*warning: this article is going to be packed with emotion*
Well family, Tuesday sucked. The Bears will be better for it. Remember how bad we all felt after our last loss when Cade Cunningham went nuclear and bounced Baylor out of the Big 12 tournament last year? The boys recovered, and that’s exactly what they will do Saturday.
Hand up, I was wrong about the outcome of the game on Tuesday. Yes there is a section in all my articles called “Why Baylor Wins” not “How Baylor Wins” because with this roster and staff we enter every game thinking we should win the game. Barring any drastic changes I expect Baylor to find a way to get each game done. That being said, let’s turn the page.
I am starting to pen this at 9:54 AM CT on Wednesday 1/12/2022, and will resume after work hours (shoutout my buddy who leads my day job project I mentioned in the last article, who flamed me for leaving work early to fill the Ferrell). It has been about 13 hours since the Bears were dropped by the Red Raiders and I just have to get this taste out of my mouth. There is no better way to move on then to look into how and why Baylor will dismantle this Cowboy team.
This will be a tougher eye test because Oklahoma State is kinda cheeks and there’s not much to see, with the exception of what they did to beat a fraudulent Texas Longhorns team. Another warning this article will be the definition of me shooting expert opinions and takes from the hip in a true knee jerk reaction fashion.
Without further ado, let’s all move on in lockstep, because KenPom still has Baylor sitting in the top spot of his rankings, even after losing a heartbreaker. We don’t lose often in Waco, so we don’t really know how to handle this feeling. May I suggest the best option is to get back to the Ferrell Center on Saturday afternoon and cheer on your reigning National Champions, still the top ranked team in the country, as they bounce back in a big way.
If you are an Oklahoma State Cowboys Men’s Basketball fan reading this, I apologize in advance.
Setting the Scene
The Who: #UNRANKED OSU MBB x #1 Baylor MBB
The What: Baylor’s first bounce back game in like a million years
The Where: God’s Country (Waco, Texas)
The When: Saturday 1/15 4:00 PM CT on ESPN
The Why: Baylor has to show they are still the alpha in the conference, by annihilating a lesser opponent
How We Got Here
This will be one of the few times I speak negatively of a Baylor performance so I want you to hear me, I love this team.
Here are Baylor’s splits from the game against Texas Tech, hope you have an airplane barf bag handy.
Field Goal Percentage: 41.1%
Three Point Percentage: 33.3%
Free Throw Percentage: 61.5%
Turnover Battle: Lost (this is a true rarity for a Scott Drew coached team)
We can all agree, those stats aren’t acceptable from a defending National Champion team. Drew’s staff won’t stand for this, I would pay so much money to be in the film sessions this week. Baylor has to address the free throw issues, and figure out the offense with Flagler or Akinjo on the bench.
Full disclosure, these stats are due much in part to Tech’s elite performance defensively. That being said, even against tough defensive teams we have to execute. I don’t think we will ever see Baylor play this poorly again, but we had to air that out.
Even with those awful splits, we only lost by three points and had a chance to push the game to overtime. Everybody breathe. We got a top 20 team’s best, played like booty, and lost by a possession. That’s the glimmer of hope in this loss.
A true and glaring fact, this Baylor team NEEDS Jeremy Sochan. Our European King’s skillset on both ends of the floor is key for the Bears’ success. The rotation gets significantly more stressed without him. The foul trouble of Flagler by getting switched on to bigs left Baylor reaching for answers. Dale Bonner played a tremendous 10 minutes. I was very impressed with Bonner’s defense and creating for teammates. But, we need Sochan healthy and in the rotation for big games.
Last thought on the Tech game, I am convinced that Baylor plays worst in their grey/volt jerseys. So we gotta bury those muffs deep in the closet for the rest of the year.
On the other hand Oklahoma State has had a very inconsistent start to the season sitting at 8-7, tied for 8th place in the Big 12. The Cowboys had a big win at home against Texas, although the verdict is still out on how good the Longhorns are. Following that win up with a bit of a back and forth loss against West Virginia in Morgantown.
