Baylor versus Oklahoma State Preview

Baylor versus Oklahoma State Preview

Oklahoma State is coming to town fresh off a dominating win over Texas Tech this weekend. What do the Cowboys bring to Waco and what do the Bears need to do to make sure they leave without another win.

The Baylor Bears, fresh off a glorified scrimmage victory over Hardin-Simmons welcomes the Oklahoma State Cowboys to town, fresh off of their own blowout win over Texas Tech. The Cowboys come into Waco at 12-4 overall, and 2-2 in conference play. They are looking for their first road conference win, after falling at Kansas State and Oklahoma earlier in the year.



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The young and up and coming Cowboys bring in a few of the most talented players in the Big 12, led by their excellent freshman leader Marcus Smart. A do it all guard in every sense of the word, Smart scores 13.3 points per game, averages 5.4 rebounds per game and dishes out 4.4 assists. He is an all-around player, and the man that makes their engine go. He is a big point guards at 6-4, and really does a great job of getting everyone involved on the offensive end of the court. The main recipient of Smart's passes has been Markel Brown, a 6-3 shooting guard that is their leading scorer and another played that does a lot of things well on the court.

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In fact, the best part about the Cowboys attack is that they have a bunch of guys that can do a lot of things. Their only player that is really a specialized option is Phil Forte, the new Keaton Page for the Cowboys. Forte is one of the best shooters in the Big 12, even as a freshman. 76% of his shot attempts are from behind the arc where he has made 39.2% of those chances. It will be an interesting matchup watching him and Brady Heslip guard each other and chase each other around the court, from one 3-point spot to another.

In addition to Brown and Smart is the player the Cowboys are still waiting on to achieve the lofty expectations for him. Le'Bryan Nash is an all-world talent, but someone that has floated in and out of games this year and last. He shared the Big 12 Freshman of the year award with Baylor's own Quincy Miller last year, and it was fitting. Nash came back to Stillwater though, with thoughts of stepping up his game and making a larger impact on the program.

That has not quite happen yet, as he is averaging the same amount of points as last year (13.3), .5 less rebounds per game, but .6 more assists per game. He is shooting a bit better (43.5% versus 39.4%), but he has yet to give them that All-American presence that most Poke fans though they were going to get. However, at 6-7, 230 pounds, he is a great talent and seems to have everything you would want out of a college or NBA small forward.

Joining Nash in the front court are Philip Jurick and Michael Cobbins. Jurick is an efficient low post player for the Cowboys and someone that does a good job of taking up space. He is their best rebounder, getting 7.4 per game in just 20.3 minutes, which are mainly limited due to foul trouble, where he averages 5.4 fouls per 40 minutes a very high mark. Cobbins is also more of a traditional post player for the Cowboys, though he is flashing a better mid-range jumper this year. The sophomore also gets around 20 minutes per game, and is an effective scorer down low.

Their main post off the bench is Kamari Murphy, a 6-8 freshman who gives them some great athleticism, and he actually gets more minutes than both Jurick and Cobbins. Murphy is a much better scorer from the outside then Jurick or Cobbins and is the better offensive player. The Cowboys will try and go smaller at times, either Nash sliding down to the power forward position, allowing them to get Forte out there at shooting guard alongside his high school teammate Smart with Brown going to the small forward position.

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Oklahoma State uses that lineup when they need a shot of offense in the game. Usually though, their defense is what is carrying them. The Cowboys allow just 57.4 points per game (15th best in the country) and 37.3% shooting (10th best). While Nash has struggled on the offensive end, he is a very good defender can be put on a player at the shooting guard, small forward or even power forward position. Their athleticism and height allows them to switch and trap very easily. They are excellent at challenging shots, and play very fast on the defensive end. They don't get a lot of steals or turnovers, but they play solid fundamental defense and make you take and make tough shots.

