In their attempt to not abandon the Kansas City fans, Missouri scheduled a game at the Sprint Center in Kansas City against their old Big 12 foe Oklahoma State. They've played 119 times before this "non-conference" matchup, and Missouri has won 77 of those. So, I guess let's just pretend we aren't very familiar with them and play the preview game.
Presenting the Oklahoma State Cowboys
location: Stillwater, Oklahoma
By HHKB Chris: Hello Orange our old friend, I've come to play with you again...That's right it's a reunion with our old pistol finger pointing buddies, the Cowboys of Oklahoma State (once known as the Oklahoma A&M Aggies).
The college now known as OSU is located in Stillwater, OK, a town whose website looks like it's powered by Netscape and hasn't been updated since noted Mizzou troll, Doug Gottlieb was running point guard for the Cowboys. We've been down there in the past, the last time being in 2012 in our final year in the Big 12/10 (ONE TRUE CHAMPION, SERIOUSLY!) in which the Pokes were led by a troll-like hobbit character called Keiton Page who may or may not have been raving on and on and on about his precious all game long.
This is their mascot, Pistol Pete who appears to be a Cowboy who may have seen too much in his time, that or he's just wildly hungover. I mean look at those eyes, just look at them!
Many interesting and famous people have called Stillwater their home, there’s country singer Garth Brooks who developed his Chris Gaines "Rockstar" character to meet girls at Eskimo Joes where his country act had grown tired. Also, Gary Busey (warning: do not click on that link) went to OSU, and while there’s no substantial evidence that he lost his mind there, he’s not been right in some time. Finally, T. Boone Pickens, billionaire oil baron and OSU fan is an alumnus of this school. In thinking of him, I tend to recall the scene in Coming to America when Cleo McDowell (they have the Big Mac, we’ve got the Big Mic!) gushing over Akeem having his own money, HIS OWN MONEY. See I bet T. Boone has T.Boone Bucks, with his face on it, all printed on crazy orange paper that he forces people take as payment, this is probably not the case, but what the hell. He also has a plan to ween America off of OPEC Oil, and not because it would make him even more money... really, that's not the reason at all.
But guess what? We’re not going there, not now and not for the foreseeable future. This game is being played in the neutral city of Kansas City MISSOURI. Not Kansas City, Kansas, that place is a barren wasteland akin to a desert where dreams go to die.
When in KC MO I suggest instead of visiting locally famous Barbeque or Jazz joints that instead you visit with the bgtd's, BST's, and T&CF's. They will be quite hospitable and thrilled to see you! But if crashing your internet friends homes isn't your cup of tea, hit up Stroud's for the best damned fried chicken, Arthur Bryant's for some BBQ, and drinks, well anywhere in Westport but if you're super lazy, just walk across the street from the Sprint Center to Power and Light and drink everything, it's sometimes necessary to do so in the homogenized atmosphere offered up there.
Now, while we haven't played OSU in basketball in a few years we did play them in Football less than a year ago, in something called the "Cotton Bowl". And since I know many people are off from work and looking for something to do, why not check out the 2014 AT&T Cotton Bowl which featured your Missouri Tigers and the Cowboys of Oklahoma State here (hint: it ends well):
About Their Basketball Team
By Sam Snelling: The Cowboys have started off relatively well. For one, their record is a winning one (something foreign to Mizzou fans here lately) at 9-2. They're 25th in KenPom, and are receiving votes in both the AP poll and the Coaches poll. Missouri is not. The Cowboys started off 7-0 with monumental wins over teams like Prairie View, NW Oklahoma State, and some school called "Tulsa". They were upended in somewhat humiliating fashion in the coming out party of South Carolina guard Duane Notice, as SC beat them by 26 points. They then beat Memphis and Middle Tennessee State before dropping their last game at home to Maryland. Losing to a top 25 team, even at home, isn't necessarily bad. It remains to be seen if the South Carolina loss is a bad one, as they should be better this year, and it certainly didn't help that OkSt shot under 25% for the game. Still, Okie State is good, not great.
They're led by Le'Bryan Nash at 17.6 points per game, and Phil Forte III at 16.7 ppg. Nash is a former 5-star recruit, and has been close to leaving for the NBA multiple times. Forte will probably fool Missouri fans into thinking that Keiton Page is currently in his 12th season of eligibility, as he's a similar player. Small, feisty, good shooter. Nash is a bit of a do-everything kind of guy. He lit up the 2012 version of Missouri for 27 points, including 3/4 from 3-point range. His made three's in that game represent 300% more than he's made this season.
Other key players for the Cowboys include a name you remember in Anthony Hickey. Hickey was run off the team at LSU by Johnnie Jones, and landed in Stillwater. Michael Cobbins is another recognizable name and major contributor. The Cowboys currently have 11 guys who average more than 10 minutes a game. So they play a lot of guys, and don't mind getting up and down the court. They're a somewhat similar team to Illinois in that their best lineup often involves playing Nash as a stretch 4, and rotating Cobbins and Anthony Allen on the inside, and HIckey with Forte and a plethora of big guards playing on the wing.
Now for a closer look at their basketball team, let's chat with somebody who knows them best...
Q&A With Cowboys Ride For Free
RockMNation: Cowboys Head Coach Travis Ford seems to have pretty uneven support, despite only not reaching the 20 win plateau once during his tenure in Stillwater. What seem to be the fan-bases grievances with him as a coach, and do you think they are legitimate?