Most recently, Oklahoma State traveled to Lubbock and lost 78-57. The Cowboys shot 32.1% from the field, 28.6% from three, and 68.2% from the free throw line. This is largely in part to Tech’s excellence defensively, but is not far off from the Cowboys averages this year. Just not a good offensive ball club.
Like always for the eye test, I watched tape from Oklahoma State’s games against KenPom Top 50 Opponents so far this year (Xavier, Houston, Kansas, Texas, West Virginia, Texas Tech). Against these teams, Oklahoma State is 1-5. Let’s unpack what I saw.
Oklahoma State Eye Test
Note: team stats are as of Friday morning 1/14 from ncaa.com/stats, I am not a stats guy but I had to confirm the stats backed up how bad they Cowboys looked on tape and that I wasn’t just jaded…spoiler the stats backed up how bad the Cowboys looked on tape
This season is sort of a wash for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. In what still stands to be one of the silliest court rulings ever. The Cowboys had an assistant coach that was caught in a plan to recruit players to an agency while at Oklahoma State. In other similar instances schools had minor punishments, but for some reason the NCAA chose to ban the Cowboys from the 2022 tournament.
It can be debated if the ruling has led to a decrease in production out of the OSU basketball program. The ruling and a generational talent in Cade Cunningham leaving for the NBA are contributing factors to the rough start to the 2021 season.
The Cowboys still play hard, and at some points have that dog mentality to prove that despite the NCAA ruling they would be a tournament level team. Other times, they look uninterested. These are a few things I see good, bad, and ugly from Oklahoma State.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys play great half court defense. At the time of writing this they sit at 37th in the country out of 350 teams in opponent field goal percentage, holding their opponents to 39.379%. It shows on the tape. The teams they play are broke. Essentially every game the Cowboys play is a glorified rock fight where both teams miss a ton of shots.
Against Kansas the Cowboys lost 74-63 and that was also the score with 2:40 left in the game. As any college basketball fan knows, a ton of points are scored in the last few minutes of games because that’s when the refs make it all about them, so that drought was impressive.
Oklahoma State is a super athletic and physical team. All of their guys can get up and down the floor and play tough on ball defense. A key part of what they do so well defensively is make teams start their offense further away from the three point line, by harassing ball handlers.
The only positive aspect of Oklahoma State’s offense is that they are great finishers at the rim. A mix of the athleticism we discussed and their physicality makes them tough to stop when they get a head of steam towards the hole or post up.
As great as Oklahoma State’s half court defense can be, there are some glaring weaknesses. For starters they communicate poorly on screens and cuts. Solid teams will screen and roll the Cowboys into oblivion with the ball handler looking to pass and take advantage of communication breakdowns, a common occurrence.
The Cowboys are also not a great defensive rebounding team. They give up a lot of second chance opportunities due to lackadaisical box outs. Good teams take advantage of this and extend possessions to make up for Oklahoma State limiting good looks initially.
Oklahoma State’s transition defense leaves a lot to be desired. Again this could be a product of communication issues when not in a defensive set. It is puzzling because of the Cowboy’s athleticism and speed, but really teams are able to make good passes and create opportunities for easy buckets.
When watching the film there have been some flat out ugly stretches of basketball from these young fellas up in Stillwater. Let’s start with the turnovers. Oklahoma State is tied for 328th in the country averaging 15.6 TOPG, with 219 turnovers in their first 14 games. Big yikes. This is also why teams are able to take advantage of the Cowboys in transition, they hand their opponents the ball on a silver platter about once every two minutes.
Oklahoma State is also absolutely atrocious from downtown. These boys go through stretches where they’re so inaccurate they couldn’t jump out of a boat and hit water. The Cowboys rank 324th in the country with a 3FG% of 29.18%. Yet another big yikes. In the Cowboys only win against a Top 50 KenPom team, the fraudulent Texas Longhorns, they shot an uncharacteristic 47% from three. Basically challenge Oklahoma State at the rim and they become an overall ugly broke boy offense.
