Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
Marcus Smart is the only given in this team's driven surge to an NCAA bid, and that's a good thing.
First, I will give credit where it is due.
This post was inspired by a solid discussion over at Pistols Firing about which role player would be key in OSU's chances of making a deep run in the NCAA tourney. Be assured, the Cowboys will be dancing even if they lose their next three games. Their resume is plenty good.
This got me thinking about what exactly is the definition of a role player.
Courtesy of an online dictionary, this was the best thing I could come up with..
"A team athlete who plays mainly in specific situations."
When I coached, I viewed a role player as someone not normally counted on by the team for major production, but when called upon could provide a needed boost.
If I apply those definitions, Phil Forte and Brian Williams are the closest things to role players, as witnessed by Travis Ford's swapping of these two at the end of games for offensive (Forte) and defensive (Williams) purposes.
So I began to focus more on consistent, impactful production, and the only guy that answers that call is Smart, largely due to his stat stuffing (assists, blocks, steals, rebounds). For purposes of this discussion, I used point production for only the "major" non-conference opponents, plus all conference games. Yes, stats are for losers, but numbers don't lie, which resulted in this tweet from yesterday prior to the game...
Both Brown and Nash are averaging 10 pt swings in game to game point production in conf play. Prediction says 15-18 each vs Texas. #okstate— Robert Whetsell (@MFC_CRFF) March 2, 2013
Results vs Texas? Brown 18, Nash 16. Even I get lucky once in a while...
Anyway, here are the stats on which I based that prediction:
|PTS||% TOTAL||RANK||PTS||% TOTAL||RANK||PTS||% TOTAL||RANK||PTS||% TOTAL||RANK||PTS||% TOTAL||RANK|
|LAST 11 (10-1)||76.5||16.7||22%||2.2||17.6||23%||2.0||13.7||18%||3.2||10.7||14%||4.3||7.5||10%||4.9|
|LAST 5 (4-1)||73.2||15.6||21%||2.4||15.0||20%||1.9||18.8||26%||2.2||8.2||11%||4.9||6.4||9%||5.2|
There are some key numbers that stick out for me:
- In conference play, the big 3 (Smart/Brown/Nash) average 62% of OSU's total points. In the last five games, that number has grown to 67%;
- In all games on this list, Nash and Forte have BOTH scored in double figures 5 times. OSU has only lost 1 of those games (@OU), additionally, OSU is 5-1 when 4 or more players score 10+ (only loss @OU);
- In conference play, Nash recorded his 3rd consecutive game in double digits for the first time this season;
- In conference play, OSU averages 3 players in double figures. However, during this 11 game run (10-1), the Cowboys have had 4 or more in double figures 5 times, and only one game with less than 3 (@TCU);
- Smart's and Forte's average point variance in game to game production is 7. Brown and Nash both average 10 point swings per game;
For me, these numbers don't point so much to inconsistency as they do to versatility. The Cowboys have 4 players averaging in double digits. Four players who are ALL capable of putting up 20+ on a particular night.
Smart is the most consistent, but his consistency lies in the "other" numbers. While it could be argued that Smart and Brown are both inconsistent scorers, I would argue that they consistently score in double digits. You need that third scorer consistently putting up 10+ points, even if two players are filling that role. Nash and Forte have consistently done that, showing up as the third guy in 18 of the 21 games listed.
As an aside, the other thing that strikes me is the anomaly that was the loss in Norman. Four guys in double figures and still couldn't win. But then I noticed something that was not an anomaly at all.
On this list, when scoring 70 or more points in regulation, OSU is 11-1 (only loss at Va Tech). When scoring less than 70, they are 5-5.
So while we can argue over who the key player will be in a run through March Madness...Nash/Forte/Cobbins/Williams...I will argue that I don't care. One or two of them will show up, as they have consistently done in conference play.
This team is now 9 players deep, and that depth has resulted in really solid, consistent defense. If OSU can continue scoring 70+ points on a consistent basis, this team could do way more damage in the tourney than any of us dare imagine.
Then my mind drifts off thinking about the possibility of Smart coming back for next season.
[stops thinking, repeatedly breathes into bag]