The Kansas Jayhawks are still maintaining a one game lead over the rest of the conference, and the easier portion of the schedule kicks off with a home game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys. To help prepare us for the game, I reached out to our friends over at Cowboys Ride For Free. We were fortunate enough to get responses from two of the writers over there, Joel Penfield and Robert Whetsell.
RCT: It’s been quite the couple of years for Oklahoma State, going through 2 coaching searches in as many years. How shocked were you when Brad Underwood left after only 1 season, and how has Mike Boynton done in his short time in Stillwater?
JP: I will say I was thrown for a loop when Brad Underwood suddenly left for Illinois. On top of that, I was even more surprised when Oklahoma State decided to hire from within with Mike Boynton. As the season has gone on, I have completely bought into Boynton has the guy for Oklahoma State. He has his guys playing an Oklahoma State brand of basketball, something that Brad Underwood did not play. It’s an aggressive, defense first style that both Mr. Iba and Coach Eddie Sutton ran at Oklahoma State with great success. The blueprint is there, now it is just executing the plan.
RW: A. SHAAAAWWWWWCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKED
B. Boynton has proven he can get a lot out of little talent...until the talent runs out of gas due to a complicating factor known as “lack of depth.” Gotta get some dudes, then we’ll see.
RCT: What were the expectations for this team coming into the season? And how has this team lived up to those?
JP: I had very low expectations this season. When you lost guys like Jawun Evans and Phil Forte who meant so much offensively last year, we all knew this year would be tough. They’ve gotten huge wins against Florida State on the road, and close wins at home against Texas and Oklahoma. They’ve managed to stay in games with teams they shouldn’t beat, and find ways to lose winnable games. The Cowboys were picked last in the conference at the beginning of the season, I don’t think they will finish there but I imagine a 7th or 8th place finish is possible. However, the future is bright.
RW: I think most would say non-con play was a pleasant surprise. Big 12 play has been about what we expected.
RCT: The big names from last year’s team that everyone knew were Juwan Evans and Phil Forte, both of whom are no longer with the team. Who are the standout players this year that everyone should be familiar with?
JP: Jeffrey Carroll is our attempt at a go-to scorer this year, but he has struggled at times (especially on the road) without having a guy like Evans feeding him the ball. Mitchell Solomon is our best defender. The 6’9 rim protector is always in the right position defensively, but gets called for cheap fouls when he has to bail someone out that got beat. Mike Boynton refers to him as the MVP of the team. A young guy that is starting to break out is sophomore Cameron McGriff. He’s coming off of a game where he filled up the stat sheet in the loss to TCU. He had 11 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 blocks, and 4 steals. Boynton says he has a “junkyard dog” mentality, which is exactly the kind of player Boynton likes to have.
RW: Mitch Solomon is the lunch pale guy...see what I did there? He is without question the most valuable player on the team. Does a little of everthing. Jeff Carroll is supposed to carry the water, but can go MIA against the right defense.
RCT: This Big 12 has been fairly unpredictable and full of drama this year. What will Oklahoma State be trying to do to try and pull off the upset?
JP: Kansas is a tough team for us to matchup with because they have great outside shooters as well as a dominant inside presence. Personally, I’d rather force KU to shoot 3’s rather than have Udoka Azubuike dunk all over the state of Oklahoma. Offensively I want to see Oklahoma State attack inside and try to get Azubuike in quick foul trouble, and then feed Yankuba Sima and Solomon in a matchup against Mitch Lightfoot. I think Oklahoma State has the guards in Lindy Waters and Carroll to guard both Devonte Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk. If Tavarius Shine is healthy for the Cowboys, he adds another lengthy guard that can defend the perimeter, but he is coming off of a wrist injury so it remains to be seen if he’ll be healthy enough.
RW: Hope Kansas gets the game time wrong.
Or maybe Kansas forgets to come out for the second half.
I’ll just ignore this question....
RCT: Prediction Time! Do you see any chance that the Cowboys can pull this upset? Who is the standout player for each team?
JP: I don’t see this game being close. Allen Fieldhouse is such a tough place to play in, and this team hasn’t found a way to win on the road since being Florida State back in mid-December. The Cowboys have struggled offensively all season long, so unless they magically come out of this funk, KU should win handily. I think the Jayhawks win 83-65. For the Cowboys, I think Cameron McGriff will have another great game, he may not score a lot but he’ll fill up the stat sheet in other ways and have a great game on both ends of the floor. In conference play, the Cowboys have given up a career high to multiple players in Barry Brown, Manu Lecomte, and Trae Young. I think this game it’ll probably be Malik Newman because so much attention will be paid to Graham and Mykhailiuk. Heck, Marcus Garrett might mess around and drop 20 on us, it wouldn’t surprise me.
RW: If Travis Ford was still coach, I’d say an OSU win is a lock. However, the Cowboys are run down. They may keep it closer than expected for a while, but will eventually become road kill. Also, pick the starting player for Kansas least likely to lead the team in scoring. He’ll have a career game.
RCT: BONUS - What was/is your favorite video game of all-time (any platform)?
JP: I’m not much of a video game guy, but I have to go with the NCAA College Football games. It was easily the best sports game out when it was around. What made it so fun was finding different offenses to play with. Personally, I played NCAA 2013 with Oregon and ran the triple option all over people. I wish they could bring back those games, I would play them a little too often for my own good.
RW: Rocket League (Xbox). My son’s friends ask if I’m around so I can play. My son HATES it. I LOVE it. Only requires use of one “thumb” stick, so I’m capable of handling it.
A huge thanks to Joel and Robert for helping us out today. Don't forget to check out the questions I answered for Joel over on CRFF as well.