Baylor (14-0) takes on Oklahoma State (10-4) at 6:00 on Saturday in the Ferrell Center. The game airs on ESPNews. The Bears look to remain unbeaten in the Big 12, while Oklahoma State is searching for their first conference win.
The Cowboys are in the first year of the Brad Underwood era. Underwood led Stephen F. Austin to the second round of the tournament two of the last three seasons.
The Cowboys still have a number of familiar faces. Phil Forte is in his fifth year with the program. He started school at Oklahoma State at the same time as Perry Ellis. Point Guard Juwan Evans is the fifth best Big 12 player, according to KenPom’s rankings. And Jeffrey Carroll shoots 40% from 3-point land and ranks highly in many advanced statistical categories.
Oklahoma State struggles on defense. They are 197th in effective field goal defense on KenPom. In the half-court, they often struggle with high pick and roll action and defending cuts:
North Carolina went off against Oklahoma State at the Maui Invitational. The Tar Heels had an excellent shooting day, but they also found some easy opportunities by spacing the floor and adjusting quickly:
Baylor’s offense and Oklahoma State’s defense present two contrasting styles. Baylor plays at one of the slowest paces in the nation, and teams have played offense at the fastest pace in the nation against the Cowboys. Oklahoma State likes to pressure the ball, which has led to the 4th highest turnover percentage on KenPom. Unfortunately for the Cowboys defense, they foul constantly. Oklahoma State is 345th in foul rate. And with a smaller lineup (though they have bigger guys they can play in desperation), Baylor should be able to get to the line frequently.
Oklahoma State—like many of the middle-tier teams in the Big 12—oscillates between looking like a Sweet 16 team and a bubble NIT team. Oklahoma State wrecked Wichita State and Georgetown. But North Carolina and West Virginia blew them out. And perhaps worst of all, Oklahoma State lost to Texas.
If Forte returns to form, Evans has one of his excellent days, and Baylor ends up with 15 or more turnovers, Oklahoma State could win this game. But even catching a bunch of breaks and playing Baylor on a bad night doesn’t equal victory, as Iowa State can attest. I think Baylor is too talented and will return to life offensively. Brad Underwood will have Oklahoma State back in the top 15 before too long, but I think Baylor wins this game 74-64.