The fifth week of Big 12 women’s basketball is in the books. Here are four takeaways from the week.
Kansas Lands a Haymaker
The Kansas Jayhawks were undefeated last week. But, the Jayhawks hadn’t beaten a ranked team and hadn’t won a true road game.
Well, Kansas took care of that decisively when it beat then-No. 12 Arizona, 77-50, on Thursday in Tucson. If Kansas isn’t ranked after that, well, I don’t know what is going to get them ranked.
The rise of center Taiyanna Jackson is perhaps the biggest story for the Jayhawks. The All-Big 12 Defensive Team member from a year ago is averaging nearly a double-double this season with more than 16 points and nearly 10 rebounds. She’s also blocking more than two shots a game. The 6-foot-6 center’s scoring has basically doubled this year.
Sometimes when that happens it impacts other players negatively. That hasn’t been the case for Kansas. Guard Holly Kersgieter is still averaging the 13 points per game she averaged a season ago. Guard Zakiyah Franklin’s scoring average is up a point from a season ago. Guard Chandler Prater’s scoring average is up two points from a season ago.
The only holdover that has really lost some offense is forward Ionna Chatzileonti, who has seen her scoring dip close to three points from a season ago. But she can be excused. She missed the season’s first five games with an injury.
What Jackson has done is improve her game and improve her scoring without siphoning off opportunities from others. That’s a critical reason why through eight games the Jayhawks averaged 76.5 points per game. Last season Kansas averaged 71.9 points per game.
To me, Kansas is now highly competitive with the teams that finished ahead of them in the Big 12 last season and has a real chance to improve on its NCAA Tournament seeding from a season ago. Jackson is the biggest reason why.
And Jaelyn Makes Three
The consistent improvement of guard Serena Sundell after an already great freshman season. The explosive scoring of Gabby Gregory, who had to sit and watch for part of last season at Oklahoma due to injury. A Top 25 ranking in spite of losing center Ayoka Lee for the season.
These are just some of the great storylines at Kansas State women’s basketball this season. But guard Jaelyn Glenn shouldn’t be overlooked.
Kansas State was happy to remind everyone on social media last week.
The numbers are impressive (and those were her numbers before the week’s games began). It’s also a big improvement over last season — 6.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.4 steals. Like Sundell and Gregory, Glenn has helped pick up the slack without Lee.
I was curious about something. How many Big 12 women’s players have at least double-digit points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals this early in the season? I checked on Thursday night. There was one other one besides Glenn. It was Kansas guard Holly Kersgieter. Sundell and Iowa State’s Ashley Joens checked three of the boxes.
Glenn’s improvement has been key to the Wildcats getting this far in the season with just two losses. They’re an NCAA Tournament candidate now — and that’s without their all-American.
The temptation is to say ‘wait until next year.’ Well, Kansas State isn’t waiting.
Oklahoma State’s Turnaround
The Oklahoma State Cowgirls have eight wins going into the week. For context, the program won nine games last season. Plus, it won just five games in non-conference (though two of those games were canceled due to COVID protocols).
First-year coach Jacie Hoyt has the Cowgirls on solid ground with Big 12 play coming in a few weeks. I’m not certain where they’ll end up, but Hoyt’s work in the transfer portal will be key to getting them in position for a postseason berth.
In the portal era, you’re looking for certain things. Hoyt was clearly looking for offense, and that’s illustrated by this tweet last week.
All four are transfers. That firepower doesn’t include transfer forward Lior Garzon, who is the Cowgirls’ best 3-pointer shooter at 44.8 percent, and holdover guard Lexy Keys, who is averaging 10.2 points per game.
The Cowgirls averaged 57.7 points per game last season. After 10 games, the Cowgirls are averaging 79.9 points per game.
OSU will clearly be competitive in the Big 12. It’s possible that all the Cowgirls will need is a winning record to get some type of postseason play beyond the Big 12 Tournament.
Texas in Trouble?
The Texas Longhorns have never lost four games before conference play began under coach Vic Schaefer. But, here we are.
Texas has played a rough schedule. Guard Rori Harmon’s early injury didn’t help. But the loss last week to South Florida showed some vulnerability. Maybe not in February. But right now. The Longhorns fell out of Bracketology for the second time in three weeks, this time as a First Four out team.
The Longhorns made the Elite Eight last season.
So are they in trouble? Not by March. Not from where I sit. Yes, their defense is their biggest problem right now. Getting four new transfers to get into Schaefer’s defensive frame of mind takes time. They’ll get there.
Meanwhile, the offense is there for Texas. And, once the defense and chemistry comes around for this team, that will make them quite dangerous to deal with.
I still think Texas is a prime contender to win the Big 12. It’s not about December. It’s about March. And Schaefer knows it.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard