The Oklahoma State Cowboys are preparing to open the 2021-22 men’s basketball season against UT Arlington on Nov. 9. Here are some key points to consider as the season begins.
Life without Cade
Cade Cunningham finally made his NBA debut with the Detroit Pistons at the end of October. But he still casts a pretty hefty shadow at Oklahoma State, even though he was there just one season.
That shadow will eventually recede, and basketball fans will see that the Cowboys were far more than Cunningham last season. His presence on the Cowboys’ roster helped accelerated the development of players like Avery Anderson III, Rondel Walker and Matthew Alexander-Moncrieffe, all of whom should have a big impact on the Cowboys.
“I don’t know if we’ll be better than last year’s team,” Oklahoma State head coach Mike Boynton Jr. said. “If you just look at the talent, we do not have the No. 1 pick on our team anymore, but we have some other guys that will have another chance to maybe make it at that level of basketball. When you have multiple guys like that, you get your guys to buy into each other, it gives you a chance.”
High on Alexander-Moncrieffe
Boynton spoke to Jon Rothstein on the College Hoops Today podcast during the offseason and revealed that Alexander-Moncrieffe would probably see some time at the point guard position. This isn’t to lessen what Isaac Likekele brings to the equation. It’s more of an acknowledgement that Alexander-Moncrieffe’s skill set grew in leaps last season, and like did so again in the summer.
Alexander-Moncrieffe averaged 9.0 points and 5.3 rebounds last season as he slipped in and out of the starting lineup. At 6-foot-7, he’s more of the sleek wing that Cunningham was a year ago, when he handled the ball more often. He was a 51.3 percent shooter last year, too. If Alexander-Moncrieffe does handle the ball more, that allows more of the offense to flow through the Canadian. It also means his scoring average and assist average should see a boost.
The Cowboys didn’t have a recruiting class and didn’t take in much of a transfer portal class, but one transfer stood out — Bryce Thompson.
The Tulsa, Oklahoma, native was a McDonald’s All-American at Booker T. Washington High School and was heavily recruited by Oklahoma State before he went to Kansas. He spent one year with the Jayhawks, and while he played, he only started four games. After the season, Thompson decided to transfer.
So, Boynton took another shot, and this time he landed him. His only concern? Most of his sophomores were part of Thompson’s recruiting class and knew just how HARD Boynton pursued Thompson.
So far, that hasn’t been an issue.
“I think some of his reluctance was whether he would be accepted because we recruited him so hard with the current players on our team, with a lot of them coming back,” Boynton said. “But those guys, to their credit, they just want guys to be all in. Bryce has been all in since he’s been back. He’s a really good scorer, but more importantly he’s a great kid who works really hard and cares about winning.”
Thompson figures to be a significant part of the Cowboys’ rotation this season. He averaged 17 minutes per game for KU last season.
The Cowboys’ strength
Cunningham’s departure is going to be a narrative early this season. But senior Isaac Likekele, who has more tenure than anyone this team, says the Cowboys aren’t changing the way they play. The Cowboys played at a pace that made them the second-highest scoring team in the Big 12 last season (2,297) behind only Baylor. Because these Cowboys are so versatile, Likekele says they can keep up that pace, and maybe even push it a bit faster.
“We look to do this exact same thing,” Likekele said. “We’ve added another athletic side blocker. We have a lot more depth. We don’t plan on people getting used to seeing the same guys, every night. Any guy, From one to 15, can go for 20 points any night, so there’s different things that we can do. There’s a lot of depth.”
Interior Defense Talk
One area the Cowboys wanted to improve was its interior defense. Now, the Cowboys were actually one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the Big 12. Plus, they led the league in blocked shots per game. But, Likekele and Cunningham were the Cowboys’ leading rebounders. And, Kalib Boone was the leading shot blocker. Behind him? Cunningham, of course.
Fortunately, the Cowboys addressed that in the offseason. First, they took in athletic Texas Tech forward Tyreek Smith. He only averaged 2.4 rebounds last season. But he had 21 blocked shots, a team-high. Later in the summer, the Cowboys snagged Moussa Cisse, who was the American Athletic Conference Newcomer of the Year in 2020-21 after leading Memphis with 6.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game.
Between Boone, Smith and Cisse, the Cowboys should have stable defense and rebounding in the paint.
Heartland College Sports Big 12 Basketball Preview
Top 25 Returning Players: No. 25 Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua| No. 24 Christian Braun | No. 23 Rondel Walker | No. 22 Umoja Gibson | No. 21 Matthew Alexander-Moncrieffe | No. 20 Nijel Pack | No. 19: Marcus Santos-Silva | No. 18 Mike McGuirl| No. 17 Jalen Bridges | No. 16 Kalib Boone | No. 15 Kevin McCullar | No. 14 Isaac Likekele | No. 13 Adam Flagler | No. 12 Jalen Coleman-Lands | No. 11 Sean McNeil | No. 10 Taz Sherman | No. 9 Matthew Mayer | No. 8 Jalen Wilson | No. 7 Courtney Ramey | No. 6 Mike Miles | No. 5 Avery Anderson III | No. 4 David McCormack | No. 3 Terrence Shannon Jr. | No. 2 Ochai Agbaji | No. 1 Andrew Jones
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.
2021-22 Oklahoma State Schedule
(all times central)
Nov. 9 UT Arlington, 7 p.m.
Nov. 12 Oakland, 7 p.m.
Nov. 14 Prairie View A&M, 2 p.m.
Nov. 16 vs. UMass-Lowell, 4 [email protected]
Nov. 17 NC State, 7 [email protected]
Nov. 22 Charleston, 7 p.m.
Nov. 26 at Oral Roberts, 3 p.m.
Dec. 1 Wichita State, 7 p.m.
Dec. 5 Xavier, 4 p.m.-#
Dec. 13 Cleveland State, 7 p.m.
Dec. 18 vs. Houston, 6 p.m.-$
Dec. 21 vs. USC, 8 p.m.-%
Dec. 28 Alabama State, TBA
Jan. 1 at Texas Tech*, 3 p.m.
Jan. 4 Kansas*, 8 p.m.
Jan. 8 Texas*, 1 p.m.
Jan. 11 at West Virginia*, 8 p.m.
Jan. 15 at Baylor*, TBA
Jan. 19 TCU*, 7 p.m.
Jan. 22 at Texas*, 1 p.m.
Jan. 26 Iowa State*, 7 p.m.
Jan. 29 at Florida, 3 p.m.-&
Feb. 2 at Kansas State*, 8 p.m.
Feb. 5 Oklahoma*, TBA
Feb. 8 at TCU*, 6 p.m.
Feb. 12 West Virginia*, 1 p.m.
Feb. 14 at Kansas*, 8 p.m.
Feb. 19 Kansas State*, 1 p.m.
Feb. 21 Baylor*, 8 p.m.
Feb. 26 at Oklahoma*, 11 a.m.
March 2 at Iowa State*, 6 p.m.
March 5 Texas Tech*, 2 p.m.
March 9-12 Big 12 Tournament, Kansas City, Missouri
@-Basketball Hall of Fame Showcase, Uncasville, Connecticut; #-Big East/Big 12 Battle; $-Hoop Hype XL College Basketball Showcase, Fort Worth, Texas; %-Compete 4 Cause Classic, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; &-Big 12/SEC Challenge; *-Big 12 games.