Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
1. The big name in this matchup is OSU point guard Marcus Smart. Can you break down his game for us?
Smart does it all (or can do it all) for Oklahoma State. He doesn't have elite speed but his vision and awareness are unbelievable for a college player, much less a freshman. He's gotten a little too heavy into hero ball mode the last few weeks -- which he tends to do because the rest of his teammates often don't move -- and that's an issue because he's not a great shooter. Once he gets into the lane though (which he does quite often) it's over -- he'll score over you, around you, dish, or draw fouls with ease. He's a pleasure to watch.
2. Besides Smart, who are the Cowboys' main players offensively and defensively?
Offensively one guy who doesn't get talked about a lot is Markel Brown (#22). I'm not sure why he doesn't get talked about given that he was OSU's leading (and most consistent) scorer all year. His highlight reel of dunks is pretty incredible and this year he's snagged an outside shot to match his athleticism.
One other guy Oregon should be wary of is a shirt, white shooter named Phil Forte (#13). He's shot the ball poorly away from home this season but if he gets going that really opens up the Cowboys' offense quite a bit. He won't kill OSU if he's off but he could kill Oregon if he's on.
Defensively, the stalwart (if you can call him that) in the middle has been Mike Cobbins (#20). He is OSU's leading shot blocker and primary defender of the rim. He's a long, lanky sophomore who has a chance to get a lot better, but from what I understand about Oregon's big guys, he'd better be pretty freaking good on Thursday for the Pokes to have a shot.
Smart and Brown have developed into pretty elite defenders themselves on the perimeter and combined with Brian Williams, they form a pretty formidable half or full court pressure trio.
3. As we discussed on the podcast, Oregon and Oklahoma State are very similar in that they both play good defense, but are challenged offensively in the half court. What strategy does Oklahoma State employ to push the tempo?
When they trap, OSU is really tough to beat. I wish I had stats to back this up but it seems like the layups and dunks pile up quickly when Ford employs a little zone trap right at midcourt. Smart and Williams also go for (and get) a ton of steals which leads to the aforementioned Markel Brown highlights.
When OSU relies on its bigs to grab boards though the pace is B1G-ish and makes me wish I rooted for another team.
4. The Ducks are one of the elite rebounding teams in the country, whereas the Cowboys have struggled in that area. How confident are you that OSU can hold its own on the boards.
Not really at all. Like I said on the podcast, one of the main rebounding issues OSU has is that it can't play Phil Jurick in crunch time because he's a liability (I'm being nice with that word) on offense and can't matchup with anybody more athletic than, say, Darko Milicic. Thus Smart, Brown, and another of OSU's stars named Le'Bryan Nash are relied upon to crash the boards as guards which screws up the tempo. It turns into a big cluster, really. If Cobbins gets into foul trouble early, Oregon is going to have a field day on the glass.
5. How pissed are you that you have to play a top-25 team as a 12-seed?
I'm not going to lie, it's pretty annoying. You work all year (not me, but the team) to get a good seed and hopefully get to the second round and then you have to turn around and play a BCS team that won its conference tournament and, if not for an injury, probably would have won its regular season title as well.
Thankfully I'm not the only one saying this either so I don't look like a super-homer, just a semi-homer.