Know Your Reeling Rival: Oklahoma State Cowboys

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 25: Le'Bryan Nash #2 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys and Dorenzo Hudson #5 of the Virginia Tech Hokies battle for a rebound during a game at the 2011 Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden on November 25, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

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As the Big 12 season progresses, I find myself wanting to take credit for picking Kansas to win the conference and expressing doubt in Baylor and Texas A&M (to different degrees). And then I remember that I thought Oklahoma State would be a darkhorse this year and any urge to pound my chest subsides.

Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-10)


OSU
Opp.
Pace (No. of Possessions)
70.9
Points Per Minute
1.62
1.61
Points Per Possession (PPP)
0.98
0.98
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.22
1.14
2-PT FG% 45.9%
43.5%
3-PT FG% 31.7%
31.0%
FT% 71.4%
66.4%
True Shooting % 51.7%
48.9%




OSU Opp.
Assists/Gm 11.2
11.7
Steals/Gm 6.6
7.1
Turnovers/Gm 13.8
14.2
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.29
1.32




OSU Opp.
Expected Off. Rebounds/Gm 13.0
14.3
Offensive Rebounds/Gm 9.9
13.8
Difference -3.1
-0.5

Don't Be Fooled

Oklahoma State both scores and allows 66 points per game. One's first impression, then, is that they are a "grind it out and slow it down" type of team. They are not. They play at almost the same pace as Missouri. It's just that a) their offense is awful, and b) their defense isn't half bad. Aside from their horrendous trip to Waco a week and a half ago, they tend to keep things pretty close and junked-up while not actually threatening to beat a good team. That Missouri's last trip to Gallagher-Iba was so horrible, and that OSU hasn't whipped out a randomly fantastic game at home yet are causes for paranoia, but to date this has not been a team capable of beating a Top Ten team, even at home.

It's a damn shame, really. I obviously would prefer for Missouri to win easily tonight in front of a completely lackluster, uninterested crowd. But a packed Gallagher-Iba is one of the coolest, most enjoyable venues in college basketball; that OSU has regressed to the point where they are averaging just 8,600 per home game (it was 10,446 last year) makes me sad. Granted, a little of that has to do with the fact that almost all of their bigger games have either been on the road or on a neutral court; but still.

Ken Pomeroy Stats

OSU Offense vs MU Defense Ranks

OSU Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 185
55
MU Big
Effective FG% 286
131
MU Big
Turnover % 55
51
Push
Off. Reb. % 316
113
MU Big
FTA/FGA 105
13
MU
MU Offense vs OSU Defense Ranks

MU Offense OSU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 1
59
MU
Effective FG% 3
34
MU
Turnover % 4
239
MU Big
Off. Reb. % 122
227
MU Big
FTA/FGA 72
226
MU Big

Where the Cowboys are weakest

You've got plenty to choose from here. The offense really is just dreadful. It runs through five-star freshman Le'Bryan Nash, who has shown plenty of blue-chip potential but is far too inefficient to be an offense's No. 1 option right now ... at least, too inefficient to be a good offense's No. 1 option. And with no big-time scoring options to serve as a distraction, Keiton Page isn't getting very many good looks either. As a result, OSU ranks 269th in Off. 3PT% and 264th in Off. 2PT%. They don't turn the ball over too much, but they are still vulnerable to steals (157th in Steal%), and their ranking of 302nd in Assists Per Field Goal Made tells you everything you need to know, really. Following Nash's lead, they are a one-on-one team. Throw in some putbacks, and this isn't a bad way to live; unfortunately, they rank an incredible 316th in Off. Reb. %.

Meanwhile, on defense, they do one thing very well (they hold you to bad shots), but that's about it. They don't force turnovers, they don't rebound incredibly well, and they foul a lot.

In terms of makeup, they are also dreadfully inexperienced (314th in Experience) and not very tall (263rd in Effective Height). Yuck.

