Oklahoma State Vs. NC State Preview: It's Title Time In Puerto Rico

Jamie Squire

OSU @ StatSheet
2012 Stats
2013 Roster
2013 Schedule

OSU Offense 11-12
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 48.0 204
Turnover Rate 17.6 31
Off Reb Rate 24.1 333
FTA/FGA 38.5 113

Oklahoma State advanced to the finals of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off with a surprisingly easy win over Tennessee in the semifinals, but it remains to be seen if this is the year in which Travis Ford's program turns the corner. Ford hasn't been able to deliver on the coaching promise he showed at UMass, and his most successful OSU teams were those he inherited from the man who preceded him, Sean Sutton.

Ford has had some success in recruiting, as both Le'Bryan Nash and Marcus Smart are former five-star recruits, and it could be those underclassmen leading the way for the Cowboys on Sunday night. Both players will be major factors in Oklahoma State's offensive efforts...whether that is a good thing or not, well... it probably won't be. But it's just one game so who the hell knows.

Oklahoma State coped with the unfortunate combination of an offense that could not make shots or rebound its misses last season, and frankly the Cowboys are lucky things weren't worse. It's difficult to have any success under though circumstances, but OSU managed to win seven league games last year as well as a conference tournament game.

How they fare in 2013 hinges on Nash, Smart, and Markel Brown. That trio must improve Oklahoma State's efficiency at the offensive end to establish a foundation for a winning season, or simply for a win over the Wolfpack in Puerto Rico.

Starters:

Markel Brown (6-3, 190) -- Brown has been a mediocre shooter at best from whichever spot on the floor he decides to hurl the basketball at the rim, and it would really help the team a lot if that changed. If he can fit some shots in edge-wise, that is. Brown is actually second in scoring for the Cowboys this year, and he's been good from three, but sample size and all that. Brown has not shot better than 31.9% from three in a single season; he also hasn't shot better than 46.5% from two in a single season.

Marcus Smart (6-4, 225) -- Smart is just a few games into his college career, so some slack is warranted here. While he is third on the team in scoring, his shooting accuracy has been poor. He does lead the team with an average of 8.3 rebounds per game, which is impressive.

Le'Bryan Nash (6-7, 230) -- I think in many cases with top 20ish recruits, there is a sense of urgency, a need to prove that they can handle the college level. And then there are just guys who are used to being the focal point of an offense and cannot change. Whatever the case for Nash, he used a ton of possessions as a freshman last year, and that was not a good thing for Oklahoma State. Nash took a team-high 29.3% of the shots while on the floor and made just 43.6% of his twos. He also shot 16-68 (.235) from beyond the arc. He was valuable when he was drawing fouls, but he probably would have been better served by being more deferential in general.

Has that shooting touch improved this year? We'll see.

Kamari Murphy (6-8, 210) -- Murphy is another freshman still establishing his role at Oklahoma State. He hasn't been a huge factor offensively, but he leads the team in blocks and ranks second in rebounds per game.

Philip Jurick (6-11, 260) -- Jurick played sparingly a year ago and had major trouble with turnovers, but he made 65.5% of his twos, rebounded well at both ends, and blocked a hell of a lot of shots. He also shot 31.6% (6-19) at the free throw line, so if there's an option, fouling Jurick rather than allowing an easy shot in the paint is probably a good idea.

Bench:

Phil Forte (5-11, 195), Kirby Gardner (6-2, 200), Marek Soucek (7-0, 235).

OSU Defense 11-12
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 47.8 122
Turnover Rate 18.7 248
Off Reb Rate 33.9 244
FTA/FGA 35.9 167

Since Ford took over, Oklahoma State hasn't been good at turning opponents over, and last year the Cowboys compounded matters by struggling on the defensive glass. As we saw during the Sidney Lowe era, it can be pretty damned painful to have problems in these two areas at the same time. Ford improved OSU's defensive rebounding when he arrived, so maybe the issue is personnel.

Whatever the case may be, they're going to have to find a way to do a better job on the glass against NC State.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes NC State by five***.

(***It's early and current-season data is limited, so a larger-than-usual grain of salt is warranted with these predictions.)

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