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No. 8 Kansas loses, but The Andrew Wiggins Show is what’s important

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source: AP
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There must be something in the water in the state of West Virginia because whenever Andrew Wiggins plays in the Mountain State, he puts on an electric performance.

The Kansas freshman forward came to national prominence during his high school years by putting on jaw-dropping aerial shows while playing at Huntington Prep in Huntington, West Virginia and during Saturday’s 92-86 Big 12 loss for No. 8 Kansas at West Virginia, we finally saw the Wiggins that many deemed the best player in college basketball before he ever took the floor in a Jayhawk uniform.

Kansas (23-8, 14-4) might have lost on the road to a West Virginia (17-14, 9-9) team with no NCAA Tournament hopes on Saturday, but they have to be thrilled that the alpha male version of their star freshman finally came to life.

MORE: Our latest bracket projections — is your team in?

Wiggins was simply astounding in the loss. The freshman hadn’t eclipsed 30 points all season — and averaged 16 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest — but finished with 41 points, eight rebounds, five steals, four blocks and two assists in 39 minutes. Wiggins was 12-for-18 from the field and 15-for-19 from the free throw line and it was a season-high in both field goal and free throw attempts for the freshman.

With Kansas out of timeouts with 17 minutes left and trailing by as much as 25 points to West Virginia in the second half, Bill Self and the Jayhawks damn near rode Wiggins’ super-human effort to victory in what seemed like an impossible uphill climb. Kansas made it a game and trailed, 85-80, with 1:25 remaining, but could never get over the hump as Wiggins didn’t have enough help.

(MORE: Browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

Joel Embiid was out of the lineup and the Kansas guards no-showed on both ends of the floor against West Virginia, but Wiggins had a look in his eyes that we haven’t seen all season and he simply took over. Just look at the photo above of Wiggins soaring in for a dunk on Saturday. You feel bad for the rim he’s about to crush.

If Wiggins plays with the kind of intensity and confidence that he showed on Saturday then he doesn’t have a peer in college basketball. Jabari Parker is more polished and balanced as an offensive threat and Doug McDermott is a much better shooter, but neither have the kind of athleticism to make the plays that Wiggins can make. And that doesn’t even factor in Wiggins’ tremendous ability to rebound and defend on the wing.

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The Jayhawks might have squandered a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament with Saturday’s loss, but they’ve played the toughest schedule in the country and shouldn’t be too concerned with dropping a seed or two. Kansas still has some legitimate concerns as we near the postseason with Embiid’s health and the consistency of Naadir Tharpe topping that list, but if Andrew Wiggins plays at all like he did at West Virginia on Saturday, he’s personally good enough to overcome a lot of the Jayhawks’ flaws.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.