HOW ’BOUT THEM COWBOYS?
When Oklahoma State finished off a shocking victory at Kansas two weekends ago, the Cowboys became a popular darkhorse pick to win the Big 12.
Today they are legitimate contenders.
At 7-3, Oklahoma State enters Monday’s action in a second-place tie with Kansas, one game back of Kansas State. But it has more going for it than that. It is on a five-game winning streak and has a favorable schedule remaining.
Kansas, K-State and Oklahoma must all still visit Stillwater, while the Cowboys’ toughest remaining road game is at Iowa State. If they continue playing the way they have recently, they will stay near the top of the conference championship race. Even if coach Travis Ford isn’t ready to think that way.
“We haven’t thought a lot about it other than trying to win on Wednesday. We know we have a tough schedule coming up,” Ford said. “They are all tough games, whether they are home or away. At least we are halfway through it and we are near the top. Staying there is the challenge.”
Oklahoma State hasn’t challenged for a league title since Eddie Sutton was roaming the sideline, but three talented players have put the Cowboys back in the mix.
Marcus Smart is the Big 12’s best freshman, Le’Bryan Nash might be the league’s most talented sophomore and Markel Brown, who leads Oklahoma State in scoring, is having a breakout season.
They are, without a doubt, that top trio in the league. But can they keep their success going? Oklahoma State is a young team with a coach better known for his recruiting skills than his coaching ability. The Cowboys have never been in this position before.
There are reasons to pick against them.
But in a crazy year of Big 12 basketball, there are plenty of reasons to believe in them, too.
The upsets across college basketball could translate into one of the most wide-open NCAA Tournaments this March.
“Those numbers next to the bracket probably mean less than they ever have,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said.
Several highly-ranked teams have stumbled. No. 3 Miami lost to Florida Gulf Coast by 12, No. 2 Duke lost to Miami by 27, No. 7 Florida barely competed in a loss at Arkansas and Kansas lost at TCU.
Drew thinks those scores have added extra incentive on bubble teams to reach the NCAA Tournament, because a deep run is possible for anyone.
UPSET ABOUT THE UPSET
TCU coach Trent Johnson wasn’t pleased with his team following its upset over Kansas last week. He thought players became overconfident and reacted to it the wrong way.
“It’s the first time those kids had been through winning a magnitude of that game. I was very disappointed from that standpoint,” Johnson said. “That just really bothered me.”
He was even more displeased after the Horned Frogs lost to West Virginia over the weekend.
When asked Monday if the win over Kansas might have any positive long-term impact on the program, Johnson replied sternly.
“None,” Johnson said. “Everybody talks about momentum and confidence. It’s about doing things the right way all the time. That was one of those games where we, quite frankly, played as well as we could have played and they helped us out a lot. I’m not sure they could have played any worse.”
Through Saturday’s games
1. Kansas State (19-4, 8-2): Bruce Weber is making a case for coach of the year.
2. Oklahoma State (17-5, 7-3): Markel Brown is league’s most underrated player.
3. Kansas (19-4, 7-3): Jayhawks are in an awful slump. How long does it last?
4. Iowa State (16-7, 6-4): Nearly unbeatable at home. Weak on the road.
5. Oklahoma (15-7, 6-4): Lon Kruger has Sooners excited about hoops again.
6. Baylor (15-8, 6-4): Bad news for Bears is schedule is back-loaded.
7. West Virginia (12-11, 5-5): Mountaineers are starting to turn things around.
8. Texas (10-13, 2-8): He’s back. But is there anything for Myck Kabongo to save?
9. Texas Tech (9-12, 2-8): Should win at least one more.
10. TCU (10-13, 1-9): Horned Frogs pulled the biggest upset of the season.