Campus Corner

Quick scout: Why it's hard to figure out Oklahoma State's defense

Before every KU men’s basketball game, The Star’s Jesse Newell previews the Jayhawks’ upcoming opponent with a scouting report and prediction.

Saturday's game: No. 6 Kansas at Oklahoma State, 3 p.m., Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stillwater, Okla.


Opponent’s record: 17-13

KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 61

Point spread: KU by 4 1/2.

All statistics from, and Synergy Sports Technology. KenPom stats also only include Division I competition.

3 Strengths

Offensive rebounding: Oklahoma State ranks 39th in O-board percentage, and the team also had success with this in Lawrence, grabbing 47 percent of its misses in an 84-79 victory over KU on Feb. 3.

Defensive pressure: The Cowboys rank fourth in Big 12 play in both defensive turnover percentage and steal rate.

Rim protection: Oklahoma State is 64th nationally in two-point percentage defense and 90th in block rate. The team has been especially effective limiting opponents' accuracy at the rim.

3 Weaknesses

Defensive rebounding: The Cowboys rank 282nd nationally in D-board percentage, though that might not be a bad weakness against this KU team, which doesn't attack the offensive glass much.

Getting easy shots: Oklahoma State ranks 301st in percentage of shots at the rim, meaning it will be more reliant on jump-shooting than most teams.

Transition defense: The Cowboys allow more transition opportunities than an average defense, and they're right around average when it comes to shooting percentage allowed on fast breaks. This obviously is an area KU can exploit ... if the Jayhawks can secure the rebound needed to end defensive possessions.

3 Players to Watch

6-foot-6 guard/forward Jeffrey Carroll (No. 30)

Carroll_Jeffrey (1).jpeg
Jeffrey Carroll

Plus: Takes on large offensive role

Plus: One of team's best at getting to rim on drives

Plus: Gets fouled a decent amount and is 77 percent shooter at line

Plus: Synergy's logs list him as "very good" defender

Minus: Just a 32-percent three-point shooter this year after making 44 percent last season

Minus: Doesn't create often for teammates

6-foot-3 guard Kendall Smith (No. 1)

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Kendall Smith

Plus: Had season-high 24 points in first game against KU

Plus: High-volume shooter

Plus: Good passer

Plus: Strong three-point shooter

Minus: Overall inefficient offensive player

Minus: Settles for too many mid-range jumpers

6-foot-7 forward Cameron McGriff (No. 12)

Cameron McGriff

Plus: Was Oklahoma State's best player in earlier game with KU; posted 20 points and nine rebounds

Plus: Great on the offensive glass

Plus: Gets fouled often and is 87 percent free-throw shooter

Plus: Above-average at rim and in mid-range

Minus: Poor defender who especially struggles in post-up situations

Minus: Can be turnover prone


Oklahoma State has one crazy defensive stat that's hard to explain.

In Big 12 play, the Cowboys' opponents have made 41 percent of their threes, and that's despite the fact Oklahoma State's defense has done a better-than-average job running teams off the three-point line.

Synergy's numbers are even more confusing. Oklahoma State has allowed more points per possession on "guarded" spot-up jumpers this season (1.10) than "unguarded" ones (1.01). That sure seems fluky and might indicate the Cowboys defense is better than appearances.

I've written before how defenses typically don't have much control over their three-point percentage allowed. Oklahoma State has been killed defensively by teams making long-range shots, yet logic would tell us this is more likely to be a string of bad luck than it is an extended stretch of bad play.

Playing KU only further complicates things. The Jayhawks are one of the nation's best at making threes, so even allowing small creases could be costly for Oklahoma State on Saturday.

This still seems, to me, like a tough matchup for KU. The Cowboys' strength (offensive rebounding) matches up with KU's weakness, while its weakness (defensive rebounding) isn't likely to be exploited.

Oklahoma State hasn't shot it great from three this season, but as the earlier KU game illustrated, that doesn't mean as much in a one-game sample. If the Cowboys can get back in transition like they did in the first matchup, I like their chances to keep this close.

Kansas 81, Oklahoma State 80

Jesse’s pick to cover spread: Oklahoma State

Hawk to Rock

For the second straight game, Udoka Azubuike has a promising matchup. Oklahoma State doesn't have a good defensive fit for him in its standard rotation, and the big man also will have ample opportunity for second-chance points against defenders who lack his strength. Look for Azubuike to lead in KU scoring just like he did last game against Texas.

Last game prediction: Kansas 70, Texas 65 (Actual: KU 80-70)

2017-18 record vs. spread: 14-15

Last four seasons’ record vs. spread: 72-58-3