Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Mini-preview: Oklahoma State
After making a serious run at Bill Self, Oklahoma State settled for Travis Ford. And really, I think Ford is a good fit for them. If nothing else, he’s an enormous upgrade from Sean Sutton – the most overwhelmed and under-qualified coach I’ve ever seen. Not only was it good for the Cowboys, but it was good for Sutton as well; another year on the bench just might have killed that guy the way things were going. Back to Ford, he likes to play an up-tempo style and that made him a good fit for the current athletes at OSU; if he can continue recruiting his type of player, he’ll have some success there.
This year, though, they’re going to be a little up and down. They’ve got some real nice parts and five double-digit scorers. Combine that with their pace of play and they’ll be tough for anyone to defend. But defense isn’t really their thing. And only one guy over 6’6” ever sees the floor – and even he doesn’t make his way off the bench very often. So if they’re that small and they aren’t going to guard you, how are they 12-4 and currently 5th in my conference rankings?
They’ve got some guys who can fill it up. Number 1 on that list is James Anderson. He came in as a heralded freshman a year ago and didn’t disappoint, playing over 30 minutes and scoring over 11 points per game. But he’s taken it up a notch this year. He’s currently just shy of 18 points and 6 rebounds per outing and has noticeably improved his outside shot. Whereas last year he was more of an athlete whose shot you needed to respect, he’s become a 46% three-point shooter that can also get to the rim. There’s a reason he’s only been held to single digits once this year.
Anderson is the best scorer, but Obi Muonelo is the best player. After somewhat regressing from his freshman to sophomore years, Muonelo has made a big leap forward this year. For the time being, he’s averaging a double-double with 16 points and 10 boards. And like Anderson, he’s also taken his long-range game up a notch- from 34% a year ago all the way to 44% this year. At 6’5”, he’s going to have a lot of trouble guarding other bigs, but he creates a hell of a match-up problem for his guy as well with his ability to hit the three.
And you can’t mention the Cowboys without talking about Byron Eaton. He really came into his own last year and became this team’s leader and it has continued into this year. Though his scoring has increased, his shooting percentage has taken a dip, especially from three – but his assists are at an all-time high of six per game. He still needs to lose a few pounds and he’d likely see that FG% rise, but Eaton is a solid defender (their only one) and capable of controlling a game.
The last few guys you need to be aware of are: Terrel Harris, Keiton Page, Anthony Brown, Malcoln Kirkland & Marshall Moses. Like those above, Harris has seen his offensive numbers increase under Ford’s system. After scoring 10 points and shooting 27% from three a year ago, Harris is now scoring over 14 and it’s partly due to now making his threes 49% of the time. Keiton Page is their prized in-state recruit and despite being 5’10” 165, he’s pretty solid. He’s not much of a defender, but that doesn’t seem to bother Ford. He doesn’t turn the ball over, he scores 10 a game and he hits 42% of the time from deep. Brown (6’6”) and Kirkland (6’8”) represent the Cowboys’ “size.” They’re each good for 12-15 minutes, 3 points and 3 boards. As you might expect, they’re not exactly ideal forwards for competing in the Big XII. Don’t be surprised if Marshall Moses starts taking some of their minutes. He doesn’t have the yearly stats, but at 6’6” 215 he’s just as capable physically and his ceiling is much higher as evidenced by his 15 & 13 against A&M. That game and the one tonight are the only times I’ve seen much of him, but I like him much more than the other two.
Like last year, Oklahoma State is dangerous but flawed. They just switched deficiencies. Last year they could barely score, but they made you work for your points. This year they’ll give you whatever you want, but they’re going to try and beat you to 100. The more I watch of them, the more I question my ranking them fifth and I don’t see them holding that position for long. Is there a chance Missouri could be the fifth best team in the league? They're certainly making their case right now. Meanwhile, OU continues to under whelm me every time I see them.
Up next: K-State