Keys to the Game:

-Win the battle down low – The Bears should have a decisive advantage on the inside, with Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson going up against Jurick and Cobbins. Jefferson was a flat out no-show against Kansas, something that cost the Bears dearly. You have to hope that he comes out and takes it to Jurick, a player that does foul quite a bit. As you remember against Texas, Jefferson loves going up against post players that foul. It lets him get to the free throw line and get some confidence.

The Bears also should be able to hold their own on the glass, even with giving up a significant amount of size at the small forward position. Both Jefferson and Austin are superior rebounders to anything the Cowboys put out there, who depend on their bigs to block out and let their guards do a large amount of rebounding. Baylor will have to focus on keeping Jurick off of the offensive glass, which is the best part of his game.

-Beat them from behind the arc – The Cowboys, despite featuring Phil Forte, are not a good 3-point shooting team. They make just 32.8% of their shots from deep. A main reason for that is Marcus Smart, a poor three-pointer that takes 4.1 attempts from deep per game. He only makes 28.8% of those attempts. Also Nash (25%) is a poor three-point shooter that forces up too many per game. Only 25.3% of their points come from behind the arc (223rd in the country).

On the flip side, the Bears have to get it going from 3-point range, especially their designated shooter Brady Heslip. The Bears shoot it better than the Cowboys (34% versus 32.8%) and have a larger cast of players that can hit that shot, including Isaiah Austin, Pierre Jackson and Gary Franklin. The Bears have no player that attempts more than .5 3-pointers per game that doesn't at least shoot 32%. They have no terrible shooters, but they do need that one guy to carry them, like Heslip did last year.

-Survive the bad-matchups – The Cowboys have a big-physical trio of guards and wing-players, especially with Phil Forte on the bench. It will be tough for the Bears to matchup against LeBryan Nash, Marcus Smart and Markel Brown, all at least 6-3 and physically gifted. The Bears starting guards are all shorter than 6-2, and will be at a size advantage against the OSU starting lineup. They pose a serious matchup issue, because who do you put Heslip on when Forte is not out there? Brown or Smart should easily be able to take advantage of that situation.

Plus, you only have one AJ Walton, so do you put him on the 6-7 Nash with the 5-10 Pierre Jackson covering one of the other larger guards. Again, this is a tough matchup for the Bears on defense. This might be a game we see a bit of Taurean Prince at the small forward position, covering Nash, something that I hope to see, though Prince will probably get in foul trouble pretty easily that way. They could also go to a zone in situation like this, something that other teams have done when Forte is not out there.

But on the flip side, those bigger guards have to cover our quicker players as well. None of the Cowboys has shown the foot-speed or agility on tape to stay in front of Pierre Jackson, though so few have. I expect to see fewer ball-screens, as OSU is great at that type of defense. Instead, look for Pierre to take his man one-on-one or go away from the screen, something he did expertly against


KenPom – Bears win 66-65 (50% chance for victory)

Massey – Bears win 69-66 (58% chance for victory)

TeamRanking – Bears win 72.7-67.8 (67.7% chance for victory)

BearsIllustrated – Bears win 67-63

As you can see from the above predictions, this should be a close game. KenPom sees this as pretty much a tossup, so this game will come down to matchups. However, I think the Cowboys are a little overrated, especially by KenPom. Looking at their schedule, their best win is the N.C. State victory all the way back in mid-November. Since that point, they have not beaten a team in the Top-100 of the KenPom rankings. They have lost to Gonzaga, Kansas State and Oklahoma with their best win being over South Florida or Texas-Arlington. The Cowboys are a young team, and one that has not won a pure road game yet this year (0-3), even losing to an average Virginia Tech tam on December 1st.

While the Cowboy defense has been great at defending 2-point shots (14th best according to KenPom) they are pretty average against 3-point shooting teams (90th). The Bears will have a quickness advantage on the outside and a height advantage in the middle. I expect the Bears to hit a good amount of their shots, to get the perimeter deep threats going and to beat the Cowboys on the boards and do enough to get a close home victory. Recommended Stories

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