It’s been almost a week since Nebraska last played against Creighton. The week off has hopefully been good for the team and their finals schedule. This Sunday the Big Red find themselves up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota to take on the Oklahoma State Cowboys in a rare neutral site game.
Oklahoma State is lead by second year head coach Mike Boynton Jr. They are currently 4-5 and are on a three game losing streak they hope to end with a win against Nebraska.
We caught up with our SB Nation sister site Cowboys Ride For Free for an update on our former Big 12 Conference mates.
Corn Nation: Oklahoma State was picked to finish at the bottom of the Big 12 this year. What were the expectations going into this season?
Phillip Slavin: For fans, it’s definitely not to finish in last place, as they were picked by the media ahead of the season. That said, a reduction in wins from Mike Boynton’s first season was certainly expected. With so many young and new faces playing important minutes, combined with a much more difficult non-conference schedule, a step back was expected. That said, there is enough talent to believe this Cowboy team can compete with just about anyone on any given night.
CN: How have the Cowboys improved under second year head coach Mike Boynton Jr.?
PS: It’s hard to judge to some extent just because of how different this year’s team is from last year. That said, they’ve become a much better perimeter shooting team. The Cowboys are top-15 in the country in 3-pt percentage, currently hitting 41.6% of their attempts. They also carried over the hustle and drive from last year’s team which I think is just going to be the M.O of any Boynton coached squad.
CN: OSU lost a lot of talent and experience form last year’s team and are playing a lot of younger guys. Who should Nebraska fans keep an eye on?
PS: There are the starters, Cam McGriff who is the defacto leader of this team, and Thomas “Dizzy” Dziagwa, who is hitting 53.4% from beyond the arc. But the two I think Nebraska fans are going to want to really know about are freshman point guard Isaac Likekele (pronounced likely) and Michael Weathers. Likekele is great at getting to the rim and his game reminds me a bit of Russell Westbrook’s (not saying he’s on that level, just comparison of style of play). Weathers is probably OSU’s most talented player, and but is coming off the bench. He sat out last season as a transfer and got into some trouble before the season, but as an energy guy he’s been fantastic basically leading the second unit. The one wildcard for this game will be Curtis Jones. He was a midseason transfer from Indiana will be eligible to play for OSU for the first time this Sunday.
CN: What are some of the strengths and weaknesses of this squad. What could give the Huskers trouble Sunday?
PS: As I’ve mentioned, Oklahoma State is a great perimeter shooting team, and it’s not just Dziagwa. The team as a whole hits over 41% of their shots. They also love to run, so don’t let them get out into transition because they’ll beat you more often than not.
That said, free throws have been an issue, as have turnovers. Oklahoma State’s last two losses were by fewer points than the number of free throws missed, so while the Cowboys get close at the end, they can’t quite overcome the mistakes. That said, if you let OSU hit from outside, you’d better be ready to keep pace with them.
CN: Can OSU make a run in the Big 12 this year? Why or why not?
PS: Not at the title this year no. There is just too much youth that has a ways to go, especially in the paint. Oklahoma State’s starting center, Yor Anei, has shown an ability to block shots like a beast, and isn’t bad offensively around the rim. But he makes freshmen mistakes, especially when it comes to foul trouble. That’s ignoring all of the other freshmen that play real minutes for this team. They’re a couple of years away from challenging Kansas for the Big 12 title.
CN: Any thoughts on playing this game at a neutral site? Stanford Pentagon is going to probably be one of the smaller venues either of these teams will play in.
PS: I really wish this was a home-and-home series. I’m glad the two teams are playing, but to be honest the number of great neutral site match-ups frustrate me as a fan. I want to see games like this played in front of packed home crowds on a weekend afternoon.
CN: Miss us in the Big 12?
PS: I was going to ask the same thing, though my question leaned more toward football.
CN: Okay, final question. What will happen Sunday night and what do you think the final score will be? Will the Cowboys end their three game losing streak against Nebraska?
PS: I’m going to estimate that the week off has helped the Cowboys really grind down on the problems they’ve been having, specifically on defense and at the free throw line, and I expect them to be better at both, especially early. The Cowboys tend to start games well, but go through offensive lulls that kill momentum. They won’t be bothered by the neutral site atmosphere, having already played four neutral site games and two true road games. If McGriff can stay out of foul trouble, the Cowboys can hit free throws, and Weathers can slow down and not get himself into trouble inside by rushing in without a plan, the Cowboys can get the win here. If not.. It’ll be four losses in a row.
I’m going to pick Nebraska just because I think they are better than this Oklahoma State team, but I think it’s another close loss for the Cowboys. Nebraska 75 - Oklahoma State 71.
Thanks again to Phillip of Cowboys Ride For Free giving us some better insight to this year’s OSU basketball team. You can also follow them on twitter @CowboysRFF for up to the date information on the game.