No. 20 Baylor (15-4, 3-3) at Oklahoma State (13-6, 3-4)
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Here's a fun party game: name four Oklahoma State players. "Phil Forte! LeBryan Nash! Uhhhh...Gipson? No, he's Kansas State...Cobbins! Something Cobbins! And...uh...can we just make hot chocolate already?"
Here's a fun fact: this team of players you and I wouldn't know if they peed out a car window has been the best defensive team in the Big 12 play. They are first in defensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions), 2nd in preventing opponent offensive rebounds, and 2nd in block percentage. Oh, and the Cowboys are 16th in the country in steals per game. Michael Cobbins, that guy you were trying to remember earlier, at a mere 6-8, has blocked 9.3% of opponent 2pt shot attempts while he's on the floor, which ranks 49th nationally. Baylor as a team has blocked 9.1% of Big 12 opponents 2pt attempts. That's darn impressive for a player of Cobbins' height.
If you put together their conference steal and block percentages (which is sort of an invalid and statistically irresponsible thing to do, but we're just having fun here), they either record a steal or block on almost 25% of opponents' possessions. One of every four possessions. That's terrifying. Add to it that they have only allowed Big 12 opponents to rebound 30% of their misses, and you aren't getting many shot attempts up on the Cowboys. If you can manage to get a shot up, you're probably one and done.
On the flip side, the Oklahoma State offense is 8th in the Big 12 by efficiency. They are dead last in conference in offensive rebounding percentage and FT/FGA. It isn't hard to figure out why their offense struggles. Forte and Nash average 17.5 and 17.3 points per game, accounting for 25.8% and 30.2% of the team's shots when on the floor, respectively. Anthony Hickey Jr. is the only other player averaging more than 7 points per game, although Cobbins is close with 6.8. To the Cowboys credit, they are 4th in the conference in assists per made field goal, so the ball isn't getting stuck in guys hands. Once the shot goes up, though, their possession is usually over.
1.) Limit turnovers: The Baylor guards must keep control of the ball and limit the Cowboys' transition offense.
2.) Continue to dominate the offensive glass: This won't be easy, but then again, Rico Suave.
3.) Royce O'Neale's outside shot: O'Neale was marvelous from the left corner against OU, where he drained two huge threes. He will have to maintain that impact from outside, especially given the interior defense of Oklahoma State.
This game feels just within reach. Both teams rely on defense first, offense second. We can probably expect a low-scoring, close game in the mold of TCU, Lord help us. Low scoring means high variability, however, which gives the road team a better chance to win. Motley has a bounce back offensive game, Kenny Chery makes some clutch off-the-dribble threes, and Ish Wainwright gets into the game in the first 5 minutes and aggravates Baylor fans and Phil Forte to no end. Ok, that last one probably isn't key to the game, but I love him and want him to do well. An Ish Wainwright explosion not withstanding, I think the defense and home court is enough for the Cowboys to eek by and preserve their home conference win streak. Baylor 64 -- Oklahoma State 65.
My schedule has been hectic the last few weeks, and I apologize for a couple of missed Know Thine Enemies. But we're getting a mini version in just under the wire, right here for your convenience! This can also be made into a standard post if wanted, I just wanted to make sure to bring you what you guys want.
1.) With the departure of Marcus Smart, how has the offense been functioning? Who is someone to look out for offensively aside from LeBryan Nash and Phil Forte?
To use the word "functioning" would imply that it has actually been productive. The ghost of Henry Iba has a better chance of being our third scorer. In fact, he could be our second leading scorer if Le'Bryan Nash continues to take time off during games.
Jeffrey Carroll, Leyton Hammonds, Jeff Newberry, and Tavarius Shine all have the potential, but none of them has shown the ability to consistently produce. We aren't sure how much of that is their talent or Travis Ford's coaching.
2.) Oklahoma State is one of the better defensive teams in the country. What are they doing that’s so effective?
It's what they did in the off-season, hiring James Dickey. As a Sutton disciple, he has definitely brought some of that toughness back to the program, and it's keeping them in games when they have no business hanging around. However, they do show the ability to completely disregard defensive principals on the road.
Thank heavens this isn't a road game.
3.) Are you surprised by the success of the team this season? With Smart gone, it seemed as though the Cowboys were set to slump, but they’ve been as tough as anyone in the Big 12.
They have plenty of talent (largely undiscovered), and they are almost 11 deep, so with some solid defensive performances at home they've been able to hold their own, so to speak. To improve on what they've done, though, they will need to consistently hit outside shots, namely 3's, which they don't seem to do on the road.
Thank heavens this isn't....oh, sorry, already said that...
4.) What’s your prediction? What do you see being the key factor or matchup in this game?
If Baylor can successfully defend the perimeter (and with Forte, that means anything inside 30 ft), and Le'Bryan Nash is on mental holiday, then the Bears could steal one in GIA.
I say Nash decides to play a full 25 minutes tonight, and Forte is on the mark.