First and foremost, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! The Oklahoma Men's Basketball Team is out in Anaheim for the 76 Classic. In the first round, the Oklahoma Sooners will be matched up against the Washington St. Cougars. SBN Blog's Coug Center and Craig Powers were kind enough to exchange a Q&A looking into the team and what we should expect.
CCM - Oklahoma was not able to defend the perimeter very well last year and often found themselves down early under Jeff Capel. Now Lon Kruger has the reigns and is pushing players conditioning wise to keep up with his face paced style. Is WSU a solid 3-point shooting team and will they try to take advantage of what might be a weakness in the Sooner defense?
CC - WSU has a few streaky outside shooters that can score in bunches in Reggie Moore and Faisal Aden. Moore is much more selective with his outside shot, and is generally looking to drive, but he can bury a three if given the chance. Aden will shoot anything, and against teams that aren't from the Big Sky conference, he usually has a tough time getting open.Freshman Davonte Lacy has range and has come out of the gate shooting the ball very well. Michael Ladd is a transfer from Fresno State he will knock down an open three, but like Aden, often forces bad shots. Big man Brock Motum will occasionally step out and knock down the three-ball. Lucky for OU is that senior guard Marcus Capers plays a lot of minutes because he might be the only even decent on-ball defender WSU has, but he will not shoot a three and has trouble with any shot outside of a dunk.If you give some of the our guys open looks, then they do have the potential to make you pay. However, for many of them just a little pressure on the outside may cause a forced shot.
CCM - OU has seemed to find a perimeter shooting game that is balanced. There is no overwhelming amount of shots being taken from beyond the arc but rather guards are driving into the lane to create contact. How good of a perimeter and close out defense does WSU have or will the Sooner guards have their way with the defenders?
CC - I'm not sure if many of your fans saw it, but Gonzaga's Kevin Pangos opened up ESPN's 25-hour tip-off marathon by knocking down 9 of 13 three-point attempts, many of which were wide-open looks with his feet set. The Cougs were very poor at closing out on shooters in that game and the next against Sacramento State. They made it a point of emphasis against theUniversity of Portland and did a much better job.The team played mostly zone last year and did pretty well on defense. This year, there is not an anchor holding down the middle, and it seems that Bone actually would prefer to play man, as the team mostly has since opening in a zone against Gonzaga.A lack of good on-ball defenders at the guard position is making it tough, and I suspect you might see more three-point attempts on the part of WSU's opponents as the season goes along and the Cougars try their best to keep teams out of the lane.I guess that is all a round-about way of me saying that Sooner guards probably will have their way with WSU's guards on the perimeter. Aden and Moore just aren't good defenders (Aden will get a few steals because he gambles on every single play) and Capers isn't laterally quick. Capers mostly uses his length to recover and bother shots. Lacy and Ladd still have work to do on the defensive end as well.
CCM - One thing Kruger has preached is rebounding. Oklahoma is still under sized without Casey Arent on the floor but continues to crash the boards successfully against lesser opponents. Will the Cougs be able to take advantage of the smaller bigs not only on offense but defense as well?
CC - No, WSU will not be able to take advantage of smaller bigs in the rebounding battle. I wrote about this after the Portland game, but this team (which was not a good rebounding team a year ago) doesn't have their top three defensive rebounders from last season. Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto left early, and senior forward Abe Lodwick is out with a broken foot. Brock Motum has improved some, but the rest of team isn't picking up the slack. Portland dominated the glass on both ends of the floor in WSU's last game, and I'm sure that Oklahoma is not an undersized as they are.
CCM - Sam Grooms is possibly the fastest player in the Big XII with the ball in his hands. Do the Cougs have an answer for what he brings to the table?
CC - I think you can probably infer the answer to this question based on my previous responses, but I'll go ahead and answer you with another 'No.'WSU has been awful in getting back on defense this season. Whether it be off a made or a missed basket, the opposition has frequently found themselves with advantages in transition. A fast guard like Sam Grooms is just the type of player that can exploit that.
CCM - Oklahoma will try to create some mismatches by throwing a Forward, usually Tyler Neal and Romero Osby on the outside in what is essentially a 4-Guard set. Who from WSU will guard these kind of players knowing they will play inside and out from time to time?
CC - I want to say that guy would be Marcus Capers, because he is a very athletic 6-4 guard, but he will likely be placed on Grooms or one of the off-guards. D.J. Shelton is a reserve forward who is athletic, but seems very raw and might have trouble with the dual responsibility. Brock Motum is a possibility, as he plays the four to start the game.Basically, this is just another question where you have me a little scared to play you guys. I'm not completely sure who WSU has on the roster to defend a guard-forward combination.However, Bone is a pretty adaptable coach. You might see him throw out his own sort of "four-guard" set with Moore, Ladd, Lacy, Motum, and either Will Dilorio or Marcus Capers. For your sake, you should hope Diliorio is in there. He is a walk-on who has seen some extended minutes at the four this season. He is 6-5, scrawny, and can't rebound. If in the game, he'd probably be on the G/F combo player, since he technically that himself.
CCM - What kind of style of basketball does WSU and Ken Bone employ?
CC - Bone is likely trying to move this team to a more up-tempo style where they shoot a high volume of three-pointers. The problem is there are still a few holdovers from the Bennett era that were recruited to play a slow-down, defense-above-all-else style (see Marcus Capers). They will definitely take advantage of a break, and push when it is available. They will also run a lot of high-lows because Brock Motum is an excellent passer at the 4/5. He will get a lot of touches in half-court sets. WSU will also shoot an above-average amount of three-point shots.On defense you will see a mixture of things, but man for the most part. WSU's guards will take a few chances to try to get steals and make up for some of their on-ball shortcomings. The Cougs have also mixed in a half-court trap this season that they employ for short periods of time.
To see more on the Washington St. Cougars jump on over to the Coug Center for all your info.