“They picked him up,” Ford said. “They wanted to deny him the ball. We knew they were going to do that. We figured they were going to try to wear him down as much as possible.”
Some believe Smart is worn down from round-the-calendar basketball, including the U.S. under-18 national team last summer. But I don't know. Even in the waning, meaningless minutes Thursday, Smart looked like the strongest horse in the race.
But on this day, and maybe most days, the Ducks had more good players than did the Cowboys, be it lightning-bug guards Dominic Artis and Johnathan Loyd, shooters E.J. Singler and Damyean Dotson, or rugged rebounders Carlos Emory and Arsalan Kazemi.
The underseeded Ducks were far better than a No. 12 seed. All the flack the NCAA basketball committee took was justified. The committee has been sufficiently shamed.
And so out went the Cowboys from their first NCAA Tournament in three years. If Smart goes pro, will the Cowboys be back dancing next season, especially if Markel Brown or Le'Bryan Nash join him?
Ford has recruited some talent, but is Smart's vaunted presence so great that it can feed the Cowboys even when he's gone?
“His intent on winning is the best I've ever seen,” Ford said.
“This season he's had a great impact. We had a total team effort, but no question, we had the best freshman in America on our team. The force he played with. He brings it every day in practice.”
Smart brought it Thursday. But it wasn't enough against Oregon, which quickly ended OSU's season, and in all likelihood an era.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.