The Big 12 Conference hit Week 6 of its 2021-22 women’s basketball season last week. Just some of the things that happened last week:
While Baylor drops, the Big 12 still has three AP Top 25 teams;
Two Big 12 players went in the Top 9 of a recent ESPN WNBA Mock Draft;
ESPN named Kansas State the Team of the Week after beating Oregon;
Also check out our Big 12 Basketball Tracker for updated men’s and women’s news every day.
That, and so much more, happened in Week 6. Here are our three takeaways.
Kansas State is Big 12’s Most Intriguing Team
At this point, I think there’s a clear line between Baylor, Iowa State and Texas and the rest of the league. But if there’s one team that looks poised to crash that party, it’s the Kansas State Wildcats.
That isn’t just because Ayoka Lee has played like a beast this season, though we must clearly tip our hat to Lee’s presence on the court. She’s one of the few players in Division I that is averaging a double-double — 23.8 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. She is only one of two Big 12 players doing it (Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith is the other). Her 285 points leads Division I, and her 48 blocked shots (4.0 per game) also leads D-I. Plus, the next-closest shot blocker in the Big 12 is Kansas’ Taiyanna Jackson, a full two blocked shots behind per game.
Lee is clearly a force. But she has help, it’s young and it’s coming into its own.
While Lee is the reigning Big 12 Player of the Week — and has won the award twice — K-State has had a stranglehold on the Big 12 Freshman of the Week prize for a month. Serena Sundell and Brylee Glenn keep alternating the award. It should be no surprise that the pair are No. 2 and 3 on the K-State scoring list this season. Sundell is averaging 10.3 points per game, while Glenn is averaging 8.2 points per game.
Sundell is the Wildcats’ most prolific 3-point shooter (24-of-63) and is in the Top 10 in 3-pointers made per game. She’s not pouring it in like Oklahoma’s Taylor Robertson (51) or Iowa State’s Aubrey Joens (45), but she’s helping to keep defenses honest. Plus, she’s averaging a team-leading 5.1 assists per game
Glenn isn’t Sundell’s equal from the arc just yet. But her playing time has gone up this month, and she’s made at least two 3-pointers in three of her last five games. Plus, she has five steals in her last three games.
K-State has two other players averaging at least six points per game — Emilee Ebert (6.8) and Jaelyn Glenn (6.7). Ebert is the Wildcats’ second-leading rebounder (4.2) and its second-best passer (3.7 assists per game). Jaelyn Glenn is right behind Ebert with 2.7 assists per game.
At 10-2, the Wildcats are off to their best start since the 2016-17 season and trying to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2019. It’s likely K-State will carry an 11-2 record into Big 12 play after facing Illinois-Chicago on Wednesday. Plus, K-State carries one of the best NET ratings in the country. It’s been hovering in the Top 12 the entire month.
So why aren’t the Wildcats ranked? Associated Press voters didn’t give the Wildcats a single vote this week. The women’s coaches poll seems tepid to them as well. It likely has to do with a more traditional marker for success — wins over ranked teams. K-State did claim one over Oregon (the Ducks were only ranked in the coaches’ poll at No. 23), but its other two games against ranked teams were losses to No. 1 South Carolina and No. 5 NC State. No shame in that. Both are national championship contenders and, ultimately, where the Wildcats want to be.
Plus, their opportunity to make a statement is coming on Jan. 2 in Manhattan when the Wildcats host No. 10 Baylor.
You won’t be able to ignore the Wildcats anymore if they win that one.
Here Comes COVID
Is what happened at TCU last week a one-off or a portent? Only time will tell.
The TCU Horned Frogs became the first Big 12 women’s team to need a COVID-19 pause last week, as they canceled two games after positive tests within the program. TCU had to cancel two tune-up games this week but hopes to get its final non-conference game against Davidson in on Dec. 29.
As I was traveling last weekend to go see the Kansas-Stephen F. Austin game in Lawrence, Kansas, almost every time I checked my phone I got an alert about a game being canceled or postponed due to COVID-19. In fact, the Oklahoma State men canceled its non-conference game with USC due to COVID concerns with the USC Trojans.
If there is good news for the Big 12 women it’s that most teams have just one or two non-conference games left, with nearly all of them at home. Texas Tech and West Virginia are at tournaments this week, but both programs have some time off to rest. Starting in January, it’s league-play only, and each program should be playing by the same rules in terms of COVID protocols.
But, this season will be different than last, as I pointed out in my Big 12 men’s takeaways. The Big East men are already canceling games and treating them as forfeits, with the team whose COVID issues necessitated the cancellation taking the loss.
And while the Big 12 had a similar policy, the league is reportedly planning to change in that will no longer force teams into a forfeit if they have an outbreak.
But regardless, if you’re a Big 12 team, you need to take care of your business when it comes to COVID. Especially since, unlike last season, I don’t see programs telling fans to go home.
Emily Ryan’s Crazy Stat Line
Iowa State’s 108-39 win over Prairie View A&M was one of those games where you hope everyone can play and no one gets hurt. Seems the Cyclones accomplished that.
Plus, Cyclones guard Emily Ryan did this:
Now that’s touching every relevant part of the box score (the Big 5, as I call them). But there’s more.
Later in the thread, Herhoopsstats.com provides a list of the players that have done what Ryan did on Sunday — at least 15 assists and no turnovers.
There were five other players on the list. Well, actually three. Baylor’s Niya Johnson did it THREE times in 2015, and twice against Power 5 teams (Iowa and Oklahoma). And, judging by the date of the game, Johnson did that against Iowa in the NCAA Tournament.
Rare company indeed for Ryan.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.
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