Oklahoma State fans find themselves frustrated with their men's basketball team, expecting more than they've seen in a .500 start to the Big 12 schedule.
The angst is apparent on Twitter and the radio talk shows and the message board hangouts where the insistence is that Cowboys should be winning more. Should be beating Kansas State and Oklahoma and Baylor, even on the road.
The Cowboys were picked third in the league's preseason conference poll of coaches, yet currently sit sixth at 3-3. There might be 12 conference games remaining, but just like in Saturday's game against West Virginia — when panic ensued as the Pokes fell behind 24-11, before rallying for a decisive 80-66 win — patience isn't part of the plan.
Yet while their Cowboys aren't who they thought they'd be, this team is actually exactly what many analysts expected: a young team still developing and finding its way.
Doing a local radio interview this week, former coach and current ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg balked at the notion that OSU was underachieving.
“Using the word underachieving, I'm not sure is fair for the Cowboys,” Greenberg said. “You're looking at Marcus Smart, a freshman. You're looking at Le'Bryan Nash, a sophomore who really doesn't have a position, hasn't really been a dominant player. Markel Brown is a nice player, he's athletic, can make some shots.
“They really have no frontcourt, per se, a guy who you can throw it into, can create a double-team. I think they're about where they should be. They're a good basketball team.”
And in today's college basketball landscape, “good” is a bland description slapped on a lot of teams.
“I think right now, it's hard to find 68 teams, with the parity of college basketball,” Greenberg said in reference to projecting a March Madness bracket. “It's hard to win a game. And it's really hard to win a game on the road.”
Don't the Cowboys know, and Greenberg wasn't even addressing them.
The way Greenberg sees it, the teams that are succeeding are the teams with significant experience.
“If you look at college basketball today, look at the teams that are having success at the highest level, they're all teams that are invested in winning,” he said. “They're upper-class teams — they don't have to be seniors — but they're upper-class teams.
“You look at Kansas — four seniors, three fifth-year seniors. You look at Kansas State, that's a mature basketball team. You look at Syracuse, they've got upperclassmen contributing.”
The Cowboys have one scholarship senior, Philip Jurick. They have two juniors, Markel Brown and Kirby Gardner.
With young players come more inconsistencies. More hot and cold nights. More emotional swings.
Examine OSU's losses and all came against veteran-led squads: Virginia Tech, Gonzaga, K-State, OU and Baylor.
And yet it's the Cowboys' youth that also gives them room for growth.
“I think people forget about how young this team is,” said Fran Fraschilla, another former coach and ESPN analyst. “When I think about how young they are and what they've accomplished so far, they're not going to get worse by March, but they can get a whole lot better by March.
“I really do like this team.”
Fraschilla does suggest that the Cowboys must learn how to win on the road. And better opportunities should be coming, with trips to Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia and TCU — a quartet that is 3-10 on their home floors — still to come.
But on the upside meter, no team may have more potential for growth than OSU.
“I think this team can get better,” Fraschilla said, “because if Brian Williams is back shortly, he can give them another above-average defender. I think Marcus is figuring out why he needs to stay out of foul trouble. They're a completely different team when he's not in foul trouble.
“I think there's a lot of ways they can improve the final five weeks of the regular season.”