Know Your Semi-Overachieving Rival: Oklahoma

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One of my favorite parts of the basketball offseason happened last April, when I was attempting to run some initial projections for the 2010-11 Big 12 season.  Oklahoma had just suffered an incredible amount of attrition and had yet to really secure any commitments from replacements.  My projections had walk-ons playing semi-significant minutes ... and had Oklahoma's projected conference wins at minus-1.  I still giggle about that a little.  Well, Jeff Capel did get some honest-to-god scholarship players to fill the roster, and despite a precarious start to the season, Oklahoma hasn't been downright terrible.  They haven't necessarily been GOOD, by any means, but ... with four conference wins, they officially have five more conference wins than projected.  So good on them for that.

Oklahoma (12-11)


OU
Opp.
Pace (No. of Possessions)
64.7
Points Per Minute
1.67 1.67
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.04 1.04
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.29 1.27
2-PT FG% 52.1% 48.5%
3-PT FG% 34.7% 35.5%
FT% 72.6% 71.5%
True Shooting % 56.1% 54.4%




OU Opp.
Assists/Gm 13.1 11.4
Steals/Gm 6.0 6.5
Turnovers/Gm 13.9 13.7
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.37 1.31




OU Opp.
Expected Off. Reb./Gm 10.7 11.4
Offensive Reb./Gm
9.0 10.2
Difference -1.7 -1.2

Either a Five-Point Game or a 25-Point Game

Oklahoma plays slooooooooow.  They play exactly the kind of game that can give Mizzou fits, particularly away from home.  Some of Mizzou's worst upset losses or near-upsets in recent seasons -- Western Illinois this season, Oral Roberts and Oklahoma last season -- came against teams comfortable with slowing the tempo, then slowing it some more.  Oklahoma ranks 222nd in Pomeroy's Adj. Tempo measure, and all five starters average at least 27 minutes per game.  If Mizzou can't make some shots, settle into their press, and force Oklahoma out of their intended game, then this could be a slog.  But if Mizzou is able to pin their ears back and turn this into a track meet, it could get out of hand quickly.

They Shoot Well

On defense, Oklahoma allows opponents to shoot a little too well, and on offense they struggle with turnovers and rebounding.  But they shoot well.  It's one of their true strengths, along with defensive rebounding.  When they get shots out of their halfcourt sets, they get good ones.  But if they miss a shot, they're probably not getting the rebound.

Ken Pomeroy Stats

OU Offense vs MU Defense Ranks

OU Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 139 44 MU
Effective FG% 60 131 OU
Turnover % 235 19 MU Big
Off. Reb. % 296 277 Push
FTA/FGA 234 243 Push
MU Offense vs OU Defense Ranks

MU Offense OU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 19 119 MU Big
Effective FG% 42 191 MU Big
Turnover % 11 120 MU Big
Off. Reb. % 167 71 OU
FTA/FGA 275 190 OU

Where the Sooners are weakest:

They don't rank in the Top 100 on either end of the court, for starters.  Their offense ranks 139th because, other than shooting, they don't do much particularly well.  They rank 234th or lower in three of the Four Factors above, plus they rank 229th in Off. Steal%.  Again, if Mizzou is dialed in on the defensive side of the court (and they usually are at home, at least), they should be able to make a couple of devastating runs.

Defensively, Oklahoma rebounds the ball quite well -- they are a strange 225 spots better at defensive rebounding than offensive rebounding -- but that's really about it.  Like most of Mizzou's recent opponents, they foul guards too much (269th in Def. FT% ... are you seeing a trend among Big 12 refs? I'm sure that will help conference teams come tourney time, when refs allow more physical play on the perimeter), and they rank 185th in Def. 2PT% and 218th in Def. 3PT%.  Oh, and they don't block shots (190th) or come up with steals (207th).

Also: they are painfully thin (318th in Bench Minutes) and terribly inexperienced (304th in Experience).  They have racked up some decent conference wins at home, but aside from the slow pace they really do not possess any of the features it typically takes to throw a scare into Missouri in Columbia.

Where they are strongest:

As I mentioned above, they do shoot pretty well.  Their 3-point shooting is only decent (35.0%, 134th), but they rank 42nd in Off. 2PT% and 59th in Off. FT%.  They also don't get many shots blocked (88th in Off. Block%), which could make for an interesting matchup against a shot-blocking Missouri defense.

Defensively, they might not have much in the "strengths" category, but they do rank 63rd in Def. A/FGM, meaning most of the damage you do against them will be unassisted.  You can drive on them and create your shot, but they rotate rather well and, as mentioned above, they grab the rebound if you miss.

