, against the West Virginia Mountaineers on that day, Jones had 16 points and hit a cold-blooded game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds. Before that, against Iowa State, Jones poured in 23 points, grabbed 6 rebounds, dished out 4 assists and had 1 steal. It’s been a long road for Jones, but he’s playing even BETTER than he was before his diagnosis.
G Isaac Likekele, Oklahoma State
Likekele had a great week, even though the Cowboys went 1-1. In the loss to West Virginia, Likekele had 22 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal. Then, against Kansas State, Likekele pulled in 15 points, 9 rebounds and an assist. In that game the Cowboys needed every bit it got from Likekele because Cade Cunningham had his worst game to this point in his short college career. Likekele is hunting for All-Big 12 First Team honors this year. It will be tough to do, but if you’re looking for a player that hits all five key parts of the box score most nights, Likekele is one of the few players that can do it.
F David McCormack, Kansas
Here we go, kids. I think McCormack, the Jayhawks’ junior center, has figured it out. For the first five or six weeks of the season, he’s been off and on. But last week he was the biggest reason Kansas went 2-0. First, against TCU, without Marcus Garrett he picked up the slack, scoring 20 points and grabbing 8 rebounds, along with 2 blocked shots. Then, against Oklahoma on Saturday he only had one rebound. But you can forgive that when he pours in 17 points and has the biggest steal of the game, lifting the ball on an Austin Reaves drive in the final minute.
THE SIXTH MAN
G Taz Sherman, West Virginia (second straight week)
Yep, for the second straight week we had to give this award to Sherman, and it’s time to start recognizing him as the leader in the clubhouse for the Big 12’s Sixth Man of the Year award. Sherman energized the Mountaineers with a 20-point game against Oklahoma State on Monday, a game in which WVU rallied from 19 points down. Then, on Saturday against Texas, he had a 17-point game in a two-point loss. Sherman is averaging 18.5 points per game in his last three Big 12 games.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard. Send him a tweet with your question to be included in this week’s Big 12 Basketball Mailbag, which appears each Friday during the conference season.