Some late nights, when you’re already soundly asleep, the CHIEF is awake into the wee hours of the morning watching hours of college basketball and corresponding with beat writers across the country to bring you the best scouting reports and game predictions on the Memphis Tigers’ opponents. Consequently, the CHIEF’s FILM ROOM series is born, only at The BarnBurner.
Oklahoma St. vs. Memphis | ESPN2 | 11/22 2:30pm CST| KenPom No. 61
On Thanksgiving, your Memphis Tigers are heading down to Orlando (aka Penny Hardaway’s haven) to take second-year Head Coach Mike Boynton’s Oklahoma State Cowboys as part of the Advocare Invitational kickoff. I reached out to JEREMY KOLOK— OkSt Men’s Basketball beat writer for O’Colly — for his thoughts on the first game match-up.
The Skinny on the Cowboys of Ok St:
Head Coach Mike Boynton took over the job after a tumultuous Brad Underwood transition. What’s the fans’ opinion of Underwood and how have they liked Boynton so far?
People were pretty angry when Underwood left, but it didn’t take long for him to escape the minds of OSU fans completely after Boynton took over the program. I think most fans would probably tell you now that Underwood leaving was a blessing in disguise. Boynton has quickly risen to a celebrity-like status in Stillwater that Underwood likely never would’ve reached. Boynton takes his kids to OSU soccer games, OSU softball games, OSU tennis matches, etc. He attends events in the community and holds open practices with free pizza for students. Obviously, the product on the court is the most important factor to fans at the end of the day, but Boynton really knows how to market himself. He’s a down-to-earth, real human being, and Cowboy fans have embraced that about him. His approval rating has soared to Mike Gundy-level.
What’s the excitement like for next year’s recruiting class?
People are very excited, mainly because I think Boynton has surprised everyone with how quickly he’s found success with recruiting. The excitement probably doesn’t quite reach the level that Memphis fans have for the Tigers’ upcoming recruiting class, though.
Where do you think the Cowboys rank in the Big 12?
Middle of the pack, but they’ll probably randomly beat Kansas and win a couple of big conference games against ranked opponents. The league is damn talented, though.
Who’s the best OkSt player we may know about?
Michael Weathers is probably the most talented player on the roster. He’s coming off a recent suspension after getting into some minor legal trouble, but Boynton has taken a slow approach to Weathers’ return. I think the Memphis game will the the first game where Boynton really lets Weathers loose and lifts any kind of minute restriction. Weathers is easily the best ball handler on the team and may even be the best scorer, so his contribution will be crucial against the press.
Who’s the unsung hero of the squad?
Cam McGriff is the heartbeat of the team. He can put points on the board, but his defensive awareness and rebounding ability make him, by far, the most important player on the roster. You can immediately see a difference when he’s not on the floor.
Which newcomers will have the biggest impact?
The Cowboys are very young this year. Basically half the team is newcomers, but Boynton has emphasized the trust he’s placed in the freshmen on his roster. He’ll play them all if he feels like it. He’ll substitute every whistle if he really wants to.
Isaac Likekele, a talented guard out of Arlington, TX, is probably my favorite newcomer. He started at point guard while Michael Weathers was suspended this offseason, so he acclimated quickly to the speed of college ball and seems very comfortable handling the ball against pressure. He doesn’t score a lot, but he’s a true floor general. It’s fun to watch, and I’m looking forward to seeing Boynton run Weathers and Likekele together in a two point guard set against Memphis’ press.
The Tigers press for all 40 minutes, will OkSt handle pressure well or is this something that could give them fits?
The pressure could certainly give the Cowboys fits, simply because they are such a young team. It’ll be interesting to watch how some of the younger players respond to the pressure. At the very least, if the press gives OSU fits all game, this gives Boynton time to fix it before West Virginia rolls into town.
How would the Cowboys pull out a win down there in Orlando?
The Cowboys are a very good defensive team, but the offense seems to struggle if outside shots aren’t falling. If Lindy Waters, Thomas Dziagwa and the other Cowboy shooters can get hot from downtown, the Cowboys have a chance.
