"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Friday, November 06, 2020

Oklahoma State Preview, 2020-21

Oklahoma State Cowboys

December 1st, Fiserv Forum

Coach: Mike Boynton (51-49)

3-Year NCAA Rank Average: 77.0

3-Year kenpom Average: 65.0

2020-21 T-Rank Projection: 50

2020's Top Recruit Cade Cunningham leads the Cowboys

Photo from OkState.com

Projected Starters: PG Cade Cunningham (6'7" Fr), SG Isaac Likekele (6'4" Jr), SF Ferron Flavors, Jr (6'3" RS Sr), PF Keylan Boone (6'8" So), C Kaleb Boone (6'9" So)

Mike Boynton's third season at the helm of Oklahoma State started with promise as the Cowboys found themselves 7-0 with wins over Syracuse and Ole Miss early in the year, spurred by a stellar Isaac Likekele. He missed 4 games with illness that started a 3-11 stretch as their shooting cratered. Their 44.3 eFG% during that span ranking 341st in the country (it finished at 260th). The Cowboys never fully recovered and were likely headed to the NIT when the season ended prematurely. They then saw 3 senior starters graduate and 2 key contributors transfer.

The positive came when the top player in the 2020 recruiting class, Cade Cunningham, committed to the Cowboys. Cunningham joins a backcourt with returning starter Likekele and sharpshooter Flavors, who is transferring in from Cal Baptist. The rest of the team is unproven, with the Boone brothers and JUCO transfer Bernard Kouma rounding out the front court. Off the bench, Avery Anderson, Chris Harris, and transfer Bryce Williams give some back court experience and depth. Freshman Rondel Walker will also fight for minutes, but this is a crew that is overloaded (maybe too much so) with back court options while being relatively thin up front. This team had the look of a possible NCAA Tournament team, but the NCAA ruled them ineligible. Cunningham will gloss over a lot of imperfections, but simply by the numbers they will likely have to play a lot of 3 and 4 guard rotations that could leave them at a size disadvantage.

Offensively, expect virtually everything to run through Cunningham and Likekele, and expect it to go downhill. The Cowboys were 267th in the three-point attempts/field goal attempts and their top four players in terms of three-point makes are gone. The guards will slash to the rim and try to get extra points at the line. Defensively they switch from a 2-3 zone to man-to-man. The hope will be that with quicker players, they can execute both defenses. That hasn't been the case in the past. They were 154th in defensive efficiency last year in zone. In man, the Cowboys excel at chasing teams off the three-point line. That aggressiveness can be a negative, however, as they give up a lot of extra attempts at the charity stripe and because they are chasing teams outside are not good at limiting second-chance points due to opponent offensive rebounds.

A number of outlets are high on this team, but once you get past the two lead guards, I'm skeptical. This is a roster that lacks high-major experience almost across the board. Cade Cunningham on this team feels a lot to me like the Ben Simmons LSU or Markelle Fultz Washington teams. Having one spectacular player surrounded by role-players can lead to some outstanding individual games here or there, but rarely leads to wide-spread team success (see also: 2019-20 Marquette). I don't mean to undersell Cunningham, who just might be the best individual player in the country, the #1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, and will absolutely have the ability to take over games on his own, but once you get past his name there's a lot to not like on this roster. I'm not sure how much home-court advantage will mean this year, but I tend to think this is a game that Marquette, who may not have the best player in the game but may very well have the edge at every other position, should win.

Marquette Connection: After beginning the series with the Cowboys 0-4, Marquette earned their first win against Oklahoma State in the 2007 Maui Invitational. Jerel McNeal (20 points) and Dominic James (18 points) led the way for Marquette as they pounded the Okies 91-61. The 30-point win remains Marquette's largest margin of victory in Maui.

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