Gerald Tracy: As mentioned, Travis has made the 20 win mark each year except for that 2011-2012 season. He also brings in big prospects like Markel Brown or Marcus Smart and even Le'Bryan Nash. However, there's something about his teams that just don't click. For example, last year there was two future NBA draftees in Brown and Smart, yet they went on a seven game losing streak and finished eighth in the conference. The fan grievances I think are exactly that. He can bring in talent, but has yet to really develop any of it and is still searching for that ever elusive first tournament win. I think the fans are right to feel this way because even on good years, Cowboy fans are sitting out watching other teams play in the second round of the tournament every March.
RMN: How has this team adjusted to the loss of Markel Smith and Marcus Smart?
Tracy: The loss of Brown and Smart was supposed to be devastating. However, the two transfers Ford brought in have stepped up already in the early parts of the season. Anthony Hickey Jr., the transfer from LSU, has at least two steals in seven of the first eleven while Jeff Newberry is shooting 47 percent from beyond the arch and has shown his athleticism multiple times already. I always felt with Smart OSU was in hero ball mode most of the time. The team has reshaped itself to a defensive-focused squad and has actually been pretty fun to watch at times.
RMN: Le'Bryan Nash was one of the most highly touted recruits to start school at Oklahoma State (consensus top 10 recruit), what has been the main reason for him to still being on the roster as a senior?
Tracy: Unfortunately I was not here his first year but from what I've been told and read, he thought it was all about him. He wanted to shoot the game winning shot, he wanted to take the ball out, all of that. However, as more talented guys came on the team, I think he started to realize he had to do what he was good at, and not what he wanted to. For example, his freshman year he put up 68 shots from three and only made 16 of them, which is clearly not his game. I think he's still on the court because of stuff like this. The guy has got some great inside game, and he has had to develop it against some top guys as of late. You should also check this link out, it's a little piece on why he is still in Stillwater and how he apparently could have been drafted every year already.
RMN: What are the major weaknesses of the Cowboys, and how can MIzzou exploit them to try to find a win in Kansas City?
Tracy: Offense. Period. There are a few guys who can get hot, and if they do it'll get scary. But at the same time the team shoots .708 from the charity stripe and five of the players are under 30 percent from downtown. If Mizzou can jump out to an early lead and force OSU to hoist up shots they simply shouldn't be taking, a win could be in grasp for the Tigers.
RMN: Finally, what are your predictions for this game? What are the keys for Oklahoma State to win? Score prediction?
Tracy: I'll pick OSU simply because I've really started to like this team in the early parts of the season. Now, had you asked me three months ago I would've told you this team would have lost every game this year. But OSU needs to try and keep Mizzou under 60 (they're 2-2 when their opponents score 60 plus) and play the game at their pace. If OSU doesn't let Mizzou get hot, they can win this game on the shoulders of Hickeys' stealing ability and Nash scoring. I'll take OSU, but they're not going to blow them out completely, 68-59.
Again, thanks to Gerald Tracy III of Cowboys Ride For Free. Check out his work at CRFF, and give him a follow.
To wrap up, some keys to the game.
1) Le'Bryan Nash = Rayvonte Rice?
Oklahoma State doesn't play through Nash the same way that Illinois plays through Rice, but he has just as much impact without the outside threat. Where Nash makes his money is by attacking the basket and in the mid-range. He's one of the best in the country at drawing fouls with a FD/40 rate in the top 5, according to KenPom. If Nash is able to get to the rim, get Free Throws, and score a high percentage of his teams points, it will be a tough night for Missouri.
2) Win Pace
Missouri has yet to prove that they can win against power conference teams. One area that they've struggled with is with the higher pace against teams that can match their athleticism. As the pace increases, the efficiency of the Missouri offense seems to go down. So they'll need to limit Oklahoma States pace of play, and force them into a slug fest like they did vs. Illinois.
3) Easy Points
That's points at the FT line, Fast Break points off turnovers, and second chance opportunities. Missouri isn't the most efficient offensive basketball team, particularly when the 3-point shots aren't falling. Getting easy baskets and points from the line is going to be important for them to stay in the ball game. Even moreso, keeping Nash and company off the free throw line, and making them score baskets by shooting jump shots will help keep Missouri in the game, with a shot to win it late.
So, the bad news is that Oklahoma State, thus far, is better than Missouri at everything. They're a better team than Illinois, despite the blowout loss to South Carolina. The good news is that they play a similar style to Illinois, which suits Missouri since they'll be able to go back to the formula of playing small that helped them vs. Illinois. With Johnathan Williams III, Jakeenan Gant and D'Angelo Allen taking up the bulk of the minutes, Missouri gets young, inexperienced, and way more athletic.
It's easy to feel the promise of watching this team battle Illinois a week and a half ago and think they've turned some sort of corner. They certainly played in an entertaining game, which was a new thing for this team. That being said, they're very outmatched and out experienced by this Oklahoma State team. The Cowboys aren't unbeatable, in fact they're just sort of good. But Hickey, Nash and Cobbins are Seniors, and Forte is a Junior. Those four lead the team in minutes, and that experience has won them a lot of games. I expect them to ride that experience to a victory against Missouri.
I am hopeful that the Tigers can keep it close and interesting. I'll go with a 72-67 final.
Leave your trifecta picks in the comments. I'm gonna go with Teki, Clark & Williams III.