Where they are best

They really do leverage you into pretty poor shot selection. The height they do have -- primarily junior college transfer Philip Jurick, redshirt freshman Michael Cobbins (a former Mike Anderson target) and enormous freshman Marek Soucek -- blocks a lot of shots (they're 60th in Def. Block%) and makes life tough close to the rim. The 'Pokes rank 37th in Def. 2PT%, and they're pretty good on the perimeter too (57th in Def. 3PT%). For those who remember Mizzou's horrendous shooting performance in last year's trip to G-I (they shot 41% on 2-pointers), this should make you briefly shudder. But only briefly.

OSU's Season to Date

  • Wins (Team Rank is from KenPom.com)
    at No. 69 Missouri State, 72-67
    No. 86 Oklahoma, 72-65
    No. 104 Tulsa, 59-56
    No. 142 UTSA, 90-85 (OT)
    vs No. 194 SMU, 68-58 (2OT)
  • Losses
    at No. 10 Baylor, 65-106
    vs No. 17 Alabama, 52-69
    No. 20 Kansas State, 58-66
    at No. 24 Texas, 49-58
    vs No. 28 New Mexico, 56-66
    at No. 43 Iowa State, 68-71
    No. 48 Virginia Tech, 61-67
    vs No. 48 Virginia Tech, 57-59
    vs No. 59 Stanford, 67-82
    vs No. 98 Pitt, 68-74

Oklahoma State has faced eight Top 50 opponents and fallen to all eight; however, they have only been truly drubbed twice. They lost two tight games to Virginia Tech, lost by nine at Texas, fell by eight at home to Kansas State, and might have pulled an impressive upset at Iowa State if not for Scott Christopherson's odd buzzer-beating abilities.

If they are holding you to one-and-done on the offensive side of the ball, they truly can junk the game up enough to keep things close. Missouri should certainly win this one unless it's one of those "basketball is stupid sometimes" nights, but I would go in expecting this game to be closer than you might hope.

OSU Player Stats

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
Keiton Page (5'9, 165, Sr.)
13.3
0.39
33.9 MPG, 14.9 PPG (48% 2PT, 36% 3PT, 80% FT), 1.8 APG, 1.7 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 1.7 TOPG
Markel Brown (6'3, 190, So.)
9.7
0.35
27.9 MPG, 8.6 PPG (44% 2PT, 26% 3PT, 68% FT), 5.2 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.4 SPG, 2.0 TOPG
Le'Bryan Nash (6'7, 230, Fr.)
8.1
0.28
28.3 MPG, 12.5 PPG (41% 2PT, 24% 3PT, 72% FT), 4.9 RPG, 1.1 APG, 2.7 TOPG
Michael Cobbins (6'8, 220, RSFr.)
7.5
0.33
22.4 MPG, 5.2 PPG (56% 2PT, 67% FT), 4.6 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 1.0 TOPG
Brian Williams (6'5, 205, RSFr.)
6.1
0.30
20.8 MPG, 6.1 PPG (52% 2PT, 24% 3PT, 69% FT), 2.9 RPG
Philip Jurick (6'11, 270, Jr.)
5.5
0.31
17.8 MPG, 1.8 PPG (60% 2PT, 33% FT), 5.7 RPG, 2.1 BPG
Cezar Guerrero (6'0, 175, Fr.)
3.6
0.20
18.7 MPG, 6.4 PPG (38% 2PT, 32% 3PT, 80% FT), 1.8 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.4 TOPG
Marek Soucek (7'0, 235, Fr.)
0.5
0.09
4.9 MPG, 0.8 PPG

