Initial Thoughts On Oklahoma State Comment Count

Brian March 14th, 2017 at 11:39 AM

Your correspondent took in Oklahoma State's games against Kansas, @ Baylor, and West Virginia to get a feel for Michigan's first-round matchup in the tournament. These were all Okie State losses against very good teams, the first two competitive. The last not so much. None of those teams is remotely like Michigan—Kansas is super athletic, wild at times, and up-tempo, Baylor is super athletic and runs a bizarre 4-out zone in front of a seven-foot shotblocker, and West Virginia is a ruthless pressing turnover machine—but there was a limited selection on the tubes. Also Big Twelve basketball is apparently Big Twelve football just like Big Ten basketball is Big Ten football.

Oklahoma State v Baylor etqExlY1fuIl

Evans defines Oklahoma State's style

THE FASTER AND THE FURIOUSER. Watching Oklahoma State's recent game against Kansas was a jarring experience after the Big Ten Championship game. "Methodical" is probably the best descriptor for the latter; in comparison the Big 12 game was like watching an And-One mixtape.

Oklahoma State is fast. PG Juwan Evans is fast. The color guy doing their game against Baylor early in the year repeatedly stated that Brad Underwood, the Cowboys' coach, wants his guys to get a shot up in the first seven seconds of the shot clock. They've taken this to heart. Their #87 tempo on Kenpom will feel like a jet airplane to Michigan fans, but that doesn't quite encompass it.

27% of their shots are classified by hoop-math as "transition"—ie, within the first ten seconds of the shot clock. That's a full 50% more than Michigan (18%) and 24th nationally. A lot of the teams in front of them are very bad low majors trying anything to disguise their halfcourt offenses; the only more transition-oriented teams in the tournament are Creighton, UCLA, Kentucky, and Arkansas.

Okie State is going to try to play this game at light speed.

This is a good matchup against a good team, numbers edition. Okie State is a very good ten seed according to Kenpom, and that's reason for consternation. The way they play and Michigan's previous outings against turnover-dependent Ds and transition-dependent Os should give you confidence. Some data:

  • As you might expect from a team that rarely turns the ball over and largely abandons the offensive glass, Michigan's transition D is good relative to their halfcourt D.  They provide very few opportunities (18% of opponent shots). Their transition eFG defense of 53% is barely worse than halfcourt (51%). Meanwhile Okie State's transition is often forced; they're only middling at converting transition opportunities.
  • By contrast, when Michigan does push the ball they are lethal at 64% eFG. That's 11th nationally. Unlike Michigan, Oklahoma State has made many sacrifices on defense to make their offense so good. They crash the glass, sometimes in inexplicable situations, leading to a relatively large number of transition opportunities ceded (23%) at an efficient conversion rate (57%). Their turnover acquisition is often of the chancy variety, leading to broken rotations and open threes. They were 9th of 10 in league play at preventing threes from being launched.
  • Michigan is significantly better in eFG terms in every situation—transition, half-court, late-clock, and putback—without even considering turnovers. In that department Okie State is middling on offense and very good on D; Michigan is superb on O and—surprise!—good on D.

The main worry is that Michigan gets in one of those games where the opposition rebounds half their misses. The Cowboys crush the offensive boards (#6 nationally). That will make up for a projected turnover deficit, and probably then some. Still, without an anomalous shooting performance Michigan should expect to win this game if they can acquire—or even approach—shot parity.


there is a 95% chance this was assisted or a putback

Good news, personnel department. Okie State has no post-up game. Starting C Mitchell Solomon takes some elbow jumpers and will get shots at the rim when he's provided the ball off pick-and-roll action and on putbacks. He's not going to threaten Michigan with foul trouble and incessant four foot jumpers like Isaac Haas. He doesn't create his own shots.

Ditto his backups. Seven-foot freshman Lucas N'Guessan has fallen entirely out of the rotation, so the backup 5 is 6'7" Cameron McGriff. This is not a team that is likely to get Michigan in the post foul trouble that's their bugaboo. They may in fact be more vulnerable to it than Michigan: Solomon averages a whopping 7.7 fouls per 40. For comparison, perpetually foul-beset Mo Wagner is at 4.5. Solomon is the main motive force behind those OREBs and a hypothetical absence will hurt the Cowboys on both ends despite his peripheral role in the first-shot offense.

Bad news, personnel department. Point guard Jawun Evans is fast as hell and can seemingly get in the lane against anyone.

Michigan's had trouble with gentlemen of his description for years. Derrick Walton's been awesome but I don't think Evans is a good matchup for him on D, especially in open court situations.


