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Breaking Down the Styles of Play for Potential OSU Coaching Candidates in the NCAA Tournament

Breaking down how teams with potential OSU coaching candidates will try to play this weekend.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

The NCAA Tournament tips off Tuesday night with a pair of first four games in Dayton.

That leads into this weekend, which is one of the best weekends of the year in American sports. For the third straight year, Oklahoma State fans will watch the NCAA Tournament from the sideline, but there could be some rooting interests at play for Cowboys’ fans.

With Mike Boynton getting the ax last week, the Cowboys are in search of a coach as the Tournament gets underway. With a variety of potential candidates prepping to take the floor this weekend, I thought it would be fun to dive into the differing styles of play each will bring. So, here is a look at the areas that got these teams and coaches to this point, as well as info on how to watch each coach’s first round game. Special shoutout to KenPom for making this much easier than it would’ve been otherwise.

Darian DeVries, Drake

Seed: 10 in the East
First Round: 
vs. Washington State at 9:05 p.m. Thursday (TruTV)

What stands out: Drake ranks No. 1 nationally in offensive rebound percentage allowed — AKA, the Bulldogs oftentimes allow teams just one opportunity. That’s a stat the Cowboys ranked middle of the road in this season.

Most of Drake’s defensive statistics are average, but limiting teams to one bite at the cherry can cover some defensive deficiencies.

Offensively, Drake is solid in most categories. The Bulldogs rank in the top 40 nationally in the following stats:

Effective field-goal percentage — 54.9% (27th)
Turnover percentage — 13.9% (14th)
3-point percentage — 36.5% (40th)
2-point percentage — 55.1% (25th)
Free-throw percentage — 76.3% (36th)

The free-throw percentage will likely stand out most to OSU fans. The Cowboys shot 69.7% from the line — the 277th-best percentage in the country.

Bryce Drew, Grand Canyon

Seed: 12 in the West
First Round: 
vs. Saint Mary’s at 9:05 p.m. Friday (TruTV)

What stands out: Drew’s Antelopes are just a solid all-around team.

It’s a team that likes to get to the foul line, as GCU ranks fifth nationally in free-throw rate and scores 24.7% of its points from the stripe, which also ranks fifth nationally.

Defensively, GCU defends the rim well — an area OSU struggled with mightily this year.  The Antelopes rank 10th nationally in effective field-goal percentage defense, 10th nationally in 2-point percentage defense and 23rd nationally in block rate.

GCU will get tested with better competition in the tourney, but defending the rim and getting to the foul line is how the Antelopes got here.

Pat Kelsey, Charleston

Seed: 13 in the West
First Round: 
vs. Alabama at 6:35 p.m. Friday (TruTV)

What stands out: Kelsey’s Cougars value the basketball.

Charleston ranks 30th nationally in turnover percentage and seventh nationally in non-steal turnover percentage. OSU ranks 292nd in turnover percentage and 116th in non-steal turnover percentage, by comparison.

The Cougars also put a lot of belief in the 3-point shot. Charleston shoots 30.6 3-pointers a game, the third-most in the country. The Cougars shoot 34.8% from 3, which is sightly above average, but they play the analytics game by taking so many. Three-point baskets account for 39.5% of Charleston’s points.

Richard Pitino, New Mexico

Seed: 11 in the West
First Round: 
vs. Clemson at 2:10 p.m. Friday (TruTV)

What stands out: Like Kelsey’s Cougars, Pitino’s Lobos value the rock, but unlike Charleston, New Mexico prefers the 2 to the 3.

The Lobos rank 15th nationally in turnover percentage and 13th in non-steal turnover percentage.

New Mexico scores 57.4% of his points off 2-point shots, which is an outlier here in 2024, ranking 18th nationally.

The Lobos also play solid defense, ranking 23rd nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. They defend the 3 well and rank in the top 30 nationally in block percentage and steal percentage.

Dusty May, FAU

Seed: 8 in the East
First Round: 
vs. Northwestern at 11:15 a.m. Friday (CBS)

What stands out: May’s Owls rank 17th nationally in 2-point field-goal percentage, meaning a lot of FAU’s makes come at the rim.

This team isn’t as good defensively as May’s squad from last season, however. Last year, the Owls finished 35th in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom. This year, FAU enters the Tournament ranking 109th in the stat.

But the Owls’ offense has taken a step forward thanks in large part to that 2-point field-goal percentage going up. Last season, 37.2% of FAU’s points come from 3s and 46.4% came from 2s. FAU is getting 30.7% of its points from 3 this season, and 50.7% are coming from 2s.

That increased attention at the rim has also seen FAU’s free throws go up.

