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Oklahoma State Basketball, Early Thoughts and Notes

The season officially gets underway in two days when the Cowboys take on Texas A&M Corpus Christi. Well, in lieu of something proper, enjoy this mess of a collection of thoughts, notes, poems, assessments, evaluations, accidental porn links, and predictions based on what we have seen of this team so far. I'll just list a bunch of structureless things here and write some stuff about it, since I have been accused of getting long winded typed when it comes to bball, and the existence of a #2 football team is a huge distraction from the hoopeyballers, I'll try keep each section short and to the point.

Tempo - This team is definitely playing faster than last season. It's not even close. It all starts with the sometimes full, sometimes 3/4, sometimes half court press/trap that is leading to a lot of forced turnovers and fast breaks, but the tempo is also pushed thanks to quick outlets on defensive rebounds, quick inbounds after makes, and terrible shot selection with 15 seconds still on the shot clock.

Half-Court Offense - The worst aspect of this team right now. There is poor chemistry, no consistency, poor spacing, and bad timing. Good possessions are rare, and most of the scoring from the half-court sets comes in the form of putbacks, individual effort, and the occasional nice two-man game. This isn't all that shocking considering all the new faces on the team, and the lack of defined roles at this point. The initial answer to fixing this will probably be to simplify the offense for a while, spread the floor, let the slashers create in space, and hope the individual talents can overcome the lack of cohesiveness.  By the time conference play starts though, some chemistry will need to develop or we will be in for some frustrating, ball hogging, low shooting percentage, high turnover performances.

Defense - The trap press has been very effective at producing turnovers, and in the OBU game the Cowboys were able to recover very well when the press was beaten (in the first game this was not the case). The press reminds me a lot of the pressure the Frank Anderson Mizzou teams used to apply. The Cowboys try to force the ball into certain spots on the court that are most ideal to spring a trap or go for a steal. It isn't an intense man press by any means, and often times looks more like token pressure than a real threat, but when the trap springs it is quick and decisive and has lead to a lot of favorable results thus far. Also, the on ball defense has been impressive thus far, and there was a huge improvement in defensive rotation from game 1 to game 2.

Rebounding - Awful.  Just awful.  I think the zone-man-trap schemes are still being learned and guys arent really sure where they need to be, and who they should be blocking out once the shot is in the air.  It honestly looks like everyone just stands in the lane and hopes to out jump everyone else. Establishing good rebound position should be a big focus this week.

The Lineups - I have really enjoyed some of the different combos that have been on the court, and this diversity might end up being the greatest strength of this team. There are so many guys that can play the 2, 3, or 4, and even ways to move guys around so there really isn't a Cowboy that is playing a clear cut position. Of course the downside to this is that I am afraid egos will start, or maybe have already started, getting in the way. It is really hard to get all these superb athletes enough time, and this ego management aspect will be a big challenge for Coach Ford. Incredible athletes like Markel Brown, Reger Dowell, Philip Jurick, etc may have to spend more time on the bench than they deserve because the matchups and the flow of the game dictate it. Sometimes in basketball, depth is a bit of a curse.

Le'Bryan Nash - The centerpiece of this team. I really was not expecting this team to be built around him so quickly. Within the first few minutes of the first exhibition game you could see everyone else on the court looking for Nash, clearing for him, deferring to him, and treating him like the star.  And you know what, he deserves that treatment. This is a level of raw talent that I don't think we have ever seen in Stillwater. He isn't really a flashy player but his effectiveness and court awareness is impressive. Nash rebounds very well, has a nice looking shot, has had some very nice passes, and is embracing his role as team leader. He does make some mistakes, but being a true freshman he makes fewer than you would expect.

Keiton Page - The Page of 2010 seems to be back.  Without the pressure of having to be the man like he had to be last year, Keiton looks much more comfortable back in his role of contributor and defense-stretcher.  Also, on quite a few occasions him and Nash have run a really nice two man game that shows promise of some long term chemistry developing between the two.

Michael Cobbins - Rebound and defensive machine who holds his own on the offensive end.  Cobbins plays big for his small frame and seems more comfortable in the paint than I would have expected.  Before the season started I was thinking Jurick may have to play 35 minutes a game in order to maintain a low post presence, but Cobbins has shown that he is capable of sharing that duty.

CJ Guerrero - Good Lord. I don't care how wrapped up in football you are, how long of a drive it is to Stillwater, or any other excuse you have, you absolutely have to see this guys handles in person.  That spin move of his is just silly.

Markel Brown - Same ol reliable Markel from last season.  I really hope Coach Ford can find a way to get him 25 minutes a night.

Jean-Paul Olukemi - Absolutely dominated the defense in the OBU game.  His first step looks much quicker than last season, and his slash is still there. The same knock on him from last year that he needs to finish better at the rim still applies, but his ability to get into the lane and get to the FT line is impressive.

Reger Dowell - I don't know if he isnt comfortable with all the new faces around, or the new pace, or what the deal is, but Reger has not looked anything like he did the 2nd half of last season. He looks slow and indecisive.

Brian Williams - What an athletic freak. This dude is scary coordinated and much bigger in person than I expected. His outside shot looks great, and he elevates about 44 inches before he releases, but thus far it hasn't been dropping.  If he can find his range and combine that threat with this athleticism, he could be very scary.

Fred Gulley - Fred is still Fred. Great passer, great at running the offense on the break and in the half court, still afraid to shoot.

Philip Jurick - He is what he was billed to be.  A big body in the lane that can disrupt an opponents drive and force people away from what they are trying to do. He isn't contributing much on the offensive end, but once all the scorers find their stroke (hopefully), he wont be looked upon to score anyway.

Marek Soucek - I have yet to see him really do much, but I am impressed with his build.  I was expecting a skinny soft euro, but he is built like someone that can bang inside.