Previewing Saturday’s Oklahoma State vs. Colorado Match-upPosted by Brian Goodman & Andrew Murawa on December 21st, 2013
Oklahoma State will win if… It capitalizes on its huge advantage offensively and stays out of foul trouble. We haven’t heard a ton about Oklahoma State lately because they haven’t had a marquee match-up since Thanksgiving weekend, but the offense has continued to cruise. Marcus Smart, Markel Brown and Phil Forte are doing their thing. On top of that, Le’Bryan Nash has bought in and been a key contributor as of late, averaging 17.3 points per game over his last three contests. This isn’t a good match-up for Colorado because the skill at which they excel the most, defensive rebounding, has a strong chance of being neutralized by one of the best scoring attacks in the country. There aren’t many areas where the Buffaloes will have an edge, but they do get to the line often. Michael Cobbins will need to keep up-and-coming sophomore Josh Scott in check because he’s a very good ball-handler and along with Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie, can make Oklahoma State pay from the stripe.
Colorado will win if… It takes lessons from what Memphis did to Oklahoma State, and it gets a little bit of luck. Clearly, the game plan against Smart all season has been to keep him out of the lane as much as possible and make him shoot jumpers. If Smart can get into the paint, he is deadly — not only in creating shots for himself, but in creating shots for his teammates. If you can keep him shooting jumpers, not only is he still a work in progress there, but he is very much trying to prove that such progress has been made. In his first appearance against Memphis, his jumper was in full effect, as he knocked down five threes in a dominant performance. In the second go-round, he was 0-for-5 from deep and limped home to a 12-point performance. In other words, keep Smart shooting jumpers and trust your scouting report that they largely don’t go in. While the Buffaloes are primarily going to plan man defense, if Tad Boyle thinks a zone will give his guys a better chance at accomplishing that, he’ll give it a try. The Cowboys are still good enough defensively to cause problems for the Buffs even without Smart scoring prolifically, but getting OSU’s best player out of his comfort zone will go a long way towards giving CU a chance.
Colorado will lose if… Aside from the whole Smart portion of the equation, if Colorado, a team with the best defensive rebounding percentage in the nation, doesn’t dominate the glass on both ends of the court, they’ll run into trouble. The Buffaloes not only have a strong frontcourt, highlighted by Scott, Xavier Johnson and Wesley Gordon, but every single body who expects to get off the bench and get playing time is expected to come down and help out on the defensive glass (explaining why everybody in the rotation is within shouting distance of a 10 percent defensive rebounding number). Ideally, the Buffaloes will not only clean the defensive glass with abandon, but make some hay on the offensive glass, taking advantage of an undersized Pokes’ frontcourt. The Buffaloes, however, have to be a little coy about this. They can’t hit the offensive glass in exchange for ignoring transition defense. Oklahoma State is one of the better transition teams in the country and a key for the Buffs is to make the Cowboys use long drawn-out offensive possessions. Colorado wants to slow the Pokes down offensively, but if they’re unsuccessful pounding the offensive glass and let OSU leak out for transition hoops, this game could get away from them.
Oklahoma State will lose if… It fails to bring the heat on defense. The Cowboys’ offense has been every bit as good as advertised all season long; Maybe better, depending on whom you ask. But the production on the other end has been up-and-down, and mostly down against capable teams. Take the Cowboys’ run in the Old Spice Classic, which was the last time they squared off against halfway decent offenses. Purdue, Butler and Memphis, which rank among the nation’s top 100 offenses, each scored more than one point per possession against the Cowboys in Orlando. Since then, Travis Ford‘s team bottled up South Carolina, Louisiana Tech and Delaware State, and while that’s all well and good, those teams aren’t striking fear into any opposing defenses. Oklahoma State doesn’t need to turn in an Ohio State-like performance, but seeing as Dinwiddie can go off on a moment’s notice and Scott has taken a big step forward as a sophomore, the Cowboys will need to be prepared.