Oklahoma State Players to Watch
Cade Cunningham isn’t walking into the Ferrell Center so I am not worried. But the Cowboys still have a few decent little players that could have an impact. Let’s take a look at their rotation.
#13 Isaac Likekele – Guard
Isaac Likekele is a 6’ 5” Senior guard, and has been a starter for the Cowboys since he got to Stillwater. Likekele has a bigger frame and does a good job getting downhill, basically all of his scoring comes in the paint.
Likekele leads the Cowboys in minutes, so we will see a lot of him. He is OSU’s leader in rebounds, 5.9 RPG, and assists, 3.5 APG. Likekele doesn’t really pose a huge risk for Baylor outside the paint, he shoots 41.9% from the field, 11.1% from three, and 52.4% from the free throw line. Basically as long as Baylor contests Likekele at the rim, he won’t hurt us scoring. And if the Bears can collapse on Likekele when he drives to limit kick out opportunities that should help stifle his assists.
Defensively, Likekele moves his feet well for a guard of his size. He will probably matchup on Akinjo or Flagler and will play them ultra-physical. The Bears will need to make sure to keep a man on him at all times and box him out because he crashes the glass at an elite level.
Let me summarize his game in a visual all my Baylor SLC basketball grinders can understand. Likekele is basically the Baylor football player that comes to the SLC on Dia and runs pickup basketball that plays at a zillion miles an hour and isn’t very productive.
#14 Bryce Williams – Guard
Bryce Williams is a 6’ 2” Senior guard. Williams leads Oklahoma State in scoring at 11.1 PPG, but is not very efficient while doing it. Williams shoots only 37.2% from the field, and 28.1% from three. Like we’ve said these Cowboys aren’t accurate shooters.
Williams’ biggest strength is his athleticism. Williams can cause opponents issues on both ends of the floor with his quickness and bounce. Defensively, Williams does a great job of baiting passers. He will sag off his man and then try to jump the passing lane, and can recover position quickly if he doesn’t make the steal. Williams is tied for the team lead in steals with 2.1 SPG.
On offense, Williams can get to the rim with the best of them. Despite being a bit smaller, Williams finishes through traffic at a high level. Williams uses his speed to get defenders off balance and can stop on a dime in the paint pulling up for floaters.
#0 Avery Anderson III – Guard
Avery Anderson III is a 6’ 3” Junior guard, and is second on the Cowboys in scoring, averaging 10.8 PPG. Anderson is the guy in the Big 12 tournament semifinal last year that went for 20 points against the Bears. I remember vividly losing my mind watching him get buckets and take advantage of us focusing on Cade Cunningham.
This year Anderson has stepped up and taken on an increased role for the Cowboys. On offense, Anderson has a really strong pull-up jumper from midrange. He relies heavily on a jab step or ball fake to get his defender off balance and then uses his speed to get to his spot. Anderson is that guy in your men’s rec league that leaks out on defense and cherry picks for fastbreak buckets so that will be infuriating if Baylor gives those up.
Anderson is tied with Williams for the team lead in steals at 2.1 SPG, so whoever Anderson is guarding will need to be tight with the dribble. Anderson has a 6’ 6” wingspan, slightly longer than his height, and has active hands.
#1 Bryce Thompson – Guard
Bryce Thompson is a 6’ 5” Sophomore guard, in his first year with Oklahoma State. Thompson spent his Freshman year at Kansas. Thompson was a highly touted, five star recruit out of high school. He was the 29th ranked player in his class, and the 7th ranked shooting guard.
Thompson didn’t get a ton of opportunities at Kansas, which led to his transfer to Oklahoma State. Thompson has started 10 games for the Cowboys and has all the talent to be a game breaker, which concerns me.
