As the rest of us live it up on the streets of San Antonio, the TCU Basketball team will be up in Stillwater to face the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the first Big 12 Conference game of the season. To preview tomorrow's showdown, I caught up with Thomas Fleming of Cowboys Ride for Free. Here we go!
1. How would you assess the non-conference portion of the season for Oklahoma State? What stood out, and what do you hope improves as the Cowboys enter Big 12 play?
I think the non-conference schedule has told us quite a bit about this team, but not enough for us to exactly know the team's direction for conference play. Phil Forte is out, and many expect him apply for a medical redshirt and stay out the whole season. This has forced the team to adapt, which they have done fairly respectably, in an offense that relies more on ball screen actions than on off-ball screens (to free up shooters). Trying not to get too terminology-heavy, the team looks to take a different approach offensively, and they're still adapting to the change. I hope for them to get more production out of the post. Chris Olivier is a player to watch; he is like the second coming of Marshall Moses, if that name rings a bell. Other than that, though, the Cowboys have almost no post production. When you have to rely on shooters and slashers, and you have no post production in the pick and roll or post-up game, it puts a lot of pressure on the backcourt.
2. The loss of Phil Forte certainly dictated OSU's style of play over the last several weeks. Where is Forte in terms or his rehabilitation? And how has Oklahoma State adjusted to the loss of such a great shooter?
As mentioned earlier, Forte is not expected to come back in this season. To our knowledge, the coaching staff is taking their time nursing him back to health. According to our sources, Forte wants a full senior season to enjoy, since his chances of moving on to the next level are fairly slim. Expect him to come back firing in the 2016-2017 season. Also, as mentioned earlier, they've moved to a more ball screen oriented offense. Expect Jawun Evans to be the new offensive focus, giving opportunity to the roll man and the corner shooter if the defense crashes in on the screen action.
3. Even with the loss of Forte, the Cowboys enter conference play 8-4. What do you think is the ceiling for this year's OSU team? Can they finish in the top half of what looks like very deep Big 12 Conference?
I think the ceiling for this team is to finish in the top half of the conference and to make the NCAA tourney. It's not that this team isn't talented, it's just that they're not talented enough to flourish in an excellent basketball conference such as the Big 12. While I hope that they finish in the top half, realistically, I think it will be quite difficult. In my mind, they're right in the same boat as TTU, KSU and TCU, all teams that find themselves in the middle-to-bottom half of the conference.
4. Jeff Newberry is having a pretty solid start to the season, leading the team in both scoring and rebounding. Would you agree that he is the Cowboys' biggest threat? Who else should TCU fans keep their eye on Saturday afternoon?
Newberry has come into his own without a doubt. With what seemed to be a recruitment focus on guards in recent years, it's good to see that a few of them have panned out. I would keep my eye on transfer Chris Olivier. This dude can flat out score from the post. He's not very big, not extremely athletic, and definitely not yet a first-team all-conference player. But he can score from the low block and he's provided the Cowboys a consistent threat from the low post.
5. Finally, what is your prediction for how things shake out on Saturday? Can the Frogs take advantage of Forte's absence to pick up the program's first win in Stillwater since 1925? Or will the Pokes take care of business at home?
I think the Cowboys will pull out the win, but I wouldn't be surprised if it were closer than people expected. Sooner or later, TCU will rise from the ranks and surprise some people; they've been plagued with injuries over the past couple of years, and their recruiting classes keep adding talent to an already undervalued squad. Either way, expect about 1,500 people there. I wish I were kidding. But looking forward, don't be surprised if the Frogs tie the season series up 1-1 by season's end. Remember how TCU beat OSU last year, and that was against a team that was superior to the Cowboys' 2015-2016 squad.
Big thanks to Thomas for taking the time to chat with from New Orleans as the Cowboys prepare for the Sugar Bowl. Be sure to check out some of their coverage over on Cowboys Ride for Free.
Stay tuned right here for more coverage of TCU vs. Oklahoma State leading up to tomorrow afternoon's game!