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Four on Four

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Photo Attribution:KT King

Again, big thanks to John Helsley, Jimmie Tramel, and Anthony Slater for joining me to answer some lingering questions about OSU hoops. In case you missed it last time they came on, this is what transpired.

1. Are we watching Markel Brown make “the leap” to All-Big 12 status?

John Helsley (Oklahoman) – I don’t know about All-Big 12 for this year, but Markel is definitely looking like he’s figuring things out. He’s impacting games in several ways, all built around his freakish athletic skills. But he’s not just a dunker. He can do a lot of things, including defend. Maybe with a continued strong finish to this season, he’ll get some all-conference recognition. For now, I’ll tab him for next season’s All-Big 12 squad.

Jimmie Tramel (Tulsa World) – I think Markel is putting himself in position to be an All-Big 12 contender in his junior season, but this season is too far along for him to make a decent run at all-league honors. Having voted for All-Big 12 teams in the past, I typically check stat leaders in major categories (points, rebounds, assists) to see who has the best body of work and, all things being equal, you go with the player whose team is having success. Markel has scored 49 points in his last two games, but that boosted his scoring average for the season to “only” 10.0 points. My guess is voters won’t think to put Brown on their “players to consider” list because he is the league’s 27th-leading scorer. The line in front of him is too long. But I like his chances for being on the All-Big 12 defensive team.

Anthony Slater (O’Colly) – If Brown keeps this up, he will probably fill some preseason All-Big 12 ballots next year. Nationally, he burst onto the scene with his high-flying dunks. But that’s not what has been impressive. We’ve known about the freakish athleticism all along. It’s his floor game which has improved so much this season and Travis Ford alluded to it the other day. As a freshman, Brown sole contributions came from his athleticism and unparalleled leaping ability. Now, that attribute is more of a bonus, paired with leadership, great defense, solid vision and a smart basketball IQ.

Kyle Porter (Pistols Firing) – I’ll go ahead and say he makes third team this year (and with a few more 25-point outings, he will) and line him up for second team next year. He’s making some kind of pun-unintended leap right now and it’s a joy to watch things start clicking for him.

2. Better chance of another upset at home: Baylor or Kansas?

John Helsley (Oklahoman) – Wow, tough one. The Bears just don’t win in Gallagher-Iba, especially under Scott Drew. But I’m going to say there’s a better shot against KU, because Philip Jurick should be back to help inside. The Cowboys will be seriously challenged by Baylor’s length. And being without Jurick only heightens the challenge. KU has Thomas Robinson, the league’s best big man, but the Jayhawks aren’t very deep, serving somewhat as an equalizer.

Jimmie Tramel (Tulsa World) – Baylor. Psychologically, there’s no way the Bears can bring their A-game when facing a team they beat by 41 points earlier this season. I think the game is competitive this time, but I’m not climbing all the way out on the upset limb.

Anthony Slater (O’Colly) – At home, OSU has a chance in every game. The Cowboys get up in Gallagher-Iba, no matter the attendance, and usually win (Ford is 22-6 career in Big 12 home games). That said, I’m not proclaiming guaranteed upsets for either of these. If I had to pick one, it would be Kansas. The Jayhawks are solid, but overrated. Their top-10 ranking is based off name and an unbelievable home-court advantage. Meanwhile, OSU matches up terribly against Baylor, as we saw last month in Waco.

Kyle Porter (Pistols Firing) – Is Texas A&M not a choice here? I’ll say Kansas, solely because it’s on Big Monday and GIA will be more full then than on 12:45 this Saturday. Literally, that’s my only reason.

3. Who should play point guard next season?

John Helsley (Oklahoman) – If Cezar Guerrero progresses like I think he can, making the most of the offseason and the summer, I think he could be a dynamic point guard. He’ll have to be up to the tough love of Travis Ford, but I like his upside. Watch out for Marcus Smart, though. While he isn’t thought of as a point guard, he’s got great vision and passing skills. And he’s more than willing to give up the ball to set up teammates.

Jimmie Tramel (Tulsa World) – Great question. And I don’t have the answer. Cezar Guerrero will be the only returning player at the position and he should be more steady and reliable as a sophomore than he is right now. I think he plays with gusto (anyone see the UTSA game?), but he’s got to tame his inner stallion and be a true point guard. (FYI, all point guards seem to dribble too much. Do they know that you don’t get “riding time” points in anything — not even wrestling — anymore?) Someone in the incoming recruiting class will be thrown into the mix and the Cowboys need competition at the position to bring out the best in everyone.

Anthony Slater (O’Colly) – Think of it like a bullpen-by-committee situation. You have a ton of capable middle relievers and setup men (wings that can handle the ball), but no shutdown closer (a true point guard). Markel Brown will probably shoulder most of the load, although he seems to struggle bringing it up against pressure D. Cezar Guerrero will get a shot off the bench, but he needs to vastly improve this summer. And Marcus Smart is the wild card. I haven’t seen enough of him to definitively tell you if he is capable, but rumors are Smart will at least get a shot at point.

Kyle Porter (Pistols Firing) – This is tough. I want it to be Cezar but I just can’t see him progressing enough to be the point guard on a team that (hopefully) contends for the NCAA tournament. It won’t be Forte for sure, which leaves us with Markel and Marcus Smart. I’ll say Markel, if only by default (and the fact that he’s destroying people off the dribble right now) and I think you can be a good team with him at the one, I’m just not sure you can be a great team.

4. What has been the biggest surprise about this team?

John Helsley (Oklahoman) – Resiliency. Every time you want to count them out, every time they take what appears to be a haymaker loss, they bounce back. This team has it’s flaws and limitations, but heart is not one of them.

Jimmie Tramel (Tulsa World) – I think it’s the inconsistency. In Big 12 play, the Cowboys seem to be on a bad game-good game, bad game-good game rotation. Baylor? Bad. At Iowa State? Played well enough to win. Kansas State? Ugly game. Missouri? Great performance. Texas A&M? Failed to land an early knockout punch against a shorthanded team with a glass chin. Texas Tech? The “good” Cowboys showed up again. Maybe the inconsistency shouldn’t be a surprise since it’s a freshman-laden team that is short on depth. But the Cowboys need to show they can string a few good games together if they are going to salvage something from the remainder of the season. Also, I am surprised that Helsley never snuck into the Myriad to see Loverboy or Salt N Pepa.

Anthony Slater (O’Colly) – The inconsistency. With a young team, I expected some, but this year has been wild. Some nights, OSU looks like a consensus tournament team, filled with capable young talent. Others, you wonder if they could compete in the Mountain West. It’s gotten better of late, but doesn’t 11-11 seem like a perfect record for this kind of year. On any given night, you never know what you are getting from any of the top players. That inconsistency has provided intrigue for me and frustration for the OSU faithful. From complete meltdown to supreme optimism, the mood of this fanbase violently swings on each result.

Kyle Porter (Pistols Firing) – It’s been the emergence of Brian Williams and Mike Cobbins as dudes who can be legitimate starters on an eventual Sweet 16 team. When you think of guys redshirting, your immediate reaction is “ohhh, they must be pretty bad,” but in both of their cases it was just a matter of sliding them into the system and building up a year of college speed as well as confidence. Both were better for it and the fans in Gallagher are going to be reaping the benefits for years to come.

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