Oklahoma State comes into this semifinal game having won 10 in a row, 21 of its last 22, and has the best overall record in the Final Four. It is the only school in the Final Four to have won both its regular season and conference tournament titles. IMO I thought OSU was the toughest team in the field of 65 and nothing has changed my mind over the last 2 weeks. While most of the attention will be focused on the "National Championship" semifinal in the other bracket, in this man's opinion, the OSU-GT match up is much more interesting as they are by far the two toughest, most physical teams in the Final Four.
OSU has had a superb season under Eddie Sutton. After being picked 5th in the Big 12 preseason, OSU dominated the conference from the get go, going 14-2 in conference, 31-3 overall with losses at BYU by five, at Texas Tech by 21, and at Missou by 1 in double OT. OSU is neither particularly tall nor deep, but is extremely physical, mature, and athletic. OSU relies quite a bit on its starters as all but Joey Graham average at least 30 mpg and they only get about 35-40 mpg off the bench and not much scoring. OSU will be aggressive on defense and run a very well structured offense. They love to run after getting rebounds, so defending in transition is important. OSU basically employs a 7 man rotation with two others getting spot minutes. Any game against OSU is going to be a tough, physical brawl. It is an interesting squad in that it is an old, experienced group with a lot of transfers and JUCO's.
OSU shoots an insane 51.5% from the field on the season and is shooting over 50% in the tourney. While capable 3-pt shooters (38% on the year), it is not a huge part of their arsenal as only 22% of their shots are threes. They would rather work the ball and get a good shot close in. Lucas and Bobik are the 2 main three point threats, though Allen will take his fair share and Joey Graham is starting to take and make more. OSU's starters are expected to produce as 4 are in double figures scoring and the top bench scorer averages 4.9 ppg. OSU is a very strong rebounding team, outrebounding opponents by over 5 per game. They also handle the ball very well. On the year OSU is averaging 77 ppg, shooting 51.5% FG, 38% 3FG, 69.5% FT. The team also has 551 assists vs. 455 TO.
According to one Georgia Tech assistant coach, OSU is the best half court defensive team he has seen all year. They are holding opponents under 40% for the tourney. Much like GT they are very aggressive on the perimeter with big perimeter players and try to disrupt your schemes and make you take contested jumpers. While not particularly big on the inside, they are active and McFarlin blocks a lot of shots. They are very good at limiting opponents to one shot. If they have a weakness it is that they have a couple of guys that have the habit of getting into foul trouble and they are not particularly deep. On the year they are holding opponents to 62.4 ppg allowing 40.8% FG, 30.9% FG. OSU is averaging 3.8 bpg and 7.9 spg.
Players – starters
John Lucas 5'11, 152 Jr. – The son of the former NBA great and San Antonio HC. John transferred to OSU after the debacle at Baylor last spring and was granted immediate eligibility. He has fit right in and been the starting PG from day 1. Not real big, but shifty and quick. He's an excellent outside shooter, but not afraid to go inside. On the year he is averaging 15.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 4.6 apg in 34.1 mpg. He is shooting 46.1% FG, 39.7% 3FG (73 made), 89.5% FT. He has a 2.5:1 A:TO ratio and 37 steals in 34 games.
Daniel Bobik 6'4, 200 Jr. – Transfer from BYU who has served his 2-yr Mormon mission. He is a tough defender and a three-point specialist on offense (2/3 of his shots are threes – 51 made). On the season he is averaging 7.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.7 apg in 30.1 mpg. He is shooting 46.4% FG, 42.5% 3FG, 66.7% FT. He has a 1.6:1 A:TO ratio and 4 blocks and 49 steals in 34 games.
