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Get To Know A Marquette Basketball Opponent: Oklahoma State Cowboys

It’s the first meeting between the two teams in 13 years, and the first home game for one side since 1991.

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at Oklahoma State Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Name: Oklahoma State University

Location: Stillwater, Oklahoma

Believe it or not, I am bad at Oklahoma geography. Okay, so you know how Oklahoma looks like a kitchen pot with a long handle on it?

Sure. Okay, so If you think about the pot part and ignore the handle, Oklahoma City is pretty much dead center.

You said OSU was in Stillwater. You didn’t let me finish.

Sorry. It’s okay. Anyway, Stillwater is about 65 miles northeast of Oklahoma City. Of the two Division 1 state schools in Oklahoma, OSU is definitely the more rural of the two. Norman, home of the University of Oklahoma, is part of the Oklahoma City metro area even if it is one county south from OKC.

Founded: 1890, as Oklahoma Territorial Agricultural and Mechanical College. Classes would begin in December of 1891, but an actual university owned building wouldn’t be completed until June of 1894. That building, now known as Old Central, is still standing on campus today, and is currently home to the OSU Honors College. Curriculum changes prompted a name change to Oklahoma State University of Agricultural and Applied Sciences in 1957, and while the school went by Oklahoma State University for the most part, that wasn’t the official name of the school until 1980.

The Flagship: OSU’s Stillwater campus is the primary institution in the Oklahoma State University system. I point this out essentially just to point out that the University of Oklahoma isn’t part of this system. Seems weird to have a state run school that’s not part of the official State University system, doesn’t it?

A Hard Left Turn: Look, I’m not going to lie to you, I’m getting the broad notes of the history of the schools in these Get To Know articles from 1) the official school history pages on their websites and 2) the Wikipedia pages for the schools. So, if you go to the OSU Wikipedia page and go to the history section, you get pretty much exactly what you expect. Blah blah legislature, blah blah first building, blah blah first dorm, blah blah, T. Boone Pickens is incredibly wealthy. And then, the last sentence of a section that is telling you the story of the boring history of the establishment and growth of a land grant university:

On October 24, 2015 during the annual homecoming parade, Adacia Chambers drove her vehicle into a crowd of people, killing 4 people and injuring 47. She faced 2nd-degree murder charges.

WHAT THE HELL? Look, I’m not trying to be dismissive of the death of four people here, but that is a shocking finish to what is and is supposed to be a very dull historical read, and I am not sure how that fits into the “here is the story of the university’s existence” flow.

When Is A Parade Not A Parade? When it’s Walkaround. Homecoming is a big ol’ deal at OSU, to the point where they call it “America’s Greatest Homecoming Celebration.” The first homecoming parade was in 1930, and it grew from there...... to the point where the decorations on the houses on the parade route started to be a big deal. Eventually, it got to the point in 1966 where they just straight up abandoned the parade and people walked around — get it? — to view the house decorations. Three years later, house decorations for Walkaround became an official contest as part of Homecoming.

Bedlam: You may have heard the name of Oklahoma State’s rivalry with the University of Oklahoma, particularly if you’re a listener to the Shutdown Fullcast. While jokes abound about the nature of the rivalry in football between the two, OSU’s stance on the issue is that nickname actually stems from the wrestling programs. Oklahoma State has won 34 national championships to just seven by the Sooners, and according to legend, a newspaper reporter burst forth from a meet and described the contents of Gallagher-Iba Arena as, duh, bedlam.

Remember Old Central from back a minute ago? The clapper from the bell tower became the traveling trophy for the OSU/OU football game in 1966 after there may have been some light theft occurring by Norman campus occupants to stop Stillwater residents from ringing the bell to celebrate a win in 1932. Today, a crystal version of the clapper goes to the Bedlam winner in each sport as well as a trophy to the side that notches more victories in sports each school year.

Enrollment: 24,041 as of 2019, with 20,024 graduates.

Nickname: Cowboys

Why “Cowboys”? I don’t know as I start to type this, but I bet it’s not terribly interesting relative to the location of the school. Let’s go find out, shall we?

Yep, it’s not. In 1924, the Oklahoma City Times started referring to the (at the time) Oklahoma A&M teams as “Cowboys,” even though the usual nicknames tended to be Aggies, Farmers, and, because they thought themselves to be “The Princeton of the Plains,” Tigers, complete with the orange and black color scheme.