Forte looks like a walk-on until he hits a 35 footer

This could be a game where you see a lot of Xavier Simpson and Michigan's two-PG lineup. Okie State's SG, Phil Forte, is listed at 5'11" and is more or less Spike Albrecht after a power mushroom. Against Baylor he took and hit insanely deep threes twice, and then got himself a three just behind the arc after successfully shot-faking from about 30 feet. He's got Jimmer Fredette range. He's hitting 43% on the year from 3. He's a 95% FT shooter. You're going to take one look at the dude and think "scrub"; nope. He is Not Just A Shooter. And he's also a world-class shooter. He takes trash shots and makes them.

Since the only other backcourt player to get appreciable time is PG-of-the-future Brandon Averette, Michigan's going to have a size advantage and quickness deficit whenever X isn't on the floor.

Good news for people who love bad news. The flip side of that is there's no way Okie State can switch everything. This was the Big Ten's response to Wilson and Wagner's dual takeoffs and intermittently frustrating down the stretch. The Cowboys are going to have two guys on the court a foot shorter than Wilson and Wagner at all times and are going to have to play it straight up, or bank on their 7.7-fouls-per-40 center to check Walton while their mini-me guards try to box out.

Expect junk zones. Early in the year Okie State was picking up point guards at half-court in a half-press. That slowly evaporated over the course of the season as it got torched and the Cowboys settled back into mostly man to man; under duress they will switch to a 3-2 zone and perhaps other exotics. If Michigan runs out to a quick lead chances are high that they see an extended zone of some sort.

Irvin's D is going to get a test. "Defensive stopper Zak Irvin" is suddenly a thing and hoo boy does he have an acid test here. 6'6" wing Jeffrey Carroll lights up Kenpom leaderboards; he's a high-usage, high-efficiency wing who has been super accurate (80/59/43 shooting) and does not turn the ball over. He's a handful. Closeouts will be key: he's had all of two unassisted threes this year. He's not going to rise up on you.


EQ RC Blue

March 14th, 2017 at 12:05 PM ^

Unless I'm missing something, hoop-math has us at 20% and OkSt at 32% for transition offense.

Also, the ORB ranking is I believe total number, which is slightly inflated by their pace.  In terms of ORB% they are still a very good but slightly lower 13th I believe.


March 14th, 2017 at 12:16 PM ^

from the discussion on here since the bracket came out, Ok. St. should be playing for a National Championship this year.  I am not trying to jinx anything, but a team who likes to be in a shootout with no post game that wildly charges the offensive glass with reckless abadon and an undersized point guard to get back on D?

Perhaps I am not entirely seeing this matchup correctly but I am not shaking in my boots. 


March 14th, 2017 at 12:25 PM ^

Unfortunately they're that type of team that no one wants to play in the tourney; they are lethal on offense and can beat any given team in a single elimination format if the shots fall.  They're a lot like UM of past down to the lacking defense.  UM should win, but there's a good chance that OSU just lights the nets on fire and UM just can't keep pace.


March 14th, 2017 at 12:31 PM ^

I certainly hope.  I do think the offense will get it's looks.  I think they'll end up with a lot of high percentage twos off the pick and roll with some serious size advantages and/or a lot of open threes.  But hitting those open threes will decide the game.  Both UM's big men can hit it from deep and I don't think they'll be able to afford a low shooting percentage night from either of them and survive.


March 14th, 2017 at 1:00 PM ^

I am usually "worry about a lot of things" guy but for some reason I am sanguine about this game. 

To the board's state of worry, I agree - but this is the Michigan fanbase and we tend to exaggerate every threat.  We diminish our strengths and overamplify other teams.

Kenpom loves him some Big 12, they have a lot of teams in the top 50.  So Ok State is ranked high due to that.  Big 12 has 4 good teams, 4 bad ones, and 2 in the middle of which OKST is one.  7 of their last 10 wins have come against hot garbage...but because they have names like Texas and Oklahoma people are wowed.  They have 1 nice upset win in that "hot streak".  We just did 3 in a row.

"This is a team no one wants to play" - yes also an apt description for UM.

Try to imagine what THEIR fan boards are saying about us while we clutch our pearls. "Damn they have a senior guard who is playing like Shabazz Napier.   Their other senior seems to have found himself the past week.  They are longer than us at every position.  Holy frick  they have 2 legit 6'10 guys who play a ton of minutes and can shoot the lights out.  Did you see the last Ford draft board???  They play at a pace completely foreign to our guys.  Their sniper is 6'7 not 5'11.  I hate giving a coach like Beilein nearly a week to prepare - he has been there done that.  If we go cold from outside we haev zero inside." etc


EQ RC Blue

March 14th, 2017 at 1:06 PM ^

The "team nobody wants to play" thing is somewhat more true for a high seed in my opinion, because in that case you think that you're a better team and will beat them most days but if the lower seed happens to be "on," there might be nothing you can do about it.  If you're a lower seed the confidence over a series of games isn't as true.  Although, if you think Michigan is more like a higher seed this year because they've been playing so well, it might apply.