* 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%: Nash (30%), Guerrero (24%), Page (23%), Brown (20%)
  • Highest Floor%: Cobbins (43%), Jurick (39%), Page (38%), Williams (37%)
  • Highest %Pass: Jurick (63%), Brown (48%), Guerrero (47%), Page (39%)
  • Highest %Shoot: Williams (50%), Nash (46%), Page (41%), Cobbins (40%)
  • Highest %Fouled: Nash (17%), Williams (17%), Page (14%), Brown (14%)
  • Highest %T/O: Nash (11%), Cobbins (11%), Jurick (11%), Brown (8%)
  • Only one player in the Big 12 occupies more possessions in a given game than Le'Bryan Nash (Iowa State's Royce White). And that would be fine if he were a bit more efficient. But as you see above, OSU's offense is just all out of whack. Nash isn't even in the team's Top Four in Floor% (the percentage of possessions you occupy that result in points), but he dominates the ball. Cezar Guerrero is second in Usage%, and he shoots 34.9% from the field.
  • Keiton Page is terrifying when there is somebody else on the offense to distract defenses. Aside from random moments from Nash -- 21 points in 12 shots versus Texas Tech, 17 in 12 versus Alabama -- there just hasn't been, and Page has been limited as a result. (Nash has scored 20 or more points five times this season, but it took him 13, 20, 12, 18 and 19 shots to do it.) Still, you know Page is going to make you hate him. He's going to flop to the ground to draw a couple of fouls (and at home, it will work), and if he does find some open looks, OSU will stay in this game for a long time.
  • (Another fun note on Page: he has grabbed zero offensive rebounds in 610 minutes this season. Zero. None. Obviously a point guard's job is often to get back on defense and leave the rebounding to others, but ... zero! Like, not even an accidental rebound of a long miss or something.)
  • Page is the only Cowboy hitting even 32 percent of his 3-pointers. Guerrero was doing pretty well, but he's now 0-for-6 from long range in Big 12 play.
  • Nash does draw fouls pretty well, which makes him an interesting matchup with sometimes foul-prone Kim English.
  • The number of minutes occupied by Philip Jurick and Marek Soucek could be very telling. At first glance, their size could cause Missouri some serious disadvantages. But most bigs have struggled against Missouri because Mizzou has been able to emphasize their strengths enough to negate their disadvantages. Bigs tend to turn the ball over a lot and eventually tire. If these two are pulling down rebounds, blocking shots, and logging 20 minutes or so, Mizzou might be in some trouble. But if OSU is forced to go with their own four-guard lineup to compensate, Mizzou is in great shape.
  • Swing man Jean-Paul Olukemi's injury a few weeks ago has really limited this team offensively. They weren't very good before, but they are nearly bereft of options now.

Keys to the Game

  1. Road Things. As with every road game. Offensive rebounds, fouls and Phil Pressey. If those three things go in Mizzou's favor (or at least don't go against Mizzou), they are probably going to win.

  2. Manage Page. Nash takes more shots, but Keiton Page is the scariest player, simply because of what can happen when he is dialed in. He killed Mizzou last year, not with 3-point shooting (1-for-3), but with his ability to junk the game up and draw cheap fouls. He attempted nine free throws in last year's game, and both Phil Pressey and Mike Dixon ended up with four fouls; Dixon only played 15 minutes. If Page is controlling the game, OSU will stay in it.

  3. Opening Rounds. In the opening minutes of Mizzou's win over Baylor, the Tigers were incredibly poised and under control. They came right out and perfectly picked apart Baylor's zone in the first couple of possessions, while the Bears started out with a couple of sloppy turnovers. Granted, it didn't make much of a difference on the scoreboard, but the Tigers proved immediately that they were prepared, calm and under control. If they do so again in the opening minutes tonight, I'll feel pretty good, even if OSU keeps up for a while.

Prediction

Ken Pomeroy's projection says Mizzou 78, Oklahoma State 66. I expect a bit of a sloppier, closer affair. I'll say Mizzou 72, Oklahoma State 65. I think OSU is incredibly inconsistent and limited, but as mentioned above, they tend to at least keep things close while faltering. Survive this one, and Mizzou will almost certainly still be No. 2 next week when Texas (in Austin) and Kansas (in Columbia) come calling.

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