STILLWATER — Oklahoma State quickly emerged as a popular sleeper pick with several NCAA Tournament analysts.
Among others, the Cowboys are on upset alert.
That's an indication of differing views on OSU, yes; but also a telling take on the team's tournament draw in the Midwest Region.
Up first for the No. 5-seeded Cowboys, No. 12 Oregon, which finished in a second-place tie in the Pac-12 regular season standings, then charged to the league's tournament championship.
“One of the best 12 seeds I've ever seen,” said OSU coach Travis Ford.
And while Ford never sells an opponent short, in this case his take on the Ducks is shared by many, including noted ESPN.com bracketologist Joe Lunardi.
“The committee missed on Oregon by four to six lines,” Lunardi said in reference to the Ducks' seeding, “which is a major blunder, and a disservice to both the Ducks and their opponent, Oklahoma State.”
But then, that's the theme of this season, which has seen the nation's No. 1 ranking handled like a hot potato and so-called upsets become the norm on the nightly ticker.
“More than any year I can remember, I don't think seeding matters,” Ford said. “I really don't. If you're a 1 seed, your first game, you've got a pretty good chance of getting by that. After that, I think it's throw it up in the air. Some of the No. 1 seeds have tough second-round games.
“This year, I think you can throw us in a list of 20-something teams that could win on any given day, where you could beat anybody. And I don't remember another year where it's been like that.”
Apparently, put Oregon on that list, too.
The Ducks stand 26-8 overall and went 12-6 in the Pac-12. They won at UNLV (another No. 5 seed), beat No. 21 Arizona and No. 24 UCLA (twice).
Of Oregon's eight losses, half came when point guard Dominic Artis missed nine games with an injured foot. Oh, and he's back, and was there directing the Ducks to the Pac-12 Tournament title.
The good news for these Cowboys is that they're so new to March Madness — no Cowboy has played a second in an NCAA Tournament game — that it's all good; all the better the way Le'Bryan Nash looks at it.
“A lot of people are talking about us playing Oregon,” Nash said. “I love the spotlight. That's what the analysts are going to talk about. I think that everybody knows that Oregon deserves a better seed.
“It's going to be a great matchup. I can't wait to play.”
And should the Cowboys win, it only gets tougher.
Saint Louis, a likely matchup in the round of 32, won the Atlantic 10 regular season and conference titles, beating Butler and VCU a combined five times during a 15-1 run into Madness.
And then there are the heavyweights.
No. 1 overall seed Louisville is also in the Midwest. So is Duke. And Michigan State.
And more upset specialists, it figures.
Again, the Cowboys don't seem to care.
They beat every team in the Big 12 at least once. They beat one NCAA No. 1 seed in Kansas and lost to another, Gonzaga, by one point. They played in close games and overtime games and went 7-2 in games decided by two possessions or fewer, often rallying from behind late.
“Pressure busts pipes, or it makes diamonds. That's what I've always been told,” said OSU's Marcus Smart. “The pressure that we won those games under, it made a diamond out of us.
“We learned from those games. And it gave us the confidence we have going into this tournament.”
The bracket is filled and the regions have been analyzed.
It's all but unanimous: the Midwest Region — where Oklahoma State resides — is a monster.
Here's what they're saying:
“(No. 1 seed) Louisville's reward is a date in the Midwest Region, which apparently was set up by the masochistic dentist who is sidelining on the selection committee.” — ESPN.com's Dana O'Neil
“The first thing we learned from the Selection Show was that Louisville is the No. 1 overall seed. The next thing we learned is that Louisville has a tough path to Atlanta. The top overall seed got Duke as its No. 2 seed. And Michigan State as its No. 3 seed. And Saint Louis as its No. 4 seed. Whoa, buddy.” — CBSSports.com's Gary Parrish
“Selection committee chairman Mike Bobinski said Oregon would have been one seed line higher were it not for scheduling issues that forced the Ducks to drop from a No. 11 seed to a No. 12. Fine, but that solves nothing here. Oregon should have been four or five seed lines higher, and it's a disservice to the Ducks and to Oklahoma State that they're a No. 12 seed instead.” — Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Eisenberg
“Oregon as a No. 12 seed is laughable. The Ducks were the conference's best team before taking a small slide because of a foot injury to starting guard Dominic Artis. The freshman eventually returned and Oregon finished second in the conference, one game back of champion UCLA — the team it beat (for the second time) in Saturday's Pac-12 Tournament tilt. The Ducks also boast a win against UNLV. Oregon should have been a No. 7 or 8 seed, at worst.” — ESPN.com's Jason King