Also, the TNWTP idea is particularly appropriate to teams that shoot a lot of 3s, I believe.  OkSt shoots plenty (38% of their shots are from 3), but significanly less than us (45%).  If we don't foul and can limit their 3 pt looks, this seems like a team that can be baited into a fair amount of early tough 2s.


March 15th, 2017 at 1:20 AM ^

Didn't look like anyone is thinking that.  The concern is that 1) this is objectively a much better team at 24th in the country than the 37th-44th range we expected to get and 2) this is literally #chaosteam on a basketball court.  2015 IU football wasn't a great team, but their offense was scary as hell, they hung with a lot of good team, they exploited our weaknesses on defense and that game was pure chaos. This has all the makings of something similar.

I Love Lamp

March 14th, 2017 at 12:21 PM ^

And I was going to have them as a potential sweet 16 team based on their position in the bracket. But they are catching a confident Michigan team that's playing lights out. Gonna be a game in the 80s-90s, but I like our chances to move on and play Louisville.


March 14th, 2017 at 12:34 PM ^

I don't think Walton will be tasked with shutting down Evans.  They might put X on him just to make him earn it.  But Michigan hates foul trouble, and trying to stay in front of greased lightning is a great way to rack up bad fouls.  Contest the three, make him go around a big in the paint and let him convert 60% of his FGs untouched (no and-ones).  Then work the other side against the #133 defense.  The last few teams to try to keep pace 3-for-2 didn't fare well.

The key here will be to stay on the kickouts.  Evans will do his damage; if he wants to drive then let him.  If the defense collapses too much and he starts finding Forte or Carroll open we're in a 3-for-3 shootout against the #1 offense in the country.

L'Carpetron Do…

March 14th, 2017 at 1:21 PM ^

From the description of that guy it sounds like MAAR is the best match-up for him.  He's bigger and faster than Walton and plays good on-ball D. As long as he doesn't fall asleep too much off the ball I think they'll be OK.  

Can't wait to see DJ and Moritzki against that smaller line up that wont be nearly as physical as Minnesota-Wisconsin-Purdue.  GO BLUE!


March 14th, 2017 at 12:24 PM ^

Watching opposing bigs have to stretch out and guard Michigan's bigs will be entertaining as long as we can keep winning.  If we can get past this game, I can't wait to watch Louisville's big men attempt to guard the 3pt line lol.


March 14th, 2017 at 12:28 PM ^

I think this game will be decided on the boards and behind the 3 point line.  If Michigan achieves parity or even wins the offensive rebounding battle, they will likely win.  If Michigan can defend the 3 reasonably well in transition, again they will likely win.  I would bet on Michigan laying 90 on this team and if so,  respectable rebounding and 3 point defense should be the difference.

But this team does scare me.  Their helter skelter approach reminds me of Loyola Marymount in 1990 which didn't turn out so well.  But this team should be able to run with anybody offensively and has the improved defense to slow down their 3 point shooters.


March 14th, 2017 at 12:42 PM ^

Expect a massacre there.  Orebs are part of Okie State's identity; they sacrifice transition defense.  Michigan does the opposite.  There's no right answer here, but it's not reasonable to expect a team that goes after offensive boards opportunistically to score that advantage against a team that goes after every loose ball hell for leather.

This will be an efficiency battle.  Okie State targets transition defense but Michigan's isn't weak -- that plays into Michigan's hands.  Michigan eschews offensive rebounds so Okie State has to be salivating at that thought.  It'll come down to which approach fails to keep pace with the other.


March 14th, 2017 at 1:25 PM ^

right about the rebounding but I'm a little more optimistic.  OSU doesn't have as much size as Michigan and doesn't have good post players.  I think Michigan often has the most trouble on the offensive glass when it goes against teams with a solid post presence.  The key will be getting back in transition and fighting hard for loose balls.  If they don't match OSU's energy, then they will be in trouble.


March 14th, 2017 at 4:22 PM ^

are different things.  Minnesota didn't have our height.  But their 6'6 PF killed us for 7 OREBS on Saturday.  Three Ohio State guys 6'6 and under combined for 9 OREBS against us.  Okie State has guards that will force help from our bigs (like Nate Mason from Minn does/did) and with our bigs out of position they'll have free hitters to clean up the boards.

We just need to not lose the rebounding battle too badly.  Badly would be like Ohio State when we allowed 48 percent (!!!) of misses to be rebounded.  Keep it under 35-40 percent and we should be able to more than make up for it in other ways.


