To put it bluntly, the situation is not good. Against
Baylor, part of the problem was simply that it was a road game. After all,
Baylor was actually favored by a point. The ray of sunshine was that even
though Texas Tech did not have its best game and Baylor seemingly played better
than might be expected, Tech was still in position to win at the end. As a two
point underdog at Missouri, Tech could not overcome injuries to two key players,
especially to main ball handler Charles Burgess. Despite the loss, the
conference win loss situation still seemed manageable, especially after the two
big home wins against Texas A&M and Kansas. Against Texas, Tech ran into a buzz
saw named Kevin Durant. The home loss was disappointing, but Tech had the good
road win against surging Kansas State as some compensation. After being ahead
59-55 against favored Oklahoma with 6:53 to play, Oklahoma ran off the last
thirteen point of the game as Tech seemed to run out of gas. OK, so a road win
opportunity lost, but still things were not bleak, merely problematical. . The
loss to Nebraska has put Tech's expectations for the reason in serious jeopardy.
Now it looks like they must go 5-2 with a daunting schedule left to reach the
By the way, Tech is playing #18, 18-5 Oklahoma State. Just the facts, but OSU is undefeated at home this year, 14-0. So, is this a certain loss? Should Tech just mail it in, accepting a defeat? No, the fat lady hasn't yet sung. I remember a Tech team that was 5-7 in conference and headed to the NIT. The Cowboys were ranked #16 and were 12-1 at home. Tech won that game on February 24, 2003, with a gritty performance, 62-57, despite being down what appeared to be an insurmountable 29-18 at the half.
By the Numbers
I have OSU as a solid six point favorite despite two back to back road losses. This is the first conference team Tech has faced that has both a higher Composite Power rating and the home court advantage.
With regard to RPI, Tech had a reservoir of goodwill, so to speak. Despite four losses in a row, Tech still enjoys a relatively good #39, according to my numbers. That is still within the normal range of a team that is viewed favorably by the NCAA. All that need be said is that a road win against a team with a solid RPI would do wonders to rehabilitate Tech's RPI.
|Per Game Statistical Analysis (Rounded Off)|
As usual, buyer beware in accepting these overall numbers at face value once conference is in full swing. For example, OSU's lofty PPG freefalls to a much more mundane 65 per game in conference. Tech average is also 65. Looks like both teams have been offensively challenged lately. Once again, it appears that stats aren't going to give very much insight into what will determine the outcome.
Like Tech, offensively, much of the season OSU has been a two man team. At one point, Mario Boggan and JamesOn Curry were the second highest scoring duo in the country at 40 plus points per game. I used to think that perhaps the best way to decide this game would be for all the other players to sit out and let Jarrius Jackson and Martin Zeno play Boggan and Curry some two on two for forty minutes, I suppose half court. Until the Nebraska game where Jackson only scored 5 points, I was sure I would not be too far off by simply predicting that whichever pair scores the most, their team wins. That is especially true since I thought neither side had a clue as to who would show up from the supporting cast or if anyone would. As we shall see, those dynamics have changed slightly in Tech's favor.
While Tech needs to be wary of Boggan and Curry, I thought it might be more useful to indicate some possible areas of team vulnerability that the Cowboys may have.
OSU has a propensity to get in foul trouble. This may be due in part to the fact that OSU is pretty thin. Coach Sutton normally plays only eight player on a roster of a mere twelve, eleven with Obi Muonelo not playing. He had contributed 11 points/game, 45 rebounds, 23 assists, 16 steals, and made 11/43 3 pointers in 11 games. In four conference games, the ninth player, Adarius Bowman, has played a grand total of twelve minutes.
For example, against Texas, albeit in a triple OT 105-103 win, two OSU starters fouled out. As a consequence, walk-on Tyler Hatch had to play all three overtimes and 33 minutes overall. Sometime starter, Terrel Harris, who plays over 25 minutes/game is the most foul prone. In conference he fouled out of 3 games in a row; in 26 minutes against the Aggies, in 24 at home Oklahoma, and in 27 minutes against Iowa State. Harris had 4 fouls against Oklahoma II, Colorado, and Texas. Byron Eaton fouled out of the Baylor and Texas games and had 4 fouls against Colorado and Kansas. Marcus Dove fouled out against Texas also and was on the verge of doing so against Oklahoma in Norman. Even Kenny Cooper fouled out against Texas A&M. David Monds has yet to foul out but has been on the brink of doing so against Colorado, Texas, and Kansas. Most importantly for OSU, Boggan and Curry have yet to foul out, but both have flirted with such a calamity. Boggan has had 4 fouls on three occasions, but Curry only once at Oklahoma. It is impossible to ascertain how much this foul trouble has impaired OSU's performance, but at times it must have made the players proceed with more caution than ordinary. If this is exploitable, I'm sure Coach Knight will figure out how to do it.
