Ten games through the 2021-2022 college basketball season, Mike Boynton’s Oklahoma State squad holds a 7-3 record with two more games until conference play begins. A respectable record for sure, but Boynton along with Cowboy fans would tell you that the team has looked somewhat disappointing thus far, even in wins.
The Pokes have squeaked out wins against foes such as Central Oklahoma, Oral Roberts, and Cleveland State, three teams OSU should realistically dominate, and have taken losses to Oakland, Wichita State, and Xavier, the Oakland loss being the most puzzling of the three. With how much talent the Cowboys possess, why are they struggling with inferior teams? And with Big 12 play starting soon, what needs to change for Oklahoma State to be competitive in the gauntlet that is the Big 12?
From what I’ve gathered by watching the Cowboys through ten games, there are multiple factors that are contributing to the team’s lackluster first third of the season. Factors that all must be addressed if the Pokes want to avoid being one of the bottom feeders of the conference.
Struggles Against Zone Defense
Opposing coaches are beginning to catch onto one of Oklahoma State’s most glaring weaknesses, that being that they struggle mightily when faced with a zone defense. Every team that has beaten the Cowboys this season has switched to zone at some point in the game and has resulted in scoring droughts for Mike Boynton’s offense.
OSU fares much better against man defense, as the guards can work the pick and roll and find bigs like Kalib Boone or Mousa Cisse rolling to the basket for an alley-oop dunk or an opportunity to go to the free-throw line. It also gives guys more freedom to move without the ball and cut to the basket.
Boynton needs to draw up a better game plan against the zone before every opponent on the schedule looks at the film and copies what teams are doing. If the Pokes cannot learn to score against the zone, we’re in for a very long season.
Relying On Individual Performances
The Cowboys lost Cade Cunningham to the NBA, who last season was able to single-handedly take over games and in some instances will OSU to wins. Without the No. 1 pick, Oklahoma State does not have that star to turn to that can go get a bucket when it is needed.
Also, as previously mentioned, the Cowboys struggle when faced with zone defenses, failing to generate an effective offense and routinely passing the ball around the perimeter until the shot clock runs out, at which point they are forced to chuck up a bad or contested shot.
Because of this, any offensive success Oklahoma State can muster up is solely based on individual performances, such as Bryce Williams having to make five threes in an overtime win over Cleveland State. Or Avery Anderson and Bryce Thompson having to make smothered tough shots.
In short, Oklahoma State’s offense needs to develop an identity, and it needs to happen sooner rather than later.
I’ll toss you some interesting stats about Oklahoma State’s three-point shooting in losses this season. 17.6% against Oakland, 28.6% against Wichita State, and 26.9% against Xavier.
It hasn’t been much better in OSU’s wins. In an overtime win at Oral Roberts, Oklahoma State shot an abysmal 2-16 (12.5%) from three, with both makes coming in the first half, and against N.C. State, they shot 2-13 (15.4%), with Rondel Walker knocking down both off the bench.
On the year, the Cowboys are shooting 29.7% from three, which is tied 291st in the country. I don’t have to say very much about this. Plain and simple, OSU needs to shoot better if they want a chance against upcoming Big 12 opponents.