We asked Zach McCoy who covers the Cowboys for SBNation’s Oklahoma State site Cowboys Ride for Free to help us preview this game.
What’s been the biggest reason for Oklahoma State’s 5-0 start?
If I’m being honest the biggest reason is strength of schedule. A little better explanation based on how the games have gone though is because of clutch play down the stretch from their returning starters. Isaac Likekele, Lindy Waters III, and Yor Anei have all had clutch moments. Thomas Dziagwa is a three-point specialist who had a huge performance on the road as well. They’ve mostly played to the level of their competition thus far.
It looks like the Cowboys rely on a balanced offense, how do you expect them to attack Syracuse’s 2-3 zone?
Oklahoma State runs a lot of basic motion sets that evolve a bit as the year goes on. Last year they operated around the perimeter more but they’ve made a lot more effort this season to drive and kick with Likekele or pitch it inside to Anei. Waters is the best at creating his own shot, and Cam McGriff is a enigmatic but due for one of his monster games. Dziagwa, Waters, and Keylan Boone will look to bust the zone from beyond the perimeter as well.
When Syracuse has the ball how will Oklahoma State defend the Orange’s perimeter threats?
Even though OSU returns all five starters, the rest of their scholarship players are all new. So the vast majority of the focus to this point has been working on the defense. While the returning starters are more consistent on offense, the new guys provide a lot of length and athleticsm to allow the Cowboys to extend their man and zone looks up the floor closer to where Boynton wants to play. The pressure will turn Syracuse over some and force some bad shots, but it has also allowed for some really easy buckets at times when it breaks down.
Yor Anei’s averaging 3.5 blocks and 7.2 rebounds per game in only 24 minutes will he see more time against Syracuse and what does his defense and rebounding mean to the Cowboys?
Most of Anei’s limited minutes have been due to foul trouble thus far. Boynton is not a strict no two-foul participation guy but he definitely leans that way and has some depth in Kalib Boone this year to allow Anei to sit. His presence cannot be understated. He’s the ultimate reason the defense can extend out and there have been a couple games this season where teams have made zero effort to get the ball inside when he and Boone are on the floor at the same time.
What’s your prediction for the game?
Last year Oklahoma State was a fantastic three-point shooting team but so far the shooting hasn’t been where it was. Dziagwa has shown flashes and Waters has been clutch at the end of games, but they’ll need to have a good performance in this one especially for the Cowboys to win. I’ll say it happens and the Cowboys win 65-63, but I could definitely see it going the other way.
Thanks to Zach for taking the time to do this preview. Be sure to check out Cowboys Ride for Free for more Oklahoma State news.