Phil Forte blitzed Kansas with a career-high seven 3-pointers and poured in 23 points. So if there’s one Cowboy who might mind OSU’s six-day break between games, it could be Forte, in a stay-hot sort of way.
Yet for a glimpse at the grind that the college basketball season brings, consider that even Forte — OSU’s sixth man — found this week refreshing.
“At this time of the year, a bye week is nice to kind of get away a little bit,” Forte said. “We’ve been going at it, practicing and everything since September, really going hard. So to get a couple days off is nice, more mentally than physically.”
Cowboys coach Travis Ford gave his team Sunday and Monday off, then even backed off a bit from his practice plan for the week, opting for a lighter practice Wednesday, after initially plotting a hard workout. And Ford seemed pleased by the results, with a Saturday (West Virginia)-Monday (Oklahoma) turnaround coming up, followed by a series of similar quick turns.
“More than anything, our guys have got their legs back under them,” he said. “The schedule changes drastically and that is why we backed up and even backed up from what we planned.”
Back to Forte. His seven 3s — on 10 attempts — continued his stout shooting from the arc. Forte has fired in at least three 3s in each of OSU’s five Big 12 games and currently leads the nation in 3-point shooting percentage at 50 percent (minimum 2.5 makes per game), having hit on 53 of 106 tries.
Over his last seven games, Forte is shooting 55.1 percent (27 of 49) from long range.
Marcus Smart has elevated his game, too, in helping the Cowboys adapt to the loss of big man Michael Cobbins. In conference play, Smart is averaging 19.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.6 steals. In the Big 12, he ranks first in assists and ranks second in the other three categories.
That kind of production will keep him in play for national player of the year awards. The Wooden and Oscar Robertson organizations recently released their mid-season watch lists and both included Smart.
Dickie V. Love
On the topic of player improvement, ESPN’s Dick Vitale puts Markel Brown on his All-Rising Star Team.
As we’ve noted around here, Brown has grown his game each of his four years in Stillwater, and it’s reflected in his stat sheet. Vitale also points out the senior guard’s importance to OSU’s season ahead.
Sure, it’s still January, and the conference races are barely underway. But bracketology is fun. In January or February or early March.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi’s latest bracket projection has the Cowboys as a No. 3 seed in the Midwest, starting in San Antonio with an opportunity to advance to Indianapolis. The placement comes with an intriguing round of 32 clash: North Carolina, which is struggling and seen as a No. 11 seed.
Over at CBSSports.com, Jerry Palm has OSU as a No. 3 in the West, with UConn and Tennessee looming in the Round of 32.
Both sites project seven Big 12 teams in the Big Dance — Kansas (1, 1), Kansas State (9, 9), Iowa State (3, 3), Oklahoma (6, 5), Texas (8, 6) and Baylor (10, 9) too — hinting at the rugged ride that remains for everyone in conference.