Danny Sprinkle, Utah State

Seed: 8 in the Midwest
First Round: 
vs. TCU at 8:55 p.m. Friday (TBS)

What stands out: Sprinkle has the Aggies as an 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament despite Utah State shooting just 32.1% from 3 this season.

How is that possible? Well, it starts by holding the Aggies’ opponents to even worse shooting at 29% from 3.

Then, offensively, the Aggies are shooting 57.1% from 2, which is 12th-best in the country. A big part of how they’re doing that is just 5.9% of their shots are getting blocked.

Will Wade, McNeese

Seed: 12 in the Midwest
First Round: 
vs. Gonzaga at 6:25 p.m. Thursday (TBS)

What stands out: Two words: De-fence.

The other Cowboys turn teams over at a high clip, ranking sixth nationally in defensive turnover percentage and sixth nationally in steal percentage.

The strangest part about this team is it shoots just 19.7 3s a game, which ranks 263rd nationally. But the Cowboys have hit 38.8% of their 3s, which ranks eighth nationally.

McNeese makes up for that low volume of 3-point shots by taking care of the ball and getting to the foul line at a high clip — though Wade’s squad ranks 286th nationally in free-throw percentage.

Bucky McMillan, Samford

Seed: 13 in the Midwest
First Round: 
vs. Kansas at 8:55 p.m. Thursday (TBS)

What stands out: I included McMillan on this list mainly so I could dive into what is referred to as “Bucky Ball.”

It’s a high-octane style of play that has seen Samford rank sixth nationally in average possession length and 14th nationally in adjusted tempo.

Defensively, Samford forces turnovers, ranking 16th nationally in turnover percentage and 10th in steal percentage.

Defense then leads to offense, as the Bulldogs rank seventh nationally in effective field-goal percentage, ranking in the top 20 in 3-point percentage and 2-point percentage.

Playing with that sort of pace means McMillan relies on his bench. The Bulldogs rank third nationally in bench minutes at 44.8%.

Chris Jans, Mississippi State

Seed: 8 in the West
First Round: 
vs. Michigan State at 11:15 a.m. Thursday (CBS)

What stands out: Does OSU have a shot at swiping Jans from the Bulldogs? I’m not sure, but among current Power Five coaches, Jans seems like a solid fit.

He is 2-for-2 at putting the Bulldogs in the tourney after leading New Mexico State to the Tournament three times in five seasons.

The Bulldogs play solid defense and crash the offensive glass.

Playing in a tough SEC, Mississippi State ranks 20th nationally in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency. The Bulldogs run teams off the 3-point line, ranking sixth nationally in 3-point percentage defense.

There are some similarities there of teams of OSU’s past — defensive-minded teams that sort of struggle shooting the ball. The Bulldogs have a worse 3-point percentage (32.5%) than OSU had this season, and Mississippi State is worse from the foul line (67.2%).

It’s a team that is going to defend, crash the glass and go from there.

Mark Byington, James Madison

Seed: 12 in the South
First Round: 
vs. Wisconsin at 8:40 p.m. Friday (CBS)

What stands out: Byington’s Dukes have the nation’s longest winning streak at 13 games. There aren’t a ton of standout stats. James Madison is moreso just solid everywhere.

The thing that stands out the most is the fact that teams are shooting just 28.6% from 3 against JMU, the second-best 3-point defense in the country.

Aside from that, the Dukes are good to above average almost everywhere.

Buzz Williams, Texas A&M

Seed: 9 in the South
First Round: 
vs. Nebraska at 5:50 p.m. Friday (TNT)

What stands out: I’m including Williams because he was mentioned in that initial ESPN story upon Boynton’s dismissal.

Williams led Marquette to five tournaments in six seasons, Virginia Tech to three tournaments in five seasons and now has A&M in back-to-back tournaments since taking over in 2019.

Williams’ 2023-24 Aggies have struggled to throw a rock on the ground at points this season, ranking 345th nationally in effective field-goal percentage and 353rd in 3-point percentage. But they still rank 31st in adjusted offensive efficiency thanks in large part to crashing the glass.

A&M is No. 1 in the country in offensive rebound percentage — more than two percentage points higher than second-place Towson.

Niko Medved, Colorado State

Seed: 10 in the Midwest
First Round:
First Four vs. Virginia at 8:10 p.m. Tuesday (TruTV)

What stands out: Colorado State was in the fight in a stacked Mountain West this season, but the Rams were rewarded with a First Four game.

Medved’s Rams are solid on both sides of the ball, but what stands out most is that Colorado State ranks second nationally in assist per made field goal. They also rank in the top 10 in 2-point field-goal percentage.

CSU ranks in the top 50 nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency and adjusted defensive efficiency. It’s just solid basketball.

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