Dovetailing with the foul trouble is the free throw advantage this has offered OSU's opponents on occasion. Most notably, Colorado shot 38 FT's of which they made 27, in comparison to OSU's 16/24, in their decisive upset of OSU, 89-77. Speaking of FT's, making only 5/14 FT's in comparison to Oklahoma's 16/19 in Norman, may well have cost them the game. Most disheartening was when the Cowboys were only behind 59-56 near the end and Terrell Harris went to the line to shoot two FT"s. Harris, leading the B12 with an .870 average, missed both and this seemed to deflate the team. As Coach Sutton said, "Those two (missed) free throws seemed to drain our energy a little bit," Sutton said.
Both individually and as a team, OSU on occasion has a propensity for turnovers. Most especially Boggan and Harris have a high number of TO's. Curry had 7 TO's against Texas, but has had 3 or fewer against the rest of the B12 so far. Kansas had 17 steals. In the first half. OSU committed 11/13 TO's in the first 10 minutes.
Simply put, Oklahoma State plays well at home and not as well away. All five of its losses are either on the road or at ostensibly neutral Nashville where the Cowboys narrowly lost to Tennessee, 77-79. They have lost eight straight conference road games dating back to last year. That may help down the road when OSU visits Lubbock, but it doesn't help much now when as said before, they are 14-0 so far at home this season. So far OSU has gotten blasted 87-57 by Kansas and 67-49 by A&M, beaten soundly by lowly Colorado with nine freshmen on their roster, and edged by Oklahoma 67-60.
Of some hope to Tech is that, while OSU has won all its home games, the Cowboys have been flirting with defeat all season in conference home games. Although OSU was leading at the half 37-24, Baylor put a scare into them with a flurry of 3's that enabled then to get within 774-74 with 17 seconds left. OSU went on to win 81-77.
At OSU, Oklahoma almost pulled off a sneak upset despite shooting 24 fewer FT's than OSU and being outscored on such, 27 to 13. OSU seemed to have the game well in hand, though not by a huge margin. Suddenly Oklahoma made two 3 pointers back to back, JamesOn Curry missed two Ft's, Oklahoma scored another FG, and the score was 62-61, OSU. Johnson had a chance to tie it with less than 10 seconds remaining and the score 61-64, but missed a trey.
Iowa State was actually ahead 23-17 at the half. OSU missed 11 of its first 14 shots. The difference between the first and second half stats are shocking: 7TO's first half vs. 2TO's second half, 28% shooting first half vs. 59% second half, 14-23 rebound deficit vs. 18-16 rebound advantage. Clearly OSU is mortal, even at home.
As implied, Boggan and Curry are prolific scorers. Boggan has a high of 37 points against Texas in the 3OT, a second best of 26 against Baylor and a low of 8 points against Kansas in what teammate Curry conceded "….was just a real bad night for us. I can't make an explanation for it. We just played bad". The Aggies also defended him well, holding him to 11 points but with 8 rebounds. Discounting the Texas game, in the other 7 conference games he has averaged 16points/game. On rebounding,Boggan has also been solid, though he was skunked in his "bad game" and held to a single rebound in the close win in Oklahoma I. As mentioned on the negative side, Boggan is foul prone and has had some games with inordinate TO's, though certainly not astronomical.
Curry has scored a high against Texas of 28 points and a second high of 20 on three
occasions. His low is 12 twice, against Kansas and in Oklahoma I. Again discounting the Texas game, Curry has also averaged 16 points/game. As I indicated earlier, this shows how overall stats can be illusory. While not chopped liver, the 32 points/ game tandem average is a far cry from the intimidating 41 per of the overall chart.
While OSU is primarily dependent on Curry and Boggan, they can win without huge games from both, though is does make it closer. In the squeaker of Oklahoma I, their combined scoring of 25, on 13 and 12 points respectively, undoubtedly contributed to the closeness of the game. On the other hand, high tandem scoring does not necessarily guarantee victory. Colorado and Oklahoma II were both losses even though in both games Boggan and Curry contributed 37 points on pretty balanced scoring. But then Tech knows that problem well as shown in the game at Oklahoma where Jackson and Zeno produced 51 of Tech's 61 points.
