No. 5-ranked Oklahoma State begins a three-game run at the Old Spice Classic in Kissimmee, Fla., with a game against Purdue Thursday on the Disney World campus.
OSU enters as the tournament favorite, with Memphis — a team the Cowboys routed 101-80 last week — the only other ranked team in the field, at No. 21.
All in a name. The Cowboys are the current heavyweight in the field, drawing the spotlight with one of the nation's elite players in Marcus Smart and a team being pegged by analysts as a legitimate national title contender. While others in the field are hoping to build March resumes, there are past and recent heavyweights in play with Purdue, Butler, Memphis, Saint Joseph's and LSU. Washington State and Sienna are also in the field.
Probing Purdue. After a run of seasons as a Big Ten contender, the Boilermakers slipped a year ago, finishing 16-18 overall. While this team is young, there's optimism for a return to the NCAA Tournament, behind guards Terone and Ronnie Johnson and 7-footer A.J. Hammons, who many project as a legitimate NBA center prospect. Purdue used a soft early stretch of home games to start 5-0, but will be playing away from home for the first time and facing a major upgrade in competition in the Cowboys. Said coach Matt Painter: “I know if Oklahoma State plays the game and does exactly what they want, they're going to win the game. That's just the way it's going to happen. We have to be able to go out and take them out of some things that they want to do to disrupt them.”