Oklahoma State Cowboys
The Cowboys are headed back toward the dance floor, with a 20-6 overall record and 10-4 mark in Big 12 Conference play all but assuring their place in the NCAA Tournament. Now, as the regular season enters its final 10 days, the focus turns to the particulars: How high can OSU be seeded and where might they be headed? The latest projections:
* ESPN's Joe Lunardi: East Region, No. 4 seed against No. 13 Bucknell in San Jose.
* Yahoo! Sports: No. 4 seed (no bracketology).
* CBSSports.com's Jerry Palm: South Region, No. 5 seed against a First Four survivor in Kansas City.
* SI.com: West Region, No. 5 seed against No. 12 Cincinnati, in Austin.
* Sporting News: No. 4 seed (no bracketology)
Note: If you're wondering about the crowd the Cowboys are running with, the other teams generally considered for the No. 4 and 5 seeds are Syracuse, Kansas State, Wisconsin, Marquette, Illinois, Ohio State, Butler and Louisville, among others.
“Right now, we're focusing on trying to win this Big 12 championship. We'll let the bracketology take care of itself. I haven't experienced it yet. NIT my first season, we got bounced. We didn't have any postseason play last year. This is real exciting, to be here with the guys I struggled with as far as winning. I feel like my guys deserve it.” – OSU redshirt sophomore Brian Williams
* Nov. 18, North Carolina State: 76-56 win over the then-No. 6 Wolfpack was the Cowboys' coming out event.
* Dec. 31, Gonzaga: 69-68 loss to the No. 10 Zags was a tough lesson in late-game management.
* Jan. 12, Oklahoma: 77-68 loss on the road has been pinned as the get-tough turning point in the season.
* Jan. 30, Iowa State: 78-76 win at home was the Cowboys' first over-the-hump moment in a clutch situation.
* Feb. 2, Kansas: 85-80 win in Lawrence served as a road breakthrough and a signature moment to the season.
* Feb. 6, Baylor: 69-67 overtime win revealed OSU's never-say-die attitude in repeated rallies.
* Feb. 16, Oklahoma: 84-79 overtime win at home added another layer to OSU's clutch toughness.
* Feb. 20, Kansas: 68-67 double-overtime loss was a bitter pill, yet not lingering, as the Cowboys won three days later on the road at West Virginia.
Since before Game 1's opening tip, this season has proved to be a journey for the Cowboys. They lost Jéan-Paul Olukemi, a former starter, for the season to a knee injury in the second game against Akron. They lost starter Brian Williams for 2 1/2 months to a fractured wrist that required surgery in the preseason. They lost starter Michael Cobbins for the season's first month with a fractured toe. Still, OSU won some big games and lost some others, but developed along the way, putting in the time to eventually grow into a team that has already won 20 games overall and posted the program's first double-digit conference win total since 2005.
Several Cowboys figure to be in play for various awards:
* Marcus Smart. Named to the Midseason Watch List for the Wayman Tisdale Award; a Big 12 Freshman and Player of the Year candidate; an All-American candidate; even a potential national Player of the Year candidate.
* Markel Brown. Underrated outside the region, should receive strong consideration for First Team All-Big 12 honors.
* Travis Ford. One of the few strong candidates for Big 12 Coach of the Year.
Beyond their work on the court, the Cowboys have done their part in restoring pride to the program and bringing the rowdy back to Gallagher-Iba Arena. A roster filled with players worthy of being embraced also delivers a toughness reminiscent of past eras, making it easier for all to jump on the bandwagon.
March Madness always delivers great storylines. The Cowboys have their own offerings:
* Marcus Smart's rise from a dangerous upbringing to become a transcendent player for OSU and a national Player of the Year candidate.
* Phil Forte, the son of a Kansas football player and a KU fan to the highest degree, spurned a scholarship from the Jayhawks to go to OSU. And he's having an impact freshman year.
* Travis Ford, once flirting with the coaching hot seat this season, now stands as a hot commodity.
“As an opposing coach, it is difficult to prepare for your opponent's leadership. It is also very difficult to prepare for a player with the ability to take things over at the end of games. (Marcus) Smart gives opposing coaches nightmares in both areas. He might be only a freshman, but Smart has changed the culture in Stillwater. The Cowboys don't just find a way to win games — they expect to win games.” – ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg
“They're a really good team. They're an NCAA Tournament team. They've got a lot of talent. They've got a chance to do some special things going forward.” – Texas Tech coach Chris Walker
“I've been saying that Oklahoma State freshman guard Marcus Smart could be, pound for pound, the best player in America (especially when you factor in his intangibles). But his backcourt mate, a 6-3 junior Markel Brown, has been terrific as well. … If the Cowboys had better frontcourt scoring, they would be Final Four good.” – SI.com's Seth Davis
“They're very balanced. They play extremely hard. And they have a level of nastiness to them that I really like — and that's a positive.” – TCU coach Trent Johnson
No. 15 Oklahoma State at TCU
* When: 6 p.m. Wednesday
* Where: Daniel-Meyer Coliseum, Fort Worth, Texas
* TV: ESPNU (Cox 253/HD 718; U-Verse 605/HD 1605; Dish 141; DirecTV 208)
* Radio: KXXY-FM 96.1
Three things to know
*TCU owns but one Big 12 win, albeit it a big one: at home against Kansas. That result has been served as a reminder to the Cowboys all week.
*OSU has played the Horned Frogs 20 times dating back to 1918. The Cowboys lead the series 18-2, including 4-0 in Fort Worth.
*Phil Forte is averaging 2.23 makes from 3-point range, the seventh-best average nationally among freshmen.