#8 Texas A&M vs. #12/14 Oklahoma State Preview
Saturday, January 20th
7:00 CST – ESPN+ (Local)
(see below for TV information)
Oklahoma State is probably the surprise team of the Big 12 thus far. Sean Sutton has done a great job of getting the most out of his very thin roster.
The Cowboys ran off 11 straight wins to open the season before losing a hard fought battle at Tennessee (77-79) in mid-December. They then ran off 4 more wins in a row including a double-overtime thriller over #7 Pittsburgh (95-89) in Oklahoma City.
The Pokes opened up Big 12 play with a “not as close as the score would indicate” win over Baylor (81-77) in Stillwater. They then lost to Kansas in Lawrence 57-87 on one of those nights where KU could do no wrong and OSU could do no right. The 30 point margin of victory is not indicative of either team’s true ability.
After having their game last Saturday against Nebraska postponed due to weather in Oklahoma City, the Cowboys bounced back to defeat the Texas Longhorns 105-103 in triple-overtime in what was easily the best game of the year so far in college basketball.
This team has however not been without adversity. Since losing one of the best freshmen in the league in Obi Muonelo to injury, Sean Sutton has been forced to play a rotation consisting of mainly 7 guys.
Sutton’s roster has become so thin that All-Big 12 Wide Receiver Adarius Bowman joined the Cowboys basketball team in early January. Bowman has not played competitive basketball since 2003 when he was a finalist for Division II Mr. Basketball in the state of Tennessee.
Despite having a limited roster, Oklahoma State does have two of the best players in the league in JamesOn Curry and Mario Boggan.
Curry averages 18.5 points and 4.6 assists per game and can go for 30 on any given night.
Boggan is one of the premier post players in the conference and is 2nd in the league in scoring with a 22.0 point per game average. Boggan is also a strong rebounder who averages 8.1 boards per night.
OK - Let’s dig into this match-up and see what may happen.
OSU usually starts sophomore Byron Eaton at the point. The 5’11” 215 pound spark plug usually does a pretty good job of pushing the ball up the court but does not bring much to the table offensively. Eaton only averages 6.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. Eaton is probably the Cowboy’s best point defender and will be assigned with the tough task of attempting to slow Acie Law.
If you can get Eaton in early foul trouble, Sutton will have to juggle his defensive assignments with either Curry or wingman Terrell Harris attempting to shut-down Acie. I’ll take Acie over any of those 3 guys, but I am of course biased.
Eaton is also the Cowboys only true ball handler and when he is not in the game the Cowboys can really struggle bringing the ball up the floor. I would look for Gillispie to throw a heavy dose of full-court pressure at the Pokes on a pretty consistent basis.
Joining Eaton in the backcourt is junior JamesOn Curry. Curry is as good of a pure shooter as you will ever see and he is usually the catalyst for the Cowboys offensive attack. If you can slow down Curry, you can usually slow down the Cowboys, but that is easier said than done.
Gillispie will no doubt look to the best perimeter defender in the league, Dominique Kirk, to lock down Curry.
Do you think it is a coincidence that Kirk and Curry have matched up 4 times in their careers and Curry is only averaging 9.5 points per game vs. A&M?
I’m also going to include OSU’s Terrel Harris and A&M’s Josh Carter in this group. Both players are hybrid-guards who can play 3 positions on the floor.
Harris is having a breakout year and is almost an unsung hero for the Cowboys as he does not get the same publicity that Boggan and Curry receive. The 6’5” sophomore is averaging 11.5 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. Harris has emerged as a much-needed 3rd scoring threat for the Cowboys.
As we have discussed here quite a few times – Josh Carter being aggressive and shooting the ball 10+ times is absolutely a key for A&M. The Aggies will undoubtedly need Josh to produce in order to beat OSU on Saturday.