Given the opportunity, Thompson can score at all three levels and is crafty with the ball. Thompson was the only bright spot for the Cowboys offensively against Texas Tech, scoring 14 points he was the only Oklahoma State player in double figures. Through this season Thompson has made the most of his opportunities and is third on the Cowboys in scoring at 8.5 PPG. Thompson could hurt the Bears if left open.
#33 Moussa Cisse – Forward
Moussa Cisse is a 6’ 10” Sophomore forward. This season is Cisse’s first with the Cowboys, after transferring to OSU following his freshman year with Memphis. Cisse averages 6.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and leads the Cowboys in blocks with 1.9 BPG.
Cisse is a problem at the rim. He is a great shot blocker with quick feet and is really lean so he can get off the floor quickly to send shots back. Cisse’s touch around the rim isn’t great, but he is solid enough to have to contest.
Cisse doesn’t do great outside of the paint and if switched on to a guard can be exposed off the dribble.
#22 Kalib Boone – Forward
The first of the Boone twins on the Oklahoma State roster is Kalib Boone. Ka. Boone is a 6’ 9” Junior forward, and was a highly touted recruit out of high school. He is an efficient scorer and makes the most of his limited minutes. Ka. Boone is ninth on the Cowboys in minutes, playing 13.2 MPG but fourth on the Cowboys in scoring at 7.4 PPG.
Ka. Boone is long, athletic and an efficient finisher at the rim. Last season, he broke the OSU field goal percentage record, shooting 64.2% from the field.
Ka. Boone is also a great rim protector off the bench. Last season he led the Big 12 with 49 blocks, and is second on the Cowboys this season with 1.5 BPG.
#20 Keylan Boone – Guard
The second of the Boone twins is Keylan Boone. Ke. Boone is a 6’ 8” Junior guard, and unlike his brother was not a rated high school recruit and has been playing a bit of catchup.
Ke. Boone’s production has increased this year and he is averaging 6.6 PPG. He comes off the bench and is one of the Cowboys better three point shooters, knocking down threes in limited action at 36.2%.
In the OSU win against Texas, Ke. Boone led the Cowboys in scoring with 17 points, shooting 5-7 from three, and adding 6 rebounds off the bench. This breakout performance showed Ke. Boone is a capable scorer, and Baylor will need to be aware of where he is off the bench.
#12 Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe – Forward
Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe is a 6’ 7” Sophomore forward, and is really just a rotation forward for the Cowboys. Moncrieffe averages 5.8 PPG and 4.9 RPG in about 17 minutes per game.
I don’t expect Moncrieffe to play a ton, as OSU typically matches their lineup with their opponent and focuses on guard play. But some areas he does impact the game is in help defense, for a big man he rotates really well. Offensively, Moncrieffe doesn’t impact the game outside the paint.
Oklahoma State is a really good defensive team, they play hard and when at their best, can make their opponents live in a torture chamber on the offensive end of the floor. Unfortunately these men don’t put the ball in the hoop at a high level and that’s important to winning basketball games.
The Cowboys don’t have the talent to rely solely on defense to win this game against a now hungry Baylor team. Oklahoma State just isn’t productive enough on both ends of the floor to get this done on the road.
Oklahoma State will probably bounce back next year, but the 2021-2022 season just ain’t for them, especially against a Baylor team that is out to prove the loss at home to Texas Tech was a fluke.
Bottom line, and I won’t mix words, Baylor is going to win.
Why Baylor Wins (my goodness they better)
Let me say this, by no means do I want any of the thoughts below to be taken as pointing fingers or passing blame for the loss to Texas Tech on any one player. The entire team, coaches and players, would own up to the loss and say they need to be better if asked. In college basketball you lose games, this isn’t the end of the world.
This player by player analysis of Baylor’s squad is going to be a bit more critical than usual. It isn’t because I don’t love the crew, I absolutely do. The criticism is a direct result of underperforming against Tech, and a need to play to their potential. Like this is actually going to be painful for me to write.