Tony Allen 6'4, 213 Sr. – Former hs teammate of Will Bynum. Has sort of a long and winding road to OSU, but has been a star for 2 years. One of the best players in the conference and OSU's leading scorer. Athletic and a good defender, he's a strong rebounder from the wing and an excellent scorer off of penetration. On the season he is averaging 16.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.1 apg in 31.8 mpg. He is shooting 50.3% FG, 28.8% 3FG (21 made), and 66.5% FT. He has 1.1:1 A:TO ratio and 30 blocks and 71 steals in 34 games.
Joey Graham 6'7, 217 Jr. – Transferred with his twin brother from UCF. Like GT, a wing player playing in the post. He's strong, athletic and starting to show a lot more aggression in taking and making 3-pters. Graham uses his athleticism to score inside and is another good defender. He is foul prone with 5 FO on the season and he has had at least 3 fouls in every tourney game. On the season he is averaging 12.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg, in 24.9 mpg. He is shooting 57.9% FG, 50% 3FG (14 made) and 70.9% FT. He has 6 blocks and 23 steals in 34 games.
Ivan McFarlin 6'8, 232 Sr. – From the same hs as TJ Ford and Daniel Ewing. He's a tough, athletic insider. Not much of a jumper and relies mainly on close in shots. He's very aggressive which can lead to foul troubles – 5 FO. Good interior defender and rebounder. On the season he is averaging 12.1 ppg, 6.7 rpg, in 29.9 mpg. He is shooting 59% FG, 64.7% FT. He has 54 blocks and 39 steals in 34 games.
Players – reserves
Janavor Weatherspoon 6'1, 168 Sr. – First sub off the bench back up the guard spots. Former JUCO. Great athlete with ok handle. Not much of an outside shooter and wants to use his athleticism to get good looks close in. On the season he is averaging 4.9 ppg, 1.8 rpg in 15 mpg. He is shooting 50% FG, 1-4 threes, and 71.9% FT. He has 7 blocks and 12 steals in 34 games.
Terrance Crawford 6'6, 232 Jr. – Wing who plays inside. One of two backups recovering from serious leg injuries suffered last year. He helps at the PF spot. On the season he is averaging 2.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg in 11.2 mpg. He is shooting 41.7% FG, 66.7% FT. He has 7 blocks and 19 steals in 27 games.
Jason Miller 6'8, 239 Sr. – Transfer from N. Texas. He's another big man that is recovering from a leg injury. Helps provide some depth at C. Not particularly quick, but strong and a big body. On the year he is averaging 3.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg in 11.7 mpg. He is shooting 59.4% FG and 77.1% FT. he has 14 blocks and 6 steals in 34 games.
Stephen Graham 6'6, 213 Jr. - The twin brother of starter Joey. More of a pure wing, being slightly smaller. Gets some spot minutes if fouls start to mount. He is averaging 2.8 ppg, 1.4 rpg in 8.1 mpg. He is shooting 49.3% FG, 66.7% FT. He has 4 blocks and 5 steals in 33 games.
OSU defends the ball extremely well in the half court and will run if given the opportunity, but will not want to play up-tempo for 40 minutes. As I stated above, I think this is the toughest of the Final Four games as OSU is so well schooled and doesn't make many mistakes. It has guys that can hit from outside if left alone and is excellent at running its offense and getting good looks in close.
The keys for GT are pretty typical, defense and rebounding. GT simply cannot allow OSU to shoot 50% or it will lose. Also, OSU is not big, but it is an excellent rebounding team, GT must hold its own on the boards. If GT can get Luke involved offensively, he will be a tough matchup and could create foul problems for OSU. OSU does not really have a true center that gets any playing time. GT will certainly look to try to take 2 out of Allen, Lucas, and Graham out of the game – will be interesting to see which two they focus on. The battle between Jack and Lucas should be fun to watch. It's the smaller, quicker, better shooting Lucas against the bigger, stronger better driving Jack.
OSU deserves to be a slight favorite. It has consistently found ways to win games and has beaten all comers. GT matches up well on paper with OSU and this should be a really physical, entertaining game. The refs are going to have their work cut out for them keeping control of the game.