Just a mere two years ago, Oklahoma State played in the opening round against the Oregon Ducks in the NCAA Tournament. In 2013, Oregon was a twelve seed and the Cowboys fell victim to the dreaded 12-seed vs 5-seed upset.
OSU was beat 68-55 on that day, with Oregon guard Damyean Dotson scoring 17 and big man Arsalan Kazemi dominating the boards en route to a double double. The Cowboys were out rebounded 45-29 on the night, and never made it much of a game.
That game was only two years ago, but it's certainly not the same team the Cowboys will be competing against on Friday. Oregon has no players from that 2013 team on the roster, and a completely different playing style. Head coach Dana Altman is in his fifth season at the helm of Ducks basketball has led the them to a 25-8 record on the season. What's not so different from their meeting in 2013 is that the Ducks have been hot as of late. They won eight of their last ten games, including an upset of 5th seeded Utah in the Pac-12 Tournament Semifinal.
The Oregon Ducks
There must be something in the water in Eugene, because just like the Ducks football team, the basketball team loves to score. Oregon averages 75.6 points per game, ranking 26th in the NCAA. Because of their fast pace tempo, they tend to give up more points though. Their opponents average 70.7 points a game. Needless to say, if the Pokes want to wind up winning this game, they'll need some productive scoring from Phil Forte, Anthony Hickey, Jeff Newberry, and of course, Le'Bryan Nash.
One thing Oregon can definitely hang their hat on, is the fact they have the Pac-12 Player Of The Year on their team in Joseph Young. Young is one of the most electric scorers in all of college basketball. He ranks 12th in the country at putting the ball through the net with an outstanding 20.2 points per game. He's also accumulated 25 points ten times this season. He rarely steps off the court during the game too, averaging 36.5 minutes played per game. The Oregon Ducks guard shoots 44 percent from the field, 35 percent from downtown, and don't even think about sending him to the free throw line; as he shoots a lethal 91 percent from the charity stripe.
Other threats from the Ducks include 6'6 Forward Elgin Cook and Dillon Brooks who both manage 5 rebounds a game. If OSU big men Michael Cobbins and Freshman Mitchell Solomon can knock the Ducks off the blocks and grab offensive and defensive rebounds, the Pokes will be in good shape.
The two will meet in Omaha, NE, which is a very familiar place for the Oregon Ducks coaching staff. Head Coach Dana Altman is a Nebraska native who spent 16 years in Omaha at Creighton before taking over in Eugene. Assistant Kevin McKenna played at Creighton, and assistant Tony Stubblefield played and coached at Nebraska-Omaha.
Enough of all the positives about this Oregon offense though: here is where the Cowboys can exploit this team. The Ducks do not have one player above 6 foot 7 on their roster or a player over 206 pounds. Oregon does not force many turnovers per game, which is nice considering the Cowboys can be loose with the ball at times.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys
|Phil Forte III||31||33.5||15.1||2.1||1.7||1.9||0.1||1.9|
|Anthony Hickey Jr.||31||29.7||9.6||4.2||3.5||1.9||0.2||1.6|
|Anthony Allen Jr.||25||7.2||1.7||2.4||0.2||0.1||0.8||0.9|
As you would expect in an 8-seed versus 9-seed matchup, this one seems to be able to go either way. The popular consensus is that "Oklahoma State has a lot of talent. Talent that should be able to win some games in the NCAA Tournament." However, Cowboy fans have heard that too many times before, and all too often it ends in heartbreak.
A three game streak of victories against Top 25 opponents caught the nation's attention mid-way through the season, but unfortunately, the Pokes are no where near playing their best ball right now. Down the stretch it's been anything but pretty. The Cowboys have lost six of their last seven games, including loses to two bad losses to teams that failed to make the NIT Tournament.
That's not to say the Cowboys can't win. They've clearly shown that they are capable. Hopefully an underdog role, and a shot at redemption will fuel the Pokes to their earlier form.
Keys To The Game
AVOID THE SLOW START: The Cowboys have to show up and play. They have a tendency to take most of the first half to get going, and, against a fast team like Oregon, that could cost them.
SOMEONE HELP NASH: Whatever funk has Phil Forte down needs to get shaken off real quick. Le'Bryan Nash isn't going to be able to play five on one, and end up with a favorable outcome. Ford needs to find a way to get Hickey and Newberry going early to Oregon something else to worry about.
DOMINATE THE BOARDS: The Cowboys can't allow Oregon too many second chance baskets. The Cowboys have a size advantage, and if they want to avenge 2013 and move on to the next round, they need to exploit it.
WHERE: Century Link Center, Omaha, NE
WHEN: Friday, March 20th, 2015 at 5:50 pm CST
ONLINE STREAMING: March Madness Live
FOR YOUR MOBILE DEVICE: Download The App
VIEW FROM THE ENEMY: Addicted To Quack
As for me, ever the Oklahoma State optimist and fan, I say the Cowboys will avenge the tournament loss from 2013. They win a tight one, 66-59.