Oklahoma Results

  • Wins (Team Rank is from KenPom.com)
    No. 49 Baylor, 73-66
    No. 52 Colorado, 67-60
    at No. 76 Iowa State, 82-76 (OT)
    No. 141 Texas Tech, 83-74
    No. 157 Oral Roberts, 73-60
    No. 249 Coppin State, 77-57
    No. 256 Texas Southern, 82-52
    No. 296 N.C. Central, 71-63 (OT)
    No. 295 Gardner Webb, 71-58
    No. 307 Sacramento State, 66-53
    No. 329 Central Arkansas, 76-73
    No. 355 Maryland Eastern Shore, 73-49
  • Losses
    No. 3 Texas, 62-78
    vs No. 7 Kentucky, 64-76
    at No. 18 Arizona, 60-83
    at No. 3 Texas, 46-66
    vs No. 30 Cincinnati, 56-66
    No. 39 Texas A&M, 51-69
    at No. 49 Baylor, 61-74
    at No. 83 Oklahoma State, 75-81
    at No. 101 Arkansas, 74-84
    vs No. 126 Virginia, 56-74
    at Chaminade, 64-68

I could go on about how Oklahoma is very much a weak 4-5 in conference (they are still likely to only finish with 5-6 conference wins when all is said and done), but I'd be missing the point, really: this is a team that lost five games in a row -- including a pummeling by mediocre Virginia and a loss to Chaminade -- in late-November and early-December.  The fact that they've been competitive at all in conference play shows signs of progress.  And considering this is a rather young team, progress could be semi-sustainable over the long haul.

The key point for tomorrow's game, however, is that most of Oklahoma's competitiveness has come at home.  (And yes, I realize you could say the same about Mizzou to a certain extent ... but the game's in Columbia, so that doesn't really matter.)  Oklahoma is 11-2 at home this year (best win: Baylor) but 0-4 on a neutral court and 1-5 in road gyms.  They won at Iowa State in overtime a couple of weeks ago, but that's really the only feather in their cap away from Lloyd Noble.

 

Oklahoma Player Stats

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
Andrew Fitzgerald (6'8, 226, So.) 13.0 0.41 31.7 MPG, 13.8 PPG (51.5% 2PT, 72.7% FT), 5.3 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 2.3 TOPG
Cade Davis (6'5, 209, Sr.) 12.0 0.34 35.2 MPG, 12.6 PPG (50.5% 2PT, 35.9% 3PT, 72.7% FT), 4.9 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.9 TOPG
Cameron Clark (6'6, 189, Fr.) 10.6 0.32 33.5 MPG, 9.6 PPG (53.4% 2PT, 36.5% 3PT, 63.9% FT), 4.8 RPG, 1.1 APG
Steven Pledger (6'4, 212, So.) 10.5 0.34 31.3 MPG, 12.3 PPG (50.0% 2PT, 36.8% 3PT, 85.5% FT), 2.2 RPG, 2.0 APG, 2.0 TOPG
Carl Blair (6'2, 209, So.) 7.1 0.26 27.0 MPG, 7.8 PPG (54.8% 2PT, 23.7% 3PT, 74.7% FT), 4.3 APG, 2.4 RPG, 3.2 TOPG
Nick Thompson (6'9, 208, Jr.) 4.7 0.26 18.1 MPG, 4.7 PPG (46.5% 2PT, 45.0% 3PT, 66.7% FT), 3.5 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.6 TOPG
C.J. Washington (6'7, 209, Jr.) 3.6 0.32 11.0 MPG, 2.5 PPG (47.5% 2PT, 54.8% FT), 3.3 RPG
Tyler Neal (6'7, 215, Fr.) 3.6 0.38 9.4 MPG, 3.5 PPG (61.9% 2PT, 29.4% 3PT, 85.7% FT), 2.2 RPG
Calvin Newell (6'1, 193, Fr.) 3.0 0.24 12.8 MPG, 3.5 PPG (55.6% 2PT, 28.9% 3PT, 61.9% FT), 1.9 APG, 1.2 RPG, 1.4 TOPG
Barry Honore (6'7, 258, Jr.) 1.5 0.25 5.9 MPG, 1.4 PPG (68.8% 2PT, 50.0% FT), 1.1 RPG

* AdjGS = a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds.  It redistributes a team's points based not only on points scored, but also by giving credit for assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls.  It is a stat intended to determine who had the biggest overall impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.