But maybe that’s not the whole story: Pistol Pete, OSU’s mascot, is apparently based on an actual human being, Frank Eaton, and let me tell you what, you should go read his story. Anyway, ‘round about the same time that the newspapers started calling them Cowboys, the students at OSU saw Eaton leading the Stillwater Armistice Day parade, and ..... somehow? Eaton was convinced to stand in as the basis for a caricature drawing for a mascot so they could have something to replace the Tigers nickname that no one apparently actually liked. That’s what happens when you attempt to just steal another university’s entire deal, I guess. Anyway, even though the drawing based on Eaton has been around since 1923, the “guy in suit” mascot at sporting events has only existed since 1958.

Notable Alumni: How’s Garth Brooks for you? Notable enough? There’s also the aforementioned T. Boone Pickens, noted oil tycoon and generally speaking insanely wealthy OSU booster; UFC Heavyweight champions Randy Couture and Daniel Cormier; Chester Gould, the creator of Dick Tracy; Pro Football Hall of Famer Barry Sanders; Kevin Stitt, the current governor of Oklahoma; Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, which I’m sure does not cause any annoyance amongst OSU fans; actor James Marsden, best known as Cyclops in the X-Men movies; astronaut Stuart Roosa, who flew on Apollo 14; professional wrestlers Jack & Jerry Brisco; and finally, actor Gary Busey.

Last Season: 18-14, with a 7-11 record in the Big 12 after starting 0-6 in league play.

Final 2019-20 Ranking: #53

Final 2019-20 T-Rank Ranking: #53

This Season: 2-0, with a road win over UT-Arlington and a home win over Texas Southern.

Current 2020-21 Ranking: #36

Current 2020-21 T-Rank Ranking: #52

Stats Leaders

Points: Cade Cunningham, 20.5 points/game
Rebounds: Isaac Likekele, 9.5 rebounds/game
Assists: Isaac Likekele, 5.5 assists/game

Returning Stats Leaders

Points: Isaac Likekele, 10.9 points/game
Rebounds: Isaac Likekele, 5.6/rebounds/game
Assists: Isaac Likekele, 4.5 assists/game

I expected that returning part to be more interesting. Yeah, it’s always kind of a bummer when things work out that they’re all the same guy. In this case, though, Likekele did lead the team in assists while coming in second to Cameron McGriff in points and rebounds.

Bigs? Not in the traditional sense of having an obvious big body in the middle. At 6’10”, sophomore Bernard Kouma is the tallest guy on the team, but he’s played just eight minutes so far this season. Kaleb Boone qualifies as the tallest guy amongst the guys who have started in OSU’s first two games, but at 6’9”, he only weighs 210 pounds. Leading rebounder Isaac Likekele is only 6’5” tall and weighs in at 215 pounds. Keylan Boone (6’8”, 200 lb.) is Kaleb’s twin and second on the team in rebounding at eight per game through two games, while Cade Cunningham (6’8”, 220 lb.) is third at seven per outing. In short, they have tall guys, but not big guys, if that makes sense.

Shooters? 6’3” senior Ferron Flavors has attempted 12 threes this season so far to lead the squad in that department, and sinking five of them gives him a shooting percentage of 41.7%. The grad transfer from Cal Baptist shot 44.6% a year ago and 33.6% for Fairfield back in 2017-18, so this is does seem to be a realistic representation of what he can do. Freshmen Cade Cunningham and Rondel Walker have each hit three of their first seven collegiate long range attempts, which is pretty good. 6’3” sophomore Avery Anderson is 2-for-5 so far this season, which gives him as many makes as he had all of last year on 26 attempts while appearing in 30 games.

