After getting OSU back into the NCAA Tournament in his first two years, Travis Ford has seen his teams slump in back-to-back seasons. What's behind the dropoff?
Roster regrets. When the Cowboys open play in the Big 12 Tournament Wednesday night, the end of the bench will tell a significant side of the story. In street clothes will be Darrell Williams, who is fighting legal issues, and three injured former starters: Jéan-Paul Olukemi, Le'Bryan Nash and Philip Jurick. OSU has been without Williams all season and without Olukemi throughout Big 12 play.
Class upheaval. There's nothing left of Ford's first recruiting class with a full year on the job, the 2009 class, which brought six players to Stillwater. All six — Torrin Walker, Jarred Shaw, Ray Penn, Roger Franklin, Fred Gulley and Reger Dowell — have transferred. None had the look of a difference maker, but the Cowboys could sure use the depth now.
Delayed rebuild. While many recall the recent glory days of OSU basketball, Ford didn't inherit a program on solid ground. The Cowboys were a combined 56-45 with no NCAA Tournament appearances in the three seasons before Ford's arrival. He did inherit some key players, which he turned into two NCAA Tournament teams, but a rebuild to some degree was probably inevitable. In this case, delayed.
Point problem. Since Byron Eaton's senior sendoff, Ford has spun through no fewer than six point guards, with none offering an ideal answer. And disjointed offenses have often been the result.
Rough road. Ford took an aggressive approach to his nonconference scheduling this season, believing he had a team up to the task. It was a miscalculation. The Cowboys finished nonconference play at 7-6, impacting their overall record. To date, OSU's strength of schedule ranks No. 2 nationally.
The Ford Years
2008-09: 23-12 — Cowboys returned to the NCAA Tournament after a three-year absence, beating Tennessee and nearly knocking off No. 1 seed Pittsburgh.
2009-10: 22-11 — Behind Big 12 Player of the Year James Anderson, Cowboys returned to the NCAA Tournament, losing in the first round.
2010-11: 20-14 — A team that lacked chemistry and a clutch scorer slipped to the NIT, where it beat Harvard, before losing at Washington State.
2011-12: 14-17 — Everything from injuries to defections to a rough schedule has contributed to what figures to be OSU's first losing season in more than two decades.
By John Helsley