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What Big 12 Players do the Mountaineers Need to Look Out For?

With Big 12 Conference play still being in its early stages, now is a good time to dial in on players that West Virginia fans need to look out for heading into the thick of conference play.

With new talent, experienced veterans, and potential breakout players, the Big 12 will be making another push to be the best conference in college basketball. 

Newcomers:

Kendall Brown- Baylor 

Coming off their first National Championship, Scott Drew’s Baylor Bears lost some talent when guards Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell, and Macio Teague moved on to the NBA. 

Coach Drew still has the No. 1 ranked team in the nation, and a big part of their new look is freshman Kendall Brown. Brown is a six-foot-eight guard that is a high-flyer and playmaker. Brown is a prime NBA prospect from Minnesota, and this could potentially be his only season in Waco. 

In 15 games with the Bears, Brown is averaging 11.4 points per game with just under four rebounds a game. Look for Brown to put people on posters with his dunking ability, but also keep an eye on his ability to make shots. Brown has shot 72-for-104 from the field so far this season, which puts him at 69%. 

James Akinjo- Baylor 

Another reason why Baylor has played so well after losing key pieces is because of a significant pickup from the transfer portal. James Akinjo is a senior transfer from the University of Arizona. Akinjo earned First Team All Pac-12 honors last season after averaging 15.6 points and 5.4 assists per game. 

Standing at only six-foot-one, Akinjo makes plays by being a top-tier shooter and passer. In 15 games, Akinjo has shot 24-for-58 from three-point range, which puts him at 41%. 

Tanner Groves- Oklahoma 

After head coach Lon Kruger retired, Porter Moser from Loyola Chicago took over, and immediately went after talent in the transfer portal. Moser brought in brothers Jacob and Tanner Groves from Eastern Washington University. 

The Groves brothers led Eastern Washington to the NCAA Tournament last season, and in their game against the three-seeded Kansas Jayhawks, the brothers showed out. Jacob Groves put up 23 points by shooting four-for-five from three-point range, and Tanner Groves scored 35 points, shooting 11-for-18 from the field, while also putting in five three-pointers. 

While Jacob Groves hasn’t exactly gotten things rolling for Oklahoma yet, his brother Tanner has. The forward is averaging 14.3 points and six rebounds per game for the Sooners in his first season in Norman. Groves is six-foot-10, so he can play with his back to the basket, but also can shoot over people when he needs to. 

Izaiah Brockington- Iowa State 

Thus far, the Iowa State Cyclones have been the story of the Big 12. The Cyclones finished last season at an abysmal 2-22 and fired their coach. They have turned the ship around in a short amount of time by hiring T.J. Otzelberger and bringing in new talent. 

The main piece of the new talent is guard Izaiah Brockington. Brockington transferred in from Penn State, where he averaged 12.6 points and 4.9 rebounds per game last season for the Nittany Lions. 

Brockington stands at six-foot-four and is currently shooting 41.2% from three-point range this season. Brockington also rebounds the ball at an extremely high rate, as he is averaging 8.1 rebounds per game as a guard. 

Tyrese Hunter- Iowa State 

Another good addition for the Cyclones is freshman guard Tyrese Hunter. Hunter is a multi-talented athlete that gives his team more than just points. 

Hunter averages 10 points per game, but he gives Iowa State an edge with his versatility, as he averages three assists, four rebounds, and two steals per game. 

Veterans 

Another part of what makes the Big 12 such a special conference is that we see players grow up and get better over the course of three to four years. Sure, there are some one-and-done players that appear in the Big 12 from time to time, but the players that stay and end up leading their teams are cool stories to watch play out. 

This season, the Big 12 has another group of veteran players that have fully come into their own and are ready to lead their teams on a conference title run. 

Ochai Agbaji- Kansas 

Like most years, Kansas is one of the best teams on paper in the conference. This season is no different, and they are led by the guard duo of Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun. 

Agbaji is a senior guard for the Jayhawks that is emerging as one of, if not the best player in the Big 12. After getting 14 points per game last year, Agbaji is now averaging an impressive 20.5 points per game. 

Agbaji has shot 47.3% percent from three-point range this season so far, and can take the ball to the hoop. 

Christian Braun- Kansas 

The other part of the strong backcourt for the Jayhawks is junior Christian Braun. Braun has been steadily improving since his freshman year, increasing his points per game from just over five points in his freshman year to almost 10 points per game last season.  

Braun is now getting 16.4 points a game, but also gets six rebounds and three assists per game. Braun has a smooth jump shot and can shoot the three-ball as well as most people in the conference. 

Kevin McCullar- Texas Tech 

McCullar, a junior, had his breakout season last year when he scored 10 points per game with six rebounds per game as well. McCullar stuck it out with the Red Raiders even through the coaching change. 

McCullar is now averaging 13.5 points and six rebounds per game. McCullar is a six-foot-six. 210-pound guard, so he can get to the basket and score well. Look for him to continue to lead the Red Raiders this season. 

Breakout Players 

With so much talent on each team, some skilled players end up coming off the bench or being a role player. When the top guys move on, those guys can prove themselves, and there are a handful of those players in the conference this season. 

Adam Flagler- Baylor 

With Davion Mitchell, Jared Butler, and Macio Teague last year, Adam Flagler fell under the radar to an average fan last season. Coming off the bench, Flagler averaged nine points per game for the Bears and scored 13 points in the National Championship win over Gonzaga. 

With the three-headed monster guard attack from last season now in the NBA, Flagler has emerged as a starter and difference maker. Flagler is now averaging 12.3 points and 3.6 assists per game. Flagler has a smooth jump shot and he can be a leader for this Baylor team that is currently No.1 in the country. 

Avery Anderson- Oklahoma State 

For WVU fans, Avery Anderson has already broken out, but to the rest of the nation, he might still be under the radar. Anderson scored 31 points against the Mountaineers in the last regular season game when star Cade Cunningham was injured. 

In the Big 12 Tournament, the Mountaineers and Cowboys met again, and Anderson impressed again, scoring 17 points including a clutch basket down the stretch. 

Anderson is now averaging over 11 points per game with Cunningham now in the NBA and can be a leader for this Cowboys team as a junior. 

Photo by Wesley Shoemaker, Blue Gold Sports

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