They got punched in the mouth; how do they respond?
#0 Flo Thamba – @Flo_T3
Flo had TWO rebounds in 13 minutes against Texas Tech. We need Flo to be better on the glass, and we know he can be. In reality, Flo’s minutes were limited against Tech because EJ matched up better with Tech’s lineup. But there were moments where Flo didn’t look great at either end.
We know Flo can be a great big man for this Baylor team. As a leader, I expect he was vocal at practice and will hold himself as accountable as he does his teammates. Against a relatively smaller Oklahoma State team, Flo will need to be efficient and aggressive on the boards and in the paint in his minutes.
We need March Madness Flo to be the Flo we get on a regular basis, no matter how many minutes Drew plays him. I am banking that he bounces back Saturday.
#1 Jeremy Sochan – @SochanJeremy
I mean this is just straight up heartbreaking right? I won’t get into any advanced stats because that’s not my wheelhouse, but Sochan ranks in the top of the conference in a number of categories per 40 minutes. We absolutely missed him against Tech.
Sochan probably won’t play, and for the record I don’t think he should. I would much rather lose one or two additional regular season games and be a 2 seed, then have Sochan push and further the injury and miss the tournament. If it comes down to a 1 seed with an injured Sochan or a 2 seed with a healthy Sochan, give me the 2 seed and a healthy king.
What impressed me about Sochan, is during the Tech game he was the first guy off the bench. Sochan was cheering and encouraging his brothers, waving the towel, clapping, and pumping up the crowd. Elite leadership from a freshman.
Have you guys picked up on who my favorite player is on this team?
#2 Kendall Brown – @TheeKbrown
Brown has lottery pick level talent, it’s raw, but it is there. Kendall showed why he could be one of the most exciting players in the country, when he puts his mind to it, on a highlight reel lob.
This is my main concern, why is Brown passive offensively? We have seen moments where he takes over, pretty much all of the Oregon game for example. So what switch flipped against Tech to where he would pull up on drives, pass out of space, and not just jump over everyone?
I’m not saying I want Brown to go into total psycho mode, because he is a great passer. He led the Bears in assists against Tech with 6. But I think this offense kicks up a gear when Kendall asserts himself as the best athlete on the floor.
The Bears will need Kendall to be confident and play free against Oklahoma State. The Cowboys can be gutted in transition, and nobody is more exciting than KB on the run. Oklahoma State plays great halfcourt defense, but Brown can break that down by cutting with a purpose.
All this to say, give me active Kendall Brown.
#4 LJ Cryer – @LjCryer
LJ had a good shooting game for the Bears against Tech, scoring 10 points on 4-9 from the field (2-4 3PT). LJ hung tough for Baylor on defense when matched up against much bigger guards for the Red Raiders.
The issue for Cryer against Tech was his four turnovers. Like we discussed in the Tech eye test, the Red Raiders are super long and active in passing lanes and there were a few passes LJ threw without much conviction. I fully expect this to be fixed, because as LJ stated in Our Time Episode 2, he expects success.
Baylor will need LJ to score efficiently in all three phases against Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are another great defensive team, and as LJ showed against Tech he can score on pretty much anyone.
I would love to see LJ use his quick step to penetrate, making the Cowboys respect him as a driver, and then opening himself up for some cleaner looks from deep.
#10 Adam Flagler – @adamflagler
Flagler’s game against Tech really broke my heart, because Flagler battled his butt off. Unfortunately as a direct result of guarding bigger players, Flagler found himself in foul trouble. The foul trouble caused him to miss significant minutes in big moments in the second half.
When Flagler was on the floor the Baylor offense looked totally different. He picked up right where he left off against TCU scoring 17 points on an efficient 6-11 shooting, and 5-8 from three. The ball movement was incredible and the spacing was elite. The downside for Flagler offensively is he went 0-2 from the line, and those were missed free throws down the stretch.
