Criticism of the Cowboys began quickly. The announcement of this year’s NCAA baseball tournament field was less than half an hour old when Oklahoma State came under fire Monday. Its at-large bid was scrutinized, and its inclusion was questioned during ESPN’s selection show. The Cowboys are an easy target with their losing record in conference play and their failure to make the Big 12 Tournament. But they have no need to apologize. They belong in the NCAA Tournament with their No. 27 RPI and their 32 victories. Truth is, with the pressure off, the Cowboys might be among the most dangerous teams in the field. Sounds crazy, right? How could a team that failed to make its own conference tournament be a threat in the NCAA Tournament? That just doesn’t seem possible. OSU is a team built around pitching. Andrew Oliver, Tyler Lyons and Tyler Blandford are all stout, and three awesome arms always give a team a chance. The Cowboys’ biggest problem down the stretch was hitting. They have good hitters, but as a whole, their confidence was shot and their anxiety was high. All of it seemed to start at Nebraska. The Cowboys opened Big 12 play against the Cornhuskers with a pair of ugly losses, Oliver getting shelled on Friday and Lyons following suit on Saturday. Losses would’ve been one thing, but when neither of the team’s aces made it out of the fourth inning, that shook the Cowboys’ confidence. They played like they needed to be perfect from then on. And it showed. The harder they tried, the worse they played. Now, though, the pressure is off. No one expected them to make the NCAA Tournament. No one believed they would be heading to Clemson as a No. 3 seed. These are bonus games for the Cowboys, and if they approach them that way, they will be tough to beat. It’s not impossible. Remember, a No. 4 seed in last year’s tournament, Fresno State, ended up winning the national championship. And who could forget what Oklahoma did a year ago? After the Sooners bowed out of the Big 12 Tournament, coach Sunny Golloway said what you say at the end of the season. He talked about how proud he was of his players, how they fought all year, how they just came up short. He has contended otherwise, but with his team’s losing record in conference play, Golloway thought the season was over. Then a couple days later, the Sooners made the NCAA field. They didn’t apologize for it, either. They knocked off Vanderbilt twice and made it all the way to the regional finals at Arizona State. The Cowboys could have the same type of run — or better. This team had enough talent to be considered among the best in the league and in the country when the season began. The talent didn’t change; the confidence did. Now, OSU has every reason to feel good again. Criticism might have come with this NCAA Tournament bid, but so might confidence. The easy target might not be an easy out.