You may also see Marcus Dove (the Cowboy’s best defender) spend some time coming out to guard Carter if he gets hot from the outside. Dove’s primary responsibility however will be attempting to help out inside on Kavaliauskas and Jones.
Advantage – Moderate Edge For The Aggies (+3)
Getting to watch Mario Boggan and Joe Jones go to work inside should be a lot of fun. Both big men are amongst the best at their position and both are legitimate candidates to earn first team all-big 12 honors at the end of the season.
As we mentioned above, simply put, Boggan is having a monster year. Joe is going to have to play one of his best defensive games of the year in order to help neutralize Boggan on the inside.
I also think we may see Gillispie go to a combination of Davis / Bennett / Elonu off the bench in order to come in and bang on Boggan.
Joining Boggan on the inside for the Cowboys will be Marcus Dove and David Monds. Monds and Dove are both at their best on the defensive end of the floor and will certainly be key factors in helping to slow down Jones and Kavaliauskas on the inside.
Dove is a very athletic player and if he gets loose in the open floor, look out, he is one of the most electrifying dunkers you will see come to Reed Arena this season. You will probably see Dove split time between guarding Carter on the perimeter and Kavaliauskas on the block.
Kavaliauskas has been on a little bit of a slide over the last 3 games due to foul trouble. Similar to Carter, this team is going to need AK to contribute on the offensive end in order for the Aggies to play up to OSU’s level.
Advantage – Push (+/- 0)
This one is a no-brainer. Sean Sutton only has 11 guys on his entire roster and of those, only 9 are on scholarship.
Gillispie on the other hand has 21 guys on his roster of which 12 will see time as we get deeper into the Big 12 schedule.
Sutton will likely go with Eaton/Curry/Harris/Monds/Boggan in his starting lineup leaving Dove and Kenny Cooper being the main guys coming off the bench. Dove’s athleticism can allow for him to be a difference maker while the 6’10” Cooper, who has been playing better as of late, is not much more than a marginal role player who can come in and bang on Jones and Kavaliauskas.
From the Aggies bench you will see major minutes from Pompey and Sloan and minor minutes from Bennett/Davis/Elonu/Lee/Roland.
Advantage – Major Edge for the Aggies (+4)
Sean Sutton is in his first full season as the head coach of the Cowboys and is off to a great start leading his troops to battle through all sorts of adversity. Sutton ran off two or three very able athletes in the off-season because they were bad apples - - couple that with the loss of super-stud Muonelo to injury and what Sutton has done with this group, molding them into one of the top teams in the nation, is nothing short of remarkable.
I do not need to tell you guys, especially in this arena, that one thing we all know is that Gillispie will have his guys ready to play. Gillispie has proven time and again that he is one of the best gameday coaches in the league.
I would love to give a slight edge to Gillispie here, but Sutton is not a true rookie coach and you can not ignore what he has done this year with his group of guys.
Advantage – Push +/- 0
Oklahoma State is playing in only their 2nd true road game of the year. They have played a handful of neutral court games, but their only true road game of the year was when they lost to Kansas a couple weeks back.
The sold out Reed Arena will be rockin’ on Saturday night and should create a pretty decent home court advantage for the Aggies. In-fact, this game sold out earlier than any other game in the 9 year history of the building and the 4,200 student tickets sold out in less than 90 minutes this morning. Amazing.
Both teams’ players have played in plenty of big games over the past couple of years so I am not too sure that there is one group or another that has a big edge here. If you can point to anything here, you can go back to the team’s respective benches - - I’ll take the experience of the Aggie’s bench over the experience of the OSU bench.
Advantage – Minor Edge for the Aggies (+1)
The Aggie Hoops Report’s Game Outcome Prediction -
Texas A&M Aggies – 69
OSU Cowboys - 61
Houston – KNWS Austin/San Antonio – KCWX Dallas – KTXA
Longview/Tyler – KLPN Waco – KWTX Tulsa – KJRH Oklahoma City - KOCB
This should also be a heck of a game.