I think the matchups against Oklahoma State should benefit Flagler, even if Sochan can’t go. The Cowboys don’t have nearly the size that the Red Raiders do, so Flagler should be able to stay out of foul trouble regardless of matchup.
I expect Flagler to be a force offensively against the Cowboys. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, look for Flagler to take advantage of the midrange game, which is a soft spot in the Cowboys half court defense.
#11 James Akinjo – @akinjojames3 (Insta no Twitter for our boy)
James can we level set with each other? I meant everything I said in my last article about how you had turned the corner and were playing like a potential Big 12 Player of the Year. To be fair you were dealt a tough hand against Tech, but leaders need to overcome that.
Akinjo also had 17 points against Tech, but was inefficient and pressing, shooting 5-14 from the field and 1-8 from three. There were multiple possessions where Akinjo settled or didn’t appear to run the offense. Most notably on the last possession where he pounded the Wilson into the hardwood for 16 seconds and launched a contested three, in the worst final possession in the history of basketball.
I believe in James Akinjo to bounce back better than anyone on this roster. By no means do I think that the game against Tech is the player Akinjo will be going forward. We have seen him play much better, and as we move through conference play we will need the elite version of James Akinjo.
I expect Akinjo to take full advantage of the Oklahoma State sloppy offensive play and get the Bears going in transition off turnovers. Akinjo is one of Baylor’s best free throw shooters, so I would love to see Akinjo get north and south drawing fouls and finishing at the rim against the Cowboys instead of settling for threes early in the shot clock.
#23 Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua (EJ/JTT) – @JonathanTchamwa
I actually think EJ probably stepped up the most in Sochan’s absence against the Red Raiders. In 27 minutes EJ had 4 points, 10 rebounds, and was effective on both ends of the floor.
EJ set great screens on offense and never stopped moving, which did open up some driving and passing lanes for the Bears. On defense, EJ once again did a great job calling out sets and making sure Baylor was in the right position to defend Tech.
Oklahoma State doesn’t have any big man that intimidates me to the point of concern in terms of a matchup for EJ. I expect EJ to be a monster around down low. If EJ can be a force on the glass and as a rim protector against a drive heavy Cowboy team, Baylor will be in great shape.
#24 Matthew Mayer – @MatthewMayer24
This really hurts me too, because in my eyes it is quite literally always Matthew Mayer time. But we need Matthew Mayer time to be a whole lot more effective. 7 points on 3-10 shooting, 0-3 from deep, and 1-4 from the free throw line just isn’t going to cut it in any capacity. We need Matt to play better.
Oklahoma State’s defense causes issues, but I really do think Mayer shows his experienced leadership and responds in a big way. I would love to see Mayer go to the hole a bit more often instead of pulling up for jumpers. If Mayer can score at the rim effectively it’s a wrap for the Cowboys.
One thing that has been a bright spot in Mayer’s game so far this year is his defense. I have been encouraged by Mayer’s mental toughness when the offense isn’t clicking, he stays engaged and has been excellent defensively.
I am still on board that Mayer can lead us to and through the tournament as our primary scorer, and he is showing that he can do it as a defensive stopper as well.
Family, Saturday at 4:00 PM CT will be Matthew Mayer time, so set your watches.
This prediction will be short and sweet.
Baylor may come out pressing just a bit on both ends of the floor, trying to overcompensate and make up for the loss to Tech. If they are missing shots, Oklahoma State will keep it tight for the first 10 minutes or so.
After Baylor finds their stride and the Cowboys turn the ball over at a high rate and build some houses with their bricks from the field, the Bears will pull away to a dominating victory.
Baylor 75 – Oklahoma State 51
If we don’t dog walk Oklahoma State I will be shocked.
It literally doesn’t matter what the line is, I am taking the Bears to cover. But, I will quote tweet the article with the line and over/under when they hit books on Saturday.