When you think of the Oklahoma State Cowboys, you probably think first of Marcus Smart. That is with good reason; the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year remains one of the most disruptive perimeter defenders in the nation, and has improved offensively.
Smart is really good, but if I were advising a team trying to beat the Cowboys, I would emphasize the importance of sophomore guard Phil Forte, Smart's close friend from high school. The 5-11 kid with the buzz cut hurts you more than the soon-to-be NBA Lottery pick. Regular readers of this blog know that I like to use something called Points Above Median (PAM), which measures how many extra points a player scores than what you would expect he would get if he took the same number of shots, but averaged a true shooting percentage of 0.48. Forte's PAM total so far this season is 58, which is an outstanding total of 4.1 per game. Compare that with Smart's still solid total of 38 PAM over the early part of the season.
Forte does his damage from three point range and from the free throw line. So far this season he is 37-76 from three point range, which is 49 percent for those keeping track, and is a 90 percent free throw shooter. Forte draws a decent number of fouls for a long range shooting specialist, averaging one free throw attempt for every two field goal attempts, which is nearly an identical rate to the electric Smart.
Markel Brown is another Cowboy who creates problems for opponents, both from the perimeter (he is a 37 percent three point shooter) and attacking the rim. And the Cowboy front line of Le'Bryan Nash and Kamari Murphy is athletic, if a bit undersized. The other player who will play is Brian Williams, another solid free throw shooter and a viscous finisher in transition.
The Cowboys are an outstanding overall team, good on both ends of the floor. They are athletic, but they aren't deep. Texas' best chance of victory is to go after their small front line, limit catch and shoot opportunities for Forte and Brown, and to try to make Marcus Smart win the game with his jump shot.
G- Marcus Smart, 6-4
F-Brian Williams, 6-5
F-Markel Brown, 6-3
F-Le'Bryan Nash, 6-7
F-Kamari Murphy, 6-8
Freshman guard Stevie Clark was busted by the cops with a bag of weed on New Year's Day. He did not play in OSU's last game, a loss to Kansas State. After the season ending injury of Michael Cobbins, Clark's arrest further cuts into the Cowboys' depth. At this point, coach Travis Ford only really goes six deep.
Tip: 8:00 PM CST Wednesday