  • Highest Usage%: Fitzgerald (25%), Pledger (22%), Davis (20%), Blair (20%)
  • Highest Floor%: Clark (41%), Neal (41%), Fitzgerald (40%)
  • Highest %Pass: Blair (68%), Newell (68%), Thompson (58%)
  • Highest %Shoot: Fitzgerald (49%), Clark (46%), Washington (44%)
  • Highest %Fouled: Washington (33%), Neal (21%), Fitzgerald (20%)
  • Highest %TO: Fitzgerald (11%), Washington (11%), Thompson (11%)
  • Per-minute stats really don't do Oklahoma quite enough justice, simply because they play so slow.  At a normal pace, they might be able to slip one more player over the 0.40/minute mark that I typically use to classify 'good' players.  Andrew Fitzgerald is Oklahoma's best overall player, and I'm curious about how he will match up with players like Ricardo Ratliffe and Laurence Bowers.  He doesn't have an amazing shooting touch, but he's solid.  He gets to the line a decent amount (and he shoots pretty well there), grabs a decent amount of rebounds, and is decent in blocking shots on defense.  He is, by all definitions, a decent player.  But he's probably not ready to be the best player on a decent team; he needs help, and he only sometimes gets it.
  • In terms of Usage, Steven Pledger is the only other player besides Fitzgerald to creep over the average 20% line.  He is a semi-efficient scorer, but considering how many minutes he is on the court, he brings next to nothing else to the table.
  • Ahh, Cade Davis.  Friend of Trent Ratterree, pride of Elk City, OK.  (The Elks -- yes, the Elks -- were probably the No. 2 rivals to my Weatherford Eagles, behind just hated Clinton.  If Weatherford is Mizzou, then Clinton is Kansas and Elk City is Kansas State.  And that damned Bishop McGuinness is Texas.  Boo, McGuinness.)  You never know quite what you're going to get from Davis.  Sometimes he catches fire (25 points in 12 shots against Texas Tech), and sometimes he doesn't (7 points in 10 shots against Cincinnati).  Sometimes he shoots a lot (15 shots against Oklahoma State, 14 against Colorado), sometimes he doesn't (4 against Texas, 7 against Baylor and Iowa State).  Knowing Mizzou's occasional defensive struggles on the perimeter, there's a possibility that Davis gets some open looks, but only if the passing is good or the point guards are getting better penetration than they should.
  • C.J. Washington is an interesting player to watch after the bench.  For better and for worse, he dominates when he's on the court.  He's likely to either shoot, get fouled or turn the ball over every time he touches the ball.  He's not always good, but he's always doing something.
  • If Oklahoma pulls the upset, it's likely that Carl Blair is the reason why.  He's a sophomore playing at Mizzou Arena for the first time, and chances are this won't be a memorable experience for him (at least, not good memorable).  He's a good passer (he's 64th in the country in Assist Rate), but he turns the ball over quite a bit and isn't likely to have a good shooting game.

Keys to the Game

  1. Swarmswarmswarmswarmswarmswarmswarm.  Oklahoma passes one test in the "Can they upset Mizzou?" list -- they are very comfortable slowing the game down to a crawl.  Unfortunately for the Sooners, they also turn the ball over a lot.  Do that in Mizzou Arena, and you'll find yourself suddenly down 12, even if you think you're playing well.  If Mizzou is effectively able to push the tempo and force some turnovers, the game will get out of hand, potentially in the first half.  But if they aren't -- if they aren't dialed in defensively -- then Oklahoma is built to slow the game down and keep things closer than Mizzou fans would like.

  2. The Young Guys Running the Show.  For Mizzou, the point guard position is occupied by a freshman (Phil Pressey) and a sophomore (Mike Dixon).  Oklahoma is in the same boat -- sophomore Carl Blair and freshman Calvin Newell.  Stats suggest Mizzou should win this battle comfortably, especially at home.  But if they don't -- if Mizzou is unable to effectively pressure Blair and Newell into mistakes, and if they are unable to prevent penetration and, therefore, fouls and open 3-pointers -- then Oklahoma will be in this game all the way to the end.

  3. Kim English.  Lord Baltimore pulled another disappearing act on the road this week, but ... this game's not on the road.  Last Saturday at Mizzou Arena, English played a beautiful all-around game against Colorado, and if he does so again against Oklahoma, it will be very difficult for Missouri to lose.

Prediction

When these two teams met at Lloyd Noble last year, Mizzou was horribly ineffective on offense and wasn't able to scrounge out a win at the end; Oklahoma won, 66-61.  This game is not at Lloyd Noble.  There is always a chance that this game could play out the same, but it is unlikely.  Oklahoma is not effective enough on the defensive end of the court to stop Mizzou and prevent the press.  Chances are, this will play out like games at Mizzou Arena typically do -- it's close for the first 8-10 minutes, then Mizzou makes a run to go up double digits at half.  We'll say Oklahoma is able to keep the tempo down a little, but Mizzou still wins, 77-60.  Time to go on a winning streak, boys.

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