By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com - @anthonyVslater
Oklahoma State plays Baylor tonight in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tourney (Tip at 8:30 on Big 12 Network). Here’s three things to watch:
Seems like, all week, we’ve heard why Baylor is one of the tougher matchups for Oklahoma State in the Big 12. And in some ways, that sentiment has merit. The Cowboys struggle with talented big men and BU has a skilled 7-footer (Isaiah Austin) who’s a likely lottery pick. But conversely, OSU’s backcourt is an athletic nightmare for Baylor’s undersized guards. Just look at the cross-matches in the starting lineup:
-5-foot-10 Pierre Jackson on 6-foot-4 Marcus Smart (speed v bulk)
-6-foot-2 Brady Heslip on 6-foot-4 Markel Brown (wonder what the difference in their verticals is)
-6-foot-1 A.J. Walton on 6-foot-7 Le’Bryan Nash (gives up half a foot and nearly 50 pounds)
Scott Drew will likely run a zone most of the game, negating a bit of that size issue. But OSU should find a way to get some isolations and attack. I’d expect plenty of Le’Bryan Nash and Marcus Smart post feeds. It’s the Cowboys biggest advantage.
Here’s your stat to watch: Oklahoma State is 15-0 this season when outrebounding its opponent and only 8-7 when it loses that battle. Coincidence? Doubtful. Definitely something to keep an eye on tonight.
You’d have to assume Baylor will come out fired up. Scott Drew receives plenty of criticism for his poor in-game strategy. But the Bears don’t need a better coach to tell them they’re playing for their NCAA tournament lives. BU is a clear bubble team (18-13 overall, with losses to Texas, Charlston and Northwestern) and it’ll likely burst with a loss to OSU. So if Pierre Jackson, already feeling spurned from his All-Big 12 second team selection, doesn’t want to end his career in the NIT, he better drag along his fired up team. Question is, can the Cowboys (already an NCAA lock) match that energy?
Pierre Jackson led the Big 12 in points and assists (the first player in a power-6 conference to do so since Jason Terry in 1998-99), yet was held off the conference’s First Team. And he didn’t seem to agree with the decision (check the tweets below from some immediate aftermath). Tonight, he gets a chance to make his snub case to voters, matching up with OSU point guard Marcus Smart, who won Big 12 Freshman and Player of the Year.