Potential 2021 NBA Draft Picks? Yes, I included this on purpose because I knew the answer to the question is yes and we have to talk about it. If you haven’t heard already, then we should probably point out that Cade Cunningham came into Stillwater as the #1 prospect in the Class of 2020 according to 247 Sports. When you’re the top high school player in the country, then you’re pretty much an automatic projected lottery pick if not the projected #1 overall pick in the following year’s draft. Oklahoma State isn’t the first name that comes to your mind when you think “destination for tippy top NBA prospects,” but the Cowboys have brought in eight top 25 prospects since the turn of the century. Gerald Green was also the #1 recruit in the country back in 2005, while LeBryan Nash (#8, 2011) and Marcus Smart (#10, 2012) were top 10 guys in their respective classes. Still, it’s a little big surprising that Cunningham picked OSU..... until I tell you that Cannen Cunningham, Cade’s older brother, is an assistant coach on this team. It’s actually impressive that Cunningham actually enrolled at Oklahoma State, because the NCAA handed OSU a 2021 postseason ban in June of this year. The Cowboys very publicly supported Cunningham making whatever decision going forward that he felt was the best for his future, but ultimately, the reasons why he picked OSU in the first place won out.

Head Coach: Mike Boynton, in his fourth season at Oklahoma State and fourth season overall as a head coach. He has a record of 53-49 after being elevated from assistant coach when Brad Underwood took the Illinois job after the 2016-17 season.

What To Watch For: Uh, duh, Cade Cunningham. He’s played nearly 80% of the first two games and has a usage rate north of 30%. This should not be surprising to you. He’s the projected #1 pick in next year’s NBA Draft, and Mike Boynton is giving him the keys to the car. It’s not like that’s not working out, for the record. Sure, two games is a teeny tiny sample size and it’s not like OSU has played two teams of John Wooden UCLA All-Stars, but Cunningham has been exactly the kind of special that you’d expect from a projected top pick. Good shooting, good rebounding, quality passing, getting to the line a bunch, etc., etc. He did have five turnovers in the first game, which may have had something to do with the fact that Oklahoma State was only up four on UT-Arlington with two minutes to play.

In terms of full team stuff, the only big weakness that the Cowboys have through two games is that they’re not generating turnovers on defense. 12% of possessions end that way, which ranks #220 in the country right now per, and that would have been dead last in the country by a wide margin a year ago. Again, two games. Small Sample Size Theater. But given that MU has started each of their first two games by coughing it up on the first two possessions, it’s worth noting that Oklahoma State doesn’t appear to want to be a willing participant in trying to make that happen a third time.

OSU has had a good defensive showing in their first two games, but that’s a wee bit misleading once you dig deeper. They’ve held UT-Arlington and Texas Southern to 18% three-point shooting and 50% free throw shooting combined. Neither of those numbers are going to stand up to long term scrutiny. Not only are those numbers going to go skyrocketing upwards as the Cowboys play more games, but they’re both things that OSU can’t really control in the first place. Obviously free throw shooting defense has nothing to do with anything that Oklahoma State is doing on defense, and given that the point of shooting threes is to give your best shooters the best and most open looks you can possibly get for them, guys missing shots has very little to do with what OSU is doing against them.

They are, however, doing a pretty good job stopping their two foes from getting their shots off. Their 31.9% three-point attempt rate on defense would have ranked in the top 40 in the country a year ago even though it’s “only” #62 so far this season. Part of that is OSU’s effort to keep guys from getting open, but part of that might be attributed to intentional scheme by their opponents, too. Still, since Marquette has fired over 42% of their shots from behind the arc, Oklahoma State is going to be leaning towards denying open looks pretty heavily in this game.

All-Time Series: Oklahoma State leads, 4-1. The Cowboys won the first three meetings in the series, with the first coming in Milwaukee in 1990. The final score there: OSU 70, Marquette 43. Unranked at the time, Oklahoma State would eventually get into the top 15 of the AP poll and reach the Sweet 16. The next meeting was the following season, and #3 Oklahoma State beat MU, 64-52, in Stillwater. That was the first season of Bryant “Big Country” Reeves for the Cowboys, and they would reach the Sweet 16 again. The next three meetings in the series were all on neutral courts, so this will be the first meeting in a home arena since January 14, 1992. Oklahoma State was ranked for each of the next two contests, beating MU 74-62 in the first round of the 1993 NCAA Tournament, and then again in November 1998. That one was a 57-54 win by the #13 ranked Cowboys in some sort of event hosted by the University of Hawaii. Finally, Marquette picked up their first win against Oklahoma State in the most recent encounter, which was on November 20, 2007, prevailing 91-61 in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational. Jerel McNeal had 20 points, five rebounds, and three assists to lead the team in the victory. There’s actually a photo gallery available from that game.