Talking to Robert Whetsell during the podcast just isn't enough for us (especially when we get sidetracked about football when we should be talking shooty-hoops), so we also got him to answer a few more questions to help preview the OSU/WVU game on Saturday.
WVUIE97: Huggins has been quoted this week as saying that Marcus Smart is as good a player that he's coached against since Jason Kidd. High praise to say the least. For someone who's watched him at length, what's your impression of Smart? How good is he and can he eventually be?
Robert: Smart will go down as the greatest player in the history of the program. He's not the best shooter...not the best point guard...is one of the top defenders. But he's most definitely the best "stat filler" ever. Against Texas he put up 24-11-5-6-1. That's a really good night, but he posts all 5 numbers darn near every time.
Smart is a fierce and really smart competitor. We have yet to see an opposing player get the better of him. He will have his moments (poor decisions/sloppy play) and his "flopping" has become a "thing," but this team goes NOWHERE without him. He will definitely have success at the next level.
WVUIE97: Losing Michael Cobbins in December was obviously a huge blow to the team. Does his absence hurt OSU chances for a deep run in March? How has the team responded to losing him? Who has stepped up to fill in the void?
Robert: The biggest blow from Cobbins injury is the minutes. Right now OSU doesn't have another "big" that is capable of contributing more than 5-8 minutes, so that now falls on Kamari Murphy and Le'Bryan Nash. While the same height (6' 8"), Murphy is not nearly as physical as Cobbins and has generally preferred playing a little outside the paint, while Nash (6' 7") is just not tall enough to adequately occupy space in the post and it takes more minutes away from him at the 4, where he is a matchup nightmare. Soucek (7"0") is not a suitable option, and juco transfer Gary Gaskins (6' 10") is reportedly dealing with an injury. The only other player on the roster listed for the post is the seldom seen Mason Cox (6' 10"). Ford needs to figure out how to get another body on the court for at least 10+ minutes, even if it's by committee.
That being said, the bigger blow (no pun intended...okay, maybe a little) is the potential loss of Stevie Clark. His absence is WAY more impactful than Cobbins. If both are gone, you've got less than last year's team minus any kind of b/u PG. It appears that Ford is going to play Clark (after what amounted to a one game suspension) until the legal system runs its course regarding his recent marijuana bust.
I spoke about this in our video recap of the Texas win and in another recent post, that Clark's productive minutes and offensive threat are key to any kind of run the Cowboys make in the Big 12 and the NCAA tourney. His court time is exclusively at PG (15-20 mins/game), giving Smart a huge break from the stress of that position. Add to that his 40+% shooting from behind the arc and all you have to do is put him on the floor with Phil Forte to open up the lane for Brown, Smart, and Nash. Clark is also an adequate and pesky defender, and is often the fastest player on the court.
WVUIE97: What happened in OSU's two losses? Basically, I'm asking you to give us a blueprint on how to beat you, but I promise (*pinky swear) not to share the info with Huggs (even though he does follow us on Twitter).
Robert: Stevie Clark didn't play. He suits up, their offense is hard to handle because you don't get a break when Brown or Smart take a rest. While his presence on the court with Forte is especially troublesome, it's even more significant when he runs the offense with Smart and Brown at the 2 and 3 spots. Clark's ability to shoot and create his own shot has to be respected, and it lets both Smart and Brown play their more natural positions.
The key to winning? Foul trouble, particularly for Smart, and hope the Cowboys have an off night shooting from the floor. No state secrets there.
Thanks again to Robert for taking the time to answer our questions. Be sure to follow him on Twitter, @RobertW_CRFF, and be sure to check out Cowboys Ride For Free (and follow them on Twitter, @CowboysRFF) for more excellent Oklahoma State coverage.