KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Cowboys see the praise and recognize the elevated expectations surrounding them, appreciating it, yet not fully embracing it.
They welcome it, too… to an extent.
They just can't, Oklahoma State players and coaches insist, allow all this newfound and sudden love to envelope them.
“It's kind of humbling ourselves,” Markel Brown, the team's lone senior, said Tuesday at the Big 12 Men's Basketball Media Day in Kansas City. “Yeah, we've got all these preseason accolades and things like that, but we haven't won anything. We keep that in the back of our minds, to humble ourselves from all this hype we're getting and that is surrounding us.
“It's something to look forward to. We set goals on this team, Big 12 champs is one of the main ones. But we don't want to look too far ahead of ourselves. We want to go out and work hard and prove ourselves on the court.”
OSU is the Big 12 co-favorite, picked with Kansas at No. 1 in the preseason polling of the league's coaches. Marcus Smart is the choice to repeat as Big 12 Player of the Year, joined on the All-Big 12 first team by Brown.
The Cowboys have been picked everywhere from No. 12 to No. 8 in the major magazines, with Smart pegged as a unanimous All-American, the nation's No. 1 point guard and even the National Player of the Year by Blue Ribbon magazine.
So the Cowboys should be good. And they plan on being good.
But that's on them, not some magazine or poll to decide.
“All that is all fine and dandy, but we haven't played a game yet,” Smart said. “So the rankings and all that don't mean anything. We saw what happened with Kentucky last year. They were ranked No. 1 and then they were losing in the NIT.”
Smart said among the main reasons he passed on the opportunity to jump to the NBA were the possibilities attached to another season at OSU.
“Making history at Oklahoma State,” Smart said. “Doing something they haven't done in a very long time.”
But Smart and the other Cowboys are committed to respecting the process that must take place first in reaching such a desired end.
“The danger in not being humble is the thought that everything should just be given to us,” said junior forward Michael Cobbins. “Approaching the game that way, like we should automatically get some win, then you go out and get embarrassed. That's not something we're looking forward to doing this season.
“So we need to be humble and do what we know how to do and get the job done.”
These Cowboys, after all, have been humbled.
Last season, while positive overall with a 24-9 record and a return to the NCAA Tournament, came to a disappointing halt when their postseason ended with a decisive loss to Oregon in the postseason.
“Neither me nor the team of Oklahoma State gave it our all against Oregon,” Smart said. “It left a disgusting taste in our mouth. We can't even watch the video. We haven't even watched the Oregon video yet.
“And I'm pretty sure coach is doing that for a reason, because he knows how disgusted we are about it. He knows how hyped it's going to get us when we look at it, because we're going to look at it like, ‘That was the team that came out and played?'
“That's going to motivate us to play every game and make sure that doesn't happen again.”
That more than having five players with extensive starting experience, bringing back the Big 12's top three returning scorers and the memory of many major positive moments from a year ago, like winning at Kansas and finishing one game out of the Big 12 championship.
Those are the outside observations fueling outside expectations.
“We don't hide from, yes, we are supposed to be a pretty good basketball team this year,” said OSU coach Travis Ford. “We don't hide from that. But we've got to understand it in the fact that we've not won anything.
“We still have a lot of motivation to try to win a Big 12 Championship, a regular season (championship), a tournament (championship) and try to go deeper in the NCAA Tournament.
“So for me, it hasn't been a problem as far as trying to motivate our guys every day in practice, because there are many things to remind them that we have not done.”