Conversely, how best would Memphis manage to topple OkSt?
Memphis is a physical team, and that could provide some issues for some of the younger Cowboy players. If the Tigers’ press can prevent OSU from getting into a rhythm offensively, especially its outside shooters, then the Tigers will probably walk away with a dub.
So What Had Happened Was:
The Yale game both exposed Memphis’ weaknesses and strengths. The Tigers successfully created chaos and turned over Yale 24 times with the press, but failed to capitalize and turn those turnovers into points. Factor in missed shots from deep (6-23) and the free throw line (37-56 — OH MY GODDDDDDD), and Memphis is lucky to have escaped this 2OT nail-biter with a dub.
Though losing a similarly close game to Charlotte the first game of their season, these Cowboys are tough and athletic. Like Memphis, their team’s success greatly depends on their guard-play. If the 3s are falling, they’re nearly impossible to beat. If they’re bricking shots and turning the ball over, they’ll be in trouble. Sound familiar?
Updated Team Stats:
Tyler “First 48” Harris — In three free-throws, Tyler [temporarily] erased memories of Darius Washington going down in flames at the free throw line in the C-USA championship game against Louisville.
Of all the 3's Tyler Harris will hit in his Memphis career, it's these three free throws that gave him his first "hero" moment for the Tigers: pic.twitter.com/s9Sf4P77Ta
— Jessica Benson (@Local24Jessica) November 18, 2018
Kyvon said Tyler Harris told him “Just pray to God. Just pray to God,” after he missed the first free throw and had to make the second to force second overtime. Davenport said he prayed, then made second one. Tyler team chaplain, too?
— L. Jason Smith (@JasonSmith929) November 18, 2018
Keys to the Game and Random Observations/Trends:
- KYVON CONSISTENCY. Whelp, I’m still calling for this. Going to leave it here until I see it manifest itself. Although Kyvon does lead the team in FG % shooting .500 from the field.
- KAREEM BREWTON, JR. STOLE A BASKETBALL WHILE I TYPED THIS. KB is 4th in D-1 college hoops in steals averaging 3.3 per game. He’s clearly benefiting from the full-court press, and I think Penny should find a way to get this solid veteran guard more minutes.
- GET TO THE STRIPE AND PAY IT OFF. As stated above, Memphis missed NINETEEN free throws but got to the line to shoot 56 vs. Yale. Frankly, I’m not certain which number is more impressive, but I like the aggression of getting to the rim and forcing the other team to foul. This dribble penetration will lead to more success than jacking late shot-clock 3s.
- LIL DRAYMOND. Raynere Thornton’s nickname and also the sort of swiss-army play we need from Ray as this season progresses. Ray is called off the bench to be a match-up problem on both ends of the floor and can guard the 2-5. He had 4 points and 4 boards (right in line with his season averages) against Yale. Look for Ray to get more involved offensively as he gets comfortable in his role with this team.
- SET SOLID SCREENS. I know it’s trendy to clown on Memphis’ half-court sets, but I honestly think it looks like pretty well-oiled NBA pick-and-roll except for one key factor: our bigs don’t set solid screens. Of course, this one failure causes the entire play to devolve into complete disarray. Often, the guard’s defender easily avoids the pick, thus blowing up the play from the get-go. This isn’t completely the bigs’ fault, screens are made successful by the guard waiting until the precise moment the pick is set and then forcing his defender to run smack into it, but our frontcourt players need to do a better job making themselves big when they pop up to free up our guards. And God bless anyone who goes under a screen on First 48.
- THERE’S THE ALO I KNEW. ALo had 13-5-2 on 4-9 from the field and made 5-6 of his free throws. He routinely got into the paint and usually made the right play. He shut down Swain (Yale’s 3-pt shooter) after he made a bajillion 3s in the half, then he shut down Copeland (Yale’s first OT ace) after he made a bajillion absurd shots in the first overtime. Put simply, this is ALo, and I love it.