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UConn men’s basketball 2022-23 opponent preview: Oklahoma State

The Pokes have a front court that should serve as a major test for Adama Sanogo and the Huskies.

NCAA Basketball: Texas Tech at Oklahoma State Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

Fast Facts

Head Coach: Mike Boynton (sixth season as head coach)

2021-22 Record: 15-15 (8-10 Big 12)

2021-22 Big 12 finish: Sixth

Final 2021-22 Ranking: No. 34

2022-23 SEC Coaches Poll Ranking: Tied for fifth with Texas A&M

2022-23 KenPom Rating: No. 30

2021-22 in review

Oklahoma State went 15-15 in a tough Big 12 conference that ranked first in rating per KenPom last year and featured two No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament in Baylor and eventual champion Kansas. With a defense that ranked fourth in the country per adjusted efficiency in KenPom, the Cowboys were able to keep games close and boasted impressive wins over Texas, Baylor and Texas Tech. Despite a .500 record overall and a losing conference record, the Pokes could have possibly snuck in to the NCAA tournament due to the strength of their conference, but didn't even have that opportunity as they were banned from 2022 postseason, as they were one of four schools that had an assistant coach arrested by the FBI in 2017 for accepting bribes while former head coach Brad Underwood was in charge.

2022-23 preview

Oklahoma State once again figures to be one of the top defensive teams in the country thanks to the return of big man Moussa Cisse, who was part of a three-way tie for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year last season. Cisse, a 6-foot-10, 225-pound junior, ranked 20th nationally in block percentage last year, where he averaged nearly two blocks per game. Senior Kalib Boone helped Cisse and the Cowboys dominate on the defensive end last season, averaging 1.3 blocks per game. With those two back in the fold this season and Preseason All-Big 12 First Team selection Avery Anderson (1.8 steals per game last season) back for one last go around, OSU should once again be able to lean on their defense to contend with just about anyone.

Offensively, Anderson returns to anchor the backcourt after averaging 12.1 points and 2.3 assists this season. While Boynton was able to keep the talented core of Anderson, Cisse and 6-foot-5 guard Bryce Thompson (10.6 ppg last season) together, he also managed to add some offense through the transfer portal. Caleb Asberry, a 6-foot-3 Texas State transfer, brings some sorely-needed 3-point shooting to Pokes, who shot just 29.5 percent from deep as a team last year, one of the worst marks in Division I. Asberry shot 38.4 percent from three last season and 41.7 percent the year before that with over 100 attempts in both seasons.

Asberry is joined in the backcourt by High Point transfer John-Michael Wright, a two-time All-Big South First Team selection who averaged 18.4 points for the Panthers last season. Wright should also help the Pokes’ 3-point woes as a 36 percent shooter from three last season, and could take over point guard duties to allow Anderson and Asberry to play more off the ball. At 6-foot-1, Wright’s size could be a factor in a physical Big 12 Conference, but the scoring ability is there to make a significant impact on the offensive end.

Bottom line

With quality opponents night in and night out in the Big 12 and a solid non-conference schedule that features UConn, Virginia Tech, Wichita State and UCF, Oklahoma State should have plenty of opportunities to build a resume worthy of returning to the NCAA tournament after last year’s ban. In a way, this year’s Oklahoma State team is a more extreme version of last year’s UConn squad — reliant on impressive defense, especially in the post with elite defenders in Cisse and Anderson, with question marks on the offensive side. If Boynton can get the transfers to adjust to life in college basketball’s best conference and improve the offensive side of things, the Cowboys have all the makings of a solid NCAA tournament squad.