Wooden Watch Oklahoma Sooners Trae Young answers criticism with efficiency
Does Young shoot too much? Does he need to pass more? Would Oklahoma be better if he took fewer shots?
At the time, the critiques seemed overblown. The backlash came after Young went for 48 points and eight assists in a two-point overtime loss at Oklahoma State. Young took 39 shots, but was 8-for-20 from 3-point range and made all 12 of his free throw attempts. His offensive rating was just slightly below his season average.
Young responded to the critics against Kansas on Tuesday with one of his most efficient outings of the season. He finished with 26 points and nine assists. But it was a completely different Trae Young against the Jayhawks. He took just nine shots from the field and only three 3-pointers. It was his fewest number of both field goal attempts and 3-point attempts, and the first time all season he has taken fewer than 13 shots.
It was the most unselfish we’ve seen Young all season, and the most deferential. He didn’t force much of anything on the offensive end, looking for teammates early and often. In fact, Young should have had likely a few more assists in the first half. It was clear that Young made a concerted effort to let the game come to him more against Kansas, but the biggest factor was that his supporting cast made shots Tuesday.
Christian James and Brady Manek combined for seven 3-pointers and 29 points. For comparison’s sake, entering Tuesday, James was averaging 9.0 points in Oklahoma’s four losses and Manek was putting up 6.5 points in those games. James went 0-for-6 from 3 against Oklahoma State, while Manek shot 2-for-7 from behind the arc. Young did indeed force a few shots against the Cowboys, but he also wasn’t getting a ton of help.
It will be a lot easier for Young to be the facilitator he was Tuesday if he doesn’t need to carry the offense.
Now what does this mean for Young moving forward?
Oklahoma will be at its best when Young finds a happy medium between Saturday’s 39-shot performance and Tuesday’s nine-shot effort. The Sooners beat Kansas the latter way, but there are going to be games when the supporting cast struggles again — and Young will have to shoulder more of the scoring load. He has clearly shown he’s capable. There was a five-game stretch earlier this season when he averaged 28.4 points and 13.6 assists, and Oklahoma averaged 99.8 points in that stretch.
If James, Manek & Co. shoot like they did against Kansas, Young will be happy to facilitate. If they go cold, expect Young to go back to dropping 30-40 a night.
He showed Tuesday he can do both.
Jock LandaleSaint Mary’s
We pegged Landale last week as someone who could make a statement on a national stage with a big week — and the 6-foot-11 Aussie delivered. He went for 26 points and 12 rebounds in a road win at Gonzaga on Thursday, dominating the second half and helping the Gaels get a key résumé win. Landale followed that up with 32 points and seven rebounds in a 3-point road win at Pacific.
Landale has been the model of consistency this season, especially during the Gaels’ current 14-game winning streak. He’s averaging 22.4 points and 10.2 rebounds on the season, and is shooting 65.7 percent from the field. Landale has scored at least 13 points in every game, hitting the 30-point mark on five different occasions. He has tallied 11 double-doubles in his last 14 games. He also has the highest offensive rating at KenPom among players with as heavy usage as Landale.
It’s always going to be hard for someone outside the power conferences to win the Wooden Award — and Young is still the heavy favorite — but Landale will get in the conversation with continued dominance.
Tra HolderArizona State
Holder’s struggles have coincided with Arizona State’s Pac-12 slump, and that’s probably not a coincidence. Holder was the catalyst for the Sun Devils’ huge nonconference success, scoring 40 points against Xavier and then dropping 29 points and seven assists on Kansas. Heading into conference play, Holder had a case as a first-team All-American.
Those big numbers seem like a distant memory, though. In Holder’s last five games, he’s averaging 10.2 points and 2.6 assists while shooting 26.3 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from 3-point range.
With five of its next seven games at home, Arizona State has an opportunity to right the ship. The same goes for Holder.
Big week ahead
The 6-6 junior has been on a tear lately, averaging 26.0 points and 5.0 assists in his last three games — including a 33-point effort at Wichita State last week. He’s up to 18.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists on the season, while shooting 43.6 percent from 3-point range. In American Athletic Conference play only, Milton is shooting a ridiculous 54.5 percent from behind the arc. Oh, and he has been on the bench for a total of seven minutes in his last five games.
Milton will need to keep putting up huge numbers for SMU to march toward the NCAA tournament, especially after this week’s news that second-leading scorer Jarrey Foster will miss the rest of the season with a partially torn left ACL. Milton’s usage has gone up a significant amount in the last two games without Foster, and that will continue.
SMU has Connecticut, East Carolina and Tulsa in its next three games. That could provide an opportunity for Milton to pad his stats and put him in position to become a national story heading into the final month.
Others to watch: Villanova’s Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges; Duke’s Marvin Bagley III; Arizona’s Deandre Ayton and Allonzo Trier; Ohio State’s Keita Bates-Diop; Purdue’s Carsen Edwards; West Virginia’s Jevon Carter; Xavier’s Trevon Bluiett; Michigan State’s Miles Bridges; Texas Tech’s Keenan Evans; North Carolina’s Luke Maye; Boise State’s Chandler Hutchison; Kansas’ Devonte’ Graham.