Other Cowboys have had good outings. Byron Eaton unfortunately for OSU had his big game of 19 points against Colorado in the loss. However, Eaton's 11 points before fouling out , were a major factor in OSU's win over Texas. He may have also saved OSU's bacon with his 17 points against Oklahoma in Stillwater, along with Mound's 11. Mound's 11 rebounds in that game were also a big contribution. Another major contributor is Terrell Harris. He had 16 crucial point and 7 rebounds against Texas and had his season high of 21 points against Iowa State.
The most likely starters are Boggan, Dove, Cooper, Eaton, and Curry. Harris has been a sometime starter. However, after his foul -plagued run of games, in the last three it seems that Coach Sutton may have adopted a different and practical strategy. By bringing Harris off the bench, Sutton may be trying to insure that hopefully Harris is still around at crunch time. Despite this, as indicated, he sill managed to foul out in the Iowa State game. He did score those 21 points before doing so.
Again without getting out my crystal ball, the 3 point situation will be in the hands of the gods, although the statistics by any measure, including number of credible shooters, favors Tech. For OSU, the two most likely candidates to fire at will are Harris and Curry with excellent percentages of 47.9 and 41.5 respectively. Curry is especially not shy about shooting 3's, having put up 147 and made 61 of them. Monds has credible numbers, but on relatively small numbers, 7/20 for 35%.
This game is winnable by Tech. You may think I'm a one trick pony by saying this, but the fact is that each and every conference game has been winnable in my estimation. For various reasons, it has not come to pass recently. It seems that even the fickleness of luck is against Tech. For example the Nebraska game where, at the end, the pure chance occurs that an apparent great hustle play puts the ball in the hands of an opposing player who proceeds to swish a winning three. Though I rarely presume to divine what Coach Knight thinks, I'm confident here he would say Tech should never have been in the situation and it was a team loss.
OSU has played great at times, but it has also proved itself to be vulnerable, even at home where it is undefeated.
On the Tech side, some have been critical of Jackson's performance of late. He may not have always been at his best, partly due to injury, but with some supporting help, Tech has beaten Oklahoma at home when Jarrius only had 14 points, and both Kansas and A&M in their two best wins, when Jackson had for him a mere 15 and 13 points respectively. What is going on? JJ's numbers are down but overall Tech is doing better than last year. A very loyal and astute fan said something the other day that I couldn't get out of my mind. To paraphrase, he pointed out that the motion offensive system is designed to best exploit double or triple teaming by an opponent. Another player should be open as the system trains the players in their constant motion to get to an open spot. That should mean that having many more offensive threats than last year, Tech greatly enhances its chance to win when it can exploit this chink in the defense. It would also in part explain the anomaly of JJ's comparative numbers, with the scoring being spread around more efficiently. I'm sorry if my inexpert explanation misses some the finer points. I also feel that JJ only scoring only 5 points against Nebraska was an aberration unlikely to recur given that his worst production last year was 14 against Texas. I hardly think he has regressed. He just had one of those bad shooting days that can happen to any mortal. Why he couldn't get to the line, I'm not sure.
I got pretty longwinded, but I'm trying to say there is hope against OSU. I'm sure Coach Knight will be drilling the team on finding the open man and with any consistency of support, it will be a very close game. Re that support, a bright spot is the reemergence of Plefka as a consistent scoring threat. Voskuil has also shown some solid spark. To get back to a common thread in past reports, in sum, the excellence of our guards is a plus against any team. Also, as evinced on the road against what now is well established as a very good K St team, I know Tech can play some serious D at times.
Throw in the excellence of Tech's coaching and some inherent team toughness, and let's get this show on the road.
Oklahoma State Roster
#0 Byron Eaton G 5-11 215 Sophomore Dallas, TX
#1 Terrel Harris G 6-5 190 Sophomore Garland, TX
#2 Obi Muonelo G 6-5 215 Freshman Edmond, OK
#4 Mario Boggan F-C 6-7 235 Senior Durham, NC
#5 Marcus Dove G-F 6-9 215 Junior Long Beach, CA
#12 Adarius Bowman G 6-4 220 Junior Chattanooga, TN
#22 Andy Shaw G 6-1 180 Freshman Edmond, OK
#23 Tyler Hatch F 6-6 205 Junior Fort Worth, TX
#24 JamesOn Curry G 6-3 190 Junior Pleasant Grove, NC
#32 David Monds F 6-8 240 Senior Macon, GA
#40 Kenny Cooper C 6-10 260 Sophomore Monroe, LA
#55 Scott Warner C 6-11 225 Freshman Berryhill, OK