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PREVIEW: Oklahoma State vs. Memphis

The Cowboys tip off their Advocare Invitational against an aggressive Memphis team under new management.

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament-Kansas v Oklahoma State Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys head to Orlando coming off some a positive homestand that yielded some important developments. First, they overcame a rough start and snuck Michael Weathers some minutes in garbage time against UTSA. Sunday, they beat a very solid Charleston team and Weathers gave was introduced properly to the Cowboy faithful.

The Cowboys look to build on their home success and continue to develop their inexperienced core as fast as possible as they open the Advocare Invitational against a quick Memphis squad.


Who: Memphis (2-1, 0-0 American Athletic Conference)

Where: HP Field House - Orlando, Florida

When: Thursday November 22 - 2:30 p.m. CST

TV: ESPN 2

Web Stream: WatchESPN

Radio: Cowboy Radio Network / TuneIn

Live Stats: okstate.statbroadcast.com


Injury Report:

Oklahoma State:

  • Michael Cunningham: Gametime Decision - Hamstring
  • Curtis Jones: Out - Ineligible through semester

Memphis:

  • Lance Thomas: Doubtful - Pending waiver

Projected Starters:

Images from okstate.com

Tigers: G Tyler Harris (Fr), G Alex Lomax (Fr), G Jeremiah Martin (Sr), F Isaiah Maurice (Jr), F Kyvon Davenport (Sr)


The Opponent:

Memphis (KenPom No. 112) is coming into this game with a 2-1 record after a hard-fought double OT win against Yale (KenPom No. 117) and a tough loss at LSU (KenPom No. 47). The Tigers play a lot with two freshman guards under 6 foot in Alex Lomax (5’10, 8.3 ppg, 3.3 apg) and Tyler Harris (5’9, 14.0 ppg). Memphis as a team is 333rd in average height. They get a majority of their scoring from wing Jeremiah Martin (17.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg) and forward Kyvon Davenport (16.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg).

What they lack in size, they make up for in tenacious quickness. The Tigers force turnovers at a rate good for 12th in the nation. For reference, the Cowboys are 35th in the same category. The bigger difference is thus far Oklahoma State has done a worse job of taking care of the ball themselves. The Cowboys have a chance to bother the Memphis backcourt with their length, but they’ll have to be more solid with the ball than they’ve been to this point.

Memphis is led by first year college coach and Memphis fan favorite, Penny Hardaway. Hardaway was brought in to replace Tubby Smith and provide a spark, especially in the form of recruiting. The early returns have been great, and culminated in Memphis picking up the No. 1 player in the 2019 class, James Wiseman. Lucky for the Pokes, he’s still in high school for this one.


Statistics:

ESPN

Three Things to Watch For:

1. Backcourt Length

As I alluded to above, the Cowboys will have a significant length advantage in this matchup, especially in the backcourt. The Cowboys should be able to use this advantage to close down passing lanes. They’ll also need to move quickly to stay in front of the Tigers quick guards. Both of these are key, as Memphis gets over 52% of their points from 2-point range.

2. Handling the Pressure

While I like this matchup for the reason above, I also worry some about Memphis’ pressure. They like to create turnovers, and the Cowboys have not done a great job of taking care of the ball. The Pokes will need to clean it up and be solid in this first game against a high-pressure defense.

One thing that could help here is Mike Cunningham returning. His return is still questionable, but his veteran presence could definitely help solidify the team’s ball security.

3. Setting the Scene

Taking care of business in this game is important in itself as the Pokes take on a quality Memphis team that could easily over-perform in a down AAC. Beyond that, the difference in winning and losing this game will vastly change the quality of opponent for the rest of the tournament. A win likely provides a matchup with defending national champion (but currently struggling) Villanova (KenPom No. 23) and either LSU (47) or Florida State (8). A loss sets up a probable date with Canisius (176) and either UAB (161) or a rematch with Charleston (109).

Bonus: Battle of Recruiters

I talked about Hardaway’s recruiting prowess earlier and we all know about Boynton’s success. One freshman on Memphis’ team in particular, Antwann Jones, was once committed to the Cowboys before Lamont Evans got into trouble in the FBI case. It’s probably not a major factor, but you’d have to think OSU and Jones may each feel like they have a little extra to prove.