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How OSU Goes Dancing in 2020

Scheduling, freshmen and the next step of the Boynton era.



To no one’s surprise, Oklahoma State was left out of the field of 68 on Selection Sunday.

After getting snubbed last season (tell them Dicky V.), the Cowboys had a tough go of it this season with youth, dismissals and the always difficult Big 12. So for the second straight season, the Cowboys aren’t a part of the Big Dance, but here is a look at how they could be next season.

The Current Guys

There are minor things all of this season’s players can and will do to better their game this offseason, but it will be particularly interesting to see what Isaac Likekele and Yor Anei do with their first full offseason of college basketball.

Perhaps the most game-changing development for next year’s team could be Likekele developing a more reliable jump shot. Likekele shot 25 3s this season and made only six of them. He doesn’t need to become a sharpshooter, but the threat of him being able to knock down jumpers would force defenses to play tighter on him at the perimeter, providing him more opportunities to get past defenders going toward the hoop.

It would also allow him to be better off the ball if Boynton wants to run him with incoming point guard Avery Anderson.

Here is Likekele’s player development coach Roderick Clark on what Likekele’s offseason work will look like.

“The biggest thing we’ll work on is shooting,” Clark said. “Isaac’s personality, he’s not gonna come back next year and shoot worse than he did this year. That’s just not gonna happen. That’s not him. I could bet my entire year’s salary on that. He’s not gonna come back and shoot worse than he did this year. He takes that personally.”

Another offseason with OSU’s strength staff will do Anei a lot of good. As Anei continues to better his body, he will become more of a force on the boards. Anei brought in 154 rebounds this year, the second-most on the team, but that’s also only two more rebounds than Likekele had.

The Incoming Players

There are still one or two pieces Boynton could add to the incoming group, but the four he has now are a definite good start.

Marcus Watson, Avery Anderson, Kalib Boone and Keylan Boone make up the 23rd-ranked class in the country. The four aren’t going to come in all take over the program right away, but they will provide solid and much-needed depth for Boynton.

I’m of the opinion that the Cowboys’ day-one starters will be the same group that started nearly all of this season’s games: Isaac Likekele, Thomas Dziagwa, Lindy Waters, Cam McGriff and Yor Anei. That with a bench of Curtis Jones, Watson, Anderson, Boone, Boone and Duncan Demuth, which is at least four times better than a bench of only Jones and Demuth.

From there, maybe there’s lineup changes depending on how different groups work with each other. Here are a few possibilities:

PG: Likekele
SG: Dziagwa
SF: Waters
PF: McGriff
C: Anei

PG: Likekele
SG: Waters
SF: Watson
PF: McGriff
C: Anei

PG: Anderson
SG: Likekele
SF: Waters
PF: McGriff
C: Anei

PG: Likekele
SG: Waters
SF: McGriff
PF: Boone
C: Anei

Those are all shots in the dark without really knowing how soon the freshmen will be able to adapt to college basketball. Jones could also have a good summer and compete for one of those spots.

The Nonconference Schedule

Last season, the Cowboys nonconference schedule kept them out of the NCAA Tournament.

That noncon schedule ranked 311th of 351, per KenPom, so though the Cowboys’ tournament resume had a respectable 19-14 record on it, the committee chose against the Cowboys. This season, the Cowboys went perhaps too far the other way, playing the 35th hardest nonconference schedule in the country.

There is a sweet spot somewhere in the middle of those two extremes that can be quite difficult to pinpoint without knowing for sure how good the teams will be until the season is over. However, only 10 teams in the top 40 in nonconference strength of schedules made the NCAA Tournament. For good teams, a tough schedule a surefire way to secure a bid, but if a team comes out 6-6, as OSU did, and struggles in conference play, it’s a further setback.

Given OSU’s talent next season, I think a schedule similar to Kansas State’s this season would fit nicely. K-State finished its nonconference schedule 10-2 with losses to Marquette and Tulsa (sound familiar?). The Wildcats’ schedule ranked 183rd in the country, all that’s needed when playing in the Big 12. Their schedule was filled with respectable, but not great opponents.

