When the clock clicked 0:00 in the third place game of the Advocate Invitational, the score read Oklahoma State 90, LSU 77. What a performance for the good guys. Oklahoma State dominated the vast majority of the game, and looked like the better team.
So is Oklahoma State actually good, or is No. 19 LSU way overrated?
It may be a little bit of both, but it’s possible that it may be neither. LSU (KenPom No. 47) is coming off a tough overtime loss to a very athletic Florida State (KenPom No. 14) team in a game they probably should’ve won. That game was after the Cowboys played on Friday, so LSU was probably a little physically and emotionally drained. That was LSU’s biggest test of the year with the next closest being a home win over solid mid-major UNC Greensboro (KenPom No. 67). However, I think that hangover was a bigger factor than any overrating of the Tigers.
LSU was a solid team last year that added the fourth best recruiting class in the nation to their core. They are young like the Cowboys (233rd in experience) but they have some good players and should make some noise in the SEC; especially if they play to their potential.
So what does that mean for the Cowboys?
The Cowboys were expected to lose by three points according to KenPom and drop from number 61, but instead won by 13 and rose all the way to 53. The Cowboys caught a good, but young, LSU team at the right time.
We shouldn’t discount the Cowboys performance too much though, here’s why:
- The Cowboys’ length has proven to be a major problem for teams defensively, and this continued against LSU. They forced 18 turnovers and held LSU 13% below their season average from two-point range.
- The Cowboys still need to be less careless with the ball, but their three-headed point guard monster in Likekele, Weathers, and Cunningham plus help from Lindy and McGriff has been very effective in breaking the press.
- The Pokes are still red-hot from beyond the arch at 42.5% on the year for 18th in the nation. I think it’s starting to become clear that this team is actually a pretty good perimeter shooting team because of the number of guys that can make an open three. It’s generally not hard to defend one or two guys out to the perimeter, but when the Cowboys go guard heavy and then add McGriff they are dangerous from deep. Six guys with major minutes are averaging over 36%, with three currently over 50%! (Likekele has only shot two, so not exactly a big enough sample size)
- McGriff had a monster game with 28 points, 2 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 1 steal. He usually has more of an effect in the non-point areas of the stat sheet, but Crime Dawg has made a habit of coming up big against big time competition.
- Likekele posted another Smart-like line with 9 points, 9 boards, 8 assists, 2 steals, to only 1 turnover. He is a big reason the defense has been so strong this year and he is a lot of fun to watch.
- Lindy posted a deadly efficient 16 points on seven shots and added 4 assists, 2 blocks, and 3 steals with zero(!!) turnovers. He generally stayed out of the spotlight, but if Lindy can be your third or fourth scoring option then this team can be dangerous.
- Weathers added 12 points but also had three turnovers (only McGriff had more at four. Dziagwa had three as well). His talent and skill on both ends is apparent but there are times when it seems his focus comes and goes. When he’s locked in the Cowboys are a much better team.
- Yor had 8 points and another 2 blocks, which gave him 8 blocks for the tournament. Cunningham and Dziagwa added 7 and 8 points respectively. The Cowboys have some really nice role players, with two that emerged in this tournament. If these guys aren’t forced to be more than that and are allowed to shine in spots, it will go a long way in making the 2018-19 Cowboys successful.
So in conclusion, there’s still not enough data to draw any definitive conclusions, but I don’t think I’m going out on too much of a limb to say this team will not finish last in the Big 12.