We are far enough into the Big 12 season to start seriously debating who should be named conference player of the year. Had you asked me at the start of conference play, I would have said it was a three-man race. Marcus Morris, Jordan Hamilton, Marcus Denmon. Now though, the entire race has changed. Morris is no longer the favorite, Denmon no longer a contender, and Hamilton might not be the best guy on his own team.
My current Top 5
1. Tristan Thompson, Texas
The freshman has become Texas’ go to guy. Sure Hamilton scores more, but the offense doesn’t run through him. Against Texas A&M, Missouri, and Kansas the Longhorns rode Thompson. He requires a double team in the post, and still scores most of the time. He’s also the Longhorns best defensive player, and the overall team defense takes a noticeable drop whenever he leaves the game. If only he was a capable free throw shooter, he might lead Texas in scoring.
2. Marcus Morris, Kansas
Kansas is just sort of floating around right now, waiting for Texas to lose so they can reclaim their throne. Marcus is still the best player on the team, and one of the most complete offensive players in the country. He has an impressive outside game for someone his size, and can still command a double team in the post. His overall numbers are higher than Thompson’s, but he just doesn’t quite play defense as well.
3. Jordan Hamilton, Texas
I suspect that Hamilton is probably the actual favorite right now, but to me he isn’t quite as valuable to Texas. While he dominates for stretches of the game, he also seems to occasionally disappear from Texas’ offense. His rebounding is still insanely impressive, and his decisions as a passer are greatly improved. I just can’t quite put him above his teammate Thompson, who just appears more important to Texas’ overall success.
4. Alec Burks, Colorado
If he could shoot from the outside, who knows how high his scoring total would be. Burks is the best guard in the conference though, even if he can’t really hit a three pointer yet. His ability to get to the basket and draw fouls has kept Colorado in a number of games this season. He basically beat Missouri on his own, and nearly did the same thing to Kansas. If the Buffaloes could have sustained their hot start, he would have a legitimate claim to the award. For now, he gets what amounts to an honorable mention.
5. Khris Middleton, Texas A&M
Middleton has been the leader for a Texas A&M team that surprised us all. He’s the complete package on offense, capable of hitting the three and drawing fouls. Unfortunately, he is coming off a zero point game against Texas, who keyed in on him and shut him down. Still, Middleton was the only player who was able to give Texas trouble the first time they played, and has carried the A&M offense all season.
Just missed: Lance Jeter, Nebraska; Ricardo Ratliffe, Missouri, Markieff Morris, Kansas