Opponent Result Score
Kennesaw State W 56-41
Denver W 64-56
Eastern Kentucky W 95-68
Penn W 64-48
Missouri W 82-67
Lehigh W 77-58
at Marquette L 83-71
at Tulsa L 47-46
Georgia State W 71-59
Southern Miss W 55-51
Vanderbilt W 69-58
George Mason W 59-58

Again, it’s incredibly hard to tell how good a nonconference schedule will be until the teams on the schedule have finished the season. But those are all somewhat winnable games even for this year’s OSU squad. Would OSU have won them all? Probably not, but that’s a schedule the Pokes could’ve came out of at maybe 9-3.

Nonconference scheduling is one of the dumbest yet most necessary parts of a team making the tournament. It’s commendable for the Cowboys taking on such a tough schedule this year, but it’d probably be better for postseason hopes to dial it back a tad — not back to the 300s, but maybe to the mid-100s.

Surviving the Big 12

With a nonconference schedule looking something like that, the Cowboys would probably need to win about eight Big 12 games to get in, depending on how strong the field is next season.

Let’s go down the list of Big 12 teams and see what they might look like next season and whether OSU could grab wins off them. This is obviously a way-too-early look. A lot could flip all of this around, so let’s try to think as rationally as one can when predicting this far out.

Kansas State: The Wildcats will lose Kamau Stokes, Barry Brown and Dean Wade to graduation, taking away about 39 points per game. Boynton has yet to beat K-State in his first two years, and the Wildcats will likely still have Cartier Diarra and Xavier Sneed. It might be generous, but we’ll say the Pokes go 1-1 against K-State next season.

Texas Tech: Unless Jarrett Culver decides to not be a lottery pick this season, Texas Tech will only have one starter back from this year’s roster in David Moretti. The Red Raiders also have a solid class coming in though. The class includes the No. 30 prospect in the country in Jahmius Ramsey and Khaild Thomas, the second-ranked juco transfer. Again, we’ll say OSU goes 1-1.

Kansas: Apart from LeGerald Vick, who hasn’t been with the team for the past month, Kansas has no seniors on this season’s team. Maybe Dedric Lawson decides to leave for the NBA after the season, maybe not. Regardless, KU will be good next year, so we’ll say OSU goes 0-2.

Baylor: The Bears will lose Makai Mason and King McClure to graduation. Baylor will probably fall down from their fourth-place regular season finish, a year in which OSU already beat the Bears once, so we’ll say OSU goes 2-0.

Iowa State: The Cyclones will lose Nick Weiler-Babb and Marial Shayok to graduation, about 28 points a game. They have some solid young pieces, though, in Lindell Wigginton, Tyrese Halliburton and Talen Horton-Tucker, so Iowa State could still find a way to contend next year, especially in Hilton. We’ll go another 1-1.

Texas: Another young team, the Longhorns will have some decent pieces back but likely lose star freshmen Jaxson Hayes to the NBA and Dylan Osetkowsi to graduation. However, the Longhorns bring in the conference’s top recruiting class with Will Baker, Kai Jones and Donovan Williams all being Top 60 prospects. To play it safe, we’ll say an 0-2 year for OSU against Texas.

Oklahoma: The Sooners will be without Aaron Calixte, Miles Reynolds and Rashard Odomes, all seniors, next season. That leaves them relying heavily on Kristian Doolittle and Brady Manek. OU also has a solid class incoming that includes De’Vion Harmon, the nation’s 36th-ranked prospect. Bedlam can get wacky, so we’ll say another 1-1.

TCU: The Horned Frogs lose Alex Robinson and JD Miller to graduation. Desmond Bane will probably be a monster in his senior season, but given how tight OSU’s games against TCU were this season, I think the Cowboys have a decent shot at going 2-0 against TCU next season.

West Virginia:  The Mountaineers’ frontcourt is going to be terrifying next season. Derek Culver will return, and Oscar Tshiebwe, the nation’s 24th-ranked prospect, will join him. Bob Huggins has already cleared out his seniors, and WVU was a problem in the Big 12 Tournament. It will definitely be a bounce-back year for the Mountaineers, but given Boynton’s success against them so far, we’ll say 1-1.

So there you have it, that’s nine Big 12 wins, as many as Iowa State had this season. That, paired with a conference tournament win, got the Cyclones a six seed this season. I’m not sure I’m ready to go on the limb that says OSU will win the conference tournament, but a 9-9 Big 12 record with a 9-3 decent nonconference record would put OSU at 18-12 entering the Big 12 Tournament.

That’s eerily similar to the 2017-18 OSU team that got left out, but a boost with a boost in nonconference strength of schedule, it’d be even more ridiculous to exclude them.

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