Listen up, OSU fans. It's time to switch gears. Football was great and the Pokes still have a bowl game to play but in the meantime, some really good basketball is being played and I have a feeling a bunch of you are missing it. And I don't even want to hear the excuses. "The nonconference opponents are boring, I'll get more into it when we get into Big 12 play." Why don't you go ahead and put on an OU shirt while you're at it (yeah, I said it)? James Anderson and Obi Muenelo may have moved on but trust me when I tell you that this team has potential to be even better than last year. In fact, it's my opinion that they ARE better right now than they were at this point last year. They have been physical, athletic, and very entertaining to watch. I've seen more dunks in the last three games than I did all last season. It's time for the OSU fans to embrace this team because next year it is likely to make a deep run into the NCAA tournament--maybe even the Final Four. Seriously.
To help everyone catch up, I'm going to give a brief rundown of all the players who have had an impact so far this season and what to look for from them going forward into the season. Let's start with the meat.
What a transformation this guy has made in one offseason. If you're like me (super awesome) then you were pretty critical of his play and decision making last year. It would seem he has done a lot of maturing because his work on the court has been All Big 12 worthy. Moses currently leads the team in scoring, averaging over 18 points per game. He also shares the lead in rebounding with almost 9 boards per game. More than stats, the opposing defenses have to key in on Moses every possession which usually leads to double and triple teams. Watch for that to lead to easy buckets for his teammates as the season rolls on.
If Moses is the heavy artillery, Page is the general guiding it. Coach Ford asked Page to get into better shape and he did just that. Although he plays around seven pounds lighter, you can tell he has a lot more speed and endurance on the floor. He has improved when it comes to creating his own shot and no longer hovers around the perimeter. He is currently right behind Moses in scoring, averaging over 14 points a game. He has started a little slow as far as his outside shooting goes, only averaging around 32% from beyond the arc but he started similarly last year and got much better as the season rolled on. Look for Keiton to have another solid year hitting threes with new skills and shots added as well.
If OSU is to take the next step, Penn is the key. In college basketball, EVERY great team has a great point guard. Byron Eaton basically willed the Cowboys into the NCAA tourney and into the second round his senior year. Penn has shown flashes of greatness mixed in with bonehead errors. He leads the team in assists with 25. Unfortunately, he also has 21 turnovers. In the last couple games though, we have seen things really start to click for him. His vision of the court has been much better and therefore his decisions have been smarter as well. He has the speed and he has the handles. If he can couple those attributes with consistent positive PG play, he will add a whole new dimension to his game and to this team.
Oh, Matty from the Natti...you are a headscratcher, my friend. Setting aside his drama off the court, Pilgrim is the wildcard of the team. You just never know what you are going to get from him. Sometimes he is an absolute beast and sometimes he tries to knock you out with flying elbows. Sometimes both. He plays less minutes than six other guys on the team and somehow still has the most turnovers for the year thus far. But there is no denying his dominance when he is on his game. With one dunk he can totally change the momentum of a game. He has shown flashes of 2009 in the last couple games, so let's hope that trend continues.
I'm still a little unsure of Darrell and what his role could be. I know he is a terrific rebounder and plays great defense in the post. But what I saw from him in the first few games on offense is different from what I'm seeing now. It seems like he has lost some confidence or might be in a slight funk because his scoring production isn't the same. The thing is that he has all the right tools. He can handle the ball well, he has good size, and does a good job finding shots in the post--when he decides to put himself in the position to take them. Maybe as Marshall's production has gone up it has taken away from Darrell's. In either case, he is definitely a huge reason why the team defense is better this year and why OSU is outrebounding teams by nearly 9 a game.
Ok, I have to start out by saying this. Sidorakis's offensive numbers so far...not very impressive. 14 for 48 on the year (29%) including 6 for 28 from beyond the arc (21%). Ouch. I would sign a petition that asks he not shoot the ball. BUT he starts for a reason (for now, anyway). Nick has a very high basketball IQ. He knows the plays, he sees the court well, and he never takes a play off. He is the definition of a team player. Just like last year, I'm sure there is going to be a time this season where OSU wins a game because of an effot play by Sidorakis. He just has a knack for being in the right spot at the right time.
I'm saying it right now. The next Tony Allen. This guy is a game changer. He's long, physical, aggressive, and loves to slash to the basket. And if you aren't watching or if you are out of position, he will posterize you (ask a couple of players from the Missouri State team). Not only that, he can also shoot from the outside as well when needed. But his main game is driving to the hoop and getting to the free throw line. He averages less minutes than six other players and yet has attempted 6 more freethrows than anyone on the team (54). That's pretty remarkable considering Moses and Page both play nearly double the minutes he does. The bottom line is that Olukemi is a highlight reel/Sportscenter Top 10 play waiting to happen. He's going to be exciting to watch this year.
The freshman sensation is starting to come alive. He started pretty slow but has shown some really good signs in the last few games. I'm actually surprised that he is performing as well as he is now considering he is only a freshman 10 games into the season. Also, if a coach wanted to teach a kid how a jumpshot should look, Brown would be the model of excellence. Beautiful stroke (Manly). To top that off, he's got the athleticism to get to the bucket as well. He and Olukemi are the young stars on this team. Both of them need to improve defensively but that comes with time and effort. What they do offensively at this point so early in the season is what leads me to believe they are going to be special.
I'll be the first to tell you that I wasn't impressed with Dowell last year. In fact, I thought he was going to lose his scholarship. But every time I see him play this year, he looks like he is the hungriest player on the court. I think he knows he has to give 100% at all times because he is on the low end of the totem poll of guards. But you can tell he wants that spot and he wants more minutes. He flies around, plays hard defense, and makes the most out of every opportunity when the ball is in his hand. This year, the key for him is to not try to do too much to impress the coaches. Don't take the three with a hand in your face when there is still 25 seconds on the shot clock. Make the good pass and do the small things and the rest will fall into place.
Gulley was looking better this year when he played. His shot improved and his rebounding was excellent for his position. Unfortunately, he started having issues with his right shoulder (which sucks considering he just got done rehabbing his left shoulder). It seems that now he is going to have to have surgery on the right shoulder in order to remove a cyst. It's a season ending injury and he will be awarded a medical redshirt according to Coach Ford. Still, the team will miss his experience and especially his man to man defense at the guard position.
This guy has all the physical ability but just can't seem to get it right mentally. He is only a sophomore so he still has time to improve but for now he finds himself most often on the bench because of the errors he commits when he gets any kind of playing time. At 6'10" and over 215 pounds, he has the size to really be a dominant center. Hopefully things click for him soon so that his potential can be realized by the time he is a senior.
Thought to be the jewel of the class, it looks as if Coach Ford is going to try to redshirt Cobbins (he has played a total of 5 minutes...not sure what the college basketball rules are for redshirting but it seems that is the goal). I think he has a ton of potential but could stand to gain a lot more weight and muscle before competing at this level. His upside is tremendous and I think we'll see that next season after a year in the weight room.
Sidelined with a preseason injury, Franklin has yet to see the floor. Given OSU's depth at his position, I think Coach Ford will look to redshirt him as well.