The Big 12 will look to be heavily represented come March with one of those middle of the conference teams being the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Put them in any other conference and they would be vying for a top spot, instead being thrusted into the gauntlet that is the Big 12 this season. In the midst of a five-game win streak, they now get a chance to drastically boost their resume against the Kansas Jayhawks. Can they get it done on their home court?
Kansas Vs. Oklahoma State Odds
Oddsmakers don’t think so, opening the Cowboys as a +2.5 underdog. Bettors think differently, backing Oklahoma State down to +1.5 as of writing. This is going to be a fun one as both units are firing on all cylinders as we near the late season stretch. This is a must win situation for the Cowboys as they linger around the bubble per Joe Lunardi. A win over the defending National Champions would do wonders for their resume, potentially locking them into the tournament barring a drastic collapse.
As for the total, points are expected to be scored at a moderate pace as oddsmakers opened the number at 137.5. Bettors were quick to hammer the over, including myself, taking the number up to 140 as of writing. This is heavily predicated on the Cowboys chances of finding a consistent level of scoring as they are the inferior unit in this matchup. While not ideal per Kenpom, their offensive efficiency has ticked up and has been a major reason for their recent success.
Kansas Vs. Oklahoma State Prediction & Pick
The Pick: Oklahoma State ML
Because of the drastic change in the total since I put the wager in overnight, I can not in good faith tell you to take it at the current number after it has ticked up by two and half points. Instead, I am also putting in a bet on the Cowboys moneyline as my over ticket is directly correlated with their ability to keep within scoring pace of the Jayhawks. In a must win situation for their March Madness hopes, the Cowboys will need to continue to be efficient on offense against one of the best teams in the nation.
In order to do so, that means the Cowboys will need to continue to limit their number of turnovers when on offense. The Jayhawks force turnovers at one of the highest rates of the nation, using their Havoc to generate quick points on the other end. The Cowboys have cut down on their turnovers by over 4% in their five-game winning streak, limiting opposing transitional points through their mistakes.
Because of their improved ability to take care of the ball, the Cowboys have been more efficient on offense. They run an inside-out approach, looking to run a halfcourt set through the post. When down low, the guards run screens to either get a look from a cut to the lane or a pop out to the perimeter. Converting the looks from these sets have been an issue, although improved. The Cowboys currently shoot 44.1% from the field and 32.4% from the perimeter.
The Cowboys may find themselves with more open looks than they are accustomed to as the Jayhawks have struggled to defend over the course of 40 minutes. Relying heavily on their ability to generate turnovers, the Jayhawks have allowed open looks at a league average rate. Especially when trying to defend pick and rolls, causing confusion and allowing someone to slip open for a quality look.
Kansas Vs. Oklahoma State Key Matchups
Can Oklahoma State continue to lock down the interior?
Kansas low post offense vs Oklahoma State interior defense
Kansas is once again running as one of the best offenses in the nation, currently ranking 23rd in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency. A brunt of their scoring success comes from their ability to convert looks at the rim at a high rate, constantly generating high quality scoring opportunities.
That may be tough to come by against a Cowboys defense who ranks fifth in the nation in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, a unit that defends the interior at a top-10 level. They smother looks and alter shots without fouling, forcing empty trips at an elite rate.
Oklahoma State will look to lock down the interior, daring Kansas to beat them from the perimeter. Consistency from the arc has been an area of concern for anyone not named Gradey Dick for the Jayhawks.
Take the Cowboys on the moneyline as a home dog in what is a must win situation for their postseason hopes.