March 14th, 2017 at 12:28 PM ^

So what's the game plan?  Is it make Evans win the game for them; make him personally keep up with all of UM's offense?  Reading some stuff from UMHoops, which jives with that video is that the offense is predicated around Evans' dribble drive.  He can make baskets, but then he dishes a lot of open threes and they get offensive boards.  Does UM basically just abandon help defense, cover the perimeter shooters, make sure to box the center out and make Evans do everything himself?  I really think X could help here as he has quickness to match Evans.  Would really like to see a breakdown of OSU vs ISU since ISU looks very similar to UM but not quite as good.  And ISU beat OSU three times this year.


March 14th, 2017 at 12:34 PM ^

I feel better after reading this article. Michigan always seems to blow the doors off pressing teams. Feels like a run out to a 10 point lead before the first break and never look back type of game.


March 14th, 2017 at 12:35 PM ^

penetrators frighten me but that is offset by Beilein and Donlon. Evans has had some inefficient games, I'm guessing against defenses that could slow their offense down.


March 14th, 2017 at 12:41 PM ^

Appreciate the good insight not just on this post but on all basketball content...catching some of the OK St blogs, they are still using PPG as a barometer of team efficiency.   Our defense is not stingy because we give up 65.5 points per game (35th nationally).


March 14th, 2017 at 12:59 PM ^

I watched that OSU Kansas game and live and remember some thoughts I had at the time.

Evans is ridiculously quick, he can blow buy a guy one-on-one and either get to them rim or force help from the wing and get the ball to an open 3 point shooter. That's going to be the scariest part of their offense and the hardest to defend.

They also have plenty of supporting scorers. Carrol, Hammonds and Dillard can all shoot it and will shoot it with any daylight. Perimeter defenders are going to have to be in their face all game and close out well.

They had their most success early when Kansas had a two big lineup in. When that happened the big playing the 4 for Kansas was generally gravitating towards the paint and his man would go towards the 3 point line. They'd get it to him often and almost every time he'd take it immediately before the close out came. Michigan is either going to have to play one big at a time or hope Wilson/Wagner can hang on the perimeter, which after watching the Wisconsin game I think they can.

On the other end OSU's big looked incredibly uncomfortable defending the perimeter. Part of that was him hanging back since Landon Lucas isn't a perimeter guy, but Carlton Bragg had and hit some pull-up mid range jumpers because he had a lot of space to work with. I think that's a major area we can exploit on Friday.



March 15th, 2017 at 1:18 AM ^

I do expect to see a decent amount of "small-ball" lineups from us with DJ at center.  We were very good against Purdue and Wisconsin with Duncan in for Wagner, but this OSU team is so small, we could go with the two PG lineup, MAAR/Duncan at 3, Irvin at 4 and DJ at 5 and have a really good perimeter defense with DJ protecting the rim.

That lineup gives us the best chance of staying in front of Evans, which you have to be able to do if you don't want to help off shooters or give up piles of OREBs.


March 14th, 2017 at 1:24 PM ^

I feel like Iowa state is Michigan's closest analogue in the big 12 and they beat osu three times.  Get Simmons in foul trouble and we should be good.  Dribble penetration scares the crap out of me, Nate Mason killed us and this guy is better and sorrounded by better 3 point shooters that makes help defense.  Think to avoid fould trouble maybe take advantage of OSU having a short shooting guard and put Rahk on Evans and hope his length bothers him at the shots around the rim. 


March 14th, 2017 at 1:38 PM ^

I think the whole game will be making Evans ineffecient on the offensive end.  like reduce amout of assists he can dish by covering the perimeter, don't let him dish for dunks at the basket.  Seems like he's the only one who can even go get his own shot.  So make him get it.  I mean, even if he does drive and put of crazy layups and floaters in the lane, as long as he's the only one getting anything of their end, I don't see him single handedly beating UM's offense against that OSU defense.  Provided UM actually hits their open shots.


March 14th, 2017 at 2:21 PM ^

He doesnt play for every minute every game and that number is just normalized over a game length of 40 minutes. So could be 4 fouls in ~22mins of playing time per game. Aka he fouls out or gets in foul trouble quickly limiting his playing time.

Trader Jack

March 14th, 2017 at 2:22 PM ^

The Big 12 passed a new ordinance shortly before the season started specifically for that guy wherein he is permitted to commit up to 10 fouls per game before he is disqualified. It's called the Solomon Rule. Really unfair and will be difficult for Michigan to overcome.


March 14th, 2017 at 4:39 PM ^

reads like a wild style of basketball games they play in Stillwater. Michigan's stubbornness on offense to controlling the game and their defensive improvement and four day's of planning should bring victory. I'm confident. Go Blue beat the Cowboys!!!


March 14th, 2017 at 6:53 PM ^

They are short. Man, are they short. Tallest dude is 6'9"? So... Duncan is 6'9". Who is going to close out on him on 3's? Man, with DJ comfortable guarding a 4 on the arc, I don't see these guys getting near their average on 3PA.